Anakin Skywalker (often called Ani by his friends and loved ones) is the main protagonist/antagonist and tragic anti-hero of the Star Wars franchise. The original and prequel trilogies follow Anakin's rise as a vessel of The Force, his fall to the dark side, and his ultimate redemption. In the prequel films, Anakin is a Jedi Padawan, and later a Jedi Knight of legend. As revealed in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, he is the alter ego of Sith Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) and the father of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
Sebastian Shaw portrayed Anakin in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. In the prequel trilogy, he is portrayed by Jake Lloyd in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and by Hayden Christensen in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Stock footage of Christensen appears in the 2004 DVD release of Return of the Jedi, replacing Shaw in the movie's final scene.
The character's appearance at the end of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi is his final appearance within the fictional, narrated chronology.
In the film's climactic scene, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) attacks Luke with Force lightning after the young Jedi refuses to turn to the dark side. His son begs for help from his father to break the dark side's hold on Anakin, who then turns on his former master, throwing him down the second Death Star's reactor. In the process, however, he is wounded by Palpatine's lightning, and his breathing apparatus short circuits.
Moments from death, Anakin asks his son to remove his breath mask. Looking upon him with his own eyes for the first and only time, Anakin tells Luke that the good within him had not been destroyed after all. With that, Anakin dies, finally at peace. Luke burns his father's sith armor in the manner of a Jedi funeral on Endor. That night, as the Rebels celebrate the destruction of the Empire, Luke sees the spirit form of his father, Anakin, reunited with Jedi Masters Yoda (Frank Oz) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Sir Alec Guinness).
In the chronology of Star Wars universe, Anakin first appears in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace as a selfless nine-year-old boy. Anakin and his mother, Shmi (Pernilla August), are slaves in the service of Watto, a junk dealer. As an engineering prodigy, Anakin can build or repair nearly anything, evidenced by the creation of his own protocol droid, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and podracer, both from salvaged parts. He is also a remarkable pilot.
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) finds Anakin on the planet Tatooine. Qui-Gon is convinced that Skywalker is the "Chosen One", foretold by a Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force. Shmi reveals that there was no father. Over the course of the narrative, Qui-Gon goes on to discover that Anakin has the highest known number of midi-chlorians, a measure of a being's potential as a Force-adept. While on Tatooine, Anakin forms a strong bond with Queen Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), whom Qui-Gon and his padawan apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), are guarding.
Qui-Gon bets Watto that the boy will win the upcoming podrace. When Anakin pulls off an amazing victory, Watto reluctantly gives over the boy. After winning Anakin's freedom, Qui-Gon is attacked by Sith apprentice Darth Maul (Ray Park) outside of their ship. After a short duel, they escape to Coruscant. However, upon Qui-Gon's arrival, the Jedi Council denies Qui-Gon's request to train Anakin as a Jedi, saying the boy's future is clouded by the fear he exhibits. Ultimately, Anakin helps win the final battle against the corrupt Trade Federation at the film's climax. A dying Qui-Gon, slain by Maul, urges Obi-Wan to train Anakin. With the apparent re-emergence of the Sith, the council decides to train Anakin in the hope that he will fulfill the prophecy of the Chosen One. Palpatine, newly elected as the Republic's Chancellor, befriends the boy, promising to watch his career "with great interest".
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, set 10 years later, Anakin is 19 years old and Obi-Wan's Padawan learner. Over the years, he has become an arrogant individual, and has begun chafing against his master's authority. His first official assignment is go with Padmé to Naboo and protect her from assassins who tried to kill her. Anakin has nurtured a powerful attraction for her, even though such attachments are forbidden to Jedi. He confesses his love for her, as well as his distrust of the political process and the need he perceives for there to be one strong leader.
While guarding Padmé, Anakin senses that his mother is in danger. Upon returning to Tatooine, he finds his mother in a village of Tusken Raiders, but arrives too late: she has been tortured and beaten beyond help, and she dies in his arms. Seized by a murderous rage, he slaughters the entire village, including women and children. He returns with his mother's body and tearfully confesses to Padmé.
Anakin and Padmé then learn that the Confederacy of Independent Systems — a faction trying to secede from the Republic — has taken Obi-Wan prisoner. The two rush to the planet Geonosis to rescue him, but they are also captured. Faced with their impending demise in a gladiatorial arena, they profess their love to one another. Escaping the fray with the help of a cadre of Jedi and the clone army (Temuera Morrison), Anakin and Obi-Wan engage Separatist leader, former Jedi, and Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) in a lightsaber battle. Dooku severs Anakin's right arm, but it is replaced with a mechanical prosthetic by the time he secretly marries Padmé.
By the time of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith Anakin has become a full Jedi Knight and war hero, teamed still with Obi-Wan. While rescuing Palpatine from the Separatist leader, General Grievous (Matthew Wood), the pair encounter Dooku. A battle ensues in which Dooku renders Obi-Wan unconscious; once again, Anakin duels the Count alone. Anakin overpowers Dooku and cuts off his hands; at Palpatine's urging, he then beheads the helpless Count in cold blood. He is initially overcome with guilt and remorse for what he has just done, but Palpatine manages to convince Anakin that it was the right thing to do and that he was justified because Dooku was "too dangerous to be kept alive".
Upon returning to Coruscant, Padmé tells Anakin that she is pregnant. Shortly afterward, he has a vision of Padmé dying in childbirth. He is afraid this vision will come true, as it is similar to the one he had of his mother just before she died. Meanwhile, Palpatine makes Anakin his representative on the Jedi Council. The suspicious Council accepts Anakin, but denies him the rank of Jedi Master. Wary of the Chancellor's accrual of dictatorial powers in the Senate, they order Anakin to spy on Palpatine. Ultimately, Palpatine reveals to Anakin that he is the Sith Lord Darth Sidious and that the dark side holds the power to prevent Padmé's death.
Distraught, Anakin reports Palpatine to Jedi Master Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). He soon follows Windu to the chancellor's office to make sure Palpatine is taken alive. Anakin finds Windu holding his lightsaber on a disarmed Palpatine. Windu declares the Sith Lord under arrest, but Palpatine defiantly unleashes a torrent of Force lightning. The Jedi Master deflects the lightning with his lightsaber back at Palpatine, revealing the Sith Lord's true face. The attack continues until Palpatine seemingly tires, giving Windu a chance to strike a deathblow. Anakin pleads with Windu to spare Palpatine's life, but Windu refuses, insisting that Palpatine is too dangerous to be kept alive. As Windu raises his lightsaber to deliver the final blow, Anakin severs Windu's right hand. Palpatine springs to life, bombarding Windu with Force lightning and hurling him out the window. Anakin then pledges himself to the Sith, and Palpatine rechristens him Darth Vader.
Vader's first task as a Sith Lord is to kill everyone inside the Jedi Temple, including the youngling children. Vader then travels to Mustafar to assassinate the Separatist leaders. After completing this task, he is met by Padmé, who pleads with him to flee Palpatine's grasp with her. He refuses, saying that the two of them can overthrow Palpatine and rule the galaxy together. As a horrified Padmé draws back, Obi-Wan, who had hidden himself on Padmé's ship, emerges. Vader accuses Padmé of conspiring against him, and uses the Force to choke her into unconsciousness. Obi-Wan and Vader then engage in an intense lightsaber duel. At the end of the duel, Obi-Wan severs Vader's left arm and both of his legs. As Vader comes into contact with the molten rock, he catches fire and is nearly immolated. Obi-Wan leaves him to die, taking Anakin's lightsaber, but Palpatine comes to Vader's rescue.
Palpatine reconstructs his apprentice's ruined body with the suit of black armor first seen in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). Once Vader regains consciousness, Palpatine tells him that Padmé died as a result of Vader's anger. (She had in fact died in childbirth after delivering Luke and Leia because she had no will to live without Anakin.) This revelation breaks what remains of Anakin's spirit, and he screams in torment. He is last seen at Palpatine's side during the construction of the first Death Star.
In the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin is described as a master of the Djem So form of lightsaber combat. At his best, Anakin is almost like "a droid with a lightsaber . . . every step a blow and every blow a step.
As chronicled in James Luceno's book Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, Vader sheds his identity as Anakin Skywalker shortly after incurring his injuries on Mustafar; in the months afterward, he systematically pursues and kills the survivors of Palpatine's order to kill the Jedi; in the process, he fully embraces his new identity as a Sith lord and disavows any connection to his former Jedi self. The novel also reveals that Vader plans to eventually overthrow Palpatine, and that he betrayed the Jedi because he resented their supposed failure to recognize his power.
Vader is a protagonist in the Vector comic series, where he resurrects the Jedi Celeste Morne, but fails to turn her to his cause and leaves her on a moon. Years later, he used her as part of a plan to trick Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance.
The redeemed spirit of Anakin Skywalker appears in the novel The Truce at Bakura, set a few days after the ending of Return of the Jedi. He appears to his daughter Leia, imploring her forgiveness. Leia condemns him for his crimes and banishes him from her life. He promises that he will be there for her when she needs him, and disappears. In Tatooine Ghost, Leia learns to forgive her father after learning about his childhood as a slave and the death of her paternal grandmother.
In the novel The Unifying Force of the New Jedi Order series, set 30 years after A New Hope, Anakin's voice speaks to his grandson, Jacen Solo, telling him to "stand firm" in his battle with the Supreme Overlord of the Yuuzhan Vong. In the Dark Nest Trilogy, Luke and Leia uncover old recordings of their parents in R2-D2's memory drive. For the first time, they see their own birth and their mother's death, as well as their father's corruption to the dark side. In Bloodlines, the second novel in the Legacy of the Force series, Jacen uses the Force to "watch" Anakin slaughter the children at the Jedi Temple.