Darth Sidious declaring himself Emperor

At the end of the Clone Wars, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine claimed he was the victim of an attempted coup by Jedi traitors. In response, he issued Order 66 -- the eradication of the Jedi Order -- and reorganized the Republic into the first Galactic Empire. He promised peace and security, and an end to the corruption and ineptitude of the old ways. The once-Senator of Naboo -- secretly a Sith Lord called Darth Sidious -- was now Emperor, with a massive military at his disposal, the black-clad Darth Vader as his tyrannical hand, and a planet-sized space station under construction.


Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin

For decades, the Galactic Empire reigned supreme. The Emperor remained all-powerful, with Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader acting as his primary enforcers. Their space station, the dreaded Death Star, had been completed -- a development that allowed the Emperor to permanently dissolve the Senate. He instead handed rule over to regional governors, who would keep dissident systems in through the fear of his new battle station. Tarkin would test the firepower of this technological terror on Alderaan, destroying the planet with one powerful blast.

Despite the might of the Empire, an organized Rebellion had taken shape, stealing plans to the Death Star. Eventually, these schematics were analyzed and a weakness in the space station was found. In the Battle of Yavin, the Rebel Alliance launched a desperate, full scale attack. While most of the fleet of Rebel starfighters was wiped out, a young Rebel named Luke Skywalker -- with help from his friend Han Solo -- piloted an X-wing through the Death Star’s trench. He made a precise shot, firing a proton torpedo directly into an exhaust port, and destroyed the terrible weapon. Tarkin, who pompously refused to evacuate, was killed in the resulting explosion.

Vader's Super Star Destroyer alongside an Imperial-class Star Destroyer

While the Rebel Alliance had destroyed the Death Star, the Galactic Empire was far from defeated. Indeed, Darth Vader was obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker and dispatched probe droids throughout the galaxy. Finally, one of his spy satellites picked up something on the remote ice planet Hoth; while some Imperials were skeptical, Vader was convinced it was the location of the Rebel base.

Traveling on his Super Star Destroyer, the Sith and his fleet arrived at the system and deployed troops for a ground assault. AT-AT walkers, gargantuan weaponized transports, led the attack. The base was overrun by the Empire’s snowtroopers, but by the time Vader arrived, Skywalker and the Rebels had fled. It was still a victory for the Empire, and Skywalker and his friends would later suffer terrible defeats at the hands of Vader.

The Rebel fleet assaulting the Death Star II

Looking to finally crush the Rebellion and cement its galactic authority, the Empire began construction of Death Star II. The Emperor himself visited the new space station to oversee its completion, his intimidating presence ensuring it would be finished on schedule.

This new megaweapon was protected by a shield stemming from Endor, a nearby forest moon; the Alliance’s Bothan spies discovered this information, however, and a multi-pronged attack was planned. Yet this is just what the Emperor wanted: he had set a trap for the Rebels. The Sith Lord’s arrogance blinded him, though, as the Empire lost the resulting Battle of Endor, Death Star II was destroyed, and Darth Vader betrayed him. The vaunted Galactic Empire’s reign was over, and the Rebel Alliance could begin the long process of restoring freedom to the galaxy.