The 10 Best Galactic Conquerors, Ranked

Taking over the world has been a staple villain motivation since the beginning of storytelling. However, as our knowledge of outer space and the universe grows, so do the possible stories we can tell about them. With the seemingly infinite possibilities, eventually, somebody will get the idea that they can rule it all. As the iconic rock band Bauhaus sang (though not really with galactic domination in mind), “All we ever wanted was everything.”

As many films and TV shows have shown, some characters have made notable attempts to do just that. This extends from the terrifying world eaters to the leaders of vast armies. Let’s look at some of the best characters to have spread their might across the universe, ranking up to who we believe has done it the best.

Update January 13, 2024: This article has been updated with even more great galactic conqueror from across film and television.

10 Ming the Merciless – Flash Gordon

Universal Pictures

Making his first appearance in the Flash Gordon comic strip in 1934, Ming The Merciless has appeared in TV, films, novels, and comics, playing the antagonist to the titular Flash Gordon. This includes Flash Gordon serials of the 30s and 40s and various short-lived animated TV series, including Defenders of the Earth (1986–1987) and the Flash Gordon animated series (1996). However, his most iconic appearance came via the 1980 space opera Flash Gordon, where Max von Sydow donned the moniker.

RELATED: The Best Sci-Fi Movie of Every Year in the 1980s

The Self-Righteous Tyrant

As a ruler, Ming is a man of extreme intelligence and wit, having forged his galactic dominance over planned invasions backed by his command of technology. Having access to magic and a master of the sword, he is a formidable foe for Flash Gordon. What makes Ming the Merciless truly terrifying is that he sees his reign as a necessary way to control the chaos in the universe and that his extreme measures are always for the greater good.

Ming the Merciless only creeps onto our list, being part of the ‘Yellow Peril’ era of storytelling that used stereotypes to create villains. We would love to see the character return in some capacity, albeit with a design overhaul leaning into his strengths and moving away from the dated image.

9 Admiral Atticus Noble – Rebel Moon

Atticus in Rebel Moon

A recent entry into galactic conquerors, Admiral Atticus Noble made his first appearance in Zack Snyder’s 2023’s Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire. Atticus Noble, played by Ed Skrein, leads ‘The Imperium,’ a galactic army that becomes the significant power that subjects other planets to its violent form of justice at the slightest perceived transgression.

The Newest Galactic Threat

Ruling with an iron fist, Atticus Noble wields the power of the imperium and is not worried about using it to its full extent. His showing up on any planet is a reason alone to make its inhabitants quiver in fear of the unknown. Will he come to collect resources for the imperium or to reign down destruction on its inhabitants? The unknown makes him a terrifying presence. With the second part set for release and the first part hinting at a greater power behind the Imperium army, it remains to be seen if Admirable Atticus Noble will continue his reign and prove himself worthy of a higher spot on this list.

8 The Irkens – Invader ZIM

Still from Invader Zim

Invader Zim was created by cult comic book artist Jhonen Vasquez, who rose to prominence with his work on the comic book series Johnny The Homicidal Maniac. The Nickelodeon cartoon would bring Vasquez’s wit and tailor it to a younger audience, ultimately lasting a brief 27 episodes but gaining cult status for its unique blend of dark comedy, sci-fi, and eccentric characters.

An Eccentric World Conqueror

The Irken Empire has a rather unique method of conquering planets. They’ll send a specialized soldier known as an Invader, arm them with a SIR pack, to infiltrate a world and blend in with the local inhabitants to learn the target planet’s weakness. Once the weakness has been discovered and the planet’s defenses undermined, the Irken Armada is called in to finish the job. Invaders are so good at their job that just one is enough to take over a planet single-handedly. It’s a good thing the Invader sent to Earth is the most incompetent Invader the Irken Empire has ever employed, isn’t it?

7 Brainiac – DC

Brainiac made his debut in comics in 1958 in Action Comics #242. The character has been reimaigined many ways over the years varying from an organic scientist turned mad villain to an artificial intelligence, but one constant that remains about him is his status as an intergalactic conqueror, destroying world while leaving a small fraction of them to keep and maintain their knowledge. The best known version of the character was in Superman: The Animated Series and would return in the Justice League cartoon. He has since appeared in Smallville, played by James Marsters. His most recent, and perhaps most daunting, appearance comes in the SyFy series Krypton, as played by Blake Ritson.

Superman’s Greatest Threat

Brainiac is a living Kryptonian supercomputer with a very simple MO: He drains a planet dry of its knowledge, then destroys it. He admits that being the only person possessing said knowledge makes it more valuable, making him the most evil hoarder imaginable. Still, Brainiac remains one of Superman’s deadliest foes and is notable for always returning, no matter how often his robot body gets destroyed. A unique conqueror, Brainiac’s conquests aren’t for money or power, and the sheer number of worlds he’s laid waste to makes him one of the most terrifying forces ever to menace the universe. While the character has yet to get the big screen treatment, many are hoping to see him appear in James Gunn’s DCU as the main villain of Superman: Legacy.

6 Sailor Galaxia – Sailor Moon

Sailor Galaxia in Sailor Moon

Sailor Galaxia is the main villain of the final season (known as “Sailor Moon Stars“) of the Sailor Moon anime, which ran from 1992-1997. Originally a heroic character, Galaxia sealed the living embodiment of Chaos inside herself to save the universe. Unfortunately, Chaos ended up possessing her and setting her down the path of galactic conquest.

Related: 15 Anime TV Shows to Watch if You Love Sailor Moon

Hero Turned Hunter

Head of the Shadow Galactica, an organization attempting to steal the star seeds of every planet’s assigned Sailor Guardian, Galaxia conquered a large portion of the galaxy before appearing in front of Sailor Moon and her friends. She also brings with her numerous minions, who, while pale in comparison to her power, help swarm Earth with numbers. With many star seeds in her possession, Sailor Galaxia’s power extends dangerously far, and her experience with once being the greatest hero and strongest Sailor Guardian only adds to her nefarious motives.

5 Thanos – The MCU

Thanos in Avengers Infinity War

Created by Jim Starlin and Mike Friedrich, Thanos first appeared in The Invincible Iron Man #55 in February 1973, starting as a genocidal ruler before transitioning to the ‘Emperor of the Universe’ shortly after his appearance. The character would remain a foreboding force in the comics and would make a first appearance in theSilver Surfer animated series. However, he would enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way, being the primary villain of the Infinity Saga and truly showcasing the full scope of his power in Avengers: Infinity War.

Emperor of the Universe

Before he began his quest for the Infinity Stones, Thanos would enact his dominance in the old-fashioned way: by conquering every planet. Once he and his armies had done so, they would slaughter exactly half of the planet’s inhabitants. His armies are quite powerful, and the Black Order, in addition to Gamora and Nebula (before they switched sides, at least), means that Thanos has quite a bit of muscle to throw around (he’s not called the Mad Titan for no reason). However, what makes him so terrifying is that he genuinely believes what he says and is convinced that he’s saving the universe instead of destroying it.

4 Frieza – Dragonball Z

According to Dragonball creator Akira Toriyama, Frieza was inspired by real estate speculators during the Japanese economic bubble of 1986-1991. The world conqueror first appeared in the Dragon Ball Z manga, Chapter #247, titled “Dark Clouds Swirl Over Planet Namek,” published on October 24, 1989, in Shōnen Jump. Frieza’s first appearance in anime came via Dragon Ball Z, and he has also appeared in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’/Dragon Ball Super.

Anime’s Most Recognizable Conqueror

One of the most infamous planet conquerors around, Frieza and his organization, will conquer planets, kill all the inhabitants, and then sell them to the highest bidder. Frieza himself is a terrifying villain, capable of destroying a planet with one finger, as the Saiyans of Planet Vegeta found out. His fighting skills are incredible, and it takes Goku transforming into the legendary Super Saiyan to get the upper hand. Even then, Frieza has seen several forms, first to fourth, Mecha, Gold, and Black, making him a consistent presence across the iconic anime series.

3 Darkseid – DC

Created by iconic comic artist Jack Kirby, Darkseid first appeared in Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #134 in December 1970. As is the case with comics, the character has been retconned a few times over. Still, his generally most recognizable and celebrated form is the ruler of Apokolips, an evil planetary force. Darkseid has appeared on the screen as far back as Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show (1984). Still, he is most recognizable for appearing in the Snyder Cut of Justice League (2017) and the Justice League animated series.

Ruler of Apokolips

Darkseid is a ruthless dictator whose evil nature extends past his quest to dominate other planets. Notably, the entire set-up of Apokolips is set up to torture others into submission to the empire or die through brutal trials overseen by one of Darkseid’s many subordinates (all powerful in their own right). This includes Steppenwolf, who appeared in Justice League (2017), and other more eccentric characters like Granny Goodness, who oversees the planet’s orphanage/training facility.

While initially a Superman villain, Darkseid has become a more significant threat to all superheroes, making him the ideal antagonist to the Justice League in both the animated and cinematic universe. The figure’s daunting image makes it likely he will appear at some point again in the live-action DCU.

2 Borg Queen – Star Trek

The Borg was introduced in the Star Trek canon in The Next Generation episode “Q Who” on May 8, 1989. However, it would be several years before their queen appeared in Star Trek: First Contact as the ruler over the sentient force that embraced technology to gain galactic-wide domination. After the Borg Queen‘s (played by Alice Krige) first appearance, she would appear two more times in the series: Star Trek: Voyager in the “Endgame” episode and Star Trek: Picard.

Related: Star Trek: Captain Picard’s 15 Best Quotes, Ranked

The Face of One Of Space’s Most Deadly Forces

Throughout the run of Star Trek and its many iterations, many have tried to stake their claim to being galactic conquerors. Out of all of them, it is hard to deny that the threatening force, ‘ The Borg, ‘ is one of the most menacing threats Starfleet has ever faced. While the Borg Queen may not have had as much of a presence as other antagonists, her being a figurehead is enough to land her high on the list. Moreover, The Borg is one of the few groups in Star Trek whose origins have remained vague and unclear, offering plenty of speculation as to how they became a dominant galactic force.

The Borg Queen also earns a high spot on our list due to her return in Star Trek: Picard, with one Borg Queen appearing in season 2 with the main primary one making her appearance in the final episodes of season 3, where the Borg make a significant impact both in assimilating members and behind-the-scene influence on many events leading up to the finale. Furthermore, her appearance gave closure to Seven of Nine and her interactions with the Borg Queen in Star Trek: Voyager. Including the Borg Queen was the ideal way to end the popular third season, and they will hopefully appear in the fourth (if there is one).

1 Emperor Palpatine – Star Wars

When one thinks of intergalactic conquerors, the first name people likely think of is Emperor Palpatine. Palpatine is a Sith Lord and the overarching villain of not just the original Star Wars trilogy but also the prequels and sequels. The prequel films showed how he went from a simple senator to the supreme chancellor to the eventual Emperor, while the original trilogy presents him as the ultimate embodiment of evil. The sequel trilogy later retconned him as the main villain of that series (somehow, he returned), with him being in command of an ancient Sith cultist group who looked to conquer the galaxy. As a Dark Lord of the Sith, Palpatine’s ability to use the Force makes him one of the biggest, most terrifying threats in the entire galaxy. He can hold his own in a lightsaber duel with Yoda, clouding his true identity to infiltrate the Jedi Council.

A Powerful Mastermind

Palpatine claims the top spot for the sheer brilliance of his political maneuvering. He orchestrates a war between the Separatists and the Republic and the infamous Clone Wars. While many of the conquerors on this list used the sheer powers of their armies, Palpatine played the long game in the shadows using cunning political tactics. He orchestrated a conflict that forced people to give him power willingly (liberty died with thunderous applause) and then was able to use the army to maintain order across the galaxy through fear and intimidation. With a powerful weapon like the Death Star and a Sith Lord like Darth Vader at his side, it is easy to see why many felt like they were without hope. Palpatine is the pop culture image of galactic conqeuror that many people think of when the phrase is uttered.


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