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Vader Breath

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"Oh, boy. Here comes an evil asthmatic."

SSSHHH HOHHHHHH... There is something particularly creepy about wheezy or labored breathing. ...SSSSHHHHH Unnatural breathing can characterize someone as being...HOHHHHHHH unnatural, or less than human. As a result, ...SSSSHHSH this sort of breathing is often given to ...HOHHHHHHHHHHHHH evil characters. This has been particularly true since 1977, when the Trope Namer Darth Vader first appeared in film. Ideally, the creepy breathing is combined with some sort of ...HOHHHHHHH creepy voice, and an Evil Laugh cough. Sometimes the creepy breathing is justified by some sort of disfiguring accident, which gives the evil character a creepy appearance as well.


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    Trope Namer (Darth Vader and related examples) 
  • Star Wars:
    • Darth Vader. Weirdly, the breathing never stops, even when he's talking. This is most apparent at the very end of Revenge of the Sith, when Vader's yelling "Noooo..." According to Dark Lord—The Rise of Darth Vader, his vocal cords and lungs are both only barely usable and he relies on an artificial life support system built in his suit, and the constant asthmatic breathing is a constant mechanical pump supplying oxygen, while his speech is heavily amplified to make it louder than a whisper. In Shadows of the Empire we see that he can use The Dark Side of the Force to briefly heal and breathe on his own, but only for a moment, and then his sudden joy at being able to do that breaks his Dark Side focus. There were plans to give Vader a new suit that would remove several of the problems mentioned above. Too bad the procedure put his life at serious risk — specifically, the previous suit would have to be removed, including the oxygen pump. Revenge of the Sith shows Vader getting his suit, allowing us to hear his first iconic breaths. In fact, due to the smoke in front of the mask, we also get to see them.
    • General Grievous has a rather nasty sounding hacking cough, which George Lucas has stated is deliberate Foreshadowing that Anakin will turn into Darth Vader, with Obi-Wan fighting both. In the Canon continuity, he always had it, while in the Legends continuity, he only gained it shortly before Revenge of the Sith from when Mace Windu made his chest implode.
    • By the events of Rogue One, Saw Guerrera relies on a breathing mask which makes this sound, though he doesn't need to use it constantly. Similar to Grievous, Saw's case is to reflect on how his radical tactics make him no different from the Empire. Also used by the trope namer himself in the climax, to the most terrifying possible effect.
    • Also used in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order to signify Vader's arrival as the Final Boss.
    • The series finale of Star Wars: The Clone Wars also uses it to reveal his presence in the final scene of the series.
    • In a bit of cruel irony, this iconic sound would become Harsher in Hindsight after David Prowse, the first actor to wear the Vader suit, passed away on November 28th, 2020 due to COVID-19 complications.
  • Almost any parody of Vader, including the ones done by Family Guy and South Park, must include Vader Breath. Conversely, if a character on a show such as these suddenly develops Vader Breath, it becomes a parody of Vader.
  • Parodied in Spaceballs. And the Rule of Funny helps cover the fact that, as stated above, Vader can't breathe OUTSIDE of his suit. Dark Helmet didn't need his helmet to survive, he just wore it because it was sooooo big.
    "I can't breathe in this thing!"
  • The German sci-fi parody (T)raumschiff Surprisenote  has a Vader-like character who is merely asthmatic. No mask, but he needs to use his puffer a lot.
  • In the brief moment he is described as "Darth Valer" in My Immortal, Voldermort's quote has ellipsis and is described as having "a raspy voice", meaning that Tara Gillesbie intentionally drew attention to this. It's an underappreciated piece of evidence that the whole thing is a Troll Fic.

    Anime & Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) fanfiction; by the time Mariko is introduced to Monster X, the deformed monster's breathing has been reduced to labored wheezing by dehydration.
  • This Bites!: Shiliew of the Rain's dialogue is regularly interspersed with a wheezing, mechanical Pshhh-koh noise, courtesy of him being turned into a Cyborg after Crocodile tears most of his limbs off and sucks all the moisture out of his body.

    Films — Animated 
  • Mars Needs Moms: Gribble imitates the breathing.
  • My Little Pony: A New Generation: At one point Sprout is hiding in the shadows and he appears to be breathing heavily but as soon as he steps out into the light its revealed he's just drinking a smoothie.
  • Toy Story:
    • In the first film, Buzz's breathing when he first appears on the bed and we see from inside his helmet.
    • The opening of Toy Story 2 uses the real Vader sound, along with some other Star Wars and Terminator 2 sound effects in and around Zurg's base.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph does this when using a Reed Snorkel.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Non-villainous (but still damn creepy) example: the astronauts' heavy breathing in their spacesuits in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • In All Quiet on the Western Front (2022), this effect is produced when the soldiers have to put on their gas masks. It is unsettling and underlines the horror of war.
  • The Batman (2022): The Riddler affects a low, gravelly voice and has some audible difficulty breathing. In scenes from his POV, the raspy breath is a persistent part of the background noise. This is presumably due to his mask, as he doesn't seem to have any trouble breathing in Arkham, where he doesn't have it.
  • Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. He couldn't breath at all once Batman damaged his mask, due to his tracheal chords being damaged.
  • One of the casualties in Dog Soldiers realized that there was a werewolf behind him in the back seat of the truck due to its heavy breathing, then had his suspicions confirmed when a rush of exhaled vapors flowed past his shoulder. Oh, and also when it ripped him to shreds.
  • In Blake Edwards' suspense-thriller Experiment in Terror, the psycho stalking Lee Remick has an asthmatic rasp for a voice.
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The men in their hazmat suits invading the house are breathing like this.
  • The version of Cobra Commander (known as "The Doctor" before he assumes his famous title) from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
  • Done for laughs in The Graduate, when Benjamin's demonstrating the scuba outfit his parents gave him.
  • In The Grudge 3, Naoko makes raspy, gurgling breathing noises after she becomes a Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl, thanks to being stabbed through the throat.
  • Michael Myers in the Halloween movies achieves this sound by breathing heavily through his cheap rubber mask.
  • Harry Potter: The Dementors breathe quite heavily, as a sign of them inhaling people's happy feelings. This is consistent with the books, where in Harry's first encounter with one, it is described as "[drawing] slow, rattling breath, as though it were trying to suck something more than air from its surroundings."
  • Hellboy (2004): After Hellboy resurrects a long-dead Russian man named Ivan, the guy has to breathe in to speak and does so with a large wheeze.
  • Saddam Hussein does this (Along with a Vader impersonation) in Hot Shots! Part Deux, before succumbing to a coughing fit. After a drag on his inhaler, he's back to normal.
  • The appropriately named Wheezy Joe in Intolerable Cruelty.
  • James Bond:
    • For Your Eyes Only: When Bond is about to be attacked underwater by an enemy diver in a JIM suit, all we see is a POV shot accompanied by the sound of the air regulator.
    • No Time to Die: Lyutsifer Safin's respiration (likely because of exhaustion after a long walk) under his Noh mask in the Distant Prologue makes him even more sinister as he comes to the home of Mr. White in Norway to kill him, his wife and his young daughter Madeleine.
  • Referenced in Jarhead. During a gas mask drill, one of the solders can't help but breathe extra-deeply and throw a few Vader lines.
  • Immortan Joe in Mad Max: Fury Road. Word of God states that his respirator is actually just to filter out sand, worn out of habit ever since he was young and healthy, and his labored breathing (and sore-covered body) are just results of being an old man living in a post-nuclear wasteland.
  • The thing that haunts Lucie in Martyrs.
  • The gas-mask wearing slasher in My Bloody Valentine 3D.
  • Parodied in the second Night at the Museum film, where the Big Bad Kahmunrah recruits historical "bad guys" Napoléon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible, and Al Capone as his Dragons. Later, two more "bad guys" ask to join them. One is Oscar the Grouch and the other is Darth Vader, who doesn't say a word. Kahmunrah doesn't get what's so scary about Vader and points out that he sounds as if he's having trouble breathing. Vader tries a Force Choke, further confusing Kahmunrah.
  • The very creepy Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth.
  • In Phantom of the Paradise, Winslow Leach has a freak accident with a record press, severely deforming his face and damaging his vocal cords. He later sneaks into the Paradise, with his own labored breathing imposed over the soundtrack — predating the Trope Namer, by the way.
  • In Quarantine (2008), when the CDC guys enter the building, their gas masks make this noise; it's a little over-the-top.
  • Rippner in Red Eye gets a distinctly wheezy breath after he gets stabbed through the windpipe with a pen, which would do that to you — especially if your idea of medical attention for it is ripping it out with your bare hands and using somebody's silk scarf as a bandage/cravat to buy you some time for the climax of the film.
  • In Revenge of the Nerds, the head jock is wearing a helmet and gas mask disguise at the carnival. Louis, the head nerd, "borrows" this disguise to get with the head cheerleader. A perspective shot through the mask has a Vader Breath sound.
  • The opening scene of Richard III has the title character leading gasmasked commandos in a raid on the previous King's headquarters. Once the tank smashes through the wall the gun battle is muffled, with the main sound being Richard's breathing through his gas mask up until the moment when he shoots King Henry VI. The script notes that Richard is breathing in iambic pantameter.
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, being a Star Wars parody, naturally has their (unnamed) Vader expy exhaling deep breathes like the original. It appears to be a recycled sound effect.
  • Vega in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
  • The incarnation of Alien Baltan in Ultraman Cosmos: The First Contact substitutes the iconic Baltanian laugh (oh-ho-ho-ho) with this. Baltan's Vader Breath is in fact the first thing audiences hear as soon as the movie starts.
  • In When a Stranger Calls, many of the phone calls made by the titular Stranger consist of his creepy, heavy breathing.
  • Wheezy the weasel from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, complete with hacking and coughing, due to his smoking habits.
  • The Wild Geese. The mercenaries use cyanide gas to kill a room full of sleeping guards. Unfortunately their Vader Breath starts before the mercenaries have put on their gas masks. Nevertheless the laboured breathing of the sleepers suddenly coming to a stop as each dies has a sinister effect.
  • In The Wraith, the title character is The Voiceless, with this trope as an exception.

  • Max Barry's Machine Man has this for Dr. Charles Neumann after he's been reduced to a Man in the Machine. Every word he speaks requires another gasp from plastic lungs.
  • In The War of the Worlds, Martian breathing is described as "tumultuous," and it's assumed that it's because they're not used to Earth's atmosphere and gravity. Although it might also be pneumonoa, as they got rip-roaring sick the instant they breathed Earth's air according to the epilogue.
  • A minor character in the Ciaphas Cain novels is severely injured during Caves of Ice, and doctors have to give her a set of augmetic lungs as a result. Every other time she shows up in the series, there's at least one reference to the hiss! click! noise of her breathing.
  • The Fire of Heaven series justifies this with the Arkhos of Nemohaim, and immensely fat man who already has breathing trouble and who is usually left wheezing and gasping for air after exerting himself.
  • The Crippled God from Malazan Book of the Fallen has to constantly inhale incense in order to keep his lungs clear. Even then, his breathing is still ragged and wheezing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of That '70s Show centered on the original release of Star Wars: A New Hope had Eric punch an asthmatic rival for Donna's affections in the nose; this causes him to speak in a Vader-like voice ("Donna WILL be mine!") and develop the trademark breathing.
  • CSI: NY: The villain in "Blacklist", who coughs a good bit and uses an oxygen tank, has very labored breathing and speaks quite slowly with a low, raspy voice due to advanced lung cancer.
  • Cheney's cough is played up in this clip on The Daily Show. Part of their running riff on the evil of the former vice president. They eventually stopped. Vader called and complained.
  • Game of Thrones: Gregor Clegane very noticeably breathes heavily after Qyburn's treatment.
  • Henry Danger: In "Gas or Fail" when Charlotte wears a protective gas mask during Henry's test, she does a heavy high-pitched version of Darth Vader's breathing sound, complete with a similar-sounding distorted voice.
  • Malcolm in the Middle... ... ...
    • The show... has...Malcolm's...friend...Stevie...who has...a say...more than...a a always...played giving....him....very....long...lines...and having...the other....characters...lose patience...before he's...finished....speaking.
    • And when....he's under...stress...his father...develops...this same...problem.
  • In Sherlock, "The Hounds of Baskerville" features the true killer breathing heavily through his red-eyed gas mask.
  • Evil Cripple Lex Luthor in Smallville's eighth season suffered from this, due to breathing by means of a respirator.
  • Supernatural: In "Nightmare Logic", the first sign that Maggie is in trouble is the ghoul's ominous, heavy breathing behind her.
  • The X-Files:
    • The Cigarette Smoking Man, the main villain of the Myth Arc, always smokes and his habit gave him heavy breathing.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Raistlin from the Dragonlance stories.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Techpriests often have their lower face and lungs replaced by cybernetics. Because of the strongly varying tech-levels of the setting, this can work perfectly well and even surpass the original organs or result in Vader Breath, which in the roleplaying games makes strenuous physical activity harder (the lungs are less efficient at oxygenating the blood) and applies a penalty to Sneaking rolls.
    • Cue inevitable Shout Outs—for example, a Techpriest model for Inquisitor reminding the creator of "He's more machine now than man."
      Dmitri hisses like an asthmatic pensioner when he breathes, naturally.
    • The Necron Lord of All Kaurava in Dawn of War. A Necron that speaks at all is unique in the setting.


    Theme Parks 
  • On of the scares in The Haunted Mansion is a door that bulges out and gives off a heavy breathing sound.

    Video Games 
  • Regenerators from Resident Evil 4. These things sound like someone might if they tried to breathe with a slit throat.
  • King K. Rool in Donkey Kong 64, in a rather obvious nod to Star Wars.
  • Endless Ocean: Your character does it every time you go underwater.
  • Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid.
  • Von Bolt, the Big Bad of Advance Wars Dual Strike.
  • Kassadin, one of the Champions in League of Legends, has this when he has charged one of his moves, Force Pulse. It gets irritating after a while which makes the player want even more to use the move on an unsuspecting enemy.
  • Gol in Jak and Daxter wheezes constantly for no apparent reason. It may be an effect of his Dark Eco corruption, but none of the other corrupted characters in the series have any noticable breathing difficulty, including Gol's sister. Gol has parts of his body replaced with precursor technology, so it's probably either a result of the tech itself, or whatever injury caused him to lose those parts of himself in the first place.
  • Inner Lavos, the second form of the final boss in Chrono Trigger.
  • Dark Star in No More Heroes, among other Star Wars references.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, the Vizier's bloody cough is probably for this purpose, underlining his evilness. It's not the Incurable Cough of Death, since he, well, doesn't die of it. Only because the Prince kills him first. It was a sign he was dying, making part of his motivation to find the sands the promise of immortality.
  • Used as part of the background music in Silent Hill, and in the OST tracks "Never Again 2" and "Die". The in Universe explanation is that it's Alessa's labored breathing on a hospital ventilator. The real world explanation is that a game that breathes as you play it is fucking creepy.
  • The G-Man, particularly in Half-Life 2. *gasp* The right man in the wrong place... It's believed to be yet another imperfection in his "normal human" facade, and more than one fan has described it as speaking like someone who's entirely unused to having lungs.
    • In the Half-Life's Expansion Pack, Opposing Force, the second stage of Headcrab Zombies could be identified by their creepy breathing. This breathing carries on with HL2's poison headcrab zombies.
  • For some strange reason, the magical lampposts and lanterns in the Night Elf regions of World of Warcraft make this noise whenever you stand near them, leading many confused newbies to ask in the in-game chat rooms, "All right, who keeps doing the Darth Vader impression?"
  • The Pyromaniacs from Sacrifice. Their unit quotes are also filled to the brim with Darth Vader and Lord Helmet Shout Outs.
  • The zombies in Thief have a bad, bad case of bronchitis.
  • The ending seasons of the Mega Man Battle Network/Rockman.EXE featured Zero.EXE. It helps that he's not only based on a hero, but is seen working for the side of evil at first and has a lightsaber for an arm when he fights?
  • Vohaul from Space Quest II: Vohaul's Revenge is hooked up to a ventilator machine and has a Vader-like mask (although his dialog is all text).
  • Battle Realms Lotus Clan has a unit called the Diseased One, which attacks by coughing toxic spores onto enemies.
  • The volus in Mass Effect. The drastic differences in pressure and gravity require them to wear special environment suits on other planets (or at least all the ones Shepard has seen them on). They're not exactly evil, but they are a Proud Merchant Race without any really "heroic" representatives until the multiplayer DLC.
  • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords has a section where your character must don a spacesuit to travel across the outside of a space station. Seeing as it's a Star Wars game and can't go ten minutes without a Shout-Out, the spacesuit has breathing very similar to Vader's.
  • In Metro 2033, you breathe very loudly when you put your gas mask on, and when your filter starts to fail, you start wheezing (while looking at your lens fog up).
  • Q from Street Fighter III. Idling makes him do Vader Breath, and the rest of his voicework is Voice Grunting.
  • The Vores from Quake appear to suffer from this.
  • One of the sound effects in Fate/stay night, generally only used in very creepy situations and when the narrator is sufficiently badly injured.
  • In Dark Fall: Lost Souls, the Inspector whom you play has emphysema, and starts breathing hard if you climb steps or ladders, or stay in one place outside in the cold for long. The opening segment of the game consists of a black screen, and the sound of his increasingly-desperate attempts to draw air into what's left of his lungs.
  • Wolfenstein (2009)'s Heavy Troopers sound like this, if you can get close to them unnoticed. It's probably because they're vat-grown Super Soldiers with insufficiently developed lungs.
  • RuneScape has Mi-Gor, a small zombie wearing a gas mask. The breath is not actually heard, just described in the dialogue lines as *wheeze* before every line, and before that, "as if someone is trying to talk with his throat full of mud".
  • The Fallout: New Vegas DLC Dead Money has the Ghost People, all of whom have wheezy, raspy, loud breath. The loud breathing is the best way to tell when they're sneaking up on you. Serves as Paranoia Fuel when you can't see them, but you can hear them breathing.
  • Minecraft have blazes which breathe heavily.
  • Titanite Demons in Dark Souls do this to indicate their presence, even though they don't seem to have a head.
  • The Pyro in Team Fortress 2 has this in Meet the Pyro and presumably in-universe as a result of asbestos lung damage.
  • Porky Minch in Mother 3. It is explained that his extensive abuse of time travel has left him immortal, but still with an aging body, resulting in oft-childish banter and insults being peppered with the coughs and wheezes of an old man.
  • The Journeyman Project: Agent 5, Gage Blackwood Turbo gradually descends to this if you take too long in the maze below the Mars Colony. Once the music dies down, you can hear him struggling for air through an oxygen mask he's wearing. You can also hear him breathing heavily if he doesn't have the mask on at all in the maze or the NORAD VI time zone, which has sleeping gas in the vents.
  • Penumbra Black Plague: The music for the Chemical Laboratory has what sounds like heavy breathing in the background. Philip also does this when wearing a gas mask.
  • Exmortis starts with the player character breathing like this, out in a cold forest at night.
  • Obsidian: The second dream world does this in one of its four elemental puzzles, where the goal is to provide the Mechanical Spider with air. The landscape breathes when it's solved, and the spider visibly breathes in and out for a few seconds, as you return to the hub.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess: The Hero's Shade breathes like this constantly, despite being a skeletal ghost. As confirmed by Hyrule Historia, he's actually a heroic example, being a previous Link.
  • Little Nightmares II: The Doctor is heard making a heavy breathing which only enhance his creepiness.
  • The Secret World: Featured when players finally catch up with Joe Slater; the first indication that something is very wrong with him is his hoarse, labored breathing. He's partially transformed into one of the aquatic Draug, and his lungs aren't coping well with dry land.
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse — Earthblood: The Endron Elite Mooks, guards turned into muscular hulks through the use of a Super Serum and equipped with breather masks, breathe loudly and raggedly when moving or fighting.
  • Wick: Tim and Tom Weaver. Tim from having caught polio as a living child, and Tom from having all his bones broken.
  • Wick (2020): Mara has rather loud, raspy breathing (possibly from the plague that ravaged the cathedral), which can be a tell-tale sign she's nearby.


    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Brainy (That boy who keeps creeping up behind Helga and getting clobbered) in Hey Arnold!. There's also the legend of "Wheezin' Ed."
  • Kaia from Motorcity does this, due to her gas mask. When she takes it off, her voice is somewhat distorted.
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • In "Teed Off", the groundskeeper whose job is to ensure that Mr. Dupette wins has a respirator just like Darth Vader.
    • Another episode features a rogue vacuum cleaner that does this as it comes after Rocko and friends.
  • Ed does this in one episode of Ed, Edd n Eddy when he picks up a diving helmet and wears it.
  • Noxious from Skysurfer Strike Force.
  • Total Drama:
    • Harold makes his entrance in "Not So Happy Campers - Part 1" breathing heavily and creeping the others out.
    • Chef plays a hockey mask-wearing serial killer in "Hook, Line and Screamer" and in that role breathes heavily. It's on occasion the first clue he's nearby.
  • Exaggerated in the Grand Finale of The Owl House where Belos possesses the corpse of the Titan that makes up the Boiling Isles, and the deep rumbling of it beginning to breathe can be heard as far away as the highest peak of the Knee.



Video Example(s):


Richard III

In the opening of this retelling of the Shakespearean play -set in the mid 20th century- the titular Villain Protagnist carries out a ruthless attack while wearing a gas mask.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / VaderBreath

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