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Oh, boy. Here comes an evil asthmatic.
Tom Servo on a scene from Being From Another Planet

Heh huuhhh... There is something particularly creepy about wheezy or labored breathing. heh huhhh Unnatural breathing can characterize someone as being ... hehhh unnatural, or less than human. As a result, huuuuhh this sort of breathing is often given to evil characters. This has been particularly true since 1977, when the Trope Namer heh huuhhh first appeared in film. Ideally, the creepy breathing is combined with some sort of heeee huuh creepy voice, and an Evil Laugh heh heh... heh heheh.... Sometimes the creepy breathing is justified by some sort of disfiguring accident, which gives the evil character a creepy appearance as well. cough

Examples of Vader Breath include:

Trope Namer

  • Star Wars, obviously. Weirdly, the breathing never stops, even when he's talking. This is most apparent at the very end of Episode III, when Vader's yelling "Noooo..."
    • According to the EU, 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 "HRRRR...HRRRR..." is a constant mechanical pump supplying oxygen, while his speech is really severely 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.
      • If he had lived a bit longer he might have actually been able to keep himself out of his suit permanently. Too bad destiny had other plans for him.
      • Actually, 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. [1]
    • In addition to the more obvious Darth Vader, General Grevous has a rather nasty sounding hacking cough from when Mace Windu made his chest implode.
    • 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.

  "I can't breathe in this thing!"

      • 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.
    • The German sci-fi parody (T)raumschiff Surprise[2] has a Vader-like character who is merely asthmatic. No mask, but he needs to use his puffer a lot.
  • Vicious irony when you notice that it was actually a scuba diver air supply to make the sound...


  • Kuma in Afro Samurai, until his helmet is torn or knocked off.


  • In Phantom of the Paradise, Winslow Leach has a freak accident with a record press, severely deforming his face and damaging his vocal chords. He later sneaks into the Paradise, with his own laboured breathing imposed over the soundtrack- predating the Trope Namer, by the way.
  • The version of Cobra Commander (known as "The Doctor" before he assumes his famous title) from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
  • The Pale Man from Pan's Labyrinth.
  • Kroenen from Hellboy.
    • 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.
  • Michael Myers in the Halloween movies.
  • In Quarantine, when the CDC guys enter the building, their gas masks make this noise; it's a little over-the-top.
  • 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.
  • The gas-mask wearing slasher in My Bloody Valentine 3D.
  • Non-villainous (but still damn creepy) example: the astronauts' heavy breathing in their spacesuits in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Done for laughs in The Graduate, when Benjamin's demonstrating the scuba outfit his parents gave him.
  • In When a Stranger Calls, many of the phone calls made by the titular Stranger consist of his creepy, heavy breathing.
  • The thing that haunts Lucie in Martyrs.
  • The opening scene of Ian McKellen's 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 the king.
  • 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.
  • Vega in Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li.
  • The appropriately-named Wheezy Joe in Intolerable Cruelty.
  • 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.
  • Toy Story. Buzz's breathing when he first appears on the bed and we see from inside his helmet.
  • 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.
  • Saddam Hussein does this (Along with a Vader impersonation) in the second Hot Shots! movie, before succumbing to a coughing fit. After a drag on his inhaler, he's back to normal.


  • 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.

Live Action TV

  • The Cigarette Smoking Man from the X Files.
    • Also the creepy mutant hibernating liver-eating serial killer from episodes "Squeeze" and "Tooms."
  • William Raines in The Pretender.
  • The Ice Warriors on Doctor Who do this as well.
    • So does the Astronaut in "The Impossible Astronaut."
    • And older Amy in "The Girl Who Waited".
  • Malcolm... in... the Middle... ... ... 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.
  • 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.
  • Evil Cripple Lex Luthor in Smallville's eighth season suffered from this, due to breathing by means of a respirator.
  • Tony Soprano from The Sopranos had one of these when he got particularly worked up.
  • An episode of That 70s Show centered on the original release of Star Wars 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.


Tabletop Games

  • Raistlin from the Dragonlance stories.
  • Techpriests in Warhammer 40000 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 oxygenising 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.


  • In the Broadway play of Beauty and the Beast, the stage directions say that when Belle arrives at the castle to try and rescue her father, she can hear the Beast breathing behind her - "animal-like."

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. * hiss*
    • No, Vader only breathes in and out. These things sound like someone might if they tried to breath with a slit throat.
  • King K. Rool in Donkey Kong 64, in a rather obvious nod to Star Wars.
  • Psycho Mantis from Metal Gear Solid.
  • Von Bolt, the Big Bad of Advance Wars Dual Strike. Ironically, Von Bolt not only replaced a Darth Vader Expy (who did not have Vader Breath himself) as series Big Bad, but was about as frightening as mildly lukewarm spam, being an old, bald geezer with a glass bubble helmet.
  • 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 1. The in Universe explanation is that it's Alessa's laboured breathing in hospital. 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...
  • 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 is hooked up to a ventilator machine (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.
  • Non-evil example: 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).
  • Knights of the Old Republic 2 has a section where you character must don a spacesuit to travel across the outside of a space station. Seeing as it's a Star Wars game and as such, you can't go ten minutes without a Shout-Out, the spacesuit has breating 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 Darkfall: 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'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".
  • 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 Data Screen and subsequent options screen for Super Metroid features Vader Breath being heard in the background (presumably being emitted from Samus Aran herself).

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."
  • Wheezy the weasel from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, complete with hacking and coughing, due to his smoking habits.
  • In the Rocko's Modern Life episode "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.

Web Original

Real Life

  • The territorial calls of groups of howler monkeys, if heard from a long way off, can sound exactly like Darth Vader's breathing.
  • There are people still alive today who contracted polio (which causes muscle paralysis, including the diaphragm which is what allows us to breathe) as children before a vaccine was discovered and thus permanently reside in iron lungs.
  • The Star Wars sound designer, Ben Burtt, got the effect by sticking a microphone inside a set of SCUBA gear and then breathing through it. Needless to say, that means anyone wearing real SCUBA gear has Vader Breath, intentionally or not.
  • Bears. One of the many recognizable things about them is their heavy breathing.
  • Breathing while wearing a gas mask or a respirator can give out this sound as well.
  • Since Darth Vader doesn't seem to be carrying an oxygen tank around with him, he is assumedly using a Real Life device known as an oxygen concentrator. As the name implies, these work by pulling concentrated oxygen out of the surrounding air, and it really does sound just like Vader Breath.
  • Heavy breathing while wearing a face mask for paintball or airsoft (such as after making a long run) can cause the person to hear their own breath in this way.

heeeehhhh huuuuhhh...

  1. Namely, the previous suit, including the oxygen pump, would have to be removed.
  2. It's a German language joke. "Raumschiff" is German for spaceship. "Traum" is German for dream