Star Wars Timeline Explained
The new movie from the Star Wars saga is going to hit theatres in the middle of December. As Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth series, we have not so much time to binge-watch all the previous movies before the premiere.
So If you need to refresh your memory, check out our brief recap of every Star Wars movie released so far - from Episode One the latest ninth episode, all in chronological order. But mind that this whole article is one big MASSIVE spoiler! SO! We start with…
EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
Somewhere in a galaxy far far away, Naboo, a member planet of the Galactic Republic, has been blockaded by the Trade Federation. A thrilling start to a saga about space wizards and fighter pilots… Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent to patch up the dispute and fail in… just spectacular fashion.
The two Jedi Knights rescue the young queen of Naboo - Padmé Amidala - and hightail it back to the capital planet of the Republic, Coruscant. However, they end up on the peripheral desert planet of Tatooine because their starship is damaged (and because it’s vital for the plot).
It’s there that they meet nine-year-old slave boy Anakin Skywalker, who’s a high-skilled pilot, an engineer, a robot mechanic, a race car driver, and an insanely powerful force user. And people called Rey a Mary-Sue… Qui-Gon Jinn decides that the boy is the “Chosen One” from some Jedi prophecy because Qui-Gon senses that young Skywalker is incredibly strong with the Force and something midichlorians.
Anakin leaves Tatooine with the Jedi and Queen Amidala, taking with along protocol droid C-3PO who he built himself. The gang also gains another companion by way of astromech droid R2-D2 from Padmé’s starship. (These bickering buddies are important, so don't forget about them!)
Back on Coruscant, Queen Amidala gets frustrated by the bureaucracy of the Galactic Senate. So she moves for a vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Valorum and helps Senator Palpatine to be elected as the new Supreme Chancellor since he promises to help her resolve the dispute on Naboo. Federal parliamentary democracy, fun for all the family!
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan accompany Amidala back to her home planet, where they face off against an invasion by the Galactic Trade Federation who send in an army of battle droids who are conveniently inanimate so we don’t have to worry about them being cut down in the thousands – as well as a Sith called Darth Maul who seems a little TOO into face tattoos. Soundtracked by an epic score, Darth Maul mortally wounds Qui-Gon during the best part of the movie and is then promptly defeated by Obi-Wan. He falls down a hole and out of the whole franchise… for now.
The invasion of Naboo fails but it’s clear that it’s just a part of some still-hidden (or PHANTOM) menace that hovers over the whole Republic. What none of our goodies know is that the mastermind behind all of these events… was Senator Palpatine – also known as the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious, who used the whole situation to consolidate his power. Also, wasn’t there someone else involved? Nope? Never mind, then.
EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Ten years later, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a fully-fledged Jedi Master, Anakin is his apprentice and Padmé Amidala is a Senator. Wasn’t she just a Princess? Yes, but we’ll soon learn that nespotism is basically the law in this universe…
The integrity of the Galactic Republic is threatened by a separatist movement, led by a renegade Jedi named Count… Dooku, who is ALSO known as a Sith Lord Darth Tyranus. After an assassination attempt made on Padmé, the Jedi Council orders Obi-Wan to investigate, because as well as being warrior monks, space wizards and economic negotiators, why not add “bug detective” to his resume?
Meanwhile, Anakin is assigned as a bodyguard to the former Queen. Throwing two abstinent teens together on a paradise planet and telling them to spend hours alone… sure, great plan! Obi-Wan discovers an army of clones of this one New Zealander being raised on a distant planet by a bunch of giraffes.
Further investigation leads him to Count Dooku so the Jedi (and we mean ALL the Jedi) – Obi-Wan, Anakin, Yoda, dreadlocks McGee and Samuel L [BLEEP] Jackson – along with all those clones that Obi-Wan just… found - must fight with Dooku, who (as he’s played by the unstoppable British badass Christopher Lee) still manages to injure Obi-Wan, cut off Anakin’s hand and escape to his Sith Master, Darth Sidious.
As the outcome, the Jedi acknowledge that this must be the beginning of what will come to be known as the Clone Wars, the Republic gifts Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers and a literally ready-made, fresh-out-of-the-oven army of faceless stormtroopers, his alter-ego Darth Sidious gets the blueprints of some kind of mysterious superweapon… but it’s not all bad news as Anakin gets a sweet robotic hand.
Oh, and discovers his dark side, which Master Yoda of the Jedi Council warned everyone about when Anakin was just a kid but was generally just ignored. The finale of the movie shows us Padme and Anakin's secret wedding (SHOCK TWIST!), witnessed by droids C-3PO and R2-D2. So… not, like, your mum or mentor or anything. Just a robo-butler you built and your intergalactic sat-nav. Real nice, Anakin, real nice.
EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH
Three years later. So how exactly DO the Sith take their revenge? Supreme Palpatine activates the biochips of the clone soldiers, with order 66, ordering them to destroy the order of the Jedi Knights. Who could have seen that coming?
Only Yoda and Obi-Wan manage to escape, while Anakin faces a fate darker than death. Haunted by premonitions of his mother dying and then Padmé dying at birth, he lets himself be seduced by the Dark Side of the Force – with the great “help” of Palpatine, of course.
He goes on a killing spree across the galaxy, graduating from killing the children of SandPeople to the younglings of the Jedi Order, before choking his own pregnant wife to top it all off. As heel turns go, it’s a touch extreme. Anakin and Obi-Wan have a battle on a lava planet that feels like it goes on for about half the movie before Anakin gets completely wrecked. Obi-Wan just… sort of… leaves his scorched pal and Palpatine is there to pick up the pieces.
Anakin is transformed into the hideous Darth Vader, his wife gives birth to their twins – Luke and Leia - and dies of “a broken heart”. NOOOOOOOOOO! Obi-Wan and Yoda plan to hide the twins from now-Emperor Palpatine, sending Luke to Tatooine and have Leia adopted by Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan. So, uh, not exactly THAT hidden, then? Also, Luke gets a bit of a raw deal, huh? He gets to farm literal water out of the air on a hunk of gangster-owned rock where his grandma got killed, while Leia gets to be a princess. Their story continues in the next installment of the Star Wars Saga…
EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE
Remember the blueprints for that mysterious superweapon Palpatine got his hands on back in Episode II? They’re all he needs to build his shock-and-awe monstrosity, the dreaded Death Star - a weapon able to completely destroy planets. However, there's a flaw in its design and the rebellious Senator/Princess Leia Organa gets her hands on the secret plans.
On her way to share them with a group of Rebels allied against the oppressive Galactic Empire, Leia gets caught by Darth Vader himself. Right before she’s captured, Leia downloads the plans into the memory of her droid R2-D2 (yes, THAT R2-D2) and shoots him off into space with the heartbreaking message: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you are my only hope!”. R2-D2, accompanied by his long-term life-partner C-3PO (yes, THAT C-3PO), crashlands on Tatooine and eventually falls into the hands of an ordinary farm boy… Luke Skywalker.
Luke discovers Leia’s message and eventually finds Obi-Wan, who spins him a yarn about the Force, the Jedi and Luke’s father who he says was killed by Darth Vader. Luke and his now-Jedi-teacher Obi-Wan, who really should have known better after what happened to his one and only former student, enlist the help of smuggler companions Han Solo and Chewbacca and head off to rescue Princess Leia.
Alderaan gets destroyed, Luke plays with his lightsaber, Chewbacca “wins” at space chess and eventually (after a bit of a scare in a trash compactor) their mission succeeds. But not before Obi-Wan duels with his former apprentice Darth Vader and meets his death in what must have been a bit of an anticlimax considering how badly he wrecked both Maul and Vader in the previous trilogy of films.
But, oh no! The Empire wanted them to capture Leia so that they could follow our heroes and find the hidden location of the rebel stronghold on Yavin Four. In a race-against-time, climactic final battle, the Rebels destroy the Death Star – with the help of Han and Luke, who handily discovers how to use the Force just in the nick of time.
EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
As the name of the episode reveals, the Empire is out to get its revenge on the Rebels. Leia, Han, and Chewie narrowly escape death after the destruction of the Rebel base on ice planet Hoth and seek refuge on Bespin’s Cloud City, administered by none other than Han’s old pal and all-round charmster, former owner of the Millenium Falcon; Lando Calrissian.
Meanwhile, Luke takes a detour to a swamp planet and pals around with Yoda for a few weeks doing all sorts of Rocky-style training montages and, after a bit of spelunking in a cave of ominous foreshadowing, gets a psychic premonition! Double-crossed by lying Lando, Darth Vader captures the gang and plans to use them as bait for Luke who it seems will never get to graduate as a Jedi.
Han gets frozen and sold off to cover his debts to a giant space slug, and Lando has a change of heart. Lured into a trap, Luke confronts Vader who cuts off LUKE’s hand and tells him the truth about the real identity of his father before making him an intriguing proposition that they could team up and take on the emperor.
Luke peaces out and seriously injured, he uses the Force to call for Leia and she answers his call along with Chewie, R2, 3PO and the now repentant Lando. Luke and Leia still don’t know they’re siblings, which makes all their tonsil hockey in the last two films a bit… awkward.
Our heroes escape Vader once again, but the fate of Han Solo is unknown. But Luke gets a sweet robot hand out of it all so things aren’t TOO bad, we guess.
EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI
Han Solo, who was frozen in carbonite, was delivered to mobster Jabba the Hutt all the way back in Tatooine. And though things don’t go all that smoothly (to say the least), his friends come to rescue him.
Meanwhile, seemingly not learning from the last time they tried this, the Empire is building a new, BIGGER Death Star, preparing to crush the Rebellion once and for all and the Rebels are trying to gather all their forces in a last-ditch attempt to destroy the Death Star before it is completed.
They all head to the forest moon of Endor: inhabited by tiny teddies with a taste for guerilla warfare, with Han and Leia aiming to knockout the Death Star’s shield from the surface base on Endor while Lando heads up the main attack force against the artificial moon itself. Yoda just… sort of… gives up and Luke surrenders himself to Darth Vader in an attempt to turn his father back to the Light.
It turns out the planet killer was secretly operational all along and, once again, it’s a race against time before the Empire blows up Endor and all the tiny teddies. The Emperor tempts Luke to the dark side but when Palpatine reveals the truth about Leia, Darth Vader makes the choice to save his son and throw his former master down a pit. But not before taking a bolt of lightning straight to the face. He repents his former evil ways to his tearful son before dying. Along with the Emperor’s death, this marks the end of the evil Galactic Empire. But – the story isn’t over yet. And before we proceed with Episode VII, we HAVE TO mention the newest addition to the Star Wars Universe…
THE MANDALORIAN SERIES
The events of the first Star Wars live-action TV show are set shortly after the fall of the Empire and it helps fill in the gaps between the second and third trilogy in the chronology.
From the very first episode, we learn that some of the remnants of the Empire are still at large on the outskirts of the Galaxy. But exactly how the plot of The Mandalorian will intertwine with the rest of the Saga, for the time being, remains a mystery! Next, we have…
EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Three decades after the fall of the Empire, the New Resistance, led by Leia Organa, battles a new enemy – the First Order. And everything seems… kind of familiar. Almost too familiar.
This imperial successor, commanded by Supreme Leader Snoke, his apprentice Kylo Ren, and Grand Admiral Hux, are gathering their forces and aims to regain Imperial control over the Galaxy. If you want to learn more about the time when Leia starts to understand the threat of the First Order, you’ll need to watch the animated series “Star Wars: Resistance”
But bear in mind that the events of this series begin approximately six months before Episode VII and go on a lot further; parallel to the events of Episode VIII. So… uh… watch the films first, we guess?
Kylo Ren, a Jedi and former pupil of Luke Skywalker (who’s mysteriously disappeared) has turned to the Dark side. We get more family drama as it turns out that he’s the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo.
Kylo captures Resistance rogue Poe Dameron in order to get his hands (both still his own) on a map that would lead Ren to the legendary Jedi – Luke Skywalker. Thanks to Poe and his new friend, former Stormtrooper Finn, the map gets into the hands of a scavenger of unknown origin, Rey, after Poe and Finn crash land on the… desert… planet of Jakku… Hmmm, haven’t we seen all this before?
Meanwhile, the First Order are building what they call the Starkiller base. A gigantic and wholly original idea for a planet that can blow up… other planets (seriously, this seems really familiar!). The base activates and destroys a bunch of important planets that we don’t really get to see or even identify with. Rey teams up with Finn, who eventually find their way to Han and Chewie, and then Leia, all the while discovering the Force within Rey.
They travel to Starkiller base and find a way to blow it to smithereens but not before Kylo Ren does something presumably irredeemable by killing his dear Dad, and Rey follows the map to find…
THE LAST JEDI
However, having found Luke Skywalker (in Episode VII), Rey is deeply disappointed to discover a disillusioned old man (and the origins of that blue milk from way back in A New Hope), especially when Luke insists that the Jedi Order should stay extinct and never be revived.
However, Rey convinces Luke to teach her the basics and, through her newly-found strange connection to Kylo Ren, thinks that she can save him and bring him back to his family. Meanwhile, in the B-Plot, there’s a race against time as the last remnants of the Resistance desperately try to escape a First Order battle fleet, and in the C-PLOT Finn and resistance pilot Rose Tico have adventures on a casino planet that largely go absolutely nowhere.
Kylo Ren seems to have a change of heart and defeats the other leaders of the First Order to save Rey, but THEN it seems like he has a change of heart and declares himself the new Supreme Leader. Luke finally confronts him in a one on one battle that, surprise, is a one on NONE battle as Luke has been force-projecting there the whole time!
Ren looks pretty silly, the surviving members of the Resistance escape, but all this exhausts Luke who “becomes one with the Force” which essentially means that, much like Yoda did in Return of the Jedi, he kind of just gives up and disappears.
This story somehow gives hope to the Resistance, despite them being absolutely demolished by the First Order and we see a little kid pick up a broom using the force right at the end.
So what will happen next? We’ll only find out in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, hitting theatres worldwide this month. The final battle, that should finally, FINALLY bring balance to the Force, will take place approximately a year after the events of The Last Jedi and, if we’re lucky, will be absolutely spectacular!