George Lucas’ original Star Wars movie gave fans in May 1977 ride they will never forget. Starring an unknown Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, the film paved the way for the franchise we all know and love know today. Known then as just Star Wars, the movie later became known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
This post will explore the original Star Wars story and how it factors into the prequel and sequel films.
[Editor’s note: This article only covers canon screen material. Books, comics and video games are not included].
The original Star Wars film tells the story of Luke Skywalker, a farmboy who dreams of a better life off his backwater homeworld of Tatooine. He discovers that his late father was a Jedi, despite having been told by his uncle that his father had been a navigator on a spice freighter.
After the deaths of his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, the boy leaves with his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi to find transport to get them off the planet. In a seedy bar, they meet pilot and smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee best friend, Chewbacca. Their goal is to rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of the Empire.
The group come across the Death Star, a massive super weapon that appears to be a vast space station. Obi-Wan, Han, the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO, Luke and Chewbacca get onboard, where the older man sacrifices himself to fight his former apprentice, Darth Vader, so Luke can get to Leia and reunite the pair after twenty years.
Spawning A Franchise
As fans know, the original Star Wars movie spawned two sequels to form a trilogy. The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, and the final film, Return of the Jedi, was released three years later in 1983. Almost twenty years later came the first prequel film, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, about a young Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) before the dark side, came in 1999. This was later followed by Episode II: Attack of the Clones in 2002. The prequels were complete by 2005 with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
A decade after the original Star Wars series ended came the announcement of three new films set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. Episode VII: The Force Awakens, was released in 2015, followed by Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in 2017, and finally, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker in 2019.
Other screen projects have been released in the years since, including The Clone Wars, Rebels, and a sub-franchise spun off from The Mandalorian. This sub-franchise includes The Mandalorian, Ahsoka, The Book of Boba Fett, and Skeleton Crew. The Acolyte is omitted as it’s set before The Phantom Menace.
Ties To The Prequels And The Sequel Trilogies
The original Star Wars Trilogy ties to the prequel and sequel trilogies uniquely.
The Story Before The Birth Of Luke And Leia
The prequels begin 32 years before the original Star Wars films and explain how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. The Phantom Menace introduces us to a preteen Anakin and how he meets Obi-Wan Kenobi. Phantom Menace also solves the mystery bought up in Return of the Jedi. Who is the mother of Luke and Leia? This would be Padmé Amidala, the teenage Queen of Naboo. We’re also introduced to a young Palpatine before he becomes The Emperor.
Attack of the Clones is set a decade after The Phantom Menace. It brings us back to Anakin, a young adult on the verge of Jedi Knighthood. He reunites with Padmé during this film, now a rising senator. This film adds to the story of Luke and Leia’s parents. Their parents secretly marry just as the Clone Wars begin. It begins Anakin’s descent to the dark side upon the death of his mother and his reckless and impulsive behaviour.
Finally, we get to Revenge of the Sith. Set three years after Attack of the Clones, now a Jedi Knight, Anakin is a war hero with zero fear. Upon his return from the Outer Rim Sieges, Padmé tells him she is pregnant with their first child. Joy turns to instant fear when Skywalker experiences nightmares of his wife’s death, similar to those he had of his mother dying three years earlier. In a quest to save his family, Anakin gives in to the dark side, losing everything. The film also explores why and how Anakin and Obi-Wan became enemies.
The Story After Return of the Jedi
Thirty years after Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens shows the galaxy is under threat once more. This time by the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren. Ren is the grandson of Darth Vader and the only child of Leia and Han Solo. Formerly known as Ben Solo, Kylo turned to the dark side upon discovering that his idol was also his grandfather. The sequels play out through the eyes of Rey, a young scavenger; Finn, a stormtrooper defector and Poe Dameron, a pilot. The film’s McGuffin is Luke Skywalker, who has placed himself in self-imposed exile after his nephew’s turn to the dark side. Han dies at the hands of his son.
The Last Jedi sees Rey start her training with Luke while exploring her odd Force connection with Kylo Ren. But, unfortunately, it also sees Luke’s death.
Finally, The Rise of Skywalker sees the First Order destroyed, the return of the long-dead Emperor Palpatine, Rey’s paternal grandfather, and Leia’s death. It also sees the end of the Skywalker bloodline after Kylo redeems himself and helps Rey defeat Palpatine, resulting in Solo’s death.