Star Wars (“Sun” Wars) is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year intervals. Sixteen years after the release of the trilogy’s final film, the first in a new prequel trilogy of films was released. The three films were also released at three-year intervals, with the final film released on May 19, 2005.
Currently, the overall box office revenue generated by the Star Wars films has totaled approximately $4.41 billion, making it the third-highest-grossing film series, behind only the Harry Potter and James Bond films.
The Star Wars film series has spawned a media franchise including books, television series, video games, and comic books. These supplements to the film trilogies comprise the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and have resulted in significant development of the series’ fictional universe. These media kept the franchise going in the interim between the film trilogies. In 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released to theaters as the first-ever worldwide theatrical Star Wars film outside of the main trilogies. It was the franchise’s first animated film, and was intended as an introduction to the Expanded Universe series of the same name, a 3D CGI animated series based on a previous 2D animated series of a similar name.
The prequel trilogy follows the life of a young slave named Anakin Skywalker who is discovered by the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn, who believes him to be the “Chosen One” foretold by Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force. The Jedi Council, led by Yoda, sense that Anakin’s future is clouded by fear, but reluctantly allow Qui-Gon’s apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi to train Anakin after Qui-Gon is killed by the Sith Lord Darth Maul. At the same time, the planet Naboo is under attack, and its ruler, Queen Padmé Amidala, seeks the assistance of the Jedi to repel the attack. The Sith Lord Darth Sidious secretly planned the attack to give his alter ego, Senator Palpatine, a pretense to overthrow the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic and take his place.
The remainder of the prequel trilogy chronicles Anakin’s gradual fall to the dark side of the Force as he fights in the Clone Wars, which Palpatine secretly engineers in order to destroy the Republic and lure Anakin into his service.Anakin and Padmé fall in love and secretly wed, and eventually Padmé becomes pregnant. Anakin has a prophetic vision of Padmé dying in childbirth, and Palpatine convinces him that the dark side holds the power to save her life; desperate, Anakin submits to the dark side and takes the Sith name Darth Vader. While Palpatine re-organizes the Republic into the tyrannical Galactic Empire—appointing himself Emperor for life—Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi Order, culminating in a lightsaber battle between himself and Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan ultimately defeats his former apprentice and friend, severing his limbs and leaving him for dead beside a lava flow. However, Palpatine arrives shortly afterward and saves Vader, putting him into a black, mechanical suit of armor that keeps him alive. At the same time, Padmé dies while giving birth to twins Luke and Leia. The twins are hidden from Vader and are not told who their real parents are.
The original trilogy begins 19 years later as Vader nears completion of the massive Death Star space station, which will allow the Empire to crush the Rebel Alliance, which has formed to combat Palpatine’s tyranny. Vader captures Princess Leia Organa, who has stolen the plans to the Death Star and hidden them in the astromech droid R2-D2. R2-D2, along with his counterpart C-3PO, escapes to the planet Tatooine. There, the droids are purchased by Luke Skywalker and his step-uncle and aunt. While Luke is cleaning R2-D2, he accidentally triggers a message put into the droid by Leia, who asks for assistance from Obi-Wan. Luke later assists the droids in finding the Jedi Knight, who is now passing as an old hermit under the alias Ben Kenobi. When Luke asks about his father, Obi-Wan tells him that Anakin was a great Jedi who was betrayed and murdered by Vader.
Obi-Wan and Luke hire the smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca to take them to Alderaan, Leia’s home world, which they eventually find has been destroyed by the Death Star. Once onboard the space station, Obi-Wan allows himself to be killed during a lightsaber rematch with Vader; his sacrifice allows the group to escape with the plans that help the rebels destroy the Death Star. Luke himself fires the shot that destroys the deadly space station.
Three years later, Luke travels to find Yoda and start his Jedi training, but is interrupted when Vader lures him into a trap by capturing Han and the others. During a fierce lightsaber duel, Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father and attempts to turn him to the dark side. Luke escapes, and, after rescuing Han from the gangster Jabba the Hutt a year later, returns to his training with Yoda, who by this time is on his deathbed. Before he passes away, Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke’s father; moments later, Obi-Wan’s spirit tells Luke that he must face his father before he can become a Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister. As the Rebels attack the second Death Star, Luke confronts Vader as Palpatine watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side and take him as their apprentice.
During the subsequent lightsaber duel, Luke succumbs to his anger and brutally overpowers Vader, but controls himself at the last minute; realizing that he is about to suffer his father’s fate, he spares Vader’s life and proudly declares his allegiance to the Jedi. An enraged Palpatine then attempts to kill Luke with Force lightning, a sight that moves Vader to turn on and kill his master, suffering mortal wounds in the process. Redeemed, Anakin Skywalker dies in his son’s arms. Luke becomes a full-fledged Jedi, and the Rebels destroy the second Death Star and, with it, the Empire.
First Published: Feb 8, 2012 – Last Updated: Jan 27, 2013