The Galactic Empire is nearing completion of the Death Star, a space station with the power to destroy entire planets. Emperor Palpatine intends to use this deadly weapon to enforce his control over the galaxy and crush the Rebel Alliance, an organized resistance movement. Near the orbit of the desert planet Tatooine, a Rebel ship escorts a secret member of the rebellion, Princess Leia Organa, who intends to use stolen Death Star plans to help the rebellion find a way to destroy the space station. However, Leia's ship is intercepted by the Emperor's deadliest agent, Darth Vader, and his stormtroopers. Before being captured, Leia hides the Death Star plans inside the astromech droid R2-D2 along with a message for the legendary Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. R2, along with the protocol droid C-3PO, escapes to Tatooine. The droids are found by Luke Skywalker, an orphan farm boy raised by his step-uncle and aunt. While cleaning R2, he accidentally triggers Leia's message. Luke assists the droids in finding Obi-Wan, who has been living in exile on Tatooine as an old hermit called Ben Kenobi. Obi-Wan also tells Luke he knew Luke's father Anakin Skywalker, a great Jedi who was "betrayed and murdered" by Vader (a Sith Lord who was Obi-Wan's former Jedi apprentice), and he gives Luke his father's lightsaber. After viewing Leia's message for assistance in delivering R2 to the rebellion, Obi-Wan and Luke hire the smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca to provide them transport aboard their space freighter, the Millennium Falcon.
For the second draft, Lucas made heavy simplifications, and introduced the young hero on a farm as Luke Starkiller. Annikin became Luke's father, a wise Jedi knight. "The Force" was also introduced as a mystical energy field. The next draft removed the father character and replaced him with a substitute named Ben Kenobi. Later, he realized the film would not in fact be the first in the sequence, but a film in the second trilogy in the saga. The second draft contained a teaser for a never-made sequel about "The Princess of Ondos", and by the time of the third draft some months later Lucas had negotiated a contract that gave him rights to make two sequels. Not long after, Lucas met with author Alan Dean Foster, and hired him to write these two sequels as novels.
In 1976, a fourth draft had been prepared for principal photography. The film was titled Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. During production, Lucas changed Luke's name to Skywalker and altered the title to simply The Star Wars and finally Star Wars.At that point, Lucas was not expecting the film to become part of a series. The fourth draft of the script underwent subtle changes that made it more satisfying as a self-contained film, ending with the destruction of the Galactic Empire itself by way of destroying the Death Star. However, Lucas previously conceived of the film as the first in a series of adventures. The intention was that if Star Wars was successful, Lucas could adapt the novels into screenplays. He had also by that point developed an elaborate backstory to aid his writing process.
When Star Wars proved successful, Lucas decided to use the film as the basis for an elaborate serial, although at one point he considered walking away from the series altogether. However, Lucas wanted to create an independent filmmaking center—what would become Skywalker Ranch—and saw an opportunity to use the series as a financing agent. Alan Dean Foster had already begun writing the first sequel novel, but Lucas decided to abandon his plan to adapt Foster's work; the book was released as Splinter of the Mind's Eye the following year. At first, Lucas envisioned a series of films with no set number of entries, like the James Bond series. In an interview with Rolling Stone in August 1977, he said that he wanted his friends to each take a turn at directing the films and giving unique interpretations on the series. He also said that the backstory in which Darth Vader turns to the dark side, kills Luke's father and fights Obi-Wan Kenobi on a volcano as the Galactic Republic falls would make an excellent sequel.
Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebels are forced to evacuate their secret base on the ice planet Hoth as they are hunted by the Empire. At the request of the late Obi-Wan Kenobi's spirit, Luke Skywalker travels to the swamp-infested world of Dagobah, in a quest to find the exiled Jedi Master Yoda and begin his Jedi training. However, Luke's training is interrupted by Darth Vader, who lures him into a trap by capturing Han Solo and his friends at Cloud City, governed by Han's old friend Lando Calrissian. During a fierce lightsaber duel with the Sith Lord, Luke learns a terrible revelation about his parentage.
After the success of the original film, Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment is similar to the final film, except that Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke.
Brackett finished her first draft in early 1978; Lucas has said he was disappointed with it, but before he could discuss it with her, she died of cancer. With no writer available, Lucas had to write his next draft himself. It was this draft in which Lucas first made use of the "Episode" numbering for the films; Empire Strikes Back was listed as Episode II. As Michael Kaminski argues in The Secret History of Star Wars, the disappointment with the first draft probably made Lucas consider different directions in which to take the story. He made use of a new plot twist: Darth Vader claims to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the yearlong struggles writing the first film, and quickly wrote two more drafts, both in April 1978. He also took the script to a darker extreme by having Han Solo imprisoned in carbonite and left in limbo.
Boba Fett (left) was introduced in the television film Star Wars Holiday Special before appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Darth Vader is one of the most iconic characters of the franchise.
This new story point of Darth Vader being Luke's father had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was separate from Luke's father; there is not a single reference to this plot point before 1978. After writing the second and third drafts of Empire Strikes Back in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin Skywalker was Ben Kenobi's brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the dark side by Emperor Palpatine (who became a Sith and not simply a politician). Anakin battled Ben Kenobi on the site of a volcano and was wounded, but then resurrected as Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Republic became the Empire and Vader systematically hunted down and killed the Jedi.
With this new backstory in place, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy, changing Empire Strikes Back from Episode II to Episode V in the next draft. Lawrence Kasdan, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was then hired to write the next drafts, and was given additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner, and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult film, which was helped by the new, darker storyline, and developed the series from the light adventure roots of the first film.
Ralph McQuarrie's sketches and conceptual art defined the aesthetics of the original trilogy, including the definitive designs of characters like Darth Vader, R2-D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca and sets like the Death Star, Dagobah, Bespin.
A year after barely escaping the clutches of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker leads a rescue mission to save Han Solo from the gangster Jabba the Hutt. Afterward, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training, only to find the 900-year-old Yoda on his deathbed. In his last words Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker, and that Luke must confront his father again in order to complete his training. Moments later, the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi reveals to Luke that Princess Leia is his twin sister, but Obi-Wan also insists that Luke must face Vader again. As the Rebels lead an attack on the Death Star II, Luke engages Vader in another lightsaber duel as the Emperor watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side of the Force and take him as their apprentice.
By the time Lucas began writing Episode VI in 1981 (then titled Revenge of the Jedi), much had changed. Making Empire Strikes Back was stressful and costly, and Lucas' personal life was disintegrating. Burned out and not wanting to make any more Star Wars films, he vowed that he was done with the series in a May 1983 interview with Time magazine. Lucas' 1981 rough drafts had Darth Vader competing with the Emperor for possession of Luke—and in the second script, the "revised rough draft", Vader became a sympathetic character. Lawrence Kasdan was hired to take over once again and, in these final drafts, Vader was explicitly redeemed and finally unmasked. This change in character would provide a springboard to the "Tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline that underlies the prequels.
After losing much of his fortune in a divorce settlement in 1987, George Lucas had no desire to return to Star Wars, and had unofficially canceled the sequel trilogy by the time of Return of the Jedi. At that point, the prequels were only still a series of basic ideas partially pulled from his original drafts of "The Star Wars". Nevertheless, technical advances in the late 1980s and 1990s continued to fascinate Lucas, and he considered that they might make it possible to revisit his 20-year-old material. After Star Wars became popular once again, in the wake of Dark Empire and other comics in Dark Horse's comic book line and Timothy Zahn's trilogy of novels, Lucas saw that there was still a large audience. His children were older, and with the explosion of CGI technology he was now considering returning to directing.
About 32 years before the beginning of the Galactic Civil War, the corrupt Trade Federation sets a blockade of battleships around the planet Naboo. The Sith Lord Darth Sidious had secretly planned the blockade to give his alter ego, Senator Palpatine, a pretense to overthrow and replace the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. At the Chancellor's request, the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, are sent to Naboo to negotiate with the Federation. However, the two Jedi are forced to instead help the Queen of Naboo, Padmé Amidala, escape from the blockade and plead her planet's crisis before the Republic Senate on Coruscant. When their starship is damaged during the escape, they land on Tatooine for repairs. Palpatine dispatches his first Sith apprentice, Darth Maul, to hunt down the Queen and her Jedi protectors. While on Tatooine, Qui-Gon discovers a nine-year-old slave named Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon helps liberate the boy from slavery, believing Anakin to be the "Chosen One" foretold by a Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force. However, the Jedi Council (led by Yoda) suspects the boy possesses too much fear and anger within him.
By 1993, it was announced, in Variety among other sources, that Lucas would be making the prequels. He began penning more to the story, now indicating the series would be a tragic one examining Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side. Lucas also began to change how the prequels would exist relative to the originals; at first they were supposed to be a "filling-in" of history tangential to the originals, but now he saw that they could form the beginning of one long story that started with Anakin's childhood and ended with his death. This was the final step towards turning the film series into a "Saga". In 1994, Lucas began writing the screenplay to the first prequel, initially titled Episode I: The Beginning. Following the release of that film, Lucas announced that he would also be directing the next two, and began work on Episode II.
Ten years after the Battle of Naboo, Anakin Skywalker is reunited with Padmé Amidala, now serving as the Senator of Naboo, and they fall in love despite Anakin's obligations to the Jedi Order. At the same time, the entire galaxy gets swept up in the Clone Wars between the armies of the Republic, led by the Jedi Order, and the Confederacy of Independent Systems, led by the fallen Jedi Count Dooku.
The first draft of Episode II was completed just weeks before principal photography, and Lucas hired Jonathan Hales, a writer from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to polish it. Unsure of a title, Lucas had jokingly called the film "Jar Jar's Great Adventure". In writing The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas initially decided that Lando Calrissian was a clone and came from a planet of clones which caused the "Clone Wars" mentioned by both Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in A New Hope; he later came up with an alternate concept of an army of clone shocktroopers from a remote planet which attacked the Republic and were repelled by the Jedi. The basic elements of that backstory became the plot basis for Episode II, with the new wrinkle added that Palpatine secretly orchestrated the crisis.
Lucas often exaggerated the amount of material he wrote for the series; much of it stemmed from the post‐1978 period when the series grew into a phenomenon. Michael Kaminski explained that these exaggerations were both a publicity and security measure. Kaminski rationalized that since the series' story radically changed throughout the years, it was always Lucas' intention to change the original story retroactively because audiences would only view the material from his perspective.
A sequel trilogy was reportedly planned (Episodes VII, VIII and IX) by Lucasfilm as a sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI), released between 1977 and 1983. While the similarly discussed Star Wars prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II and III) was ultimately released between 1999 and 2005, Lucasfilm and George Lucas had for many years denied plans for a sequel trilogy, insisting that Star Wars is meant to be a six-part series. In May 2008, speaking about the upcoming Star Wars: The Clone Wars film, Lucas maintained his status on the sequel trilogy: "I get asked all the time, 'What happens after Return of the Jedi?,' and there really is no answer for that. The movies were the story of Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, and when Luke saves the galaxy and redeems his father, that's where that story ends."
In January 2012, Lucas announced that he would step away from blockbuster films and instead produce smaller arthouse films. Asked whether the criticism he received following the prequel trilogy and the alterations to the re-releases of the original trilogy had influenced his decision to retire, Lucas said: "Why would I make any more when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?"
Despite insisting that a sequel trilogy would never happen, Lucas began working on story treatments for three new Star Wars films in 2011. In October 2012, The Walt Disney Company agreed to buy Lucasfilm and announced that Star Wars Episode VII would be released in 2015. Later, it was revealed that the three new upcoming films (Episodes VII–IX) would be based on story treatments that had been written by George Lucas prior to the sale of Lucasfilm. The co-chairman of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy became president of the company, reporting to Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn. In addition, Kennedy will serve as executive producer on new Star Wars feature films, with franchise creator and Lucasfilm founder Lucas serving as creative consultant.
Three years after the start of the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi lead a rescue attempt to save the kidnapped Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku and the droid commander General Grievous. Later, Anakin begins to have prophetic visions of his secret wife, Padmé Amidala, dying in childbirth. Palpatine, who had been secretly engineering the Clone Wars to destroy the Jedi Order, convinces Anakin that the dark side of the Force holds the power to save Padmé's life. Desperate, Anakin submits to Palpatine's Sith teachings and is renamed Darth Vader. While Palpatine re-organizes the Republic into the tyrannical Empire, Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi Order; culminating in a lightsaber duel between himself and his former master Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet Mustafar.
Lucas began working on Episode III before Attack of the Clones was released, offering concept artists that the film would open with a montage of seven Clone War battles. As he reviewed the storyline that summer, however, he says he radically re-organized the plot. Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, offers evidence that issues in Anakin's fall to the dark side prompted Lucas to make massive story changes, first revising the opening sequence to have Palpatine kidnapped and his apprentice, Count Dooku, murdered by Anakin as the first act in the latter's turn towards the dark side. After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more massive changes in Anakin's character, re-writing his entire turn to the dark side; he would now turn primarily in a quest to save Padmé's life, rather than the previous version in which that reason was one of several, including that he genuinely believed that the Jedi were evil and plotting to take over the Republic. This fundamental re-write was accomplished both through editing the principal footage, and new and revised scenes filmed during pick-ups in 2004.
About 30 years after the destruction of the Death Star II, Luke Skywalker, now the last Jedi once again, has vanished. The remnants of the Empire have become the First Order, and seek to destroy Luke and the New Republic, while the Resistance opposes, led by princess-turned-general Leia Organa and backed by the Republic. On Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron obtains a map to Luke's location. Stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren, the son of Leia and Han Solo, capture Poe. Poe's droid BB-8 escapes with the map, and encounters a scavenger Rey. Kylo tortures Poe and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187 defects from the First Order, and frees Poe who dubs him "Finn", while both escape in a TIE fighter that crashes on Jakku, seemingly killing Poe. Finn finds Rey and BB-8, but the First Order does too; both escape Jakku in a stolen Millennium Falcon. The Falcon is recaptured by Han and Chewbacca, smugglers again since abandoning the Resistance.
The screenplay for Episode VII was originally set to be written by Michael Arndt, but in October 2013 it was announced that writing duties would be taken over by Lawrence Kasdan and J. J. Abrams. On January 25, 2013, The Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm officially announced J. J. Abrams as Star Wars Episode VII's director and producer, along with Bryan Burk and Bad Robot Productions.
In May 2014, Lucasfilm announced that Gareth Edwards would direct the first anthology film, to be released on December 16, 2016, with Gary Whitta writing the first draft. On March 12, 2015, the film's title was revealed to be Rogue One, with Chris Weitz rewriting the script, and starring Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, and Diego Luna. In April 2015, a teaser trailer was shown during the closing of the Star Wars Celebration. Lucasfilm also announced filming would begin in the summer of 2015, and that the plot would revolve around a group of rebels on a mission to steal the Death Star plans. Director Edwards stated, "It comes down to a group of individuals who don't have magical powers that have to somehow bring hope to the galaxy." Edwards stated that the style of the film would be similar to that of a war film, stating, "It's the reality of war. Good guys are bad. Bad guys are good. It's complicated, layered; a very rich scenario in which to set a movie."
After its debut, Rogue One received generally positive reviews, with its performances, action sequences, soundtrack, visual effects and darker tone being praised. The film grossed over $500 million worldwide within a week of its release