Star Wars is an American epic space-opera media franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the eponymous 1977 film and quickly became a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon. The franchise has been expanded into various films and other media, including television series, video games, novels, comic books, theme park attractions and themed areas, comprising an all-encompassing fictional universe. The franchise holds a Guinness World Records title for the “Most successful film merchandising franchise.” In 2018, the total value of the Star Wars franchise was estimated at US$65 billion, and it is currently the fifth-highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
The original film, later subtitled Episode IV – A New Hope, was followed by the sequels Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), forming the original Star Wars trilogy. A prequel trilogy was later released, consisting of Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). Ten years later, a sequel trilogy began with Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), continued with Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017), and will conclude with Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Together, the three trilogies form what has been collectively referred to as the ‘Skywalker saga’. The first eight films were nominated for Academy Awards (with wins going to the first two released) and were commercially successful. Together with the theatrical anthology films Rogue One (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), the combined box office revenue of the films equates to over US$9 billion, and is currently the second-highest-grossing film franchise.
In 2012, Lucas sold his company to Disney, and in April 2014, most existing spin-off media was made non-canon and rebranded as ‘Star Wars Legends‘. The episodic ‘Skywalker saga’ and The Clone Wars film and TV series (2008–2014) define the canon, along with most subsequent works.
The Star Wars franchise depicts the adventures of characters “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, in which humans and many species of aliens (often humanoid) co-exist with robots, or ‘droids’, who may assist them in their daily routines; space travel between planets is common due to hyperspace technology.
A mystical power known as ‘the Force’ is described in the original film as “an energy field created by all living things … [that] binds the galaxy together.” Through training and meditation, those whom “the Force is strong with” are able to perform various superpowers (such as telekinesis, precognition, telepathy, and manipulation of physical energy). The Force is wielded by two major knighthood orders at conflict with each other: the Jedi, peacekeepers of the Old Republic ruthlessly hunted by Imperial authorities, who act on the light side of the Force through non-attachment and arbitration, and the Sith, ancient enemies of the galactic democracy, who use the dark side by manipulating fear and aggression. While Jedi Knights can be numerous, the Dark Lords of the Sith (or ‘Darths’) are intended to be limited to two: a master and their apprentice.
Force-wielders are very limited in numbers in comparison to the rest of the average population. The Jedi and Sith prefer the use of a weapon called lightsaber, which is the cylinder-like hilt of a sword (when turned off), but when turned on ignites a laser blade that can cut through virtually any surface. Fights between the two factions result in duels, which are a mix between sword skills and the use of the Force. The rest of the average population, as well as renegades and soldiers, use laser-powered blaster firearms, which Force-users can deflect using lightsabers.
The rises and falls of different regimes are chronicled throughout the saga, which is split into three eras:
The Age of Republic: The era of the prequel trilogy, in which the democratic Galactic Republic is corrupted by its Supreme Chancellor, Palpatine—secretly the Sith lord Darth Sidious. After orchestrating the Clone Wars between the government and a Separatist confederation, Palpatine overthrows the Republic, and establishes the Galactic Empire, declaring himself Emperor. The prequels feature a relatively sleek and new design aesthetic in comparison to the original trilogy.
The Age of Rebellion: The era of the original trilogy, in which the Empire is fought by the Rebel Alliance in a Galactic Civil War that spans several years, climaxing with the apparent death of the Emperor. The surviving Rebellion gives rise to the New Republic. The original trilogy depicts the galaxy as dirty and grimy in George Lucas’s depiction of a “used universe”.
The Age of Resistance: The era of the sequel trilogy, in which the remnants of the Empire reform as the First Order. Heroes of the former rebellion lead the Resistance against the oppressive dictatorship. Rather than depend on an overabundant use of computer-generated imagery, The Force Awakens director J. J. Abrams determined not to lose “the wonderful preposterousness” of puppetry and practical effects that were used to create the classic trilogy.
The Star Wars film series centers around three sets of trilogies, which is collectively referred to as the “Skywalker saga”. They were produced non-chronologically, with Episodes IV–VI (the original trilogy) being released between 1977 and 1983, Episodes I–III (the prequel trilogy) being released between 1999 and 2005, and Episodes VII–IX (the sequel trilogy), being released between 2015 and 2019. Each trilogy focuses on a generation of the Force-sensitive Skywalker family. The original trilogy depict the heroic development of Luke Skywalker, the prequels tell of the downfall of his father Anakin, while the sequels feature Luke’s nephew, Kylo Ren.
An anthology series set between the main episodes entered development in parallel to the production of the sequel trilogy, described by Disney CFO Jay Rasulo as origin stories. The first entry, Rogue One (2016), tells the story of the rebels who steal the Death Star plans directly before Episode IV. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) focuses on Han Solo’s backstory, also featuring Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.
Lucasfilm has a number of Star Wars movies in development, including a trilogy of films produced and written by Game of Thrones creators/showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. The installments were scheduled to be released in December 2022, 2024, and 2026. This changed in October 2019, when it was announced that the duo had stepped away from their Star Wars films, stating that their contract with Netflix made it so that they could not effectively work on the films. Kathleen Kennedy acknowledged that the studio would be open to the pair returning to work on their trilogy when their schedule allows.
Another trilogy will be written by The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson. It will be independent from the Skywalker saga. In September 2019, it was announced that Kennedy and Kevin Feige will collaborate to develop an additional Star Wars film