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Will Star Wars Episode 10 Ever Happen?

Contains spoilers for The Rise of Skywalker

After four years at the forefront of pop culture, the latest triad of Force tales has come to an end with the release of Star WarsThe Rise of Skywalker. While most critics have taken issue with the film, the majority of fans of the sequel trilogy seem to be treating The Rise of Skywalker as a bittersweet moment — and for those who were alive to witness the theatrical releases of the Star Wars prequels and the original series, it probably feels even more overwhelming. 

In 2015, three years after Disney bought Lucasfilm, the two companies revived the iconic franchise with The Force Awakens. Featuring the aged-up original trilogy characters of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), The Force Awakens also introduced a fresh-faced and notably diverse cast, all led by director J.J. Abrams. The resurgence of the Star Wars film property and the addition of wide-eyed characters opened the door for a whole new generation of viewers to experience the farthest edges of the galaxy and the true meaning of heroism. And in doing so, it also renewed love for the legacy cast and catapulted the careers of its new stars: Daisy Ridley, who plays the Resistance warrior and rising Jedi Rey; John Boyega, the man behind the defected stormtrooper and current Resistance fighter Finn; Oscar Isaac, who portrays the expert X-wing pilot Poe Dameron; and Adam Driver, the actor who brought the villainous Kylo Ren, the wayward son of Han and Leia, to life in a powrful waya.

The Force Awakens received wild and wide praise from critics and fans alike, setting a handful of new box office records and raking in more than $2 billion worldwide. The second installment, writer-director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi, introduced to the Skywalker saga storyline even more new characters (like Kelly Marie Tran's Rose Tico) and significant twists (Supreme Leader of the First Order Snoke, played by Andy Serkis, dies — and Rey's parents were gambling nobodies!). Upon its release, The Last Jedi became embroiled in controversy and garnered mixed reactions from fans and critics alike. Yet, the second installment in the sequel trilogy still managed to gross $1.3 billion internationally.  

Now, The Rise of Skywalker has reunited The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams with much of his original cast — give or take a few additions and sad exceptions. The film is meant to close the door not just on the storylines of Star Wars' newest golden trio of Resistance fighters, but on the fates of the dark side's latest big bad Kylo Ren and the galaxy's biggest threat, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). But is it possible that Star Wars Episode 9 — which wrapped up larger trilogy and franchise plot points and is also facing a big expected box office haul amid mixed initial reactions — might not be the last fans see of a Skywalker? Could a 10th installment of the Skywalker saga be possible? Really, will Star Wars Episode 10 ever happen?

Warning: There are Rise of Skywalker spoilers ahead!

Has the Skywalker saga actually ended?

For a franchise that has spanned more than 40 years and now nine total entries — not counting the stand-alone universe films, TV shows, and even video games — it seems hard to believe that it's, well, over. When ending a franchise, studios have in the past seemingly left things hanging just enough to latch onto something new in the future, so it's not hard to see why Star Wars fans are questioning whether The Rise of Skywalker actually is the end of the saga. 

But back in 2018, Disney and Lucasfilm basically told fans as much. In a lengthy press release announcing Episode 9's full title, cast, and production details, Lucasfilm described the third film as "the final installment of the Skywalker saga." Then, earlier this year, Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy doubled down on this fact. While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the 2019 Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, Kennedy revealed when the studio officially knew it was "the end." She stated, "We knew we were going to close this up, we knew that even before we started The Force Awakens."

Additionally, there are clues within The Rise of Skywalker that prove Abrams was dedicated to not just tying all three of the Star Wars trilogies together, but also to using this tale to wrap the Skywalker saga in a tight bow. In a 2017 BBC interview, Abrams touched on his expectations for Episode 9, and discussed how bridging the Star Wars story of his youth with the present and ultimately future of the franchise was important. "I feel like we need to approach this with the same excitement that we had when we were kids, loving what these movies were," Abrams said (via Star Wars News Net). "And at the same time, we have to take them places that they haven't gone, and that's sort of our responsibility."

In many ways, that's what Abrams has done. The Rise of Skywalker essentially exists both in the universe's past and present. It does this by pulling together threads — some amazing and some pretty lackluster — from all three Star Wars trilogies. For example, Emperor Palpatine came back, but he wasn't just there – Abrams used the villain's presence and dialogue to call on recurring themes like fear and mentions of the first and final "orders," creating a direct link between the saga's beginning and end. More obviously, Palpatine tempted Rey towards the dark side in the same ways that he tempted both Anakin and Luke Skywalker: through the people she cared about. It's in the final narrative decision to name Rey as both the granddaughter of Palpatine and to later have her declare herself as Rey Skywalker that the full-circled nature of The Rise of Skywalker shines brightest. She is the culmination of Luke's chosen light and Anakin's chosen dark — a living, breathing balance. 

And still, that final character decision wasn't as finite an end to the Skywalker saga as it could have been. The Rise of Skywalker was no Rogue One, and the revelation about who Rey was and who she becomes still leaves the door open for yet another entry because, yes, there's still another Skywalker — not by blood, but by soul, heart, and purpose. As far as every other Star Wars trilogy before this one has been concerned, the mere existence of a Skywalker has been enough to keep the saga alive. 

There are more Star Wars movies on the way

Star Wars fans will feel an even stronger sense of finality in the time following the release of The Rise of Skywalker, as the franchise is confirmed to be taking a brief hiatus. In April 2019, Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger made the announcement and revealed the real reason why the Star Wars franchise is taking a break following The Rise of Skywalker: to let the dust settle and to allow time for hype, anticipation, and adoration for the property rebuild "because the Skywalker saga comes to an end with this ninth movie."

Disney and Lucasfilm have confirmed that the next Star Wars film will arrive in theaters on December 16, 2022 — with two more films following on December 20, 2024 and December 18, 2026. This certainly looks like the release schedule for a new trilogy — most likely the trio of Star Wars films from The Last Jedi's Rian Johnson. However, that December 2022 launch date was previously reserved for the Star Wars project that Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss were attached to before they abandoned the production and confirmed they wouldn't be making the film, so there is a bit of a wrinkle in the idea that Johnson's trilogy is next up on Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars docket. Still, it does make the most sense that another trilogy would be coming next based on the matchy-matchy release dates alone. 

But the two companies behind the Star Wars franchise could surprise us all and announce that the carved-out release dates are for three separate standalones — perhaps one from Johnson, the film that Marvel Studios' Kevin Feige is crafting, and another "Star Wars Story"-branded project that hasn't yet been revealed. 

In any case, there are indeed more Star Wars movies on the horizon, though they may not be Episode 10. That said, while all the signs are there that The Rise of Skywalker is the end, with a studio like Disney — whose love of reviving IP and library of upcoming and in-development Star Wars content continues to expand — it may just be the end for now.