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The Ending Of Every Star Wars Movie Explained

Between the main, nine-chapter-long "Skywalker Saga," the franchise's spin-off "anthology films," and its surprising amount of one-off and television specials, Star Wars has a seriously daunting amount of films for newcomers to the universe. If the sheer number of them isn't bad enough, new viewers also have to deal with the fact that the films weren't released in chronological order and vary wildly in both quality and canonicity. Not every film "counts" anymore, and that's a concept that can be confusing or easy to miss for those unfamiliar with these stories.

Each film is a captured moment in time that influences every piece after it through to the present day and beyond, and while individual guides to each film are helpful tools that can provide in-depth information and analysis to its readers, an overview of every film, its ending, and its impact on the story and franchise overall can track the ever-growing narrative of the Star Wars universe as it developed over time. From its classic hits to its bizarre failures that are obscure for a reason, here is every the ending of every Star Wars movie explained.

Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

When the original "Star Wars" released in 1977, it took the world by storm. Moviegoers marveled at this new, inventive world of magnificent spaceships, flashy firefights, charismatic heroes, and surprisingly chatty robots. The film was a science fiction story of rebellion that turned into a fantastical western before transforming into a space opera for the ages. 

Even with a relatively lengthy two-hour runtime, what this film managed to accomplish is almost unbelievable. It introduced a large, completely original ensemble cast of characters alongside an incredibly detailed fictional universe and used both of them to tell an engaging story with a satisfying ending that also somehow managed to almost perfectly set up its potential sequels. 

The heroes have destroyed the Death Star and fought off Darth Vader, but his Empire is still out there. Han Solo's daring return showed that this scoundrel could become a hero, and even though Luke's Jedi teacher Ben Kenobi was killed, he was still able to guide his student from beyond the grave. The story of the Death Star was over, but the film left its viewers with questions that would keep them wanting more. Would Luke become a Jedi like his father, would Han Solo become a true hero, and would the Rebellion be able to defeat the Empire? The future was filled with "A New Hope," but only time would tell. 

The Star Wars Holiday Special

Audiences would have to wait a little while for a sequel, however, as Lucasfilm first chose to make "The Star Wars Holiday Special." Released in 1978, just over a year after "A New Hope," this was fans' first chance to return to a galaxy far, far away, and it was a doozy. A two-hour made-for-television variety special, the "film" followed Chewbacca's family of Wookies as he and Han Solo tried to make it home in time for "Life Day." 

The work's narrative largely revolves around the various strange, psychedelic, and sometimes disturbing entertainment these three furry aliens engage with as they wait for the "Millennium Falcon's" arrival. Mama Mala watches a cooking show to help her make dinner while calling various "Star Wars" characters for updates. Their son watches various shows and cartoons, and Chewie's father "Itchy" views some adult-rated material, and all of this is inexplicably intermixed with brief returns to the Tatooine cantina.

Unfortunately, the Empire is hoping to use the holiday to finally locate and capture these two elusive Rebels, and send Stormtroopers to trap Solo and Chewbacca, but with the help of a local shopkeeper sympathetic to the Rebel cause, they evade or kill these soldiers and celebrate Life Day together by holding glowing orbs, wearing red robes, and watching Princess Leia sing a strange, strange song. 

It's not clear what Life Day is, but they got to celebrate it together, and that's the important part. 

Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

What "A New Hope" built up, "The Empire Strikes Back" would seemingly change forever. Their victory against the Death Star now three years behind them, the Rebellion is on the back foot as Darth Vader destroys their base on Hoth. Though the majority of the Rebel fleet manages to escape, the crew of the "Millennium Falcon" spend the rest of the film failing to do the same while Luke trains on the planet Dagobah with Master Yoda. 

With his new abilities, Luke senses that his friends are in trouble on the Cloud City of Bespin and abandons his training in a desperate attempt to help them, but after all is said and done, nobody is left unscathed. Right when it looks like Han and Leia might be falling in love, Vader freezes Solo in carbonite and allows the bounty hunter, Boba Fett, to take him back to Jabba the Hutt. The Empire imposes martial law on Cloud City, forcing its administrator, Lando Calrissian, to order an evacuation and abandon the city entirely, and when Luke finally arrives, he fights Vader, loses his right hand, and discovers that the villain was his father all along. 

By the time the credits roll, the heroes are still on the run, and their team is a man down. Though the Rebel fleet has started to regroup, they have no base and must lick their wounds with the Empire still nipping at their heroes. 

Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

While "The Empire Strikes Back" may have been the Rebellion's darkest day, "The Return of the Jedi" proved to be one of its brightest. After freeing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance discover two things: Leia Organa is his sister, and the Empire created a second Death Star above the forest moon of Endor. 

After long, drawn-out battles on the moon, in the stars, and on the battle station itself, the Rebellion finally won. Luke successfully called his father back to the lightside, and Anakin Skywalker killed the Emperor at the cost of his own life. Leia and Han confirmed their love for each other and helped the Ewoks destroy the station's field generators, allowing Lando Calrissian and the Rebel fleet to destroy the Death Star for a second time. 

Though Vader had died, Luke saw Anakin, Yoda, and Ben Kenobi as force ghosts, letting him know that his father truly had redeemed himself. The entire galaxy celebrated the Emperor's death because with him gone, the Empire's days were numbered. There was still work to do, but the dream of restoring the Republic finally seemed possible, and now that Luke was a fully trained Jedi, there was hope that the Jedi might live again as well. 

Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure

But alas, "The Star Wars Holiday Special" was not destined to be Lucasfilm's only strange experiment with made-for-television features, and like its predecessor, "Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure" was released on ABC the year after the most recent Star Wars film, "Return of the Jedi." The film was an attempt to continue the franchise despite the conclusion of its Original Trilogy and expand it beyond the theater-going experience. 

To this end, it starred the easily recognizable Ewoks from "Episode VI" in an entirely unrelated, original story that followed the Towani family as they crash-landed on the forest moon. Though the parents are kidnapped by an evil beast called the "Gorax," the children, Cindel and Mace, work together with Wicket and the Ewoks to defeat the monster and rescue their parents. 

After a long journey across deserts, acid pools, and giant mountains, the courageous children reach the Gorax's fortress, fight giant spiders, and, with the help of the fairy-like "Wisties" and the Ewoks, free their parents. Gorax is defeated in the ensuing battle by essentially tripping him into a giant chasm, and the victorious heroes return to the Ewok village to celebrate their victory and mourn those they lost. 

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

In 1985, fans got their third Star Wars film in just as many years when another spin-off named "Ewoks: The Battle for Endor" aired on ABC. The sequel to "Caravan of Courage," this odd, strangely horrific movie can be seen under the "Star Wars: Vintage" banner on Disney+.

After defeating the Gorax, the Tawani family are finishing the repairs to their starship and preparing to leave both the forest moon and their new friends forever. Before they can go, however, a group of space marauders led by a Nightsister of Dathomir attack the Ewok village, killing the entire Tawani family (except for Cindel) in the assault and enslaving the surviving Ewoks. 

Cindel and Wicket escape and are taken in by another human they discover, a hermit named "Noa" who had crash landed on the moon years earlier. It turns out, a lot of people crash-land on Endor, including the space pirates who had attacked them before to steal parts from the Tawani's star cruiser so they could repair their own and finally leave. 

After Cindel is kidnapped by the Nightsister, Noa and Wicket assault the marauder's castle, free the other Ewoks, and use parts the pirates took from the Towani cruiser to repair Noa's ship and use its defenses to defeat the pirates once and for all. Once the battle is over, Noa and Cindel say their farewells and leave Endor to return to the galaxy at large. 

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

When it finally hit theaters in 1999, "The Phantom Menace" was the first Star Wars film to release in over a decade. Armed with state-of-the-art CGI that was simply impossible when he finished the last film, George Lucas sought to finally finish his six-part saga by revealing the story of Anakin Skywalker and the Clone Wars that he had teased all the way back in 1977. 

Though the film can seem slow to those who dislike fictional space politics, the movie is ultimately the story of a complicated coup of the Galactic Republic itself by its future Emperor Palpatine. By forcing the Trade Federation to invade Naboo using his Darth Sidious identity, Palpatine is able to convince the planet's Queen Amidala to declare a vote of no confidence in the Republic's current Supreme Chancellor Valorum, allowing Palpatine to replace him. 

This act sets up the entire Prequel Trilogy and is the first step towards the Republic's ultimate downfall. All of the action in the film is basically the smokescreen behind which Palpatine rises to power. The initial invasion, the escape to Tatooine and its ensuing Pod Race, and even the final Battle of Naboo and the death of Qui-Gon Jinn are all just the distraction that allows Sidious' sleight of hand trick to succeed. Even his apprentice Darth Maul's death doesn't faze the Sith Lord because he's already spotted his replacement in Obi-Wan Kenobi's new Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, the fabled Chosen One. 

Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones

"Begun, the Clone Wars have." 

"Attack of the Clones" was the moment that many fans had been waiting for since 1977. In order to fully transition the Republic into his own personal Empire, Darth Sidious needed a galaxy-wide crisis he could control and escalate over time. To that end, he had his new Sith Apprentice, the former Jedi Master Count Dooku, organize a large secession from the Republic that the galaxy could only hope to stop by going to war. 

To combat that "threat," Sidious had the Kaminoan clone masters create a Grand Army of the Republic form the genetic code of the most famous bounty hunter in the galaxy: the Mandalorian Jango Fett. This way, when the Separatist's massive droid army was revealed, the Republic would have no choice but to embrace this new clone army in order to fight back, beginning an endlessly-escalating conflict of constantly replaceable soldiers that Palpatine could use to slowly grant himself more and more powers in the Senate until he could safely declare himself Emperor after "winning" the war. 

It's an incredible, sinister feat of political engineering that would prove very successful, and oh, yeah, there was also a bunch of lightsaber fights, a secret marriage, the first battle of some war, and the birth of a future bounty hunter named Boba Fett. Yoda turned into CGI and jumped around a lot too, apparently. Those things were fine, but the politics are where it's really at. 

Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

From the moment the Prequel Trilogy was originally announced, fans of the original films knew how it had to end. In "A New Hope," there's no such thing as a Republic, Anakin is now Darth Vader, Palpatine is the Emperor, and the Jedi have been gone for so long that they're basically a myth. After two films of set up, "Revenge of the Sith" was the tragic moment where it would all come together. 

Having used the Clone Wars to slowly but surely grant him near-total control of the entire Republic, Palpatine finally decides that he's ready to finish his master plan. Through careful arrangements, he plans for his future apprentice, Anakin, to fight and kill Count Dooku, pushing him close enough to the dark side that the fear of losing his wife is enough to send him sprinting over the edge, and with the Republic's final defeat of General Grievous and the droid army, Sidious finally pulls the Ace out of his sleeve and executes Order 66, forcing every clone to rebel against their Jedi Generals and kill them. 

Obi-Wan and Yoda are some of the only survivors, and after discovering that Skywalker murdered younglings, Obi-Wan confronts Anakin on Mustafar and delivers a nearly-fatal blow that forces him to become the walking cyborg fans loved in Lucas' Original Trilogy. Having accidentally killed his wife, Padmé, before the fight, Anakin's transformation into Darth Vader is complete, and Palpatine crowns himself Emperor. 

Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Like the Original Trilogy before it, the Prequel Trilogy would find its own spin-off film in the 2008 animated film, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." Set in-between "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," this theatrically-released film was essentially the pilot project for a television series of the same name that would fill in the gaps between Star Wars' second and third "Episodes." 

The film introduced Anakin's own Padawan learner, a young woman named "Ahsoka Tano," who would go on to become a fan-favorite character during the series. With the help of Clone Captain Rex and his soldiers, Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Ahsoka go on a mission to rescue Jabba the Hutt's son in exchange for the space gangster's support in the war. Unknown to these heroes, however, Dooku arranged the huttlet's kidnapping so he could frame the crime on the Republic and keep them from getting Jabba's aid. 

After several pitched battles and narrow escapes across several planets, Ahsoka manages to return the child to his father while Anakin distracts Count Dooku and holds him off, tricking the Sith apprentice into revealing his scheme while he is unknowingly being recorded. With the Separatist treachery revealed and his son safe, the film ends with Yoda and the other three Jedi arriving on Tatooine to officially negotiate the treaty with Jabba and get his help in the Clone Wars. 

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

A decade after the Prequel Trilogy concluded, Disney released "Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens" after purchasing the franchise from George Lucas for $4 billion dollars

When a new empire arrives on the desert planet of Jakku in search of a secret map, a desert orphan named Rey finds herself wrapped up in the Resistance's efforts to oppose the First Order's tyranny. She's given the classic Skywalker Saber and told she can use the force but doesn't manage to receive much training before finding herself needing to destroy another planet-killing super-weapon. 

The galaxy in this film is one where the cast of the original trilogy failed to realize their goals and dreams. The New Republic wasn't the bastion of freedom many had hoped for and had allowed the fascist First Order to rise uncontested, and a decision that gave them time to build a superweapon that destroyed the democracy's entire capital star system and plunged the whole galaxy into chaos. If that wasn't enough, Leia's son, Ben, fell to the Dark Side, became Kylo Ren, and killed his own father, Han Solo, to drive himself further to the Dark Side. 

Though Rey manages to escape Kylo Ren and the Resistance destroys Starkiller Base, their fleet is on the run, the New Republic is dead, and Rey is left on a strange planet, holding out a lightsaber to an old Luke Skywalker in the hopes that he might train her to become a Jedi.

Rogue One

Alongside their new "Episode" films, Disney decided to release several "Anthology" films that could focus on events unrelated to the Skywalkers and flesh out this beloved universe even further. The first of these was "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," a movie that promised to show how the Rebellion managed to get the Death Star plans that Princess Leia hid away in R2-D2 during "A New Hope." 

To that end, it largely followed a young woman named Jyn, the daughter of the Death Star's designer Galen Erso, as the Rebellion attempts to use her to find him. During this quest, fans see the shady, dark sides of the Rebellion and discover that the strange exhaust port weakness in the Empire's favorite superweapon was actually placed there on purpose by Galen so that the monstrosity could be defeated. 

The plans are on the planet Scarif, and if the Rebellion is to have any hope of defeating the Death Star, they have to get them, so Jyn and Cassian Andor lead a team of Rebels calling themselves "Rogue One" to assault the planet and beam the plans to a Rebel ship in orbit. Though they succeed, every member of the main cast dies in the attempt, and Darth Vader nearly keeps the plans from being delivered to Princess Leia, who escapes on the Tantive IV and flies off directly into the opening sequence of "A New Hope."

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

If J. J. Abrams' "A Force Awakens" was a reestablishing of what fans had always remembered Star Wars to be, then Rian Johnson's "The Last Jedi" was an examination of the franchise that seemingly attempted to deconstruct its tropes and storytelling in an effort to discern where it should go from there. The film takes place mere days after "Episode VII," and by its end, all of their daring plans to save the day failed, but a few still remain to carry on the spark that will light the flame of Resistance across the galaxy. 

Poe's attempt to fight the First Order fleet leaves the Resistance vulnerable, Rey's attempts to train with Luke are met with sardonic rejection, and Finn's attempts to keep the First Order from tracking their fleet through hyperspace all end in disaster. Clearly, by this point, the past failed, and Luke Skywalker isn't interested in going through all of it again. Kylo even manages to kill his master, Snoke, and take control of the First Order for himself, telling Rey that she needs to let the past burn and die. 

But then Luke uses the power of the Force to manifest a vision of himself on Crait to distract Ren long enough for what little is left of the Resistance to finally escape aboard the "Millennium Falcon." The effort kills Luke, but it gives the Resistance everything they need to rebuild: time, and each other. 


"Solo: A Star Wars Story" was, in a way, the first Star Wars origin story. It showed fans how Han got his last name, escaped his home planet of Corellia, trained as a Stormtrooper, met Chewbacca for the first time, and won the "Millennium Falcon" from Lando Calrissian in a game of Sabacc by keeping the man from cheating. 

Han and his team's goal throughout the film to steal coaxium, a source of fuel for spaceships, is interrupted by betrayal after betrayal. Solo's "mentor," Beckett tries to double-cross Han so he can keep the money for himself. Han, in turn, betrays Vos so he can give the fuel to young, burgeoning rebels, and Qi'ra aids Han's betrayal so she can take Vos' place at the head of the Crimson Dawn under its leader, Darth Maul. 

The story is self-contained and clever, but it introduced a lot of plot threads that still haven't been picked up on to this day. This story takes place years before Maul' appearance in Rebels, and how he goes from the head of a intergalactic crime lord to a wandering hermit is unknown. With seeming confirmation that this film was meant to be the first of a trilogy, leaving these details hanging makes sense, but with the trilogy's apparent cancellation, fans may have to wait a long time to see them continued. 

Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

In many ways, "Star Wars: Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker" ended in the same place that "Return of the Jedi" left its heroes: with the Emperor dead, with hope for a new democratic government born anew, and with a new Force-wielding hero with their very own, brand new lightsaber who just might restart the Jedi Order. After spending much of the film trying to find a way to Exegol in order to confront the Emperor. The main cast of characters arrive at the planet. 

After sensing his mother's death, being healed by Rey, and imagining a conversation with his father, Han Solo, Kylo Ren finally gave in to the Light Side and became Ben Solo once again. Together, Ben and Rey defeated Palpatine, revealed to be Rey's "gradj and his henchmen, allowing Rey to use the force to summon and manifest the energies of every Jedi who had ever lived and using that power to kill the Emperor once again. 

Meanwhile, Palpatine's fleet of starship-sized Death Star lasers was defeated by Poe Dameron and the Resistance after Lando arrived with the vast, numerous reinforcements of the so-called "People's Fleet." Together, they ended the threat, went home, and celebrated while Rey returned to Tatooine to bury Luke and Leia's lightsabers. It is here, that she sees their force ghosts and claims the name "Skywalker" for herself, rejecting her lineage from the Emperor. 

The Lego Star Wars Holiday Special

Like the Original Trilogy had the "Ewok Adventures" and the Prequels had "The Clone Wars," the Sequel Trilogy has received its own official, specially made spin-offs in the form of "The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special." Made and hosted exclusively on Disney+, these LEGO shorts are some of the only pieces of Star Wars content that are set after "Rise of Skywalker," though they aren't actually canon. 

The feature focuses on Rey Skywalker's attempt to train Finn in the ways of the Jedi, though both are struggling with the prospect. In an attempt to gain guidance, she travels to a temple on Kordoku to observe a special Life Day ritual that ultimately allows her to travel throughout time and meet Star Wars characters from multiple different eras, including Yoda, Qui-Gon Jin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader. 

After nearly breaking time by giving Vader and Kylo Ren access to the green crystal she was using to traverse the time stream, Rey sets everything right with the help of several versions of Luke Skywalker and learns her lesson. Life Day is about spending time with friends and family, and though she will fail at times in teaching Finn, she will learn from those failures, and they will both grow to become better for it. 

With this knew assurance, Rey rushes back to Kashyyyk and spends Life Day with her loved ones. 

LEGO Star Wars: Terrifying Tales

The second of Lego's made for Disney+ original specials, "LEGO Star Wars: Terrifying Tales" follows Poe Dameron as he crash lands on Mustafar at Vader's Castle, which has been turned into the "first all-inclusive, Sith-inspired, luxury resort." Run by Graballa the Hutt, who has one of his servants tell the cast scary stories. 

The special is a series of stories, including "The Wookie's Paw," which is based on the real-world "Monkey's Paw" idea, that every wish comes with an unexpected twist that is almost always far worse than what was asked for. In another, Kylo Ren becomes convinced that ghosts are real. When Poe decides it's time to leave, he ends up having to fight his way out and damages the Sith hotel in the process, enraging Graballa the Hutt and taking a new boy named Dean to train under Rey Skywalker.