NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars 7
Thirty-eight years after the original Star Wars was released in theaters, fans have again journeyed to the Galaxy Far, Far Away in Star Wars: Episode 7 - The Force Awakens. For months, rumors and speculation have circled the internet - as fans attempted to predict what director J.J. Abrams had in store. From Luke Skywalker's hand tumbling through space to claims of Stormtrooper-turned-Resistance hero Finn's parentage, industry scoopers served up a steady stream of alleged spoilers - many of which, we can now say, turned out to be false.
It's always possible that some of these spoilers existed in Michael Arndt's original screenplay, before Abrams reworked the script; however, many did not make it from the page to the big screen. That all said, certain pieces of speculation and rumor did turn out to be true, with some even managing to remain concealed until the film's release.
For those who have not seen The Force Awakens yet, make sure to read our spoiler-free review as well as our pre-Episode 7 story primer, then come back here to discuss the biggest spoilers, surprises, and reveals! NOTE: Our list is not a countdown, we've listed the spoilers in (mostly) chronological order.
14 Poe Hides a Resistance Secret in BB-8
Despite claims that Luke Skywalker's severed hand (and Empire Strikes Back lightsaber) would be featured in the opening of Episode 7, The Force Awakens actually begins with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron on a special mission to retrieve a data disk, containing clues to Luke Skywalker's present location, from Lor San Tekka. However, when First Order troopers and Kylo Ren track Dameron to the remote planet of Jakku in the hopes of acquiring Luke's location themselves, the Resistance hero is forced to leave the data disk with his droid, BB-8.
Before capture by Kylo Ren, Dameron instructs BB-8 to get as far away from the battle as possible. BB-8 reluctantly agrees, leaving his master behind, eventually encountering Rey in the Jakku desert - where Rey saves the droid from becoming scrap parts at the hands of junker Teedo. Once safe, BB-8 reveals his mission, and the secret data, to Rey and Finn - who set out to return the droid to the Resistance.
13 Finn Backstory Revealed
After all of the debate over Finn's name, it is revealed early-on that "Finn" is actually a nickname given to Stormtrooper FN-2187 by Poe Dameron during an escape from the First Order - meaning Finn was never the trooper's actual name (and gives no clues to his parentage). Regardless, Finn likes the nickname - and adopts it as his moniker going forward. The Force Awakens doesn't reveal Finn's original name but confirms the hero was taken from his family when he was very young - reconditioned by the First Order to serve in their army and enforce their commands.
However, in his first combat mission, Finn disobeys orders - watching in horror as Kylo Ren kills Lor San Tekka in cold blood while Finn's fellow troopers fire on a town of helpless villagers. Despite his brainwashing, Finn recognizes the First Order is evil and, upon returning from battle, decides to run. Requiring a pilot to aid in his escape, Finn decides to rescue the only person onboard the First Order command ship that might be sympathetic to his situation, Poe Dameron.
12 Rey is Force Sensitive
Trailers for The Force Awakens openly showed Finn holding Luke's lightsaber - leading fans to assume that the former stormtrooper was going to be the next Jedi savior of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Nevertheless, leaked trading cards hinted that it might actually be Rey that is Force sensitive - and now, with the film in theaters, audiences know the truth: the Force is strong with Rey. It's too early to rule out the possibility that Finn could eventually train as a Jedi too but, The Force Awakens puts Rey's awakening front and center.
After a vision, Rey begins to discover that she can wield the Force - resisting invasive mind reading at the hands of Kylo Ren and employing Jedi mind tricks to aid in her escape from Starkiller Base. The exact story behind Rey's childhood abandonment on Jakku, as well as the identity of her parents, remains a mystery but when Rey bests Ren in the film's climatic lightsaber battle, the hero appears to be calling on memories from past Jedi training that have since been suppressed - suggesting that Rey could have been one of Luke's students (at the very least).
11 Kylo Ren is Han and Leia's Son
It has long been assumed that one, if not all, of the starring trio of new Star Wars characters, Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren would be related, in some way, to fan-favorite characters from earlier in the saga. While Rey and Finn's parentage remain a mystery, though fans might have their own theories by the end of Episode 7, the backstory for Kylo Ren is a major part of The Force Awakens plot. As many fans had suspected, Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. His birth name before turning to the Dark Side? Ben Solo (likely named after Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi).
Given that Leia was the daughter of Anakin Skywalker, once referred to by Yoda as "another" hope (should Luke have failed to defeat Darth Vader and the Emperor), it shouldn't be a surprise that her son would also be a powerful Force user. Leia doesn't reveal any Jedi abilities in The Force Awakens but it is explicitly explained that Ben was trained as a Jedi by Luke Skywalker - until Ben was seduced by Supreme Leader Snoke, turned into Kylo Ren, and charged with eradicating any remaining Jedi from the galaxy.
10 Why Luke Went into Exile
Following the events of Star Wars: Episode 6 - Return of the Jedi, Luke began training a new generation of Force-sensitive individuals - in an effort to rebuild the Jedi Order. Ben Solo was among Luke's students and, though details are scare for the time being, The Force Awakens suggests that Ben, following in his grandfather's (Anakin Skywalker) footsteps, was corrupted by the Dark Side, then turned on his master, destroyed the new Jedi Order, and became Kylo Ren.
Unable to forgive himself for his failure as a Jedi master and feeling responsible for leaving his nephew susceptible to corruption, as well as the pain Ben's downfall caused Han and Leia, Luke becomes crippled by self-doubt - deciding that he will only bring further pain to his friends and family. Believing he is a liability, rather than a hero, Luke abruptly vanishes in search of an ancient Jedi temple (rumored to house a legendary power) - leaving only cryptic clues to his location, should he one day be needed again.
9 Maz Kanata Has Luke's Lightsaber
As previously suggested, it was believed that Luke Skywalker's lightsaber would play a large role in Episode 7 - as a relic that would help the Resistance find Luke (assuming the weapon didn't fall into the First Order's malevolent hands first). While the lightsaber is important to the plot, restoring some of Rey's memories and reawakening her Jedi senses, the weapon does not appear until mid-way through the film - when it "calls out" to Rey from an aging chest in the basement of Maz Kanata's bar.
Maz does not elaborate on how she came to possess Anakin and Luke's blue-bladed lightsaber but her eagerness to hand the weapon over to Rey could be a hint that the former Jakku scavenger might be a direct Skywalker descendent. No doubt, Maz may simply recognize Rey as the next "new hope" but it would be even more fitting if Rey was gifted her father's lightsaber by one of Luke's trusted friends, just as Luke was gifted his father's lightsaber (the same one that appears in The Force Awakens) by Anakin's former master.
8 Rey Sees Visions of the Past and Future
There are hints throughout the first act of Episode 7 suggesting that Rey is more than just a savvy scavenger - most notably superhuman "reflexes" and other precognitive abilities. However, when she arrives at Maz Kanata's watering hole and is "called" by Luke's lightsaber, Rey is pulled into a vision of the past - and a potential future. Rey's vision is a mix of things that happened to her and Luke - as well as things that could come to pass (her encounter with Kylo Ren in the snow-covered forest of Starkiller Base). Out of context, it's hard for viewers to interpret the vision but it actually lays out a relatively clear glimpse at what has happened and might happen near the Skywalker lightsaber.
Powerful Force users are able to read objects, not just people, recalling past memories and looking into possible futures - which is exactly what happens when Rey is called to Luke's lightsaber. The lightsaber is marked by Luke's experiences, offering insight into his past - including the Knights of Ren and the moment Luke hides clues of his location inside R2-D2. Rey's vision of her future confrontation with Kylo Ren, as with any Jedi vision, isn't set in stone but foreshadows what could (and eventually does) come to pass.
7 Han Solo and Leia Are Estranged
When it was first announced the original Star Wars stars would be returning for The Force Awakens, many assumed that Han Solo and Leia Organa would have spent the last thirty years together, for better or for worse. Rather than suggest the last three decades have been blissful for the smuggler and the princess, J.J. Abrams committed to a more affecting story: where the lovers were torn apart by the actions of their troubled son. As a result, it's been years since Han and Leia have seen each other by the time audiences catch up in The Force Awakens.
When Ben Solo turns on Luke Skywalker, both Han and Leia struggled to accept that their son had been seduced by the Dark Side. Suffering through the loss of their child, the pair tried to face grief as a couple but struggled to move past their pain, turning to work for distraction. To that end, Han left with Chewbacca and went back to life as a smuggler, while Leia continued to build the Resistance and search for her brother. The two are only reunited when BB-8 is spotted at Maz Kanata's bar - prompting Han and Leia to reunite, reflect on their time apart, and comfort one another in the face of an uncertain future.
6 Luke Skywalker Left R2-D2 in Sleep Mode
C-3P0 and R2-D2 are featured on The Force Awakens poster but the pair get very little screen time in Episode 7. C-3PO shows-up in the second act, when General Leia Organa and her Resistance arrive to save Han Solo, Chewbacca, BB-8, and Finn from a First Order assault on Maz Kanata's bar. However, R2-D2 is initially absent - until BB-8 discovers the blue and white droid stored under a canvas sheet in a Resistance command center. When BB-8 attempts to wake R2-D2, C-3PO explains that his astromech friend is stuck in a low power mode - basically unresponsive ever since Luke Skywalker left.
C-3PO believes R2-D2's comatose state to be irreversible, suggesting that his companion isn't likely to ever be the same again - a quiet end to an artificial life full of adventure. Yet, once the First Order threat has been neutralized (for the time being), R2-D2 reawakens - with a very important piece of information, essential to helping the Resistance locate Luke.
5 Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb Are Back
The latest Star Wars 7 trailer hinted at the return of fan-favorite Rebels Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb but the characters couldn't be confirmed as the same Return of the Jedi heroes by looks alone (it has been three decades). It was always possible that the Mon Calamari and Sullustan shown in the film's trailers were not the meme-able originals; however, The Force Awakens puts the pair front and center in the Resistance command chain - alongside longtime friend and colleague Leia Organa.
Mirroring their responsibilities in Episode 6, as a strategist and co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, respectively, in The Force Awakens Ackbar consults with Leia and Poe Dameron in the planned assault on Starkiller Base and oversees the fight, while Nien Nunb joins the X-Wing fleet for the attack. The characters aren't the most important players on the Episode 7 stage, and are given about as much screen time as in the previous installment, but they're welcome familiar faces in a crowd full of new heroes and villains - faces that remind viewers that, even after the Empire's defeat, the Rebels were still been fighting the Dark Side (for the last thirty years).
4 Starkiller Base Destroys the Republic
Interviews and trailer footage gave fans a sense of the First Order's Death Star successor, Starkiller Base - suggesting that the station was bigger and more powerful than the original Empire super-weapon; however, how the weapon worked and the damage it was capable of inflicting remained tightly guarded secrets at Lucasfilm - as was the identity of Starkiller's first target. Now we have answers: to power the weapon, Starkiller Base drains a nearby sun of its energy - then redirects that energy into focused "laser" beams aimed at intended targets. The Force Awakens makes it apparent that the base doesn't just fire a single shot either; instead, Starkiller is capable of striking multiple planetary bodies at once - exemplified by the destruction of the Republic planet and its neighboring moons.
Following the defeat of the Empire, the Rebel Alliance founded the New Republic to reestablish democracy within the galaxy. Just as the First Order was formed from ashes of the Empire, the Resistance arose from former Rebel cells - to fight the remaining Dark Side threat where the Republic couldn't. Holding a grudge against the New Republic for their role in destroying the Empire, and their unspoken support of the Resistance, the First Order makes the New Republic and its fleet the first target of Starkiller Base - killing millions, including many of the galaxy's most influential politicians. The destruction of the New Republic will, undoubtedly, have lasting implications on the story going forward - as the galaxy is now without formalized leadership.
3 Kylo Ren Kills Han Solo
One of several rumors that turned out to be true, albeit for different reasons than many fans had assumed, Han Solo is killed in The Force Awakens finale - at the hand of his son, as Ben is pulled even deeper into the Dark Side as Kylo Ren. For months, fans had linked together a series of Episode 7 trailer shots that, out of context, seemed to suggest that Rey was crying over Han's dead body. However, it was actually Finn's critically injured body that Rey was crying over - minutes after Solo died confronting his son, in an effort to bring Ben home (at Leia's request).
Unfortunately, Kylo Ren's corruption wasn't swayed by Han, and the Dark Side wielder exploited his father's love - murdering the Rebel hero in cold blood. In spite of the betrayal, Han uses his last seconds to brush his son's cheek - a moment of tenderness that could, no doubt, cause further internal conflict for Kylo Ren. Like many Star Wars characters before him, Han's body then falls down into the foggy inner-workings of Starkiller Base. Fans will, as a result, question whether the iconic hero managed to survive but it's important to remember that Harrison Ford wanted Han to die in the Empire Strikes Back - hinting that he may have also pushed for the character to die this round. Ultimately, the Star Wars 7 death is likely too poignant a moment to reverse - a beautiful but gut-wrenching conclusion to one of Star Wars' most beloved characters.
2 Kylo Ren Gets Mutilated
Throughout the events of Episode 7, Kylo Ren is an unruly and unchecked force - ruthlessly killing innocents, torturing his enemies, destroying First Order property, and overpowering anyone who tries to stop him. A testament to his strength, Ren is one of only two people in The Force Awakens with a direct line to Supreme Leader Snoke - joined by General Hux (who, conversely, commands a world-destroying super weapon). Given that no one, with the possible exception of Snoke, can match Kylo Ren's abilities in battle, the Dark Side warrior becomes arrogant and reckless - especially since Luke Skywalker is hidden away in self-imposed exile.
As a result, Ren is caught off-guard when Rey successfully resists his torture methods - and reads his mind instead. Later, when the two face-off in battle, the more practiced Kylo Ren gains an upper-hand until Rey allows the Force to guide her. Undisciplined and driven by rage, Ren is easily bested by Rey, who glances the Dark Side wielder with her lightsaber, appears (though unconfirmed at this time) to cut off his hand, and disfigures Kylo Ren's face - before destruction of Starkiller Base forces the fighters apart. Like his uncle and grandfather before him, Kylo Ren will, at the very least, require a new cybernetic hand and some time in the bacta tank before he returns in Episode 8.
1 Luke Skywalker Is Found
Luke Skywalker Fan-Art by Liam Pickford
After Luke Skywalker was nowhere to be seen in The Force Awakens poster, fans began to wonder how much Luke they would actually get in Episode 7. While the Jedi knight is a regular topic of conversation and mythology in the film, as well as the driving force behind many of the events that transpire (since the First Order and the Resistance are both actively looking for Luke), Mark Hamill receives little screen time this round - with only a fleeting glance at hooded Skywalker within Rey's vision (as seen in the film trailers). In fact, Luke is only revealed in the final minute of Episode 7.
After electing self-imposed exile, Luke split a holographic map of his location, giving one piece to someone, that later entrusted Tekka, for safe keeping - and hiding the other within R2-D2 (placing the droid in low power mode to maintain system memory and keep R2-D2 out of harm's way). BB-8 even suggests R2-D2 might possess the other part of the map; yet, C-3PO dismisses the idea. When R2-D2 awakens, the Resistance is able to pinpoint Luke - sending Rey and the Millennium Falcon, co-piloted by Chewbacca, to his location. Upon arrival, Rey attempts to return Luke's lightsaber but, still scarred from his perceived failures, the Jedi knight appears reluctant to accept the mantle of responsibility once again.
Those are our picks for the fourteen biggest spoilers and reveals from The Force Awakens, feel free to share your favorite reveals and Episode 8 speculation in the comments!
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is now in theaters, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.