In 1977, George Lucas introduced the world to Star Wars. The story told through the trilogy that grew out of that first film is the basis of most people's Star Wars knowledge and came to be called the "original trilogy," serving as the cornerstone for what everyone says Star Wars "should" be. Recent additions from the new canon have fleshed the story out even more, and some of the gaps have also been filled in, making the ever growing story that much fuller.
Continuing our trek through the long history of a galaxy far far away, we finally come to the era of the original trilogy. Be sure to check Part I and Part II for anything you may have missed! Here's A Complete History of the Star Wars Universe, Part III.
25 The Dark Times
Following the rise of the Empire is a period referred to as The Dark Times. The Jedi were wiped out, save for a few like Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, former Padawan Caleb Dume (who left the order behind and took on the alias Kanan Jarrus), and the former Padawan of Darth Vader - Ahsoka Tano.
There were occasional pockets of resistance, but otherwise, the Dark Times were mostly free of war. The Empire expanded trade routes, improved galactic infrastructure and communications networks, cracked down on piracy, and explored more of the galaxy, adding significantly to star maps and charting new hyperspace routes.
Training academies were established, creating opportunity for citizens to becomes more educated and skilled to serve in military, political, or even private offices. These academies also stocked the stormtrooper armies of the Empire to replace the ageing clones. The recruitment and conscription model proves to be effective, as it made participating families feel an investment, increasing loyalty for families of cadets.
24 The Imperial War Machine
The benefits of the Empire don't extend to every citizen. Vast Imperial resources were also devoted to expanding the Imperial Army and Navy, and the worlds that had the best offering in natural resources were often stripped clean - with slave labor when necessary. The Empire enslaved Wookies on Kashyyyk and sent them to the spice mines of Kessel, and used Geonosian Drones to construct much of the Death Star - removing all "evidence" and leaving Geonosis devoid of life when they were no longer needed.
To meet the demands of these projects, the Empire began seeking new planets to tear apart to build its war machine - the planet Ilum being one such fatality. In an effort to secure more resources for the Death Star construction, Commander Orsen Krennic begins framing governments on protected “legacy” worlds for conspiracy against the Empire and seized the planets for the Empire’s use.
23 Dark Discoveries
The Emperor sets up advanced research stations all across the galaxy, even outside known space, using science to expand knowledge of the Force, employing a scientist named Dr. Cylo to research both biological and cybernetic enhancements that could mimic - or replicate - the power of the Force. Cylo is an expert in various alien biologies and cybernetic technologies, and he uses that knowledge to construct a variety of potential new agents for the Emperor, even using his research to extend his life by transferring his consciousness into new clones should his previous body be compromised.
Darth Vader, whose life is made possible by the armor suit designed by Cylo, serves as the Emperor’s enforcer, although he's little more than a ghost story, as nearly every enemy he encounters is summarily destroyed. Tasked with hunting down remaining Jedi, Vader grows in the dark side of the Force under Palpatine, learning to harness his anger and hatred to increase his power.
22 Sparks of Rebellion
The might of the Empire was too grand to directly oppose at first, but Bail Organa worked tirelessly with many allies from the former Galactic Republic, such as Mon Mothma, to form and connect Rebel cells. Ahsoka Tano joins in this effort, communicating with various Rebel factions under the codename “Fulcrum.”
Local opposition begins to form on more remote planets. Twi’Lek resistance forces, led by Cham Syndulla, successfully destroy the Star Destroyer Perilous, the flagship of Darth Vader; an uprising on the mining colony of Cynda brings Kanan Jarrus out of hiding to team with Hera Syndulla to bring down an Imperial mining vessel, the Forager; and Saw Gerrera uses the guerrilla tactics he learned from Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars to mount a resistance.
Eventually, Kanan and Hera recruit a crew, comprised of Mandalorian explosives expert and artist Sabine Wren, former Lasan High Honor Guard Captain Garazeb (Zeb) Orrelios, Lothal scavenger Ezra Bridger (who Kanan takes on as his Padawan), and the astromech droid C1-10P - called Chopper. They travel the Galaxy (mostly in the Lothal Sector) in Hera’s ship, the Ghost, harassing the Empire and performing strategic missions on behalf of Fulcrum.
During this time, Gallius Rax comes out of the shadows, designated a Commander in the Imperial Naval Intelligence. His reports skip normal chain of command, going directly to Imperial top brass.
21 Fire Across the Galaxy
Eventually, the Empire discovers the presence of Kanan and Ezra’s Jedi training and Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin, along with the Grand Inquisitor, is tasked with finding a resolution to the new Rebel threat. They capture Kanan Jarrus and take him to Mustafar, torturing him aboard Tarkin’s Star Destroyer, the Sovereign, seeking information on other Rebel cells and the identity of Fulcrum, but the Jedi doesn’t break.
Teaming up with Bail Organa’s Rebel network, the crew of the Ghost mounts a rescue mission aided by their new allies, the Phoenix Squadron. During the mission, Kanan and Ezra face off against the Grand Inquisitor aboard the Sovereign. Kanan overpowers the dark warrior, and the Inquisitor’s lightsaber falls into the Sovereign’s reactor, triggering a chain reaction. The Jedi offers the him an opportunity to surrender, but the Inquisitor tells Kanan there are things "worse than death" before dropping into the exploding reactor core of the Sovereign.
20 The Empire Takes Notice
The rescue of Kanan Jarrus and destruction of the Sovereign finally gets the attention of the Empire, and a blockade is imposed over Lothal. Governor Tarkin and Darth Vader are tasked to end the Rebel cell, forcing the Ghost crew to flee. Before they leave, they encounter Vader. Kanan and Ezra engage him in lightsaber combat, only to discover they're utterly mismatched against the Sith Lord, forcing them to retreat. Vader dispatches the Fifth Brother and Seventh Sister - two more inquisitors - to track down them down.
Seeing that it’s necessary to start bringing disparate Rebel cells together to form a larger force, the crew of the Ghost signs on with Phoenix Squadron along with Ahsoka Tano, who also helps in recruiting her former clone ally Captain Rex.
With their new access to information and resources, the Ghost crew disrupts the Inquisitors’ attempts to abduct Force-sensitive younglings; aids Princess Leia Organa, who’s conducting missions to deliver resources to rebel cells under the guise of mercy missions; acquires an advanced prototype B-Wing fighter; and seeks out a suitable location for a new Rebel base, eventually settling on Atollon.
19 Visions Through the Force
Kanan and Ezra, constantly pursued by Inquisitors, fear their presence threatens to expose the Rebels. Traveling to an old Jedi Temple on Lothal with Ahsoka and Ezra, Kanan seeks the knowledge to defeat Darth Vader and the Inquisitors. While there, each of the Force users is subjected to a vision through the Force.
Kanan is confronted by the specter of a Jedi Temple guard. This sentinel cautions him about his involvement in the war, saying that fighting the Empire will only pull Ezra Bridger to the dark side. He engages Kanan in lightsaber combat until Kanan sees he has no chance of victory, kneeling in resignation. In response, the guard knights him, making him an official Knight of the Jedi Order.
Ahsoka sees a vision of her former master, Anakin Skywalker. In the vision, Anakin questions why she abandoned him - if she knows what he’s become - then he transforms into Darth Vader, revealing that her former master is now a Sith Lord, and Emperor Palpatine’s enforcer.
18 Violence of the Past
Ezra doesn't have a vision like the others - he actually converses with Master Yoda through the force. He asks for the power to destroy Vader and Inquisitors. Yoda explains that the Jedi were too quick to fight in the Clone Wars, and that giving into their fear, anger, and arrogance is ultimately what led to their collapse. He tells Ezra that a Jedi's eternal challenge is to avoid bending fear into anger. The Padawan asks how the Rebellion can win if it doesn’t fight, and Yoda reluctantly instructs him to seek Malachor.
On Malachor, the Jedi and Ahsoka find an ancient Sith temple surrounded by a battlefield strewn with petrified bodies and ancient Jedi and Sith lightsabers. Separated from the others, Ezra encounters Maul, who was stranded on Malachor while also seeking to destroy the Sith and the Inquisitors. Their motives seemingly align, so Ezra assists Maul in accessing the temple. Together they perform tasks designed for two dark side Force-wielders until they reach the temple's center, discovering a Sith holocron. Maul instructs Ezra to place it in an obelisk, causing the temple to power up to reveal a Sith superweapon.
17 No Jedi
While Ezra puts the Holocron in place, Maul teams up with Kanan and Ahsoka to defeat the Inquisitors, before turning on Kanan, claiming Ezra is now his apprentice, and declaring his intent to wield the battle station that is Malachor’s Sith Temple to get revenge on all his enemies. Maul strikes Kanan’s eyes, blinding the Jedi, before Kanan is able to knock him off a ledge.
Then Vader arrives. Urging Ezra and Kanan to leave without her, Ahoka confronts the Sith Lord, confirming that it is, in fact, her old master. But no part of the Anakin Skywalker she knew remains. She holds her ground against the Sith Lord, but the temple begins to come apart once Ezra retrieves the holocron. The collapse of the temple separates Ahsoka and Vader, who each go their own way to treat their injuries.
Having survived his fall from the temple, Maul commandeers a TIE fighter and flees Malachor.
16 A Dark Path
Without his sight, Kanan becomes withdrawn, leaving Ezra to continue his training largely unsupervised. Believing the Sith holocron can teach him the abilities he needs to overthrow the Empire, he begins meddling with the dark side. While Ezra is on a mission without Kanan, the Jedi hears voices leading him to a mysterious Force wielder. The Force wielder says he is Bendu and he's neither light nor dark. Bendu helps Kanan to regain sight through the Force, and Kanan leaves the Sith holocron with him for safekeeping, as Bendu seems unaffected by its pull.
The holocron wouldn't remain with Bendu for long, though. Maul soon, kidnaps the ghost crew, stealing Kanan’s Jedi holocron, demanding they bring him its Sith counterpart. When the two are combined, they grant a clarity of vision not accessible to mortals - a clarity Bendu warns can be a double edged sword.
Maul tells Ezra he’s seeking hope and they begin the ritual, but it's interrupted, destroying the holocrons. Maul ends up leading Ezra to Dathomir, where he uses ancient Nightsister magick to re-link their minds, revealing they are both seeking the same thing. Maul says "I see, it ends where it began. A desert planet with twin suns!" Ezra tells Kanan Obi-Wan is the key to defeating the Sith.
Unfortunately, the magick used has a price. The spirits of the Nightsisters attempt to take a flesh payment, but Ezra destroys their alter, severing the Nightsister spirits from using it to return again.
15 Imperial Crackdown
The Rebels begin to see many small victories. Thanks to ISB Agent Kallus acting as a new Fulcrum from inside the Empire, they capture much needed Y-Wing fighters from the Empire and locate Imperial defectors, including young pilots Wedge Antilles, Derek “Hobbie” Klivian, and Rake Gahree. They’re also successful in recovering a load of proton bombs thanks to a tip from the former pirate Hondo Ohnaka and win the allegiance of the Mandalorian Fenn Rau, the former protector of Concord Dawn, which sits on a route of strategic importance to the Rebels.
These repeated successes slowly grow the Rebel cell into a thorn in the side of the Empire, so the ominous Grand Admiral Thrawn is called in to deal with the annoyance personally. Thrawn is a ruthless and cunning strategizer who takes his time learning every nuance of the Rebel cell, planning the perfect attack to wipe them out.
14 A New Hope
When the Rebel Alliance gains intel about a new Imperial Superweapon, the Death Star, a team, lead by Jyn Erso, the daughter of the former Celestial Power researcher Galen Erso, is formed to steal the plans. The mission succeeds, but Darth Vader is tasked with tracking the plans down. He hunts the Rebel spies, but they transmit the plans to Princess Leia before Vader finally closes in.
The Rebellion is finally at an advantage and Bail Organa decides this is the moment they’ve waited for since they split up the Skywalker children and the Jedi went into exile nearly two decades ago. It's time for the Jedi to return and lead the Rebel Alliance to victory. He sends Leia to retrieve General Kenobi and Luke Skywalker, but Vader intercepts her in orbit over Tatooine, forcing her to send the plans with a droid, R2-D2, including a message urging Kenobi to join the fight. Upon receiving the plans, Obi-Wan gives Luke Anakin’s old lightsaber, revealing that his father, Anakin Skywalker, was once a great Jedi, but he was murdered by a fallen Jedi and former pupil, Darth Vader. He takes the son of Skwalker as his apprentice, and they procure passage to Alderaan aboard the Millennium Falcon, flown by the smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot, Chewbacca.
13 A Statement of Power
When Emperor Sheev Palpatine learns that the plans escaped and Princess Leia was captured, he knows the Rebel sympathizers in the Imperial Senate will only be emboldened, so he dissolves the Senate entirely, placing the regional governors in charge. The Death Star destroys Alderaan, an act the Empire claims as an unfortunate necessity due to the terrorist intentions of the Rebel Alliance.
By the time the Millennium Falcon arrives, Alderaan is gone. The ship is captured by the Death Star, but the passengers evade patrols and learn that Princess Leia is imprisoned on the space station. Luke, Han, and Chewbacca head off to free her while Obi-Wan assumes the responsibility of disabling the tractor beam to allow their escape. They rescue the Princess and return to the Falcon, but Obi-Wan encounters Darth Vader. Igniting their lightsabers, the former friends duel one last time, ending when Obi-Wan sacrifices himself to allow the others to escape. With his death, Obi-Wan’s body becomes one with the Force, fulfilling his years of training in exile.
12 The Turning Point
Leia provides coordinates for the Rebel base on Yavin IV, but a homing beacon was attached to the Millennium Falcon aboard the Death Star, allowing the Empire to track them and discover the Rebel hideout. The Alliance examines the stolen plans, discovering a weakness in the station that could allow a small group of fighters to slip through the defenses - which are geared toward a larger capital ship assault - to target a small thermal exhaust port and start a chain reaction that could destroy the entire station.
Luke joins the Rebel pilots in the battle, flying an X-Wing as Red 5. While Luke evades a counter attack by Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi speaks to him through the Force, telling him to let go. Luke shuts off his targeting computer to trust in the Force for the killing shot, destroying the station and leaving Darth Vader as the lone survivor.
The Death Star was not solely a military installation. The lives of hundreds of thousands of occupants, military and non-military alike, is declared a terrorist action by the Empire, justifying the harsh actions at Alderaan for many Imperial citizens, further galvanizing many Imperials against the Rebel Alliance.
11 Remnants of Anakin
Luke had barely stepped down the path of becoming a Jedi, yet must continue his training without Obi-Wan Kenobi. He tracks down the remnants of several Jedi temples, where he learns to improve his connection to the Force and advance his lightsaber technique, aided both by whispers from Obi-Wan and Kenobi's journal, which he found in his hut on Tatooine, but his Jedi skills are still rudimentary at best.
During an undercover mission to an Imperial facility on Cymoon 1, Luke encounters Darth Vader. While vastly outmatched, Luke escapes the battle unscathed, but Vader sees the boy's potential, recognizing the lightsaber he carries as the former blade of Anakin Skywalker. Vader hires bounty hunters to discover the identity of this boy. Boba Fett is the first to return, reporting the name Luke Skywalker. Vader realizes he was deceived by his Palpatine. He didn't kill Padme on Mustafar; she had survived long enough to give birth to his son.
10 The Hunt for Skywalker
Disappointed in Vader’s failure, the Emperor begins testing cybernetically enhanced soldiers, created by Dr. Cylo, as possible replacements, placing Vader under the command of Grand General Tagge. Insulted and enraged by Sidious's lies about Padme, Vader begins plans to train Luke and turn on the Empire. He eventually confronts Cylo, destroying the doctor and all his creations. This act of hate impresses the Emperor, even though it undermines his objectives. Sidious is pleased to see his apprentice embracing the dark side more than ever and places the entire Imperial fleet in Vader's hands, entrusting him with the new massive Super Star Destroyer, the Executor.
The Rebels establish a new base on the ice planet, Hoth, but Vader’s probe droids quickly discover their presence, bringing the might of the Empire down on Echo Base. As the Rebels retreat, Luke takes a different path, following a vision from Obi-Wan instructing him to find Jedi Master Yoda on the planet Dagobah.
The Emperor reveals to Vader that the son of Anakin Skywalker is now a member of the Rebel Alliance, stating that Luke cannot be allowed to become a Jedi. Feigning ignorance, with his own plans still in motion, Vader suggests Skywalker could be a powerful ally if turned. Sidious agrees.
9 Wars Not Make One Great
Luke travels to Dagobah and meets Yoda, where he comes to learn more of the ways of the Force. Yoda teaches him the nuances of the light side, the dark side, and the doctrine of the Jedi Code. The aging Jedi Master then sends Luke into mysterious cave where Luke sees a vision of Darth Vader. Igniting his lightsaber, Luke decapitates the apparition, exposing his own face beneath the Sith Lord’s mask, warning the young Jedi of his destiny should he follow the same path as Vader.
As Yoda teaches Skywalker to calm his mind and expand his senses, Luke is suddenly exposed to a vision of his friends being tortured by Darth Vader on Cloud City. Ignoring Yoda’s urges to finish his training before rushing off to face Vader, Luke's fear of losing his friends drives him to leave Dagobah, promising Yoda he’ll one day return to complete his training.
8 You Are Not a Jedi Yet
Darth Vader works with Lando Calrissian, Cloud City’s administrator - and old smuggler friend of Han Solo - to modify the carbon freezing chamber for use on Skywalker. Vader tests the process on Captain Solo and turns the frozen smuggler over to Boba Fett, who plans to collect an additional bounty on Solo for debts he owes Jabba the Hutt.
When Luke arrives, Vader is impressed with the progress he's made in the 3 years since their encounter on Cymoon 1. Luke is still no match for Vader, though, and the duel abruptly ends when the Sith Lord cuts off his hand, which tumbles with his lightsaber into the chasm. Vader reveals to Luke that he’s his father, imploring him to join him and overthrow the Emperor. Shocked by this revelation, Luke drops into the Cloud City core where he calls out to Leia through the Force to rescue him.
Lando aids in their escape in the Falcon and they fly them back the the Rebel fleet. Luke’s hand is replaced with a cybernetic prosthetic, and Lando and Chewbacca make plans to infiltrate Jabba's palace to rescue Han.
7 Rebels Rising
In a massive offensive intended to cripple the Empire’s shipbuilding infrastructure, the Rebellion’s 61st Mobile Infantry, Twilight Company, carves a path through Imperial space, ending on one of the Empire’s major manufacturing centers, Sullust. Their mission was supposed to continue on the Core World of Kuat, the home of the Kuat Drive Yards and the heart of the Empire’s Star Destroyer construction, but heavy casualties force them to dig in on Sullust, leading a resistance movement on the ground to liberate the planet from Imperial control entirely.
The Bothan spynet discovers that the Empire is constructing a new Death Star, suffering many casualties in efforts to get the data to the Rebel Alliance. Seizing the opportunity, Admiral Akbar, Mon Mothma, and Leia decide it’s time for the scattered Rebel fleet to come together in a show of strength, rendezvousing over the newly liberated Sullust to prepare for the largest battle of the war.
6 The Rescue of Han Solo
After his defeat by Vader, Luke sees just how much more training he needs. As he helps plan the rescue of Han from Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine, Luke continues to improve his knowledge of the Force, constructing a new green bladed lightsaber.
Lando goes undercover in Jabba's palace. R2-D2 and C-3PO eventually join as servants, and Leia disguises herself to sneak in as the bounty hunter Boushh pretending to collect the bounty on Chewbacca, but she gets captured in the process. Luke arrives to negotiate for their release, also getting captured. Jabba plans to execute his prisoners by having them eaten by the giant sarlacc living in the Great Pit of Carkoon, but Luke's new lightsaber was hidden inside R2-D2. They turn on Jabba’s enforcers, sending Boba Fett into the pit, and destroying Jabba’s sail barge. During the conflict, Leia strangles the giant slug, earning herself the title of Huttslayer.
5 A Certain Point of View
Luke returns to Dagobah to find Yoda on his deathbed. The ancient Jedi Master tells Luke not to worry, as death is the way of the Force, and Luke already knows everything he needs. Luke asks Yoda if Vader is really his father. Yoda confirms, saying it's unfortunate Luke wasn’t able to finish his training before confronting him. Warning the young Jedi not to underestimate Sidious, Yoda tells Luke he’s going to be the last Jedi, but the Force runs strong in his family, and “there is another Skywalker.” Then, Yoda disappears as he becomes one with the Force.
Before Luke departs, Obi-Wan appears. He tells him Anakin had once been a great Jedi, expressing disappointment in his failure to save him. Luke believes there is still good in Vader, but Obi-Wan says it’s his destiny to face him, and the Emperor has already won if Luke can’t kill his father. Luke asks Obi-Wan about Yoda’s last words, and his former Master confirms that Leia is his twin sister and the “other Skywalker."
4 It's a Trap!
The Rebellion launches its surprise attack on the new Death Star. General Calrissian leads the attack on the station, flying the Millennium Falcon, while General Solo leads the ground forces on the Forest Moon of Endor. Sensing his father’s presence, Luke surrenders himself to Vader. He tells him there is still good in him and he can turn from the Emperor, but Vader believes it is too late. He tells Luke that as his new master, the Emperor will teach him the true nature of the dark side.
Confident in his scheme, Palpatine claims he foresaw the attack and is more than prepared for the Rebels. Contrary to Rebel intelligence, the Death Star is operational, the shield is still up, and a large fleet is awaiting the attack. The Rebels scramble and triy to stall for time while Han, Leia, and their rebel commandos work to destroy the shield generator.
As a demonstration of his control over Vader, Darth Sidious has Luke attempt to strike him down, only for Vader to intervene, initiating a duel. Luke begins to give in to his anger and eventually overpowers Vader, removing his hand, but when Palpatine tells him to kill his father and take his place as the new Sith apprentice, Luke sees Vader's severed cybernetic hand that mirrors his own, reminding him of his vision in Yoda's cave. Throwing his lightsaber away, he refuses to fight inciting Palpatine’s wrath.
The Sith Master tortures Luke with Force lightning as Vader watches. Anakin had abandoned all loyalties other than his devotion Dark Lord of the Sith after believing Palpatine’s lie that he had killed Padme and her unborn children, but now his child was in front of him, getting electrocuted by the same man that once promised him the power to save them. In one final selfless act, Vader finally turns on Sidious, taking the brunt of his lighting, and throws the Sith Master down the Death Star's reactor shaft - restoring balance to the Force.
The damage sustained by Vader's armor begins to shut down his life support, but before he dies, the former Jedi is tells his son he was right, there was still good in him.
Meanwhile, Han's commandos successfully destroy the shield generator, finally allowing the Rebel fleet to engage the Death Star. Flying into the superstructure, Lando Calrissian leads a group of fighters, including Wedge Antilles, to the station's reactor core, destroying the superweapon. Some imperial ships escape the ensuing mop-up, but the victory serves as the most crushing blow to the Empire yet, destroying much of the Imperial fleet, the second Death Star, and Sheev Palpatine himself.
Luke burns the armor of Darth Vader in a private ceremony before joining the Rebel celebration over the death of the Emperor. During a festivities, Luke sees the Force spirits of Yoda and Obi-Wan looking over him, joined by a young Anakin Skywalker.
There's far too many details to cover every little bit. After all, this all originally appeared in books, comics, movies, and shows with far more space for details, but did any of your favorite bits get left out? Did you learn anything new or interesting? Let us hear about it in the comments!