One of the coolest aspects about the Star Wars sequel trilogy is that they’re helmed by people who grew up watching the original movies as kids.
This means that each film in the series is littered with references to the previous two trilogies, giving amateur sleuths the opportunity to test their wits. Some references are obvious, while others require a bit of know-how to figure out. This list combines ten of our favorite. How many of these have you found?
10 Female Leads
The inclusion of Rey as the main protagonist of the sequel trilogy is a groundbreaking move for the franchise. In a series known for its strong female characters, giving one an entire trilogy of which to call her own is the next logical step. However, the idea of a female lead goes back all the way to the original drafts, first written by George Lucas in the mid ‘70s.
It is long rumored that Lucas, a stanch progressive with outspoken anti-authoritarian views, dabbled with the idea of making the character that would later become Luke Skywalker a woman. Early concept art by Ralph McQuarrie seems to confirm this, along with giving Han Solo a lightsaber. Of course, while Lucas did eventually make Luke the main protagonist, he ended up making Leia Organa a textbook example of female empowerment.
9 The Sacred Texts!
The sacred Jedi texts may not be page turners, but they sure do hold importance. After all, why would Rey take the time to retrieve them all from the large tree before Yoda’s ghost roasted it like Zeus?
While many viewers caught the glimpse of the texts inside the Millennium Falcon’s cargo hold, it was easy to miss if they weren’t paying attention. It came as a surprise to some when, later on, online publications began to speculate on their importance in later movies.
8 Walking into the sunset
One of the most divisive aspects of The Last Jedi was how Luke threw everything away and went into hiding. While some people complained that this went against Luke’s character, older drafts of Return of the Jedi reveal something much different.
According to the late Gary Kurtz, who produced A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Jedi was supposed to end with Luke walking into the sunset, alone, his past behind him and his future uncertain. Kurtz explained that the ending was emblematic of Spaghetti Westerns, where the hero doesn’t necessarily live happily ever after, but just goes off to turn a new leaf somewhere else. While Luke wouldn’t take this step until over thirty years later, it’s still a neat ode to the original drafts that many fans missed.
7 Leia’s Force Powers
In the Star Wars Legends, aka the pre-Disney Expanded Universe, Leia becomes a full-fledged Jedi and joins Luke in bringing the religion back from the dead. The sequels showed things differently, however, with Leia now a general in the Resistance, at the helm of their war against the First Order. Or did they?Remember, when Leia was blown into the vacuum of space and flew back towards her ship? Trippy, right? Not so much.
Remember that Luke told Leia at the end of Jedi that the force runs strong in their family. Also, if rumors are to be believed, Leia originally trained to be a Jedi before the events of The Force Awakens, but stopped after she became pregnant with Ben Solo. If this turns out to be true, then it means Leia is just as much a Jedi as her brother, and creating a protective bubble was just part of the job.
Starkiller Base, the big bad upgrade of the Death Star, horrified the galaxy with its planet destroying shotgun. But hardcore fans of the series know that the name Starkiller existed long before The Force Awakens.
In the drafts for the original trilogy, Starkiller was Luke’s last name. Thankfully, Lucas changed it to Skywalker in later drafts, perhaps under the impression that Starkiller sounded to try-hard for his tastes.
5 Stormtrooper Helmets
The stormtroopers in the sequel trilogy got a nice update from their original counterparts. While they retained some of their forbearers’ design elements, the helmets were given a sleeker, minimalistic look that keeps them in line with modern design ascetics.
That’s no mistake either. According to director J. J. Abrams, the helmets were inspired by Apple products. We can see the resemblance, given the helmets’ smother edges and brighter shine. It could also be a jab at Apple, but we’d rather reserve that judgement for another article.
4 X-Wing Design
Another addition to the movies that got a visual update were the X-Wings. While they look very similar to their original trilogy counterparts, their engines are of a different shape.
It’s a subtle change that harkens back to concept designs by the legendary Ralph McQuarrie, whose paintings helped bring Lucas’ words to life. We think it’s a neat throwback to McQuarrie’s work, whose contribution to the series can never be understated.
There were a lot of famous actors who made cameo appearances in The Force Awakens, but one fans missed completely was a visit by none other than James Bond himself.
Daniel Craig, who had recently starred in the Bond flic Spectre only a month before, appeared as a stormtrooper, whose designation number was JB-007. He’s the stormtrooper that Rey attempts to use a mind trick against while she’s being held hostage on Starkiller Base. No word yet if the base had a martini bar.
2 Millennium Falcon’s Dish
Most fans know by now that the Millennium Falcon’s communication’s dish was different in the sequels that what it was in the original trilogy. After it got knocked off at the end of Return of the Jedi, it was replaced by a rectangular dish. All well and good. However, few have mentioned the fact that, in a brief shot of the Falcon in the Rise of Skywalker trailer, the dish is a circle again.
Naturally, one would assume that Lando replaced the dish with something closer to the way it looked before. However, it could also indicate the possibility of time travel. We already know that time travel exists in the Star Wars universe, so it wouldn’t be out of the question for the hearos to make a jump backwards to the original trilogy.
1 Ewan McGregor’s Cameo
Ewan McGregor’s role as Obi Wan in the Star Wars prequels is one of the few things about the trilogy that’s regularly praised. McGregor is, after all, an extremely talented actor, who recently got signed on to reprise his role of old Ben in a new Disney+ show. But many viewers were unaware that McGregor’s Obi Wan made an appearance in The Force Awakens, abet in a much more subtle way.
In the basement of Maz Kanata’s bar, one of the voices talking to Rey during her unnerving encounter with the Skywalker lightsaber is McGregor, playing Obi Wan, saying “Rey, these are your first steps.” It’s a spine-tingling statement, one that more or less lays out the course for the entire trilogy.