The Star Wars movies have always been defined by their ability to surprise audiences with plot twists and cliffhanger endings, since George Lucas’ first conception of the Star Wars saga was his attempt to bring the thrill of the episodic storytelling of sci-fi serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s to the big screen.
Those serials always ended each chapter with a cliffhanger or plot twist to get the audience more invested in seeing how the story plays out, and that’s exactly what Star Wars has always done. So, here are the 10 Most Shocking Plot Twists In The Star Wars Saga.
10 Leia Is Luke’s Twin Sister
This plot twist is as shocking as it is creepy (because they kissed). The Empire Strikes Back had already given us one family-related twist, so when it came to topping that movie for a grand finale in Return of the Jedi, George Lucas doubled down and gave us another one. Not only was Darth Vader really Luke’s father; Leia was really his twin sister, too. The second use of a plot twist where one character is revealed to be related to another character has led Star Wars to be identified with these twists. J.J. Abrams copied it in The Force Awakens, while fans are desperate for two significant characters to be revealed as Rey’s parents.
9 Darth Vader Is Being Manipulated By An Even More Evil Sith Lord
All throughout A New Hope, Darth Vader is depicted as the evil overlord in charge of the Empire. If one of his admirals questions his judgment, he simply Force-chokes them until they either agree with him or die. However, midway through The Empire Strikes Back, it becomes apparent that there is someone higher up than Vader who he answers to.
He’s being manipulated by a Sith Lord who is even more evil than himself. Anyone who’s seen the prequels already knows this, but if the original trilogy is your first journey into George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away, it’s quite a surprise.
8 Luke’s Appearance On Crait Was Just A Force Projection
There was a lot wrong with The Last Jedi – and Star Wars fans haven’t kept it to themselves over the past couple of years – but it had a pretty awesome ending. The First Order had the Resistance backed into a cave on Crait, with their whole armada ready to blow them out of there. Then, Luke Skywalker arrived, marched out in front of said armada, and challenged Kylo Ren to a lightsaber duel. Kylo Ren, lumbered with pride, accepted the challenge and the duel began. As Luke was simply dodging Kylo’s strikes and not swinging for himself, it seemed like a disappointing fight – until it was revealed that Luke wasn’t actually there, and had projected himself from Ahch-To with the Force to give the Resistance time to flee.
7 The Clones Massacre The Jedi
The prequel trilogy charts Anakin Skywalker’s fall from promising Jedi Padawan to infamous Sith Lord, but it also charts Sheev Palpatine’s rise from unsuspecting politician to puppet-master controlling the whole galaxy. As soon as he assumes power over the Republic in Revenge of the Sith, bringing his plan closer than ever to completion, Palpatine tells all the Clone guards escorting Jedi Knights on missions to “execute Order 66.” This turns out to be the slaughter of the entire Jedi Order. This shocking twist reveals to us why Obi-Wan and Yoda are in hiding when we might them in the original trilogy.
6 Darth Vader Kills The Emperor
In most stories, the good guy simply kills the bad guy, which is what made the ending of Return of the Jedi such a surprise. It turned out that the bad guy was being controlled by a more evil bad guy, and when the more evil bad guy was killing the good guy with Force lightning, the original bad guy had a change of heart and decided to throw his master down a reactor core shaft, killing him (or so it seemed). The redemption of Darth Vader was a surprising twist – especially at the time – because it was one of the first instances of a villain being humanized and showing their ability to be good.
5 Kylo Ren Is Han And Leia’s Son
Star Wars fans went into The Force Awakens with very little knowledge of the new characters. We were all excited to see our old favorites again, but we were also intrigued by the new masked villain, Kylo Ren. At first, he seemed to be a mere rip-off of Darth Vader. However, we later discovered that it went a little deeper than that: he was inspired by Vader, because he was his grandson. During a meeting with Supreme Leader Snoke, it’s astonishingly revealed that Kylo Ren’s real name is Ben Solo, and he’s the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia.
4 Darth Vader Survives The Destruction Of The Death Star
Although the Rebel Alliance enjoys a victory at the end of A New Hope with the destruction of the Death Star, the viewers get a sense that the story isn’t over yet. Darth Vader’s ship might be tumbling around in space, but he managed to escape the space station before it exploded and he’ll live to fight another day. The Rebels won the battle, but they haven’t won the war just yet. A New Hope has a satisfying conclusion – about as satisfying as any movie ever made, with all the character arcs wrapped up in a neat bow and the good guys triumphing over the bad guys – but Vader’s survival suggests we’ll be heading back to this galaxy far, far away before too long.
3 That Swamp Creature Really Is Jedi Master Yoda
This plot twist has been ruined by the prequel trilogy, because anyone watching the prequel trilogy first would recognize Yoda instantly when Luke arrives on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. But back in 1980, when Star Wars fans were enjoying the second ever movie in the saga, they had no idea that the little swamp creature who mocked Luke and whacked R2-D2 on the head with his cane would turn out to be the fabled Jedi Master mentioned by Obi-Wan. Lifting an X-wing out of a swamp with the Force is more impressive when you think the guy doing it is just a strange little Muppet.
2 Everyone Dies At The End Of Rogue One
Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One, arguably the best of Disney’s Star Wars films so far, had a lucrative opportunity that few Hollywood blockbusters are allowed: it didn’t have to keep anyone alive or set up any sequels. And it’s fair to say that Edwards used that opportunity wisely, subverting the audience’s expectations by killing off every single character he’d made us fall in love with.
The heroes of Rogue One managed to get the Death Star plans up to the Rebels on Tantive IV, but they didn’t escape the Death Star’s targeted destruction of the Citadel Tower in an attempt to stop the transmission. It was a tragic and powerful note to end on.
1 Darth Vader Tells Luke He’s His father
This isn’t just the greatest plot twist in the Star Wars saga; it’s quite possibly the greatest plot twist in film history. Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker finally throw down with lightsabers in close combat on Cloud City, and then when Vader has bested Luke, he reveals to him that he is his biological father. The twist was so mind-blowing that only George Lucas and David Prowse, the actor who played Vader on set before having his voice dubbed over by James Earl Jones, knew about the twist going into the scene. Even Mark Hamill was given an alternate line in the script, so his reaction to the twist is authentic.