What Disney's New Star Wars Movie Release Dates Actually Tell Us

Are we dealing with one trilogy, the beginnings of two, or neither? 

Star Wars 9 Rey

After 2019, a huge part of the cinematic Star Wars universe will supposedly be closed-off forever. Once the The Rise of Skywalker ends, the story of the family called “Skywalker” will also be over. But, Star Wars films will still be released by Disney well into the third decade of the 21st century. But what do the new release dates for the next three Star Wars films mean? Will a new trilogy begin after the Skywalker saga ends? Or is everything about to get more complicated than ever before?

According to an official line-up released to entertainment press, the next three Star Wars movies after The Rise of Skywalker will debut on the following dates:

UNTITLED STAR WARS 12/16/22

UNTITLED STAR WARS 12/20/24

UNTITLED STAR WARS 12/18/26

On face, these release dates differ from what fans have gotten used to since 2015, most specifically, we’re now dealing with a new Star Wars movie ever two years rather than every single Christmas. Also relevant is that this time, after Rise of Skywalker ends, there will be a three year gap between new Star Wars movies. Back in the day, three years was the normal amount of time between Star Wars movies (there are three-year gaps in-between the original theatrical releases for all six Star Wars movies prior to the new Disney regime.) But now, that three-year gap seems like an eternity. So, what does this mean? There are basically four options.

Star Wars The Last Jedi Rian Johnson

4. The Next Three Movies are One Trilogy From Three Directors

Savvy fans are probably aware that new Star Wars films are likely coming from two directoral sources comprising of three people: Rian Johnson and Game of Thrones showrunners team Benioff and Weiss. Back in 2017, before The Last Jedi was even out, Lucasfilm confirmed that Johnson would get his own trilogy, and then in 2018, Lucasfilm made a similar announcement about new movies from Benioff and Weiss, but never used the word “trilogy.” Since then Johnson has said that his project has not to been canceled at all. So, if we assume the next series of movies is one trilogy, its totally possible that Johnson is directing and writing some of it, and Benioff and Weiss are directing other pieces.

Benioff, cracking up
Benioff, cracking up 

The Next Three Movies Are Pieces of Two Trilogies

But, even more likely, based on what has already been announced, it’s very possible that these next three films will not be directly linked together, but instead consist of pieces of two trilogies. Johnson has said repeatedly (as recently as February 2019) that his project is a trilogy. So, maybe the 2022 movie is the first part of Johnson’s trilogy, the 2024 movie is a separate Benioff and Weiss movie, and the 2026 movies is another Johnson film. Or, the reverse is true, and there’s only one Johnson movie, sandwiched by two Benioff and Weiss films.

Rey Finn
Rey and Finn

There Are No More Star Wars Trilogies, Ever

Even though Rian Johnson’s project has been called a “trilogy,” it’s feasible that Star Wars trilogies are not a thing anymore. In interviews as far back as 2017, Kathleen Kennedy suggested that Star Wars could move beyond the trilogy model. Of course, Star Wars has tried this already with two anthology films; Rogue One and Solo. This means that the upcoming films could be similar to those “Story” films and not linked together at all. And if this were true, that wouldn’t rule out any of them being directed by Johnson or Benioff and Weiss, either. We’d just have to unlearn what we’ve learned about the way Star Wars movies are structured.

Yoda in 'The Empire Strikes Back'
Yoda in 'The Empire Strikes Back'

The Release Dates Don’t Include Everything (Or Could Change)

Just because there are three Star Wars movies announced for 2022, 2024, and 2026, there’s no reason to believe there won’t be more Star Wars movies announced in-between now and then. After all, plans have changed before. Back in 2016, Lucasfilm made it clear that a standalone Star Wars film would come out in 2020 But obviously, that’s no longer happening.

The lesson here is simple: The proposed release dates for future Star Wars movies don’t mean much. With the exception of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, literally every single new Star Wars film since 2015 has had directors and writers change before the films were completed. From Rogue One to Solo to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, the best laid plans for the contemporary Star Wars films have changed quite a lot. Meaning, even though the future of Star Wars has been announced, the Force itself is always in motion. 

Media via Lucasfilm, HBO