The release of The Rise of Skywalker marks the end of a major era in moviegoing history that began back in 1977 with the original Star Wars. As generations new and old come together to decide the fate of the galaxy, it’s going to be important you remember some key moments from earlier films, especially the prequel trilogy.
Below are 10 key moments from the Star Wars prequels — The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith — you need to remember before you check out The Rise of Skywalker.
10. Arriving on Tattooine in Episode I
Desert planets have a special place in the Skywalker saga. We’ve met our heroes, Luke and Rey, on the desert planets of Tattooine and Jakku. The desert has served in a thematic importance in the Star Wars world, too. They serve as locations not just where heroes live but where they train and ponder their futures. This is precisely the case with Anakin’s introduction in The Phantom Menace: he’s a young boy with big dreams of getting ooff Tattooine.
9. Palpatine’s transformation in Episode III
Palpatine’s gruesome transformation into Darth Sidious is a disturbing and memorable moment from Revenge of the Sith. He is transformed during his stand-off with Mace Windu, who has finally realized Palpatine is the true enemy of the Republic. We wouldn’t be surprised to see some callbacks to this iconic showdown in Rise of Skywalker.
8. The cloning technology reveal in Episode II
The Clone Wars, as seen in Attack of the Clones and in additional canon texts and TV shows, have been integral to the Skywalker saga. When it comes to The Rise of Skywalker, we should remember this moment where the clones were unveiled, especially if there is any reason to believe those “Rey is a clone” or “Snoke is a clone” theories floating around. It’s highly unlikely Attack of the Clones was the last time we saw the technology in action, and it could prove important in Rise of Skywalker.
7. Anakin creates C-3PO in Episode I
C-3PO has come so, so far since we first met him in The Phantom Menace. Originally meant to be just a refurbished protocol droid to serve Shmi Skywalker, C-3PO has become an integral part of the Skywalker saga. It’s hard to believe that Threepio came from such humble beginnings and his introduction in The Phantom Menace is honestly so casual, you’d be forgiven if you didn’t understand just how importanct he would become if you were new to the Star Wars universe.
Over several decades, Threepio and his accidental sidekick R2-D2 have been messengers, confidants, and friends to the Rebel Alliance and the Resistance. Trailers for Rise of Skywalker hint Threepio has a pivotal role to play in helping Rey bring down Palpatine, but he
6. The Jedi council rejects Anakin in The Phantom Menace
The Jedi Order is legendary. The original trilogy made it clear the Jedi were very special and becoming one was no mean feat. The prequel trilogy demystifies the Jedi quite a bit, revealing them to be stubborn, slow to act, and fatally convinced of their own innate superiority. Sure, the Sith are the default bad guys in Star Wars, but in the prequels you can really see how the Jedi sowed the seeds for their own destruction. Anakin eventually is trained and doesn’t turn to the Dark side until many years later, but this moment of rejection always stays with him. It’s why he can be persuaded to betray the Jedi Order.
5. The Skywalker twins are born in Episode III
Legacies are important in the Skywalker saga. We inherit what is passed down to us from the generations who have gone before us. With the birth of Luke and Leia comes the inheritance of the pain and power of their parents’ relationship, the Force coursing through their veins. The arrival of the Skywalker twins is a deeply powerful and important moment because a new generation is born. By the time credits roll on Rise of Skywalker it’s clear they will have passed on all of their knowledge and experience to the next generation.
4. Anakin Skywalker dies and Darth Vader is born in Episode III
When it comes to Kylo Ren’s role in the sequel trilogy, it’s not hard to draw lines between his development into a leader on the Dark side and and his grandfather Anakin Skywalker’s transition to the the Dark side. Both men were unsure of themselves but aware of their power. Both felt pulled between institutions bigger than themselves, contributing different things to the well-being (or, in the case of the nascent Empire and later, First Order, not-so-well-being) of the galaxy. And, in the end, both men were and will be defined by those choices with physical transformations, especially when it comes to their respective iconic helmets. Watching Anakin become Darth Vader —a scene juxtaposed with the birth of Luke and Leia at the end of Revenge of the Sith — holds so much significance when it comes to the impact these transformations have. You don’t just wake up one day and decide you’re one of the bad guys in Star Wars. It grows and feeds and consumes you.
3. The Empire begins in Episodes II and III Episode
Know your history, kids. The prequel trilogy does a great job of reminding viewers that regimes, empires, dictators, and the like don’t rise overnight; they are built slowly and assuredly over a lengthy period of time. In the original trilogy, the Empire is in full swing, with the bad guys clearly out in full force and looking to end the Rebel Alliance once and for all. The prequel trilogy, however, illustrates how Palpatine and his allies slowly chipped away at the Republic over time, sowing discord and mistrust in the system. It’s important to revisit how the Empire rose because, out of this, the First Order was born and it’s the toppling (hopefully) of it which will make the Resistance’s victory even sweeter.
2. Palpatine seduces Anakin to the Dark Side in Episode II
This is a key moment to revisit, especially in light of a recent Rise of Skywalker clip revealing more information about Palpatine’s seduction of Kylo Ren to the Dark side. It was always Palpatine, the silver-tongued Sith Lord, pulling the strings. This scene, a favorite of director J.J. Abrams’, reminds us how powerful Palpatine can be in the quiet moments and how quickly the good guys can lose someone precious to the cause.
1. Obi-Wan defeats Anakin on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith
This scene is a fascinating encapsulation of the Light vs. Dark dynamic that’s so central all the Star Wars films. The Jedi have a clear idea of what bringing “balance” to the Force means — getting rid of the Sith. But as Rey and Kylo Ren have demonstrated in the sequel trilogy, most people have elements of both. Light needs Darkness to exist.
Was Anakin ever the chosen one? How does one balance the Force? Expect The Rise of Skywalker to touch on some of these questions, and to arrive at some kind of decision about whether or not the galaxy still needs a Jedi Order.
While at CCXP 2019 in Brazil, director J.J. Abrams revealed the idea of balance will be addressed in the movie: “The balance of the Force frankly, like the balance of anything, is hard fought and must be maintained. It’s not something that happens and then is a permanent thing; you cannot take that for granted. So, the story of balance is an ongoing, evolving story.”
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker lands in theaters on Friday, December 20.