A guide to the Star Wars callbacks and parallels in The Rise of Skywalker
As the conclusion to both the new-school Star Wars trilogy that began with 2015’s The Force Awakens and the nine-film Skywalker Saga that kicked off with 1977’s A New Hope, J.J. Abrams’ The Rise of Skywalker has a lot to wrap up. So it’s not exactly surprising that over the course of its two hours and 21 minutes, Skywalker features numerous callbacks, parallels, and references to previous installments of the spacefaring, swashbuckling mega-franchise.
Read on for some of the most notable ones, and keep checking back as this list is updated.
An early Rise of Skywalker scene finds Rey (Daisy Ridley) running a Jedi training course in the jungle, during which she spars with a combat remote a la her mentor Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) decades before.
Party on Pasaana
While searching for an important clue on the desert planet of Pasaana, Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and the rest of our heroes encounter a festival that is celebrated by the native Aki-Aki once every 42 years. Forty-two years from 2019 just so happens to line up with 1977, the year the original Star Wars was released.
“I have a bad feeling about this”
The phrase has become a running gag in Star Wars, and this time Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) gets to say it.
One of the MacGuffins in The Rise of Skywalker is a pyramid-shaped “wayfinder” that points to Exegol, the shadowy Sith planet where Emperor Palpatine (back from the dead after Return of the Jedi, and once again played by Ian McDiarmid) is hiding out. Though not referred to as such in the film, the wayfinder sure looks like a Sith holocron, as seen in the animated series Star Wars Rebels.
Back in black
Wait, how is Palpatine back from the dead? Well, he tells Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) the same thing he told Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in Revenge of the Sith: “The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.”
Finn and Poe can be seen playing the chess-like game dejarik against Chewbaca (Joonas Suotamo, following in the footsteps of Peter Mayhew), whom they suspect cheats. Probably best to let the Wookiee win.
“I will finish what he started”
When Rey learns that Luke was searching for the wayfinder before his death, she decides to take up the task, saying she will “finish what he started.” The line is an eerie echo of Kylo’s pledge to his long-dead grandfather Darth Vader in The Force Awakens that he will finish what Vader started and finally destroy the Jedi once and for all.
A shocking moment
An early clue that Rey is connected to Palpatine comes when she involuntarily blows up a First Order transport ship with Force lightning. That’s an ability associated with the dark side, and Palpatine especially.
The Knights of Ren
The Holdo maneuver
In a Resistance meeting, Beaumont Kin (Dominic Monaghan) suggests using “the Holdo maneuver” to even the odds, a reference to Vice Admiral Holdo’s (Laura Dern) lightspeed kamikaze attack in The Last Jedi. Poe says that was a “one-in-a-million shot,” which both explains why we don’t see it again and calls back to Luke’s Death Star-destroying blast in A New Hope.
Is this thing on?
During a mission on Kijimi, Poe runs into his old acquaintance Zorrii Bliss (Keri Russell) and recalls to her that when the Resistance sent out distress signal at the Battle of Crait — the climactic fight in The Last Jedi — no one answered the call for help. Better luck next time? (Spoiler alert: Yes.)
A dead Death Star
Kylo and Rey cross paths — and lightsabers — on the ocean moon Kef Bir, amid the wreckage of a downed Death Star.
In the ruins of that Death Star, Rey also clashes with a dark apparition of herself wielding a double-bladed red lightsaber. The weapon is similar to Darth Maul’s (Ray Park), from The Phantom Menace, while the overall scene echoes Luke confronting his fears and envisioning himself in Vader’s mask in The Empire Strikes Back.
In perhaps the film’s most surprising cameo, Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo, in a memory of his son, Kylo Ren, a.k.a. Ben Solo. After a decisive lightsaber duel with Rey, Ben imagines his late father supporting him as turns away from the dark side. Their exchange mirrors the last time we saw the two together, in The Force Awakens, though the outcome is very different. Their parting words are also fitting: Ben says, “Dad…,” and Han replies, “I know.”
Careful with that thing
When Rey returns to Ahch-To, the planet where once Luke exiled himself, she attempts to destroy his lightsaber by throwing it into a fire. Luke appears as a Force ghost, catches the lightsaber, and scolds her: “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect.” He felt differently in The Last Jedi, when Rey first met him and returned his lightsaber, only to watch him casually discard it.
Dredging up Red Five
Once Rey gets her fighting spirit back, Luke’s Force ghost raises his old X-wing from beneath the waves of Ahch-To, where we saw it in The Last Jedi, and gives it to her. The moment recalls Yoda levitating Luke’s ship during his training in the Dagobah swamp in The Empire Strikes Back. Later in Rise of Skywalker, the X-wing is identified by Luke’s old callsign, Red Five.
Wedge Antilles flies again
Speaking of Red Squadron, Luke’s fellow flyboy Wedge Antilles joins the climactic battle against the Final Order (the ultimate incarnation of the First Order). Manning the guns on the Millennium Falcon this time, Wedge is once again played by Denis Lawson, who appeared in the original trilogy.
Ben gets shafted
When Ben and Rey confront the resurrected Emperor and attempt to vanquish him, Palpatine flings Ben down into a pit. It’s reminiscent of how Vader (or should we say Anakin?) took down the Emperor in Return of the Jedi.
Voices of Jedi past
As Rey steels herself to re-engage Palpatine, she calls on her Jedi predecessors for guidance. She’s answered by voices including Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), Yoda (Frank Oz), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor and Alec Guinness), Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), Luminara Unduli (Olivia d’Abo), Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Aayla Secura (Jennifer Hale), and Kanan Jarrus (Freddie Prinze Jr.).
Chewie gets his medal
Thirty-six years after Return of the Jedi, Chewbacca finally receives the same medal as Luke and Han.
After the good guys save the day, celebrations are seen across the galaxy, including on Bespin, home to Cloud City (from ESB), and Endor, the forest moon where Ewoks dwell (from ROTJ).
In a coda on Tatooine, Rey uses a piece of scrap metal as a sand sled, as she did when we first met her in The Force Awakens.
After ceremonially burying the lightsabers of Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher), Rey sees their Force ghosts watching over her, just as Luke saw the spirits of Anakin Skywalker (his father, the redeemed Darth Vader), Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Rise of Skywalker concludes with the image of Rey silhouetted against the two suns setting on Tatooine, a nod to the iconic shot of Luke doing the same in the original Star Wars.