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Star Wars Episodes I – VI: a handy cheatsheet for the lazy viewer

16 December, 2015 — by Lauren Ward2


Why watch two good films, one okay film and three shit ones when you have the internet?

So here’s the situation, the world and her dog is getting all hyped about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s all anyone is talking about down the pub. The midnight screening is the event of the year, everyone has a hot ticket and you made sure that you have one too… but the trouble is, you’ve never actually seen any of the previous Star Wars films. What do you do? How do you not let on that you’re not ‘one of them’?

It’s either join the conversation or don’t leave your house for the next month. Sure you could watch all six movies (totalling 800 minutes) or read the novel-length Wikipedia entry, but why bother doing that when I’ve done all the hard work for you.

This is the Star Wars cheatsheet you’ve been looking for…

Some background essentials

Episode timeline: There are six films, which are called ‘episodes’ – but are definitely films. There are TV spin-offs but no-one talks about those so you’re alright there. The order the films were released is not the order the events in the films happen. Thankfully, they come in sets of three:

‘Prequels’ – released in the 2000s
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: The Attack of the Clones
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

‘Originals’ – released in the 70s/80s
Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: Empire Strike Back
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

‘Sequels’ – New!
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Episode VIII: TBC
Episode IX: TBC

You’ll see the ‘episodes’ are numbered with roman numerals. This is the least confusing thing about the whole series.

The plot

The whole series is set on various “far, far away” planets in a classical sci-fi nature and takes place “a long time ago” but in fact looks like a 1970s approximation of the future. It seems all fine and dandy with planets having governments, ruled by a UN-like organisation with trade-agreement acts (yes, this type of politics will feature heavily in the prequels. yawn), but turns out it’s all corrupt. There’s then a war between two governing fractions – Jedi Rebels (the goodies) and the Empire/Dark Side (the baddies) – which the baddies win thanks to the protagonist, Anakin Skywalker, who turns into Darth Vader. However, some time in the future, Anakin’s son (Luke), with the help of a few iconic characters, rises up, gets trained to be a super Jedi and goes to fight his father. Luke overpowers him but decides not to kill him because that is wrong and against the Jedi principles. Darth, after seeing the error of his ways, kills the actual head baddie of the organisation (The Emperor). This killing is okay and ‘redeems’ Darth.

The next few films will be about what happens after the Empire has fallen.

Key Characters/things

Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader: He grew from plucky child, to sullen teenager to angry dictator. Changing his name to ‘Darth Vader’, he then become the Managing Director of the Empire. This is the guy with a black cloak and chesty voice. You can do an impression of him if you say something menacingly down a loo-roll tube.
Luke Skywalker: He is the main protagonist in the original films, and goes on to defeat Darth Vader and the Empire. He turns out to be Anakin’s/Vaders’ son.
Han Solo: Rebel without a cause, cool kid type character that captains the main rocket ship. Likes money.
Chewbacca (Chewie): He’s the Wookie (giant walking carpet), partner-in-crime, of Han Solo.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: The master Jedi trainer and mentor
Princess Leia: Key character who is responsible for most of the plot but is mostly known for being Luke’s twin sister, Han Solo’s love interest, being forced to wear a gold bikini and likes to put her hair in plaited side-buns
C3PO: The tall gold robot (‘droid’) that bumbles through the films like a terrible butler.
R2D2: The small fat white robot (‘droid’) with blue bits on. It shows holographic messages to people. Bit moody.
Yoda: Crazy master trainer of Jedi, he is.
Boba Fett: He made this list because he is a firm fan favourite, though doesn’t really appear that much in the films. He’s a bounty hunter clone that survives getting eaten alive and gets a whole backstory in the prequels that you’ll fail to care about.
Emperor Palpatine: The head bad guy that heads up the Empire and is Darth Vadar’s boss.
Jedi: Knights with magic and glowing swords (lightsabers)
Dark Side: Bad, sometimes have glowing swords (lightsabers)
The Empire: Bad
The Force: The good/bad spirit that holds things together and can be used/warped. Like the Matrix. Hmmm, that might not be helpful.
Jabba the Hut: Massive fat slug like thing who is a gangsta.
Millennium Falcon/X-Wing/Tie fighters: Rocket space ships, excellent toys
Death Star: Evil metal planet headquarters
Jar Jar Binks: It doesn’t matter. Never mention his name to a Star Wars fan. ever.

Common quotes

“Luke, I am your father”
“Luke, use the force”
“May the force be with you”
“I love you” – “I know”
“That’s no moon… ”
“Mesa called Jar-Jar Binks. Mesa your humble servant.”

Stock answers

Favourite film: It seems the safest answer here is Empire Strikes Back. If they ask you why, here’s a few reasons that are likely to go unchallenged:
– Because nothing goes well for the goodies and has a downer ending;
– It has a ‘kick-ass’ light saber fight, where Luke loses his hand
– It introduces Yoda and Boba Fett – a bounty hunter who people really take to their hearts
– It has one of the biggest movie twists ever – “Luke, I am your father”

However, any of the originals will be an acceptable answer here.

Worst film: Yes. Something with this level of global hysteria still has many possibilities for ‘worst film’. The answer is Attack of the Clones (unless you’re speaking to Toni Farrow). However any of the prequels will be accepted with a knowing nod, so go with whichever one you can remember.

Fun Facts

– With each remastering of the original films, they keep the clip of a Stormtrooper banging his head on the set… making the noise louder every time
– David Lynch passed on directing Return of the Jedi
– ‘N Sync’s cameo in Attack of the Clones was edited out of the final cut
– Simon Pegg was a contributor to the new film’s story
– Harrison Ford was tempted back to reprise the role of Han Solo because money
– There are seven actors from the original films, appearing in the new one

Common Pitfalls

These are Ewoks, not ‘cute’ teddy bears in dressing gowns:

Wicket, the loveable Ewok

These are Wookies, not Ewoks. Note the size and lack of dressing gown:

Chewbacca, a wookie

Further reading

For an irreverent insight into the murky world of Star Wars fandom, look no further than the writer’s room here at Methods Unsound –

– What if Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a big pile of shit?
– 28 spoilers in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelisation
– Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Toy Review
– Travel Guide: Tatooine
– 35 spoiler-free tips for Secret Cinema: Empire Strikes Back


    • Christopher Ratcliff

      16 December, 2015 at 11:29 am

      Makes sense. I believe Peter Mayhew was paid in dismembered limbs.

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