The double meaning(s) of the Star Wars films titles

Aug 23, 2021

What do the names of the Star Wars movies mean?

Call us 'Captain Obvious' but we thought it might be fun to explain the names or titles of the Star Wars saga films.

Just in case you missed a trick...

For many, the first sequel was fairly confusing as to its interpretation...

luke concept art ANH

The Phantom Menace

We think this title has two meanings.

The phantom menace is the trade dispute that has been deliberately manufactured by Chancellor Palpatine AKA Darth Sidious. As one half of the Sith duo with Darth Maul, he was the real threat.

Using his cunning, he manipulated various parties into the blockade action against the planet of Naboo. While it was a real blockade, it was a 'phantom' menace in that Sidious was using it as a means to an even greater end.

That end, of course, is to strengthen his political position as part of his plan to build an Empire.

Another way to look at it is that he himself is the Phantom Menace in that he's part of a 'whispers and shadows' campaign. 

He's a cloaked figure to many parties after all and his true identity is unknown. He is thus a phantom...

Attack of the Clones

The Battle of Geonosis where Yoda led his newly acquired Clone Army to rescue his lost Jedi (and Padme!) was where it really all began, indeed Yoda actually says “Begun, this clone war has.”

The Clone War was a further step in Sidious's path to greater power. 

His manipulations via Count Dooku by way of leading the Separatist movement allowed for the Kamino Clones to be used as a legitimate counter to that movement.

Here's some trivia about the concept art for the film. It gives some great insight as to the film making process.

Revenge of the Sith

If you'll go back to The Phantom Menace, you'll recall that Darth Maul was hankering for getting some revenge when he chats with Darth Sidious.

It's totally on the agenda.

As for ROTS, after a long time of the Sith not being visible in the framework (not since the formation of the Republic), Palpatine has finally exerted his power and taken control of the Senate and formed his own Empire.

The destruction of the Jedi via Order 66 serves as an act of literal visceral revenge by bringing the Sith back into control of the galaxy as they had once before. 

Fact fact: Return of the Jedi was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi so Revenge of the Sith was an opportunity to get that theme back on the agenda.

original millennium falcon concept art

A New Hope

Originally Star Wars was just known simply as that. 

Then in 1981, George Lucas added the title of A New Hope and the episodic nature of Star Wars was born.

In terms of the title's meaning, the new hope for the galaxy is clearly Luke Skywalker.

After all the troubles that befell Anakin, Obi-Wan sees Luke as the new hope in response to Vader and the Emperor taking over the Galaxy.

The new hope being the one who will bring balance to the Force. Obi Wan was however wrong on that point and Anakin was actually the Chosen One.

Given the ending of Rogue One, 'hope' can also refer to that which came from Princess Leia receiving the Death Star plans.

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire striking back title is literal. The Battle of Hoth is the Empire returning serve to the Rebel's first truly successful salvo.

After the Rebels destroyed the Death Star I, the Empire had hunted high and low around the galaxy and in finding them, they turned up the heat! Han Solo being frozen in carbonite found it cold however - it did serve as an example of the Empire winning back some ground against the Rebels. 

Vader taking Luke's arm is a physical manifestation of the Empire 'striking back' too. The psychological effects on Luke must have been quite indelible on him - given how close he was turning to the Dark Side in Return of the Jedi.  

Return of the Jedi

You could be forgiven for thinking of Luke as being the Jedi who returned but you would be wrong.

Luke is not a Jedi until he has faced Vader as his final test (Yoda tells him this).

So, it's impossible for Luke to be 'returning' as he has never been a Jedi.

However, if you look at it in the sense of Jedi as a collective, you could well argue that the Jedi (as a plural collective) have returned when he says to the Emperor:

Luke: I am a Jedi, like my father before me.
Palpatine: So be it... Jedi!

The real Jedi returning is Darth Vader.

When he decides to save his son in preference to Emperor Palpatine, he becomes a Jedi again. Listen carefully to the music that plays just as he's throwing the Emperor down the shaft, it is the Force theme (AKA Binary Sunset).

It is marking Vader (now actually returning as Anakin Skywalker) bringing balance to the Force!

In short, Vader is the returning Jedi (singular), Vader and Luke together are the returning Jedi (plural).

Vader becoming a Jedi is not in the sense that he's rejoined the cult / religion / dogma of being a Jedi, rather he has chosen the light side of the Force, and finally done the right thing after all those years of being the puppet of Palpatine. 

The Force Awakens

One word:


Rey is a ray of hope.

A new one.

She is also a ray of light.

The light side of the Force.

The Force has awoken in her. She's able to learn the ways of the Force just by an initial thought.

As a guess, she chances her arm with a Jedi mind trick. She can summons a sabre to her open hand just by thinking about it. All in less than 2 days worth of action and adventure!

The Force has indeed awoken in Rey.

You could also consider that the dark side of the Force has also fully awoken in Kylo Ren. When he killed his father, he fully committed to crossing over to the dark side and resisting the temptation of the light.

Rogue One

We think this is a reference to three things.

The first is that it is the military call sign of the ship Jyn's crew leave for their mission on.

The second is a reference to Jyn Erso's personal nature and the third reference is the fact the movie is set somewhat outside of the Skywalker family saga.

Check out Rogue One's meaning in more detail.

The Last Jedi

Yoda's dead, Ben Kenobi is dead, Anakin Skywalker is dead. 

A cold read suggests the title is referring to Luke Skywalker who is the last known to be living Jedi.  

Or does it?

Again, it's a double play on words. 

Luke is indeed the last Jedi standing and he comes full circle in his character arc as he understands that he must sacrifice himself, to save Kylo Ren, Leia, Rey and the rest of their band of merry rebels and in doing so, he becomes the epitomy of what it means to be a Jedi Knight. 

And in that act (and death), he hands over the title of being the last Jedi to Rey, to continue on her path.

Kinda like what Obi-Wan Kenobi did for Luke himself in ANH.

Han Solo

We may be mistaken about this but we think the Han Solo movie is about some guy called Landonis.

Here's some trivia from the Solo movie.

The Rise of Skywalker

This film title one has a double meaning too.

Rey adopts the title of Skywalker as a mantle - to honor Luke & Leia's legacy.

 It also can refer to Ben Solo (his mother is a Skywalker) rising from the depths of being under Snoke's influence and coming back from the dark side.  

0 Rogue Ones:

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