The meaning of titles of the Star Wars films

Mar 23, 2019

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 11 Star Wars films.

Just in case you missed a trick.

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

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 were 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.

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.

He 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 ROTS 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 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!

Vader taking Luke's arm is a physical manifestation of the Empire 'striking back' as well. 

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).

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 saber to her open hand just by think 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

A cold read suggests the title is referring to Luke Skywalker. Or does it? Indeed it does, as director Rian Johnson has confirmed as part of the events for Star Wars Celebration 2017 that the title indeed refers to Luke and maybe Rey eh?

Feel free to chip in with your thoughts and ideas of what the title of these film can mean!

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

We can only speculate on this - Rey is a Skywalker, it's a mantle of a Force user, or maybe Luke gets up to some real mischief as a Force Ghost?

We also speculate that Rey may simply pick up the title of Skywalker as a mantle - to honor Luke & Leia's legacy. 

0 Rogue Ones:

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