At long last, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters. This serves as not just the finale to the sequel trilogy, but the end of the Skywalker saga as we know it. Through nine movies spread across more than four decades, this franchise has been a huge staple in the pop culture landscape. Director J.J. Abrams decided to take inspiration from every corner of Star Wars in crafting Episode IX, as it contains a ton of Easter eggs and references from every corner of the franchise.
Looking out for nods to previous movies in the series has been a staple of Star Wars for years. George Lucas introduced the idea in the original trilogy and furthered in a big way with the prequels. The Disney era of a galaxy far, far away has been especially heavy in this department. The Rise of Skywalker is no exception. So, for those who have seen the movie already, here’s a collection of various Easter eggs, references and other things you might have missed.
The Sith Temple
One of the major locations in the movie is the Sith Temple that Palpatine has been using as a base of operations on Exegol. This is the first time we’ve seen such a location brought to life in live-action, but it’s been explored plenty elsewhere in the Star Wars canon. Those who watched the animated series Rebels, in particular, probably felt that the structure seemed familiar. Even though Exegol was a new location in Episode IX, the temple clearly took a great deal of inspiration from the ones we’ve seen in shows like Rebels.
The Rise of Skywalker provides us with a look at Palpatine’s throne, which is grand and what one might describe as “metal AF.” But this wasn’t just conjured out of thin air. The throne design was actually based on early concept sketches done by legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie, whose contributions to the original Star Wars trilogy cannot be overstated. The designs were originally cooked up for Return of the Jedi, but weren’t used. J.J. Abrams and his team decided to revisit these sketches in designing Palpatine’s grand Sith throne.
The opening crawl references a speech given by Palpatine that announces his return to the galaxy. Strangely, this is something that was previewed to Fortnite players days before The Rise of Skywalker hit theaters. While we never hear the speech in the movie, those who played the game heard what the Sith had to say.
“At last the work of generations is complete. The great error is corrected. The day of victory is at hand. The day of revenge. The day of the Sith.”
Darth Plagueis The Wise Reference
One of the great mysteries heading into The Rise of Skywalker as how exactly J.J. Abrams was going to explain the return of Palpatine, given that he died at the end of Return of the Jedi. While there wasn’t much of an explanation offered, we hear the resurrected Sith say the line, “the dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural.” This is ripped directly from Revenge of the Sith when Palpatine is explaining the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise to Anakin. That whole speech had to do with the Sith possibly being able to cheat death. So, while the specifics of the resurrection remain unclear, the notion of Dark Side Force users being able to cheat death is part of the canon.
While we don’t see Snoke return in the flesh, at least not fully, Palpatine does explain that he’s the one who created Snoke. This has been a major question for fans for some time. At the Sith Temple, we also catch a glimpse of a vat that has a couple of partial Snoke clones in it, which seemingly offers a window into how Snoke was created by Emperor Palpatine in the first place.
A major plot point in The Last Jedi sees the First Order developing the ability to track ships through lightspeed, which makes it impossible for the Resistance to escape. This comes up again early in Episode IX when Poe lightspeed skips the Millennium Falcon to escape a pack of Tie Fighters. As we see, the ships are able to keep up with Poe through his various jumps across the galaxy.
Jedi Training Tools
One of the early scenes in the movie sees Rey training in the ways of the Jedi with Leia. While running her training course, we see a couple of familiar training tools that Luke used in A New Hope. For one, Rey is using a helmet with a blast shield, as well as training remote that is helping her perfect her lightsaber skills. Luke, similarly, used these very same tools aboard the Millennium Falcon on the way to the Death Star when Obi-Wan was training him.
Rey’s Force Visions
As we first saw in The Force Awakens, Rey is prone to having Force visions. This was once again part of the equation in The Rise of Skywalker. This relates to a Force power Rey has known as psychometry, which allows certain Jedi to sense the past through various objects. Rey’s Force visions during her training, in this case, contain references to The Empire Strikes Back when Luke battled Vader, as well as elements of her past, like when her parents left her on Jakku.
Sacred Jedi Texts
After Rey makes a run through her Jedi training course, she does some light reading. We see that Rey has held onto some of the sacred Jedi texts, many of which were destroyed by Yoda in The Last Jedi. These Jedi texts contain key knowledge that Rey will need to pass onto future generations, as all of the Jedi live inside of her now. No pressure, Rey.
The Return of Dejarik
A New Hope has a classic scene that sees Chewbacca playing a game aboard the Millennium Falcon with R2-D2 known as Dejarik. It’s essentially space chess with holographic pieces that move across the board, taking out the other player’s fighters until one is left standing. This returns early on in the movie, with Finn and Poe playing a game against Chewie once more, who is still winning all these years later. Finn and Poe playfully accuse the Wookiee of cheating, as he always manages to win.
42 Year Celebration on Pasaana
One of the main missions in The Rise of Skywalker sees Rey, Finn, Poe, Chewie, C-3PO and BB-8 looking for a Sith Wayfinder that can guide them to Exegol. This leads them to a planet called Pasaana, where they stumble upon a celebration that happens but once every 42 years. For those doing the math, George Lucas’ original Star Wars was released in 1977, Episode IX arriving in 2019, leaving 42 years between the first and final chapter of the Skywalker saga. This might be a coincidence, but likely not.
Those who have been keeping up with The Mandalorian on Disney+ have surely been loving Baby Yoda. But through Baby Yoda, we’ve gained a slightly better understanding of the Force. Specifically, we learned that certain Force users can actually use the Force to heal wounds. This is something that comes up during a few key moments in The Rise of Skywalker, which not only links the movie to the live-action show, but it means this is an ability multiple Force users have. Could this ability have had a part to play in Palpatine’s resurrection?
After the mission on Pasaana, we’re introduced to a new little droid named D-O. BB-8 revives the long-dormant droid, who seemed to have been mistreated by his previous owners. Rey helps care for D-O and the droid ends up becoming a huge factor in the Resistance’s plans to take down the Final Order, as he has knowledge of Exegol that is vital to planning the attack. If his voice sounds a bit familiar, it’s because none other than director J.J. Abrams voiced the droid himself.
Using the Force to take down a Spaceship
A key scene in the movie sees Rey trying to pull down a transport that she believes is holding Chewie, who has been captured by the First Order. Kylo Ren gets thrown into the mix and it becomes something of a battle to see who is more powerful in the force. While the idea of yanking spaceships out of the sky with the Force hasn’t been explored much on screen, it’s certainly been dealt with in the expanded universe. Specifically, fans of The Force Unleashed video game, which is no longer canon, features Starkiller pulling a Star Destroyer out of the sky using the Force. So this could be viewed as a nice little nod to legends Star Wars storytelling.
John Williams Appears
There are quite a few cameos in Star Wars 9, and that’s another list entirely, but one worth including on this list is that of John Williams, who appears briefly as the bartender on Kijimi. Williams has provided the score for all of the saga movies in the Star Wars franchise and his contributions to the franchise cannot be overstated. So the fact that he finally gets to appear on screen is a big deal. His character is named Oma Tres, which is, rather appropriately, an anagram for the word maestro. Sadly, Kijimi was blown up by the Final Order so Oma likely didn’t survive.
One key sequence on Kijimi sees the Resistance gang seeking out the help of Babu Frik, who can get C-3PO to translate the Sith message from the dagger they found. As Babu is working on C-3PO, the droid takes one final look at his friends before his memory is wiped out, possibly for good. In the background, we can see a Battle Droid. These droids were seen prominently in The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. This serves as a nice little nod to the prequels.
Death Star Wreckage
Another key stop on the quest to find the Sith Wayfinder sees Rey and the gang head to a moon named Kef Bir in the Endor system. This is key because this is where the second Death Star from Return of the Jedi was destroyed. Although the main battle took place on the forest moon of Endor, the wreckage ended up on Kef Bir. Rey must search the wreckage to find this Sith Wayfinder. The wreckage itself is like one big Easter egg, but within the wreckage here are several little things to look for. For one, the relic is right next to Palpatine’s old throne room, which we get to explore. But upon rewatches there are surely other bits to look out for, like the remnants of an Imperial Shuttle, for one.
Dark Rey/Darth Luke
When Rey finds the Sith Wayfinder, she’s confronted with another Force vision. One that sees her confronting a dark version of herself that has gone to the Dark Side. This version of Rey is rocking dark clothes, a hooded cloak and a double-bladed lightsaber. That, in itself, can be viewed as a callback to Darth Maul’s lightsaber from The Phantom Menace. But the bigger parallel here takes us back to The Empire Strikes Back when Luke has his famous Force vision, which sees him cutting down Darth Vader, only to discover that he’s under the mask. This ultimately hints at Vader being Luke’s father much like, as we come to find, that Rey is Palpatine’s granddaughter.
A Ghost Dad Appears
After Kylo Ren is defeated and subsequently healed by Rey, the man formerly known as Ben Solo must contemplate his future. At this point, none other than Han Solo returns in The Rise of Skywalker, but as nothing more than a memory. The key here is that the memory of Ben’s father convinces him that Kylo Ren is dead. The ensuing interaction is a repeat of what went down on Starkiller Base where Kylo took his father’s life. It brings the relationship and Kylo’s redemption arc full circle.
Respecting the Lightsaber
Rey, after battling Kylo Ren on Kef Bir, returns to the sacred island of Ahch-To and plans to exile herself there, much like Luke had done, as we saw in The Last Jedi. Rey is burning Kylo’s Tie and, as her final act, she tossers Luke’s lightsaber at the burning wreck, only to have Luke’s Force ghost snag it out of the air. Luke then says a lightsaber should be treated with more respect. This seems to be a reference to the beginning of The Last Jedi, which sees Rey hand Luke his old lightsaber, only to have him disrespectfully toss it over his shoulder.
Luke’s X-Wing Returns
We glimpsed Luke’s X-Wing in the waters surrounding Ahch-To in The Last Jedi, but that is where it stayed. Once Luke convinces Rey that she can finish what she has started and that she can face Palpatine, she’s in need of a ship. Luke then uses the Force to bring his X-Wing out of the water, which Rey uses to make her way to Exegol. This is also something of a callback to The Empire Strikes Back, as Luke fails to lift his X-Wing out of the swamps of Dagobah. Things come full circle for the Jedi in this moment.
Leia, the Jedi
During this same sequence, Luke explains to Rey that Leia actually trained in the ways of the Jedi. We see a de-aged Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill training in their post-Return of the Jedi days. It’s significant as it helps to explain why Leia was able to tap into the Force in The Last Jedi, and it also explains why she was training Rey. It also comes into play as Rey is gifted Leia’s lightsaber, which factors into the battle against Palpatine.
Return of the Porgs
The Last Jedi introduced us to the winged alien creatures known as Porgs. While they don’t factor into the plot in as big of a way in The Rise of Skywalker, they do appear briefly during Rey’s return to Ahch-To. A couple of the birdlike creatures can be seen looking on as Rey is destroying Kylo’s ship.
Those who have watched Rebels or The Clone Wars, or even those who have played Jedi Fallen Order, are surely familiar with Sith and Jedi Holocrons. These devices contain important secrets and information protected by Force users. Though they are called Wayfinders in The Rise of Skywalker, these are absolutely Holocrons, which introduces an important element of the canon into the live-action universe.
The Holdo Maneuver
One of the most memorable scenes in The Last Jedi sees Laura Dern’s Holdo crash a Resistance ship into the First Order fleet at lightspeed, causing tremendous amounts of damage. When Poe is going over the plan to attack Exegol, the idea of duplicating the Holdo maneuver is floated. However, it’s explained that what Holdo accomplished was a one in a million shot, making it a not-so-viable strategy to take down the fleet of well-armed Star Destroyers.
The Son of Admiral Ackbar
A key death in The Last Jedi was that of Admiral Ackbar, who died in an early battle while the Resistance was trying to escape the First Order. However, Ackbar’s legacy lives on through his son, Aftab Ackbar, who appears in The Rise of Skywalker. We first meet Aftab at the Resistance base, where Poe refers to him as “junior,” hinting at his parentage. Aftab was first revealed in a Star Wars comic ahead of the movie’s release. Chris Terrio, who co-wrote the screenplay, voiced Aftab.
Snap Wexley Returns
Greg Grunberg is a regular in J.J. Abrams’ world, which is why the filmmaker cast him as Resistance pilot Snap Wexley in The Force Awakens. We didn’t see Snap in The Last Jedi, but he makes a triumphant return in The Rise of Skywalker. Unfortunately, Snap dies during the big battle on Exegol while the Resistance was waiting for Lando to return with help. RIP, Snap.
The Ghost and Other Key Ships
The climax on Exegol sees Lando rally forces from all across the galaxy, who bring their own ships to the battle to take down the Final Order’s fleet. There appear to be thousands of ships and there are near countless Easter eggs for hardcore fans amongst this sea of spacecraft. Chief amongst them is the Ghost, the ship most famously seen in the animated series Rebels. We also see the Colossus from Resistance and what appears to be the Outrider, the ship used by Dash Rendar in the Shadows of the Empire video game. Other notable ships that have been spotted include The Crucible from The Clone Wars, the Shadow Caster, the Eravana from The Force Awakens, several old Star Destroyers from The Clone Wars and a Lucrehulk Droid Control Ship, as seen in The Phantom Menace. Undoubtedly, we’ll be discovering Easter eggs from this sequence for months, if not years to come.
Wedge Antilles Returns
Wedge Antilles is one of the most famous pilots in the history of the Rebellion. He was a staple of the original trilogy and is the only pilot to survive the assault on both Death Stars. By all rights, a legend. However, we haven’t seen Wedge in the sequel trilogy, until now that is. Upon the fleet arriving at Exegol, we see some of those who have joined in on the fight. One quick shot shows us actor Denis Lawson, finally making his return as Wedge to help take out the Final Order fleet. Good shooting, Wedge.
Force Ghosts, Assemble!
During the climactic battle that is Rey vs Palpatine, our hero seems beaten at one point. As she lays on the ground of the Sith Temple, several voices call out to her in the form of Jedi from the past to encourage her to keep fighting. The collection of Jedi voices spans the entire franchise and, in this single moment, the entire franchise is united. The voices include Anakin Skywalker, Luke Skywalker, Luminara Unduli, Aayla Secura, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Adi Galia and Qui-Gon Jinn. But it’s not just limited to the movies. Characters from the animated shows such as Kanan Jarrus from Rebels and even fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano from Rebels and The Clone Wars can be heard.
Palpatine Defeated by Force Lightning
Rey finally manages to defeat Palpatine, in the end, by deflecting his Force lightning back at him with both Luke and Leia’s lightsabers. If this imagery looks familiar, it’s because we first saw Mace Windu do this to best Palpatine in Revenge of the Sith. This time around, Rey didn’t hold back and finished the job, evaporating the Sith lord into oblivion.
Chewie Gets His Medal
One of the most egregious wrongs in the history of the Star Wars franchise is Chewbacca getting screwed out of receiving a medal at the end of A New Hope. Luke got one. Han got one. Why not Chewie? That wrong has finally been set right, to some degree. At the end of The Rise of Skywalker, after the battle is won, Maz Kanata presents Chewie with a medal in something of a sweet moment.
The Galaxy Celebrates
After the First Order is defeated, we see a sequence that takes us back through some familiar locations, such as Cloud City and the forest moon of Endor. It’s here where Ewoks make their return to the franchise for the first time since Return of the Jedi. There are several location Easter eggs during this sequence, but this seems to be a larger reference to a change George Lucas made to his 1997 special editions of the original trilogy, in which, he added scenes of the galaxy celebrating when the Empire is defeated.
The Twin Sons of Tatooine
The closing sequence of the movie sees Rey heading back to where it all began; Tatooine. Not only is this the place where we first met Luke in 1977, but it’s also where Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon first met Anakin Skywalker. It’s arguably the most important location in the history of the franchise, so it makes narrative sense to bring the story back to the start. The final shot sees Rey staring at the famed twin suns that Tatooine hosts, recalling the famous shot of luke from A New Hope.
Famous Lines Return
Throughout the history of the franchise, there are some lines that have repeated in various movies. The Rise of Skywalker brings back several key lines. One of the big ones is, “I have a bad feeling about this,” which is said by Lando Calrissian this time. Lando also brings out “old buddy” in referring to Chewie, which he also called Han in The Empire Strikes Back. C-3PO also gets in a couple of his famous lines, including “This is madness” and “We’re doomed.” Another key line that returns is uttered by Palpatine, who once again says “Good” in drawn-out fashion, which is a staple of his character.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.