The Basics:There are 6 movies. The one that you and I remember from growing up was the very first one called Star Wars: A New Hope. This is considered Episode 4. I know, I know. It's stupid. The following two episodes that you remember from the 70s and 80s are The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi - considered to be Episodes 5 and 6. Here's where it gets tricky. Not long ago, they released the Prequels; Episode 1, The Phantom Menace, Episode 2, Attack of the Clones and Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith.
1. The Phantom Menace
2. Attack of the Clones
3. Revenge of the Sith
4. A New Hope
5. The Empire Strikes Back
6. Return of the Jedi
The following is an excerpt from Wookipedia (giggle) on Star Wars along with plenty of my notes to add a little 'insight.' Only read this is you really want the backstory and the summary of the movies and what the basic sequence of events are (otherwise skip this part!):
The prequel trilogy follows the life of a young slave named Anakin Skywalker who is discovered by the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (played by the lovely Liam Neeson), who believes him to be the "Chosen One" foretold by Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force. The Jedi Council, led by Yoda (our favorite little green guy), sense that Anakin's future is clouded by fear, but reluctantly allow Qui-Gon's apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to train Anakin after Qui-Gon is killed by the Sith Lord Darth Maul (the scary guy with the painted red face and ninja moves like Jagger). At the same time, the planet Naboo is under attack, and its ruler, Queen Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), seeks the assistance of the Jedi to repel the attack. The Sith Lord Darth Sidious secretly planned the attack to give his alter ego, Senator Palpatine (this is the gross, crusty little old man in the black hooded cape), a pretense to overthrow the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic and take his place.
The remainder of the prequel trilogy chronicles Anakin's gradual fall to the dark side of the Force as he fights in the Clone Wars, which Palpatine secretly engineers in order to destroy the Republic and lure Anakin into his service. Anakin and Padmé fall in love and secretly wed, and eventually Padmé becomes pregnant. Anakin has a prophetic vision of Padmé dying in childbirth, and Palpatine convinces him that the dark side holds the power to save her life; desperate, Anakin submits to the dark side and takes the Sith name Darth Vader. While Palpatine re-organizes the Republic into the tyrannical Galactic Empire—appointing himself Emperor for life—Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi Order, culminating in a lightsaber battle between himself and Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan ultimately defeats his former apprentice and friend, severing his limbs and leaving him for dead beside a lava flow. However, Palpatine arrives shortly afterward and saves Vader, putting him into a black, mechanical suit of armor that keeps him alive. At the same time, Padmé dies while giving birth to twins Luke and Leia. The twins are hidden from Vader and are not told who their real parents are. Are you following this? Luke and Leia are brother and sister...just as an FYI...Pops is Darth Vader - who is actually Anakin underneath the Black Suit - and their Mama is dead - Natalie Portman. Are we good?
Tatooine has two suns, as it is in a binary star system. This shot from A New Hope remains one of the most famous scenes of the entire saga. (So if your little one says Good Night, I love you from here to Tatooine and back, take this as a compliment).
The original trilogy begins 19 years later as Vader nears completion of the massive Death Star space station, which will allow the Empire to crush the Rebel Alliance, which has formed to combat Palpatine's tyranny. Vader captures Princess Leia Organa, who has stolen the plans to the Death Star and hidden them in the astromech droid R2-D2. R2-D2, along with his counterpart C-3PO, escapes to the planet Tatooine. There, the droids are purchased by Luke Skywalker and his step-uncle and aunt. While Luke is cleaning R2-D2, he accidentally triggers a message put into the droid by Leia, who asks for assistance from Obi-Wan. Luke later assists the droids in finding the Jedi Knight, who is now passing as an old hermit under the alias Ben Kenobi. When Luke asks about his father, Obi-Wan tells him that Anakin was a great Jedi who was betrayed and murdered by Vader.
Obi-Wan and Luke hire the smuggler Han Solo (dreamy Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca (played by Rush Limbaugh - kidding! Kidding!) to take them to Alderaan, Leia's home world, which they eventually find has been destroyed by the Death Star. Once onboard the space station, Obi-Wan allows himself to be killed during a lightsaber rematch with Vader; his sacrifice allows the group to escape with the plans that help the rebels destroy the Death Star. Luke himself fires the shot that destroys the deadly space station.
Three years later, Luke travels to find Yoda and start his Jedi training, but is interrupted when Vader lures him into a trap by capturing Han and the others. During a fierce lightsaber duel, Vader reveals that he is Luke's father and attempts to turn him to the dark side. Luke escapes, and, after rescuing Han from the gangster Jabba the Hutt a year later, returns to his training with Yoda, who by this time is on his deathbed. Before he passes away, Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke's father; moments later, Obi-Wan's spirit tells Luke that he must face his father before he can become a Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister. As the Rebels attack the second Death Star, Luke confronts Vader as Palpatine watches; both Sith Lords intend to turn Luke to the dark side and take him as their apprentice.
During the subsequent lightsaber duel, Luke succumbs to his anger and brutally overpowers Vader, but controls himself at the last minute; realizing that he is about to suffer his father's fate, he spares Vader's life and proudly declares his allegiance to the Jedi. An enraged Palpatine then attempts to kill Luke with Force lightning, a sight that moves Vader to turn on and kill his master, suffering mortal wounds in the process. Redeemed, Anakin Skywalker dies in his son's arms. Luke becomes a full-fledged Jedi, and the Rebels destroy the second Death Star and, with it, the Empire. (This part is sad - I remember my 6 year old watching it for the first time - he sat there and cried and cried wishing Darth Vader could have another chance.)
Anakin Skywalker - ok folks if there's one thing you need to remember it's this guy. He starts off as an adorable child in the prequels - then turns to sexy Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and goes to the dark side eventually being Darth Vader. The kids love this guy - he's good - then he's bad - then he's good...and oh how he loves his mama. Just like them.
Qui Gon Jinn - Liam Neeson - takes young Anakin under his wing. (I'm sorry, I had myself at Liam Neeson..can you say tall drink of water?)
Obi Wan Kenobi - the young version is played by Ewan Macgregor - trains Anakin after Qui Gon dies.
|Qui and Obi - Good guys, easy on the eyes.|
Queen Amidala - Queen of Naboo people - also known as Padme - also known as Luke/Leia's mother. Natalie Portman.
|Don't try this hairstyle at home, girls.|
R2D2 - if you don't know who this is - there is no way I can help you at this point.
Jar Jar Binks - from the Prequels - he is an amphibious creature with a Reggae-Rasta-Raggamuffin style. He's very annoying and clumsy and most big time Star Wars fans would like to remove his existence from the movies. He refers to himself in 3rd person and calls himself Meesa. It's maddening.
Darth Maul - bad ass nightmarish red and black double bladed lightsaber usin' creeper. The only thing you need to remember about this guy, is that if you buy your kids a lightsaber like his, you will have broken things around your house..and it doesn't get put away somewhere nicely - it's too damn big.
|Try to convince the wee ones NOT to get the Darth Maul costume - it's all fun and games until someone breaks shit.|
Count Dooku - is cuckoo for cocoa puffs - no, kidding - ok he's a creeper played by Christopher Lee (you know, Saruman from Lord of the Rings? What does this guy only know bad guy roles?) Anyhow - he was once a Jedi Master but ended up going to the dark side.
Clone Troopers - these armed guards are good guys until episode 3 and they become bad - and then they are called Storm Troopers. They just aren't the sharpest tools in the shed - and the Jedi Mind Trick gets them every time.
Tusken Raiders - Sand people that remain completely covered from head to toe and like to wave their stabbing pokey things over their head all of the time.
|Hasbro makes these Galactic Heroes - they are very toddler/kid friendly, nearly impossible to break and affordable. My kids have played with them for years. Should run about $6.99-$8.99 for a 2 pack at ToysRUs, Target, Walmart, etc.|
General Grievous - Cyborg - warlord - has 4 lightsabers. Bad ass. Bad guy. The kids love him - why? Because he has the most lightsabers of course. The more lightsabers, the better.
Chewbacca - 200 year old wookie from Kasyyk. Well traveled, witty, compassionate - kind of a smart ass too. I once knew a guy in college with almost as much back hair as Chewy. Only a few characters in Star Wars understand when he speaks his native language of Shyriiwook which I think is wookie speak for Jibberish.
Darth Sidius aka Palpatine aka Senator - I don't even know where to begin with this freak. He's the Senator from Naboo but is Darth Sidius in disguise. He has some freaky lightening at his fingertips that apparently causes terrible pain to people - go figure. Wouldn't our Senators like to have that power? I have been notified by a dear reader Katie Davidson that he "was a Senator, then Chancellor and then Emperor. When we are first introduced to him - in Episode 4 he is The Emperor". Katie, thank you for helping me illustrate my point that I don't know where to begin. He's complicated. But I stand humbly corrected, and thank you for your note. :)
Lando Calrissian - Billy Dee Williams back in his sexy days. He's a gambler with a winning smile and is friends with Han Solo. You'll remember him from the Colt 45 commercials from the 70s. If you're really young, you'll know him from the Janitor on General Hospital. Oh how the mighty have fallen.
Jabba the Hut is what I look like one week out of the month. Bloated, grouchy and with a bad disposition. He's a crime lord that eats nine meals a day. Sound familiar?
Ewoks - the furry cute little guys who live on Endor. They help fight the attack on the stormtroopers.
The Cantina - Not unlike many bars around town, this is the hangout for awkward, unattractive, unskilled people and weirdos to go and socialize. The bartender keeps order by threatening to poison anyone who gives him trouble. The band at the cantina is led by Figrin' D'anand & his band. These guys are hilarious - until you go to buy some of the figurines on ebay - then you'll be crying. They go for a lot of money and are very hard to find.
Yoda - I've saved the best for (almost) last. This little guy's species is unknown. He's the leader of all of the Jedis and is so cute that we all want to squeeze him and kiss him...just a little. The kids love him - how can you not?
|Yoda's most famous quote is "Do or do not. There is no try."|
Princess Leia - I saved her for last because of course she's my favorite. She is the one I loved the most growing up. Only Princess Leia could pull off the sidewind-braid-bun, and the slave girl teenyweeny purple sequined bikini. Poor Carrie Fisher said she had to (literally) go to a Fat Farm to lose an insane amount of weight to fit in that bikini in the movie. When I play with my kids, most of the time they let me be Princess Leia and I'm happy to play that role - but on occasion, they make me be Jabba the Hut...that's when I get grouchy.
I will continue to fight evil with my trusty lightsaber, coffee and laptop!