In 1977, audiences caught a glimpse of a tiny Rebel spaceship racing towards Tatooine to evade a dreaded Imperial Star Destroyer. Fans have been captivated by the Rebel Alliance ever since, wanting to know where it came from and what it fought for. The original trilogy remains the bedrock of the Star Wars Saga, so many stories have been told about how the Alliance came to be. We know that the formation of the Rebel Alliance will be depicted in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but what were the events leading up to it? This is the definitive timeline of the Rebel Alliance.
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains spoilers for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”
The Naboo Crisis (Episode I)
Over three decades before the Rebel Alliance was formed, the Republic Senate passed a law that taxed trade routes to the galaxy’s outlying star systems. The greedy Trade Federation hated this measure, so they joined forces with Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith, to invade the planet Naboo. The Federation wanted retaliation, and Sidious—secretly Sheev Palpatine, the power-hungry Senator of Naboo—wanted to take control of the Republic. The planet’s monarch, Queen Padmé Amidala, fought back with the help of the Jedi, and she liberated her world from the Federation. Though the occupation failed, Palpatine was elected Supreme Chancellor of the Republic and the seeds of galactic rebellion were set.
The Separatist Crisis (Episode II)
In the decade that followed, many worlds outside of the Galactic Core grew weary of the Republic’s centralization of power. They felt neglected and wanted to do something about it. Count Dooku, a former Jedi Master who fell to the dark side and became Sidious’ apprentice, used these feelings to lead thousands of star systems into seceding from the Republic. They formed the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Most of these star systems genuinely wanted a better life for themselves, but in reality the power brokers of the Separatist Alliance were the greedy corporations like the Trade Federation and the two Sith Lords themselves. It was all the setup for a galactic war. Dooku, the Separatist leader, and Chancellor Palpatine brought their two sides to conflict in the Battle of Geonosis, sparking the years-long Clone Wars. This was the first full-scale rebellion against the central galactic government.
The Battle of Ryloth (The Clone Wars)
Early in the war, the Separatists invaded Ryloth and faced immediate resistance from the planet’s population. General Cham Syndulla, a famed political revolutionary who wanted nothing more than freedom for his planet, led the Twi’lek Resistance. With the help of Jedi Master Mace Windu, Syndulla and his forces liberated Ryloth. Syndulla would come to fight a rebellion again, but it was the Battle of Ryloth that marked his biggest contribution towards the eventual Rebel Alliance.
The Battle of Onderon (The Clone Wars)
Later in the war, Onderon also faced Separatist occupation. A group of rebels, including Steela Gererra and her brother Saw, fought back against the Separatists with training and support from the Jedi. Together, these rebels—the first to be personally trained by Jedi Knights—overthrew Separatist rule and restored freedom to their world. The struggle came at the cost of Steela’s life. Saw continued her legacy as a rebel fighter and became a vital, if not controversial, member of the early Rebel Alliance.
The Delegation of 2000 (Episode III)
The Clone Wars were nothing more than a pretext for Chancellor Palpatine to assume ultimate control over the galaxy. Many senators, including now-Senator Amidala, Bail Organa of Alderaan, and Mon Mothma of Chandrila, banded together to push back against the dictatorial influence of the chancellor. 2,000 senators petitioned Palpatine to give up his executive power, and he pledged to do so when the war ended. Instead, he executed an order to destroy the Jedi and then assumed full control over the Republic. The government was transformed into the Galactic Empire, and the senators—with the exception of Amidala, who died shortly after the war ended—plotted their next move. They remained Imperial Senators, but armed rebellion was on the horizon.
Early Rebel Activities (Tarkin, Lords of the Sith)
The early years of Imperial rule saw small pockets of resistance cells attempting to fight back against the Empire, but without any organized backing. Many of these cells were the legacy of the Clone Wars. Saw Gerrera fought against the Empire on Onderon, while Cham Syndulla fought to once again liberate his planet. Many of these cells would become some of the early movements that would give rise to the Rebel Alliance.
The Growing Rebellion (Star Wars Rebels)
The lack of unity between rebel cells soon came to an end. One of the most prominent group of rebels was the crew of the Ghost, which operated on Lothal. What made them stand out was one of their leaders, the Jedi Kanan Jarrus, and his apprentice, Ezra Bridger. Under the leadership of Captain Hera Syndulla, the daughter of Cham, these rebels attracted the attention of the wider rebel network. Cells began working together when they came to the rescue of the Ghost crew over Mustafar, and the rebellion grew from there. As the early Rebel Alliance formed, they attracted the attention of Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and even the Emperor himself.
The Rebel Alliance Begins (Rogue One)
By the time of Rogue One, the Rebel Alliance is still in its nascent stages. Director Gareth Edwards has said that we will see the formation of the Alliance in the film. What we can gather is this: the nascent Alliance intercepts information about the Death Star, built by Galen Erso, and sends his daughter, Jyn Erso, to try to find him and learn more about the superweapon. As the stakes become clear, and the Alliance realizes what the Death Star is capable of, the Rebel Alliance is officially formed under the leadership of Mon Mothma (who appears in the film).
How exactly will it be formed? We’re about to find out! Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters on December 16th.