Welcome to FANDOM’s complete in-canon Star Wars saga timeline…
When Star Wars: A New Hope arrived in theaters in 1977, it didn’t have an episode number or even a tag line. It was just called Star Wars. This film was a sensation and became the most influential science fiction film in history. The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi concluded this epic trilogy, and for a while, that was Star Wars.
Fast forward 41 years later and there are dozens of books, comics, video games, and TV shows that have expanded on the original Star Wars story. While we can’t list everything (don’t worry, Wookieepedia has it all) we have collected the main entries into Star Wars canon you can follow below.
The Skywalker family is the core of this saga. While Luke and Leia‘s journey is explored in depth in the original trilogy, their family history goes all the way back to the prequel trilogy, which we’ll get into in a moment. But this story did start before the Skywalkers, with a wise, green Jedi named Yoda.
A Training Mission with Yoda
Marvel Comics is currently publishing an in-canon Star Wars comic book. While most of it takes place between the films A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, there was a five-issue arc in the comic called “Yoda’s Secret War.” These five issues come from one of Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s journals where he went on an adventure with Master Yoda. Their adventure is the farthest back in the timeline you can go (so far).
Marvel also produced a comic book called Darth Maul. You won’t meet Darth Maul until the first prequel film, but before that, you can read how he became the Sith Apprentice of Darth Sidious in the five-issue series Darth Maul. These two series are technically our jumping off point into the saga and add some context to two characters we’ll meet in the prequels.
A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy…
OK, now that you’ve read (or read up on) those two comic arcs, let’s get into the first set of films: the Star Wars Prequels. The prequel films take place 32 years before the events of A New Hope, starting with The Phantom Menace. The Phantom Menace begins with a Trade Federation blockade of the planet Naboo. The Jedi Council sends Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan to negotiate a peace treaty and instead, they get caught up in an invasion. This invasion leads them to the outer rim planet of Tatooine, which is where we meet young Anakin Skywalker and the saga truly begins.
During this time, Anakin meets the Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala. Their friendship blossoms, the Jedi expose the Trade Federation‘s blockade of Naboo in the Galactic Republic and the Sith begin to reveal themselves. The Phantom Menace sets the stage for three future events: the future union of Anakin and Padme, the secret presence of a Sith Emperor, and the rise of the Empire.
Preparing for War
These events are followed by Attack of the Clones. Attack of the Clones picks up 10 years later, with Anakin training to be a Jedi with his Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Amidala is no longer queen but is instead serving as a Senator for Naboo. The Jedi continue to sense the presence of the Sith but are unsure of the Emperor’s identity. Obi-Wan discovers the presence of a mysterious Clone Army, which the Galactic Senate authorizes to launch when war comes to the galaxy. Anakin and Amidala choose to get married, even though it’s forbidden and Anakin grieves over the death of his mother.
There are a few things to read between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, specifically the Marvel comic series Obi-Wan and Anakin. This five-part series documents a few of the Jedi training adventures the pair go on before the galaxy is embroiled in war. You can also read the comic series Jedi of the Republic: Mace Windu. This five-issue series takes place directly after the events of Attack of the Clones.
Begun the Clone Wars Have
Next up is the Star Wars animated series The Clone Wars. This series includes one feature-length movie and 129 episodes. It spans the three year period between Attack of the Clones and the final film in the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith. The Clone Wars is a fascinating series because it provides an in depth look into how the Clone Army became so powerful. It shows Yoda going on secret missions, it shows Anakin training his own Padawan Ahsoka Tano, and it shows how the Dark Side was gaining strength in the galaxy.
One thing to note about The Clone Wars is that many episode were not aired in order. For instance, the first episode in the series is called “Ambush,” but the timeline technically begins with a Season 2 episode called “Cat and Mouse.” The best way to follow the series is through this handy guide from StarWars.com. You may have to jump around a bit at the beginning, but you’ll really get a hand on the stories the show is telling when you watch them in order.
Seeds of the Death Star
While The Clone Wars series does lead right into Revenge of the Sith, there is one thing you can read that takes place during this timeline: the Rogue One prequel book, Catalyst. Catalyst explores the life of Galen Erso and his recruitment into the Republic weapons development by Orson Krennic. At this point in time, the Republic is still technically “the good team,” but Galen becomes wary when he begins working on a “Death Star” project. This book spans across both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, so you can read it as you head into Sith territory.
You can also learn more about Darth Maul and Kanan during this time. Darth Maul’s story continues in the Dark Horse comic book series Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir. These storylines actually came from The Clone Wars, but were never used. Kanan, who you won’t meet until Rebels, has a storyline in the Marvel comic series Kanan: The Last Padawan. He recalls his experiences training as a Jedi on Coruscant, before the events of Revenge of the Sith.
Palpatine’s Final Move
Revenge of the Sith is the third and final film in the prequel trilogy. For many years it was considered to be the last film in the Star Wars saga. It is by far the darkest and most difficult Star Wars film to watch. Anakin is tortured and turned to the Dark Side. The Emperor releases an order to execute the Jedi. Darth Vader rises to power and Amidala’s babies are separated at birth. The film is the harrowing conclusion to the Emperor’s plans to rule the galaxy.
While this trilogy is not as critically acclaimed as the original trilogy, it is crucial to watch if you want to understand how the Dark Side rose to power. The Clone Wars series and Revenge of the Sith clearly show that the Empire did not show up over night by crushing the Republic — no — the Empire IS the Republic, twisted and mutilated by the Emperor, much like his pupil, Darth Vader.
The Empire Reigns
The time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope is a dark one. The Empire has taken over the galaxy and any system that tries to fight back gets squashed. Darth Vader has become Emperor Palpatine’s enforcer, and their new relationship is explored in the Marvel comic book series Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith. This comic picks up immediately after the events of Revenge of the Sith.
Then you can catch up with Kanan, the last Padawan, in the first six issues of his comic series. While you learned about his last days in the Jedi Temple in issues #7 – #12, go back to read issues #1 – #6. Kanan will be a very important character when you get to the animated series Star Wars Rebels. Next in the timeline is a series of young reader books. These books, titled Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space, are composed of short stories that take place during the Galactic Empire. There are seven books in all.
Before the events of Revenge of the Sith, Ahsoka Tano was Anakin’s Padawan. Most of her journey was explored in The Clone Wars animated series but what happened to her afterwards? That’s where the book Ahsoka comes in. This book explores Ahsoka’s life after Executive Order 66, when the Clones killed all the Jedi. She was in hiding at the time, so she survived. She later joins forces with Bail Organa and helps start the early movements of the Rebellion.
Next in the timeline are two books with a heavy focus on the Empire. First, is Lords of the Sith. This book focuses on Lord Vader and the Emperor. The next book is titled Tarkin. Together these books paint a brutal and calculating picture of the lengths the Dark Side is willing to go to maintain their rule in the galaxy. Tarkin in particular documents the Dark Side’s work on the Death Star, which was first explored in the Galen Erso book Catalyst.
Next is Rebel Rising. Rebel Rising explores the backstory of our Rogue One heroine, Jyn Erso. When Jyn was young, she lived with her parents on a then Republic base, while her father worked on the Death Star design. This was explored in the book Catalyst. When he father left the Republic, Krennic had his wife, Jyn’s mother, killed. These events are played out in the film Rogue One. What Rogue One doesn’t show is what happened to Jyn after her mother’s death, when Saw Gerrera found her. This time in her life is documented in Rebel Rising.
Spanning the Timeline
Even thought the next two books fall in this time period, they actually span beyond the scope of the Empire’s reign. For instance, Thrawn, begins just as the Clone Wars have finished and concludes around the time of Star Wars Rebels. The book, which centers on the wicked Grand Admiral Thrawn, explores important issues in the Star Wars saga, as Nerdist’s review points out, including xenophobia.
Another book that spans more than just this time period is Lost Stars. Lost Stars begins in the dark times with two young children who join the Imperial flight program. Their paths begin to divide as one pursues rank and promotion as an officer and one seeks out the rebellion. It’s a love story that shows alternative views on the Death Star, the destruction of Alderaan in A New Hope and eventually leads to the Battle of Jakku, the wreckage of which can be seen in The Force Awakens.
Smugglers & Scoundrels
This is when you would watch the Han Solo movie. Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces us to Han, Chewie, and Lando Calrissian and is set 13 years before A New Hope. Han is an orphan who leaves the Imperial ship-building planet of Corellia to join the Flight Academy. Three years later, he and Chewie rescue each other and go to work for Tobias Beckett.
After their mission goes terribly wrong, they team up with Qi’Ra and Lando by taking the Millennium Falcon to Kessel. On Kessel they free the mine’s slaves and make their escape run in less than 12 parsecs, if you round down. While the film’s main goal is to give us the backstory of our favorite smuggler, it also introduces two new players in the larger Star Wars universe: Crimson Dawn and Enfys Nest.
Crimson Dawn is a crime syndicate run by Darth Maul. That’s right, the red-and-black baddie from Episode I survived his fall. Darth Maul was saved by the witches on his home planet of Dothamir during the Clone Wars television series, which is how he can still be alive in Solo. Enfys Nest is the daughter of the original Enfys Nest and is part of the early establishment of the Rebellion. Han’s decision to help Enfys proves that he has been supporting the rebellion for over a decade before he meets Luke and Leia in A New Hope.
The Spark of Rebellion
This brings us to Star Wars Rebels. 12 years since Revenge of the Sith and a mere five years before A New Hope, a stalwart and hopeful new crew band together to take on the Empire. The crew is comprised of Ezra, a young boy with Force-sensitive abilities, Kanan, our Last Padawan Jedi from the comic series we’ve been reading, Hera, the Twi’lek pilot of the “Ghost” ship, Sabine, a Mandalorian weapons expert, Zeb, an honor guardsman, and their trusty yet pesky droid Chopper. Together they face off against Thrawn, Tarkin, even Darth Vader himself.
Two books also cover the years leading up to A New Hope: Battlefront: Twilight Company and Leia: Princess of Alderaan. Battlefront: Twilight Company is a tie-in book to the video game Battlefront I. It spans from the time of Rebels through the Battle of Hoth, which takes place during the Empire Strikes Back. Leia: Princess of Alderaan begins on the day of Leia’s succession as the future leader of Alderaan. She must complete three tasks to prove her right to rule. During the book she discovers her parents are part of the Rebellion, which is why she’s on the “diplomatic mission” secretly carrying the Death Star plans in A New Hope.
Rebellions Are Built on Hope
This bring us up to the first Star Wars spin-off film, Rogue One. This film shows exactly how the plans to the Death Star end up in the hands of Princess Leia in A New Hope. Jyn Erso, who’s life was previously explored in the books Catalyst and Rebel Rising, is recruited to hack into the Empire-ruled planet of Skarif. She and her friends are able to steal the plans minutes before the entire planet is blown to pieces. The final moments in the film perfectly sync up with the first moments in A New Hope, as plans are handed off from person to person until they reach the hands of Princess Leia.
This is where the Original Trilogy perfectly collides with all the prequel materials. All the comic issues, animated shows and backstory books lead to this film. If you’ve been following this timeline exactly, then you know that this film, Star Wars: A New Hope is where everything changes. For 19 years the Empire has reigned as the supreme force in the Galaxy. Brave souls like Leia’s father Bail Organa, Jyn’s father Galen Erso, the crew of the Ghost, Thane and Ciena, Ahsoka — all of characters have been trying to bring the Empire down and now this “farmboy” from Tatooine has done it. With the Death Star destroyed, the Rebellion finally has a chance.
You can also get some more insight into our film characters during this time by reading From a Certain Point of View. This book collects 43 short stories from authors like Wil Wheaton, Greg Rucka, Gary Whitta, Claudia Gray and more. Each story is written from the perspective of a different person during the events of A New Hope.
Empire on the Run
Now we begin our approach to the second film in the Original Trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back. Before we get there, however, we have a few games, books and comics to dive into first.
Let’s start with Battlefront I. The game is currently available on PS4, Xbox One, and Microsoft PCs and features the option to play as a member of the Galactic Empire or the Rebel Alliance. The game has all sorts of levels and challenges, some of which lead all the way up to the Battle of Hoth and Bespin, two worlds featured in the Empire Strikes Back. The game also has expansions for Rogue One and The Force Awakens, so there are lots of movie tie-ins here.
While the second game, Battlefront II, doesn’t take place until after Return of the Jedi, you can learn about the game’s main character Iden Versio in the book Battlefront II: Inferno Squad. This book takes place after the Death Star was destroyed. The Emperor orders Iden and her Squad to hunt down Saw Gerrera’s insurgents to get revenge. This book fits here in the timeline and provides backstory for Battlefront II.
Comic Book Missions
Now let’s talk comics. There are A LOT of comic books storylines that fill in the gaps between A New Hope and the Empire Strikes Back. First is Princess Leia. This comic picks up right after the New Hope medal ceremony. Princess Leia goes on a secret mission to save Alderaanian citizens with a Rebel Alliance pilot named Evaan Verlaine.
Then we have the on-going Star Wars comic and the Darth Vader comic. These both pick up in the wake of the Death Star explosion. You can read both titles, issues #1 – #25 concurrently, since they do line up in narrative. As you read through Star Wars #26 – #43, you can also start reading Doctor Aphra. In this series, Darth Vader recruits Aphra as his personal archeologist. Archeology plays a huge role in some of these later works.
Lastly, you’ll want to read the five-issue comic miniseries Chewbacca. This comic shows Chewbacca stranded on a strange planet and how he makes a friend to help him escape. There’s also a Lando mini-series and a Han Solo mini-series. They each have five issues and can be read during this time.
Empires Strike & Jedis Return
The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi round out the original trilogy. During these films, the Empire attempts to regain control over the galaxy by constructing a second Death Star. The Rebel Alliance becomes a mobile fleet, after their base on Hoth is destroyed. Luke goes on his own journey to find Yoda, the head of the Jedi Council from the prequels who is now in exile. Han and Leia’s love for one another grows, but they are separated by Jabba the Hutt.
Everything falls apart at the end of Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader reveals to Luke that he is Anakin Skywalker, his father. Then the final battle between the Alliance and the Empire is waged during Return of the Jedi. The second Death Star is operational and the Alliance has one chance to destroy it and the Emperor forever. The Alliance is victorious and the work of restoring the galaxy begins.
The Aftermath of War
In order to understand what happens to the Galaxy once Darth Vader and the Emperor are destroyed, checkout the Shattered Empire comic book miniseries and the Aftermath book trilogy. Shattered Empire is a four-issue comic series that picks up a few days after Return of the Jedi. It introduces Poe Dameron’s parents, Kes Dameron and Shara Bey.
The Aftermath Trilogy covers the immediate fall out of the Emperor’s death. In the first book, Aftermath, the Empire is scattered throughout the galaxy. Palpatine’s statue is toppled on Coruscant. Leia, Han, and Chewbacca begin establishing Mon Monthma as the new leader of the Republic. Resistance fighters begin to go home. One fighter, a pilot named Norra Wexley returns to her home planet of Akiva. While there, she discovers the Empire has regrouped their last fleet of starships and star destroyers in the Outer Rim above her planet. The Empire attempts to make a last stand here.
In the second book, Aftermath: Life Debt, Han Solo resigns his commission as General to help Chewbacca liberate his home planet of Kashyyyk. The Empire continues to wage war and release propaganda from their secret bases. Leia continues to work with Mon Mothma to restore order to the Republic. Two characters from The Force Awakens are introduced in this book: Maz Kanata and Armitage Hux. Armitage Hux is the bastard son of Brendol Hux, who’s working with the Empire to create a Shadow Council. (We’ll discover in future books and films that Armitage Hux is Kylo Ren’s right hand man, General Hux, and that his father, Brendol, recruits Captain Phasma to be his son’s guard. More on that in the book Phasma.)
The third book, Aftermath: Empire’s End, takes all the characters established in the Aftermath Trilogy to the planet of Jakku. That’s right, the planet where Rey will be exiled in the future is where the Empire stages its final battle. All the star destroyers Rey scavenges in The Force Awakens will fall in this battle. Parts of this battle are also covered in the previously mentioned book Lost Stars. The book has been running concurrently since Revenge of the Sith and stops here at the Battle of Jakku. This battle ultimately ends the war between the Empire and the Republic, for good.
Princess Leia’s Family Legacy
Bloodline is all about Leia. The book explores where she stands once the new Republic has seen established. While she was a General in the war, she’s now a Senator. During this time she also becomes pregnant and gives birth to Ben Solo. She’s greatly respected in her position and her voice is trusted. When she’s nominated for a greater leadership position, her opposition leaks that she’s not really Bail Organa’s daughter, but Darth Vader’s. This revelation erodes her reputation. She ends up leaving her position and starting a Resistance base in the Hosnian System.
As Leia works to establish a Resistance base, she begins recruiting pilots. Many of the resistance fighters she recruits fought with her in the Rebellion, but many of them now have children. Leia’s friends from Shattered Empire, Shara Bey and Kes Dameron, have a son named Poe Dameron. Poe is one of the Republic’s best fighter pilots. As the presence of the First Order grows in the galaxy, he leaves the Republic and joins Leia’s resistance. When Leia finds new information that could help her find her missing brother Luke Skywalker, Leia sends Poe on a mission to find him. This mission is explored in the ongoing Marvel comic series Poe Dameron.
While the Resistance is being created, the First Order is also being formed. One of the characters introduced in Aftermath: Life Debt, Brendol Hux, is also recruiting for the First Order. This recruitment is explored in the book Phasma. In the book, Phasma and her brother grow up to be survivors. They kill their parents and their village in order to survive. Phasma continues this mode of self-preservation when she and Armitage Hux kill his father and take his place in the First Order. Phasma fashions her metal armor in this book and joins the First Order as Hux’s Captain.
A New Trilogy Begins
Now we head into the new trilogy of films: The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and the yet untitled Episode IX. The Force Awakens begins 34 years after the events of A New Hope and 29 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Leia is running the Resistance. Her son, Ben Solo, has gone to the dark side and has taken the name Kylo Ren. Her husband, Han Solo, has returned to smuggling. Luke Skywalker is missing. Poe Dameron, while on Jakku, finds part of a map to Luke but is captured by the First Order. He meets reluctant Stormtrooper FN-2187 who teams up with Rey and BB-8 to return the map to Skywalker to Leia. All hell breaks loose as the First Order destroys the new Republic.
The Last Jedi begins right as The Force Awakens ends. Rey has tapped into her force powers and has found Luke Skywalker. She is desperate to be trained and to discover who she is. The Resistance successfully took out Starkiller Base, but Phasma, Hux and Kylo Ren escaped before it blew up. Han Solo is dead and Chewbacca is piloting the Millennium Falcon with Rey, who has made the journey to the first Jedi temple on Ahch-To. You can find out how Phasma escaped the base in her four-issue comic series Captain Phasma. You can also keep up with Poe Dameron’s missions during this time in his comic series, which continues here.
The Passing of the Torch
The Last Jedi definitely didn’t go the way we thought it would. Luke remained on Ahch-To and only trained Rey for a second, before she jettisoned off to save Kylo Ren. Yoda made a brief appearance to burn down the old Jedi Temple, though he did so knowing full well that Rey had the sacred texts on board the Millennium Falcon (sneaky Yoda). The First Order tracked the Resistance down and cornered their last remaining forces on Crait. Luke used his remaining power to fight Kylo Ren, after Ren and Rey destroyed Supreme Leader Snoke, and then Luke died. It was a jarring end to a lot of key characters like Luke, Admiral Ackbar, and Snoke.
Before Luke force-ghosted his way into oblivion, he left Kylo with three prophecies:
“Today, the rebellion is reborn,”
“The war is just beginning,”
“And I will not be the last Jedi.”
These words set up a great many things for the future of the Star Wars franchise, the events of which will next play out in Episode IX.