*Caution: Serious spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker ahead!*
After George Lucas introduced what would become arguably the most influential franchise of all time in 1977 when Stars Wars: A New Hope first hit theaters, J.J. Abrams is now wrapping up the triptych of trilogies with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Not surprisingly, this installment makes sure to pay tribute to every fan-favorite moment that led up to it, meaning a plethora of Easter eggs, subtle callbacks, shout-outs to extended universe stories, and a whole slew of surprising cameos.
While some critics have shaded the film for what some see as pandering or simple fan service, there's no denying the spark of delight for those who've grown up with the series when they see a clever nod to the franchise's storied past.
Here's a look at some of the multitude of likely missed references and low-key nods to Stars Wars' past found throughout The Rise of Skywalker.
Lots of Cameos and Exciting Returns
There are just so many characters in The Rise of Skywalker, but the importance (or even the existence) of some may have been missed.
- Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis): Despite getting lighsabered to death in The Last Jedi, Snoke makes a brief reappearance this time around in the form of a bunch of clones. As it turns out, the former Supreme Leader was just a puppet under Palpatine's control.
- Wedge Antilles (Dennis Lawson): The beloved fighter pilot -- famous for being one of the only rebel pilots to make it through the attacks on both Death Stars in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back -- returns for a very brief cameo, manning the turrets on the Millennium Falcon. Notably, it was widely reported that Lawson had refused to make a cameo as Antilles for Rogue One in 2016, however, he later claimed that his remarks on the matter had been misreported and that he'd love to come back. Evidently, Abrams felt like rewarding his importance to the saga with a spot in the final installment.
- Wicket W. Warrick (Warwick Davis): As we see different species on different planets celebrating the fall of the evil Final Order, we get a shot of the Ewoks of Endor cheering. Heroic Ewok Wicket, whom fans first met in Return of the Jedi, can be seen, celebrating, and Davis got a chance to don the furry costume once again.
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- Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill): Despite his death in The Last Jedi, Hamill's iconic character makes a return at a crucial moment in the form of a Force ghost to give Rey some guidance. There's a line from the trailer that really sums up the ethos of this film, when Luke intones, "No one's ever really gone." Hamill also lends his voice to the horned alien Boolio, who tells the Resistance heroes about the spy among the ranks of the First Order.
- Han Solo (Harrison Ford): Appearing during Kylo Ren's (Adam Driver) darkest moment of internal conflict, Ford's Solo comes to him as a Force ghost-esque memory that guides Ren.
- Ed Sheeran and Lin-Manuel Miranda: It's unclear where their cameos come during the film, but according to behind-the-scenes featurettes, both the English singer and the Hamilton creator got a chance to play uncredited roles as a stormtrooper and a Resistance fighter, respectively.
- Jodie Comer: In The Rise of Skywalker, fans finally find out the truth about Rey's lineage and we get a look at her parents. The Emmy-winning Killing Eve star makes a brief appearance as Rey's mom. Meanwhile, Billy Howle of The Outlaw King plays Rey's dad.
- John Williams as Oma Tres: Williams, the unparalleled film composer who created every iconic score for the Star Wars saga -- not to mention the Indiana Jones franchise, Jaws, the first three Harry Potter films and the Jurassic Park franchise, to name just a few -- actually makes a rare appearance as a bartender named Oma Tres in a cantina on the planet Kijimi.
Even More Vocal Cameos
- The Voices of Fallen Jedi: While the movie has tons of returning characters, the number of vocal cameos is downright insane. In a moment of near-defeat, Rey finds support and much-needed strength from the collective power of many fallen Jedi knights, which means a whole lot of past Star Wars stars came back to lend their voices, if only for a brief moment.
Hayden Christensen, who starred as Anakin Skywalker in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, tells her, "Bring back the balance, Rey, as I did. The Force surrounds you. Let it lift you." Meaningful sentiments, especially coming from the man who became Darth Vader and was Palpatine's original minion.
Ewan McGregor (and Alec Guinness, in recorded audio, obviously) lend their voices as Obi-Wan Kenobi, while we also hear from Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu, Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn and Frank Oz's Yoda.
Paying respects to the many, many animated Star Wars series, we also hear from the actors who voiced Jedi heroes in The Clone Wars and Rebels TV shows. This includes Freddie Prinze Jr. as Kanan Jarrus, Olivia d’Abo as Luminara Unduli, Jennifer Hale as Aayla Secura, Angelique Perrin as Adi Gallia and Ashley Eckstein as Ahsoka Tano.
- J.J. Abrams Makes Droid Debut: Abrams made sure to include himself in his grand epic finale, and thus voiced a new droid, D-O, who looks like a megaphone mounted to a rolling white drum wheel.
Lots of Homages to the Star Wars Comics
- Star Wars' 'Dark Empire' Storyline: The film seems to be at least partially inspired by a storyline from the Star Wars comics called "Dark Empire." In the comics, the Emperor is still alive, having staved off death by transferring his energy into clones using the Force, and he has secretly been manipulating galactic events behind the scenes. He also has a fleet of "World Devastators" similar to Palpatine's Star Destroyer fleet in The Rise of Skywalker.
- Holocrons: Throughout The Rise of Skywalker, there are a number of angular devices known as wayfinders, the design of which appears to be inspired by the mystical Force-powered devices known as holocrons, which were introduced into the Star Wars extended universe in the comic books, and then appeared in the animated series Star Wars Rebels.
Callbacks to Previous Films in the Saga
- Chewbacca Winning Chess: In a cute callback to the famous "Let the Wookiee win" scene from A New Hope, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are seen playing holochess -- technically called Dejarik -- with Chewbacca, and they chat about his propensity for winning.
- Luke's Red 5 X-Wing: The famous Jedi's X-Wing makes a major appearance in the film, after Rey had previously only seen a glimpse of it in The Last Jedi. This time around, Luke's spirit elevates it out of the waters where he's submerged it after choosing to live a hermit's life, and Rey takes her place in the ship.
- Tatooine's Double Suns: In A New Hope, Luke stares out over the binary sunset of his home world and longs to escape the life of a moisture farmer on some dusty planet. It's the moment that sets up his angst and longing, and precedes the heartbreak and adventure to come. In The Rise of Skywalker, a double sunrise lights Rey's final scene, when she comes to Tatooine to embrace her past and her destiny. It's an indicator that Rey has found her true calling and seems to, at least thematically, suggest that her story isn't yet over.
- Knowing the Odds: In yet another subverted callback to the most famous quotes from other films in the franchise, Rey asks C-3PO about their chances of success in their mission, adding, "You know the odds better than any of us." This is a hilarious and clever reference to The Empire Strikes Back, when C-3PO tries to dissuade Han Solo from flying an asteroid field by explaining the slim chance of survival and the roguish smuggler anti-hero shoots back, "Never tell me the odds!"
-Chewbacca Finally Gets His Due: In the celebratory denouement, while the galaxy cheers for the defeat of evil, Chewbacca is seemingly randomly awarded a medal for his participation. It seems Abrams wanted to make sure to correct the unfair treatment of the heroic Wookiee at the conclusion of A New Hope when Leia presented Han and Luke with medals, but totally forgot Chewie.
- The Training Orb: While Rey trains to hone her Jedi prowess, she's seen facing off against a round autonomous seeker droid -- similar to the one Luke trains with in A New Hope, and that the Younglings (child Jedi trainees) practice with in the prequel trilogy.
- A Bad Feeling: In every Star Wars movie, one of the characters says, "I've got a bad feeling about this." Obi-Wan, Luke, Leia, Han and C-3PO have all said it, and even the adorable BB-8 says it in droid binary speak in The Last Jedi. This time around, Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) finally gets the chance to speak the famous line.
- Palpatine Rehashes His Old Hits: History repeats itself, and this can be seen when Emperor Palpatine (who is still alive, and has been secretly manipulating the course of the First Order) tells Kylo Ren, "The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural." This is verbatim the same line that Palpatine spoke while trying to seduce Anakin Skywalker to the dark side in Revenge of the Sith. If it worked that well once, it's likely to work again (even if Palpatine's brainwashed minions end up turning their backs on him, but this is just another example of the cyclical nature of the universe. Or he's not as good at manipulating people as he thinks he is).
- The Throne Room: When Rey scales the ruins of the second Death Star -- in a scene very similar to her mysterious introduction in The Force Awakens -- she finally comes to the Emperor's Throne Room, which was modeled almost directly on early original concept art by iconic Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie. The scene serves as a kind of tribute to the acclaimed designer, who died in March 2012 at the age of 82.
Shout-Outs to Other Film Universes
The Rise of Skywalker seemingly makes many references to the Indiana Jones franchise -- most notably with Palpatine's face-melting death, that seemingly calls back to the gruesome death of the Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Additionally, there is a scene in which Chewbacca seemingly dies after getting loaded onto a transport ship that explodes, devastating the heroes, and later turns out to be alive. This is almost beat-for-beat the same thing that happens to Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) in Raiders.
This isn't the first time the iconic franchises have made references to one another. There are hieroglyphics in Raiders that depict C-3PO and R2-D2, and a nightclub in The Temple of Doom is called Club Obi-Wan.