Our Privacy/Cookie Policy contains detailed information about the types of cookies & related technology on our site, and some ways to opt out. By using the site, you agree to the uses of cookies and other technology as outlined in our Policy, and to our Terms of Use.


Star Wars Saga Primer for Those Who Secretly Don't Get It

Star Wars has long been a worldwide obsession, but some people just never really got it. That's all fine and good, until the kids says things like "Sith" and "Mace Windu" which, to the uninitiated, sound more like high-end cleaning products.

I, for one, am a super fan and know more than most ever will about Coruscant and Hoth, Sith Lords and Clones, the complicated and (just the one time!) incestuous Anakin/Vader family tree. So I've created a cheat sheet for those who left the "Star Wars" saga decades or episodes ago, or who never really followed the story in the first place.

There's just enough time to catch up before the "Star Wars: A Force Awakens" release Dec. 18. Scroll down for a glossary, episode guide and suggested viewing order. (Plus my daughter's pencil drawings for each.)

Basic terms you need to know

The Force: A metaphysical power. "The Force is what gives a Jedi (see below) his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together."—Obi-Wan Kenobi

Dark Side/ Light Side: Dark side is bad, light side is good.

Droid: Robots such as R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Jedi: Beings who are able to harness the Force. Their weapon of choice is the lightsaber.

Lightsaber: A laser and the weapon of choice for the Jedi. It's like a samurai's sword but lighter and whooshy and made of pure energy.

Stormtrooper: Soldiers for the bad guys.

Sith: They use the Force for evil rather than good.

Notable Planets: Alderaan (Princess Leia's home planet), Bespin (home of Cloud City), Dagobah (where Yoda lives), Naboo (home of Padme Amidala), Coruscant (built up Republic capital planet), Tatooine (home of Luke Skywalker), Hoth (icy planet), Endor (where the Ewoks live), Mustafar (volcanic planet).

RELATED: 5 Reasons This Latina Mom Loves 'Star Wars'

How should you watch "Star Wars"

There are several schools of thought on this. You can watch in chronological order, which might make most sense to newbies:

  • "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999)
  • "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002)
  • "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
  • "Episode IV: Star Wars: A New Hope" (1977)
  • "Episode V: Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
  • "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi "(1983)

Or my personal preference, which is release order:

  • "Episode IV: Star Wars: A New Hope" (1977)
  • "Episode V: Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
  • "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi "(1983)
  • "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999)
  • "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002)
  • "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005)

Then, there is machete order, which you'll hear super fans totally endorsing:

  • "Episode IV: Star Wars: A New Hope" (1977)
  • "Episode V: Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
  • "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002)
  • "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
  • "Episode VI: Return of the Jedi "(1983)
  • SKIP (skip!) "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999)

So what's this hyped up saga even about? Here are quick recaps plus illustrations from my daughter, whose almost as big of a Star Wars fan as I am (almost).

"Episode I: The Phantom Menace" (1999)

Good guys: Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Queen Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker

Bad guy: The Trade Federation

The basics: Jedis, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are on a quest to keep peace in the universe. They go to warn Queen Padmé Amidala of Naboo that the Trade Federation is up to no good, and they all end up on the planet Tatooine. There they meet a cute blond boy—Anakin Skywalker—who the Jedis recognize as having the Force and free him from slavery. The other Jedis back at HQ worry Anakin could end up leaning toward the dark side.

The end: Qui-Gon Jinn is killed, Obi-Wan Kenobi becomes a knight, and Anakin becomes his apprentice. The Trade Federation continues to be a threat.

"Episode II: Attack of the Clones" (2002)

Good guys: Padmé Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, Mace Windu

Bad guys: Count Dooku, Darth Sidious (aka: Palpatine)

The basics: Fast forward 10 years, and Padmé Amidala is now a young woman and a senator. The galaxy is on the brink of a huge civil war, thanks to the Separatist movement led by Count Dooku (who used to be a Jedi master but went bad) and his Sith master, Darth Sidious. After an attempt is made on the life of Padmé, Anakin Skywalker, who she hasn't seen in ages, is assigned to be her protector and the two fall in love. Obi-Wan attempts to find out who is trying to kill Padmé and discovers that Count Dooku is building a clone army. Anakin's mom is murdered, and we see the first clue to Anakin's dark side. The Galactic Senate votes to grant the Chancellor emergency powers, but the Chancellor is Darth Sidious, who is actually the evil Sith Lord. Sidious sentences Padmé, Anakin and Obi-Wan to death. Yoda and Mace Windu save the day, Dooku escapes.

The end: The Clone Wars have begun. Anakin and Padmé get hitched (secretly).

"Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" (2005)

Good guys: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Yoda, Padmé

Bad guys: Chancellor Palpatine/ Darth Sidious, Count Dooku, General Grievous.

Good guy turned bad guy: Anakin Skywalker

The Basics: The Clone Wars have been going on for three years. Chancellor Palpatine has been kidnapped by Separatist commander General Grievous, and Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are enlisted to go get him. Anakin has a duel with Count Dooku and, with Chancellor Palpatine's urging, kills Count Dooku. Padmé is pregnant with Anakin's child, and the father-to-be starts to have premonitions that she'll die in childbirth. Meanwhile the lure of the dark side is too much for Anakin. He pledges allegiance to Palpatine and is given the name Darth Vader.

Palpatine attacks a Jedi temple, which leaves only two surviving Jedis: Yoda and Obi-Wan. Padmé finds out that her husband has gone bad and confronts him and Obi-Wan and Anakin/Vader get into a big battle. Obi-Wan dismembers his one-time apprentice, Anakin/Vader, who falls into a volcanic river which severely burns him. Obi-Wan takes Padmé away, and she gives birth to a set of twins, Luke and Leia. As predicted, she dies in childbirth.

The end: Anakin/Vader is given new limbs and his special, oh so iconic, black suit. He is devastated when he finds out Padmé has died but never meets his children who are taken away and hidden with far-flung families.

Episode IV: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

Good guys: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi

Bad guys: Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin

The basics: The galaxy is in the throes of a massive civil war, Princess Leia is all grown up and is a rebel leader. She is captured by Darth Vader and sends out a rescue message, intended for Obi-Wan, via a droid named R2-D2. The cute robot, along with a droid named C-3PO, are dropped onto planet Tatooine and are bought by Luke Skywalker, who hears Leia's message. He reunites with Obi-Wan, meets Han Solo and Chewbacca, and they all hop in Han's ship, the Millennium Falcon, to save the Princess who is held by Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin on the Death Star.

The end: The good guys save Leia, Darth Vader kills Obi-Wan, and they blow up the Death Star.

"Episode V: Empire Strikes Back" (1980)

Good guys: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Yoda

Bad guys: Darth Vader, the Empire

The basics: The good guys are fully immersed in the Rebel Alliance, hiding out on the snowy planet Hoth and come under attack by Darth Vader and the Empire. Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO escape but are trapped by Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker goes on the search for a Jedi Master and meets and trains with Yoda, who guides him in learning to harness the Force. Luke goes to save his friends and comes face to face with Darth Vader. Vader cuts off Luke's hand and then tells him he is his father.

The end: Han Solo and Princess Leia become a couple. Han is then frozen in a block of carbonite by Darth Vader and taken away. Luke gets a robotic hand, and he and the crew, with the addition of Lando Calrissian, set out to find Han.

"Episode VI: Return of the Jedi "(1983)

Good guys: Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO, Lando Calrissian

Bad guys: Jabba the Hutt, Darth Vader

The basics: Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, C-3PO and Lando are united in attempting to save Han from Jabba the Hutt. Leia gets Han out of the carbonite but is enslaved in a sexy metal bikini while Jabba plans to kill Luke and Han. They all, miraculously, are freed and head to the planet Ednor (where those super cute, furry Ewoks live). Luke finds out Leia is actually his twin sister. There is a brand new Death Star built, and Luke confronts his dad, Darth Vader. The evil Palpatine tortures Luke, Darth comes to his son's rescue, kills Palpatine but is mortally wounded and dies.

The end: Darth Vader's body is burned in a funeral pyre, the rebels are victorious over the Empire, and Han and Leia make out.

RELATED: 5 Star Wars Mom Shockers in GIFs

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015)

Good guys: Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia

Bad guys: Kylo Ren, Captain Phasma

Basics: Since the film's plot has been shrouded in secrecy, there is yet much to say. But we do know that the story takes places 30 years after the last episode. We meet Rey, a young scavenger, who gets caught up in some sort of battle and joins forces with an ex-stormtooper named Finn and a pilot named Poe. Also back are Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Chewebacca, R2-D2 and C3-Po. Plus Rey has an adorable sidekick, a droid named BB-8.

The end: Unknown!

Got it all? Good. May the Force be with you.

Share on Facebook

IMAGES BY: a 9-year-old Star Wars fanatic

More from lifestyle