As the Galaxy far, far away continues to grow across numerous movies, tv shows, video games, comic books, and novels the Star Wars universe has become more and more intertwined. This growing web of connectivity reaches a new level in The Rise of Skywalker, which goes out of its way to deliver plenty of references and fan service. Here is The Opinion Arcade’s list of Star Wars The Rise of Skywalker’s Best Easter Eggs, References, and Cameos.
The Rise of Skywalker begins with a montage-like scene that shows Kylo Ren tracking down the source of a mysterious transmission from the thought to be dead Emperor Palpatine. Ren tracks down a Sith Wayfinder, which according to The Rise of Skywalker’s Visual Dictionary, is on the planet Mustafar. Although it looks different from previous appearances, it is the same planet of Anakin and Obi-Wan climactic fight in Revenge of the Sith, Darth Vader’s fortress from Rogue One, the Inquistrious in Jedi: Fallen Order, and a known nexus of Dark Side energy.
The First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke initially appeared to be the sequel trilogy’s equivalent to Emperor Palpatine. Until he died in The Last Jedi, which went out of its way to push the franchise in a new direction. One problem many fans had with Snoke’s death was the lack of explanation of who he was in the first place, why he was so powerful with the Force, and how he was in control of the First Order. Although The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t give any real answer to those questions, it does explain where Snoke came from, albeit very briefly.
In the opening scenes, when Kylo Ren discovers Palpatine on the planet Exegol, the former Galactic Emperor reveals that he created Snoke, and has been behind every part of Ben Solo’s turn to the dark side. The reveal is accompanied by a shot of a large tank filled with dead Snoke bodies. The explanation barely gives anything away, but at least shows that the character was simply another means by which Palpatine was manipulating the Galaxy.
The Emporer’s Throne
Star Wars fans have seen Sheev Palpatine occupy more than his fair share of elaborate thrones throughout the Skywalker saga, but perhaps none more detailed than his latest one. According to Phil Szostak, who wrote the ‘Art of…’ books for The Force Awakens, Solo, and The Last Jedi, this throne is taken from an unused Ralph McQuarrie concept from Return of the Jedi. Recycling older ideas is a method much of the sequel trilogy has utilised. Disney’s trilogy has repurposed unused art and ideas from the original trilogy, in particular, that of Ralph McQuarrie the artist Lucas brought on board who almost single-handedly defined the look of Star Wars.
The in-universe game of Dejarik, or Holochess, has appeared in several Star Wars films starting with the original. In A New Hope, R2-D2 and Chewbacca played Holochess aboard the Millenium Falcon. The game was created for the screen by adding a holographic filter to stop-frame animated pieces. The table seemingly went unused in the decades between then and The Force Awakens (as the game continues from the same spot when reactivated in Episode VII), Chewbacca has had some practice.
The reintroduction of Poe, Finn and Chewbacca sees the two humans take on the Wookie in a game of Dejarik. They complain that he beats them every time, stating that it’s because he is two hundred and fifty years old. The scene brings a segment from Solo full circle, where Chewbacca appears to play his first game against Woody Harrelson’s Becket.
The Light Speed Chase
One of the central plot points of The Last Jedi was light speed tracking, which allowed the First Order to follow the resistance ships whenever they tried to run away. The Rise of Skywalker makes sure to show off ships being able to track each other through hyperspace as early as possible, with an incredible chase scene that sees the Millennium Falcon race through multiple light speed jumps, to get rid of the Tie Fighters following them. Some may see this as a nod to the complaint of the prolonged chase sequence in the Last Jedi, with the Rise of Skywalker’s being at breakneck speed, whereas others might argue it’s just a smart way to show off the idea of Lightspeed tracking.
Rey’s episode IX introduction sees her run an assault course designed to hone her Jedi abilities. As with any proper Jedi training, the course involves a blindfolded section where a small circular droid shoots at her. The scene pays homage to the first time we saw this, with Luke and Obi-Wan on the Millennium Falcon, and reuses that same probe (which was last seen when Finn pulled it out of a container on the Falcon, in The Force Awakens) and the same type of helmet.
When the Resistance crew get to Pasaana, they discover the colourful Festival of the Ancestors. C-3PO notes that the festival happens once every forty-two years. The specific time gap is a nod to The Rise of Skywalker’s cinematic release coming forty-two years after the original Star Wars, A New Hope.
Lando Says the Magic Words
“I have a bad feeling about this” has been said in every Star Wars film by a range of characters (even BB-8 in the Last Jedi). This time the line goes to the returning Billy Dee Williams, as Lando says it in-between reminiscing about Han, Luke and Leia.
Although it may appear to be a new power for The Rise of Skywalker, and a key plot point in multiple set pieces of the movie Rey uses a type of Force healing, which she explains as directly transferring some of her Force energy into another being. Although this is the first time the power was shown in the movies, this exact power debuted mere days before Episode IX’s release in the Mandalorian’s penultimate episode. The scene sees the adorable Baby Yoda use the same ability to heal Carl Weathers’ Greef Karga.
The Knights of Ren
One of the Force Awakens biggest reveals was the identity of Kylo Ren. With that information came the knowledge that he was the leader of a group known as the Knights of Ren. It was unclear but assumed, that they were the trainee Jedi that Ben Solo turned to the Dark Side and used to destroyed Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Temple. They then briefly appeared in Rey’s vision but were nowhere to be seen in The Last Jedi. They finally make their full debut in The Rise of Skywalker, where they hunt down Rey, Poe, and Finn, and in the end, take on their former leader as he attempts to stop Palpatine.
The Finger Point
Kylo Rey’s obsession with Darth Vader is key to the sequel trilogy and is evident in everything from his voice to his appearance. The Rise of Skywalker sees him hit a new level of fanboy, by emulating his grandfather’s infamous finger point several times throughout the film.
Poe Dameron’s Past
Although Rey’s backstory (or lack of one) has been a central part the sequel trilogy, none of the other new characters has had much of a back story either. In The Rise of Skywalker, audiences learn that like just like Han Solo, Poe Dameron had a criminal past before he joined a greater cause. Poe’s history is revealed on the planet Kijimi, where Rey and Finn discover that he used to transport the Star Wars drug ‘Spice’ (also like Han Solo) until he left the criminal gang to fight for the Resistance.
Although the fan and critical reception towards the Star Wars movies as differed over the years, one universally acclaimed thing is John Williams epic score. Williams famously created the music for Jurassic Park, Superman, E.T, and Indiana Jones (along with many, many others), but The Rise of Skywalker sees the composer finally put into a Star Wars film in a physical role.
While on Kijimi, the resistance crew head into the back room of a bar, the camera has A New Hope-esque cantina scene look around the bar showcasing a variety of alien species. It then holds for a moment on a disapproving looking bartender, played by non-other than Williams.
The Scavenger and the Death Star
The search for the second Sith Wayfinder that leads to Exegol takes Poe, Finn, and Rey to a moon of Endor and the remains of the second Death Star. As she traverses what is left of the moon-sized battle station the scenes bring to mind Rey’s debut in Episode VII as she searched the First Order Star Destroyer as a Scavenger on Jakku.
Just Like Obi-Wan
While exploring the Death Star Rey climbs around a tower that looks just like the one Obi-Wan scaled in A New Hope, on his way to free the Millennium Flacon and confront Darth Vader.
When Kylo Ren confronts Rey in the remains of the Death Star he manages to outmanoeuvre her for a while, dodging out of the way of most attacks. Everything from his style, including an almost like-for-like slide across the ground, to the way the scene is filmed is reminiscent of the way Luke dodges Kylo Ren at the end of The Last Jedi. Not only is this a quick call back to another confrontation where one person was trying to get a reaction out of their opponent – but it also makes sense, given that Luke is the one who trained Kylo Ren in lightsaber combat.
Han Solo’s Return
One of Episode IX’s most shocking moments comes with the return of Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Although seemingly just a ‘memory’ (or some kind of memory combined with a Force projection from Leia’s final act) Han Solo returns to help give his son the final push back into the light. The scene recreates several elements from their final conversation in the Force Awakens, only with Kylo heading towards the light rather than dark, and serves as a great moment for Kylo becoming Ben Solo once again.
Han’s return, if only in memory form, delivers the perfect goodbye to the character audiences didn’t know they needed. After telling his son that Kylo Ren is, in fact, dead, with only Ben Solo left, his son looks at his father and is about to say that he loves him, only for Han to interrupt with “I know”, perfectly echoing the iconic scene from The Empire Strikes Back.
With Carrie Fisher’s tragic real-world death before filming had started on The Rise of Skywalker, her entire performance was a combination of unused footage and altered scenes from the Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. J.J Abrams and his team wrote her scenes to fit footage and dialogue they already had, changing her hair, outfit, and the backgrounds for Episode IX. Overall the effect works, but even with that Leia seemingly had to die at some point in the film.
The moment sees her use all of her strength to get through to her son as he and Rey fight. Leia’s use of the Force gives Rey the chance to strike but also helps Ben realise he can go back to the Light side, following up from a scene shortly before this one where Ben says to Rey that neither of them can go back to Leia after touching the Dark Side.
After her death, the Resistance gathers in a touching, almost meta, funeral-like scene, bowing their heads for their fallen leader, and Carrie Fisher.
Rey’s Origins Revealed
The tease of who or what Rey could be was central to both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Rey’s lack of identity defined why she wanted to stay on Jakku in Episode VII, and made her decision to join the Resistance and find Luke Skywalker that much more meaningful. Then in The Last Jedi Kylo Ren uses Rey’s desire to discover who she is, in an attempt to turn her to his side. It was clear that where J.J. Abrams wanted to tease an origin that connected to past Star Wars characters, Rian Johnson wanted to “forget the past”.
But back in control for Episode IX, J.J. brings Rey’s arc full circle, not only readdressing her lack of parents but revealing her true heritage. Rey is a Palpatine.
More specifically, the granddaughter of Sheev himself, thanks to a previously unknown son. Although some fans may find the connection between Rey and the Emperor unnecessary, it mostly works for the movie and at the very least manages to inject some stakes into the conclusion of the Skywalker (or possibly Palpatine) saga.
Ahch-To and Porgs
After succumbing to her hatred and fatally stabbing Kylo Ren (but immediately reviving him) Rey runs to Achh-To, echoing Luke Skywalker who also went there after nearly killing Ben Solo. Once there a scene of Rey destroying the stolen tie fighter (intending to strand herself on the planet) cuts to a brief shot of the planet’s native Porgs.
Luke Catches the Saber
One of the last Jedi’s more controversial plot points was in its depiction of Luke Skywalker’s story after Return of the Jedi. With many fans disliking the darker, hopeless Luke who ran away from his problems.
This depiction began almost right away, where Luke throws away his original (and father, Anakin’s) lightsaber. That moment contrasts with Luke’s Force ghost reappearance in The Rise of Skywalker. Rather than throwing away the lightsaber, this time he catches the lightsaber as Rey throws it away.
Luke tells Rey to show the weapon of a Jedi some respect with a knowing glance. Some may see this as a slight towards Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi, but I’d argue it’s merely using the scene from the previous movie to emphasise Luke is admitting he was wrong, and that Rey can be better.
A Certain Point of View
When Luke reveals that both he and Leia knew of Rey’s Palpatine heritage, he takes a seat next to her and explains why where she came from doesn’t matter. The scene is remarkably similar to an almost identical conversation in which Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force Ghost explains to Luke that his father is Darth Vader, and why he hid the truth in the first place.
Leia’s Jedi Training
Luke decides to give Rey Leia’s lightsaber, telling her to take both that and his to fight Palpatine. The reveal that Leia had a lightsaber leads to an awesome flashback of Leia and Luke lightsaber training in what appears to be an Endor-Like forrest. Leia defeats Luke in combat but decides not to be a Jedi after having a vision about her son’s ultimate fate.
Raising the X-Wing
With the Tie Fighter Rey stole destroyed, it seems as though she has no way off Ahch-To. That is until Luke takes a page from Yoda’s playbook and raises his old X-Wing from the water. Luke’s ship is briefly seen, drowned, in The Last Jedi (seemingly explaining why he can’t leave the planet). Although a very cool moment in this film, the scene does retcon something from The Last Jedi’s visual dictionary, that sates not only was the ship drowned but taken apart, as Luke used some of it for the door on his hut.
One of The Last Jedi’s most significant problems was that it set up the idea of being able to attack one giant ship by hitting it at light speed and completely obliterating it. This begs the question as to why this wasn’t done all the time, particularly against the likes of The Death Star or Starkiller Base. The Rise of Skywalker briefly acknowledges this by claiming Admiral Holdo’s final actions to of been a one in a million chance, explaining why it hasn’t happened before and likely won’t again.
In a scene that was teased in the trailers, thousands of Rebel, Resistance and civilian ships arrive on Exegol to stop the new Sith fleet before it can attack the Galaxy far, far away. The ships, led by Lando and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon, include the Ghost from Star Wars Rebels, a Jedi Crucible, and Han and Chewie’s ship from The Force Awakens The Eravana. There are also numerous ships from the Clone Wars and Rebellion eras, and many from other animated series and the expanded universe.
In a blink and you’ll miss it cameo, Dennis Lawson returns as Wedge Antilles. The Rebel pilot from the original trilogy reappears amongst the countless ships that arrive to destroy the Sith fleet.
When Rey takes Luke’s ship, R2-D2 receives a signal he believes to be Luke, although Finn senses that it is Rey. A brief moment in the film, Luke’s ship returns right at the end, as it is once again referred to by Luke’s handle, Red 5.
“The Dark Side of the Force is a Pathway to Many Abilities…”
During one of Palpatine’s foreboding monologues, he quotes himself from Revenge of the Sith, stating that “the Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities, some consider to be unnatural”.
Return of the Jedi
A large section of the Rise of the Skywalker’s final act intentionally mirrors that of Return of the Jedi. From the more thematic moments of Palpatine trying to turn a Jedi to the Dark Side, to the more obvious cutting between the massive space battle and a lightsaber fight. The parallels are evident throughout, but none more so than Palpatine opening the shutters to show Rey the ensuing struggle, aiming to make her lose all hope, just as he did decades earlier with Luke.
Towards the end of the Rise of Skywalker, the renewed Emperor uses the Force to push Ben solo down a giant chasm. As he does, he shouts that he will make the last Skywalker fall as he did (thanks to Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi). Palpatine seemingly forgets his history however and should have foreseen Ben Solo’s survival, just like his own.
During The Rise of Skywalker’s climactic battle between Rey and Palpatine, Rey becomes one with all past Jedi. She hears their voices as she summons the strength to defeat her Sith Lord grandfather. The voices include Obi-Wan Kenobi, who says “these are your last steps” (following The Force Awakens where she heard him say “these are your first steps”). The other voices include Yoda, Mace Windu, Qui-Gon Jinn, Adi Gallia, Aayla Secura, and Luminara Unduli. Each voiced by their original live-action or voice actors from The Clone Wars animated series. But one of the most exciting voice cameos come from Freddie Prince Jr. as Kannan Jarrus, the surviving Jedi padawan who stars in Star Wars Rebels. Hayden Christensen’s also returns as Anakin Skywalker, he says “bring balance to the Force as I did”, and Ashley Eckstein makes her live-action debut as Ahsoka Tano.
As exciting as that is for Ashoka fans, the cameo comes with the apparent bittersweet confirmation that by the time of The Rise of Skywalker she is, in fact, dead, with all the other audible Jedi having died on screen.
With some of pop-culture’s most recognisable roles under his belt, Harrison Ford is one of the most iconic actors of all time. With that, many of the franchises he has been in having referenced each other. There is a hieroglyph of R2-D2 and C-3PO in Raiders of the Lost Arc, and ‘Club Obi-Wan’ in Temple of Doom.
The Rise Skywalker returns the favour with two hints at Indiana Jones. The first is when Rey takes the Sith Wayfinder from the destroyed Death Star, the framing of the shot and way she removes it looks just like Indy taking the idol at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The next nod is when Rey defeats Palpatine, and we see him disintegrate layer by layer, almost melting away, just like the villains at the end of the first Indy movie.
Chewbacca has one of Episode IX’s most touching moments after hearing about Leai’a death. He cries out in anger and sadness, pushing away Poe and Finn. Later, after he once again helps save the Galaxy, the Wookie is given something Leia wanted him to have. The medal he is given is exactly like the ones Luke and Han Solo were presented at the end of A New Hope, with many fans over the years claiming Chewbacca’s lack of medal to be unfair.
J.J Abrams’ Cameo
Directors putting themselves into movies is nothing new, and J.J. Abrams decided to give himself a Star Wars role in the form of voicing the latest Star Wars droid, D-O
J.J. Abrams ends the sequel trilogy with a nod to the rerelease of Return of the Jedi, that shows the entire Galaxy celebrating the end of the Empire (rather than just Endor as in the original). The scene shows a few planets (although nowhere near as many as Lucas added to Episode VI) celebrating the fall of the First Order. One of the more recognisable planets is the cloud city of Bespin from The Empire Strikes Back which shows a First Order Star Destroyer falling from orbit, next to the floating city.
Wicket and the Ewoks
Another familiar planet comes after Bespin. The forest moon of Endor returns, with its familiar trees and focusses for a brief moment on Wicket, the Ewok who saved Leia and helped lead the furry creatures against the Stormtroopers. Wicket is once again played by Warwick Davies and is showing his age with some noticeably grey fur.
As Rey buries Luke and Leia’s lightsabers outside of the moisture farm on Tatooine, she then ignites her own. Distinctive with a bright yellow blade, which makes it the live-action debut of a yellow Kyber Crystal. The lightsaber appears to be made from Rey’s staff.
The end of Episode IX sees Rey venture to the Lars homestead on Tatooine, show off her new lightsaber, look over the twin suns as Luke did decades earlier, and announce herself to a passerby as a Skywalker. The scene brings a fitting end to Rey’s journey of self-discovery and also ends the Skywalker saga on a touching and very traditional note.
For more Star Wars, check out our post on Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order’s Best Easter Eggs, References and Cameos, and for more on Palpatine’s return watch our video on How He Survived in the Original Expanded Universe.