As Yoda once said, “Always in motion is the future.” In other words, until we’ve had our first look at Star Wars 9: The Rise of Skywalker, we’re in Schrödinger’s cat territory, where Star Wars theories can be both true and false. There’s just seven months to go until we return to that famous galaxy far, far away, but with every pre-release interview, photo and even the first trailer seemingly designed to keep us off target, it’s hard to sort the fact from the fiction – even if you’re the sort of superfan who digests every bit of information that lands online.
But after Star Wars: The Last Jedi shook up almost everything we saw in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we’re in fertile territory for Star Wars theories. Will we get our first canonical glimpse of the mythical Gray Force? What’s Supreme Leader Snoke’s connection to the returning Emperor Palpatine? Are Rey’s parents really nobodies? Is Lando still a hero? And will the Millennium Falcon make it out of the movie in one piece?
We can’t promise you solid intelligence below – even a crack unit of Bothan spies couldn’t get past director J.J. Abrams to get their hands on that – but we have found some of the most interesting Star Wars theories floating around cyberspace. Some may be way off the mark, of course – but there’s a reasonable chance that others will be bang on the money...
Star Wars 9 is set years after The Last Jedi
While The Last Jedi picked up within hours from where The Force Awakens left off, a big time jump is certainly not out of character for Star Wars. After all, there’s three years between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, and a whopping decade between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Aside from all that, however, a big time jump to Episode 9 would solve some big storytelling challenges brilliantly.
First of all, there's Leia. Following Carrie Fisher's tragic passing in 2016, General Organa can't possibly continue to have such a prominent role in the sequel trilogy – J.J. Abrams has said he's “found a way to honor Carrie's legacy and role” using unseen footage from The Force Awakens, but how that's going to work with the story is anybody's guess.
“It was impossible,” Abrams told the Star Wars 9 panel at Star Wars Celebration 2019 in Chicago. “There was no way. What are you gonna do? You can’t recast that part, and you’re not just going to have her disappear.”
“The idea was what if we could write scenes around her, so she could be in the movie, and we have her performance,” he continued. “Every day it hits me that she’s not here, but it’s so surreal because we’re working with her still. She’s in scenes. Princess Leia lives in this film in a way that is kind of mind-blowing to me.”
Sounds like a clever solution to a problem, but it’s highly unlikely Leia will have as prominent a role as she would have done otherwise – indeed, it was rumored this would be “her” film in the way The Force Awakens was Han Solo’s and The Last Jedi was Luke Skywalker’s. Moving Star Wars 9 five to ten years later would make it easier to explain why Leia – the head of the Resistance – is more of a supporting player this time out.
Then, we have the overall galactic situation to deal with: the war is effectively over, the First Order has won, the Resistance has been reduced to a few brave survivors hiding out on the Millennium Falcon, and the rest of the galaxy has apparently given up hope. Any sort of swift turn-around is going to risk feeling cheap and contrived. Logistically and dramatically, it would be much more effective to allow the Resistance time to properly rebuild enough to be in a position to take on (assuming he hasn't been overthrown by his troops) Kylo Ren's new-look First Order – the Broom Kid scene at the end of The Last Jedi is a brilliantly-judged hint of vague, future hope, tempered with a melancholic sense that victory will be a long time coming.
And with several key characters now in states of serious personal flux – Poe Dameron, in particular, seems primed to take the Resistance reins – a big time-jump will give them a chance to become the people The Last Jedi hinted they could be.
The sequel trilogy is actually a prequel trilogy
Given that The Last Jedi ends on such an unrecoverable downer – The Empire Strikes Back has nothing on the death of Luke Skywalker and the near-complete destruction of the Resistance – some Star Wars theories suggest that with so much to cover in Episode 9, the next film won’t actually be the traditional redemptive, happy-ending finale at all. The idea is that the new film will see the last handful of surviving heroes battle an increasingly powerful Kylo Ren and ultimately fail, leading into a new ‘Empire vs Rebellion’ storyline in Episodes 10 to 12.
While you can see the logic behind this idea – there's a hell of a lot to wrap up in one movie – this particular Star Wars theory has apparently been left dead in the water by the fact that the Lucasfilm's official Star Wars 9 cast announcement refers to it as the "final installment of the Star Wars saga”. This could be a really cunning piece of misdirection, of course, but we suspect it's true. There's so much more galaxy to explore – not least the new Star Wars movies series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss – that it seems likely Star Wars 9 will be the last to carry an "Episode" title.
Hux will be the real villain
So if the First Order (or rather, Kylo’s New Order) is allowed to take control of the galaxy, where do things go from there? In Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, we don’t have an all-out Bad Force Wizard intent on crushing the galaxy under his Dark Side boot. In fact, we don’t really know what we have, because Kylo doesn’t yet particularly seem to know what he wants at all. His actions at the end of The Last Jedi are the product of pure, knee-jerk, emotional instinct rather than any kind of long-game strategy or manifesto. He doesn’t advocate Sith or Jedi, Republic or Empire. He just wants to burn down all the constructs of failure and betrayal that led to his misery, and replace them with… something.
So some plausible Star Wars theories suggest that whatever that something is, it won’t echo anything we've previously seen in the Star Wars saga – The Last Jedi's breaking of the mould made sure of that. And it’s possible that key First Order figures, who had previously come very close to realising the victory they’d worked toward for years, are going to be particularly displeased by the new state of affairs. General Hux, for example, has never been a big fan of Ren, and he'll have been particularly wound up by the former Ben Solo snatching the First Order leadership after Snoke's demise. Captain Phasma, assuming she survived her fiery fall on the Supremacy, may also be tempted to join a Hux insurrection.
So how about, as a cool subversion of Star Wars’ traditional themes of evil Empires and heroic Rebellions, the next big insurrection comes from within the bad guy heartland, as Hux rallies his loyalists to overthrow Kylo and turn the First Order back into what he always wanted it to be. That would also be very effective dramatically, given that Hux was treated as an inept clown throughout the majority of The Last Jedi, his importance in proceedings increasingly downplayed in comparison to Rey, Kylo, Snoke, and Luke. Also, after eight movies where the fate of the galaxy has been decided by Force-wielders, it would be fun new ground for the saga to see an “ordinary” character truly seizing the day.
Crucially, a Hux-led First Order would give us a catalyst for the next real phase of the war. With the Resistance crushed, bereft of either people or resources, there’s little scope for actual conflict with them as the sole protagonists. But if Kylo Ren went up against a Hux-ruled First Order (the Second Order?), with the remnants of the old Resistance still milling around awaiting an opportunity, then we have the makings of something very interesting.
Richard E Grant is playing Grand Admiral Thrawn
Some Star Wars theories are based on cold, hard logic. Others look like they may just be based on coincidence. One persistent rumor suggests that Richard E. Grant – long confirmed to be part of the Episode 9 cast – is playing Grand Admiral Thrawn, the iconic blue-skinned Imperial officer from classic novel Heir to the Empire who subsequently showed up in Star Wars Rebels.
The theory is seemingly based on the fact that Grant bears an uncanny physical resemblance to the character, but Star Wars canon makes it unlikely. At the end of Rebels, Thrawn was seen being blasted off into unknown space with Jedi apprentice Ezra Bridger – it seems a little over-convenient that he might make it back. And who knows whether he'd want anything to do with the First Order?
Seeing as leaked Star Wars 9 concept art appears to show Grant in First Order uniform, it seems likely that he’s a First Order officer. So perhaps a more likely candidate for his role is Brendol Hux, a former Imperial officer who helped found the First Order and dad of the General Hux we all love to hate.
Rey’s parents aren’t really “nobody”
One of the most controversial revelations in The Last Jedi came when Kylo Ren told Rey that her parents were “nobody” – subverting the old Star Wars theme of bloodlines and destiny being among the most powerful forces in the galaxy.
It sounds like there’s more to their story than that, however, and J.J. Abrams has hinted it’ll be addressed in The Rise of Skywalker. “We were well aware that that’s one of the things that’s been out there,” he told ABC News. “I don’t want to say that what happens in Episode 8 [didn’t happen]. We have honored that. But I will say that there’s more to the story than you’ve seen.”
While it would be a major cop out if it turns out Rey’s related to Luke or Leia somehow, there’s plenty of scope to give her a backstory that explains why she was left on Jakku – and why her parents abandoned her. Perhaps they went into hiding to protect some massive secret? Or maybe she was the result of Empire/First Order experiments to create the ultimate Force-wielder – seeing as her powers seem totally equal to Kylo Ren’s, it’s not implausible that she could have been made from his DNA...
Luke is coming back as a Force ghost
This has more substance than most of the other Star Wars theories we've mentioned, simply because Lucasfilm has officially confirmed that Mark Hamill will definitely appear in the movie. We don't, of course, know what form his role will take – and after The Last Jedi's storytelling experiments with flashback, it's plausible we could be seeing a younger Luke Skywalker in the movie.
But the Force ghost option seems much more likely for a variety of reasons. First, Luke disappeared at the end of The Last Jedi, suggesting he is now one with the Force. Second, with Han Solo dead and Leia (for aforementioned reasons) unlikely to have a massive role in the Star Wars 9 plot, he's the only member of the original Star Wars movie's core cast who can still be proactive in the narrative. Third, he delivers a voiceover in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker that sounds like it could be part of the movie. And finally, there's clearly unfinished business with Kylo Ren, the pupil who went bad – surely that brilliant “See you around, kid” on Crait wasn't just an idle threat. All the way back in the original movie, Obi-Wan Kenobi warned Darth Vader that he'd “become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” – maybe Luke's about to show his nephew what that actually means.
Star Wars 9 is going to do the Gray Force properly
The Last Jedi gets really, really close to making it official, but never quite cements the idea. Kylo Ren is neither Sith nor Jedi, taking power in order to enact an entirely new path, devoted to neither the Light or Dark Sides of the Force. Rey has decided to discover her own, new way of being a Jedi, free from the doctrines and limitations of old. She has Luke and Yoda’s blessing in doing this. The core theme of the whole movie is that the ways of the past always hold back progress if adhered to too closely. Everything is set up to explore a galaxy attaining peace and progress through a rejection of binary viewpoints and outdated ways of thinking. And if Ren now finds himself battling a resurgent First Order representing an attempted return to tradition, then that opens the doors up wide for a new, combined faction of ‘Gray Side’ progressives to come together – made up of Ren supporters and resistance remnants alike – to shut down the old ways for good.
Could we see Kylo Ren and Rey fighting side by side? Poe Dameron leading orange-clad Resistance fighters alongside reformed First Order pilots? What if – and this would be truly wonderful – we saw Finn finally exorcise his demons by leading a squad of fellow Stormtrooper deserters against a platoon of Phasma’s own. Narratively and thematically, this all fits together brilliantly, making a complete, shared arc out of Kylo and Rey’s conflicting viewpoints, and entirely realising the forward-looking philosophy of The Last Jedi. And it would do so in a way that still allows for a massive, climactic fight, delivering traditional Star Wars highs wrapped around a fresh new meaning.
One of many Gray Jedi-related Star Wars theories suggests that in The Rise of Skywalker title, “Skywalker” doesn’t refer to an individual person – instead it’s the name of a new order of centrist warriors who embrace both the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. This would seem to tally with the idea of a Gray Force.
Ren and Rey have, up to now, been Yin and Yang, equal but opposite Forces – maybe they will belatedly bring the mythical “balance to the Force” the prophecy mentioned all those movies ago...
Snoke and Palpatine were connected from the start
There are several Star Wars theories on how this could be true. One long-standing idea suggests that Snoke is actually Emperor Palpatine’s long-thought-dead master, Darth Plagueis, who stepped in to pick up the remains of his apprentice’s Empire at the dawn of the First Order. This seems unlikely, though – surely Palpatine would have made sure his master was dead when he assassinated him. And besides, we know that Plagueis was a Muun – a completely different species to Snoke.
More plausible is the idea, suggested on Reddit, that the spirit of Darth Plagueis has actually been there throughout the whole saga – and that he’s the true villain of the piece.
In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine told the story of how Plagueis had discovered a way to cheat death – maybe he does it by passing his spirit from body to body? This particular Star Wars theory suggests that, when Plagueis died, his essence passed into Palpatine. When the Emperor died on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, Plagueis’s spirit remained there until its remains were discovered by Snoke – not a ridiculous suggestion, seeing as we’ve seen Death Star wreckage in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker and Snoke's origins have deliberately been kept under wraps. And then, when Kylo Ren slaughtered his master in The Last Jedi, Plagueis passed into Kylo Ren – it could explain why Ren suddenly has such clarity of purpose when his master’s gone.
This theory also works if Plagueis is out of the picture and Palpatine’s the one doing the possessing – we did hear his laugh at the end of the Star Wars 9 trailer, after all. Indeed, it may turn out it’s most appropriate to call Episodes 1-9 the Palpatine Saga, instead of the Skywalker Saga.
Darth Vader will be back – along with other Dark Side users
Kylo Ren’s disciples the Knights of Ren were mentioned and sighted in The Force Awakens, but despite all the hype, never made an appearance in The Last Jedi. We’d be very surprised if that situation wasn’t remedied in Star Wars 9. For starters, we see someone rebuilding Ren's shattered helmet in the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker. And there are also plenty of big-name actors in the cast who are yet to have their roles confirmed. Could Dominic Monaghan and Keri Russell be Knights of Ren? Are they all former pupils of Luke Skywalker's Jedi school? And did Kylo Ren take his name from the Knights of Ren, or did they take their name from him?
One of the other more interesting Dark Side-related Star Wars theories suggests that Darth Vader will use Force ghost powers to communicate with his grandson, Kylo Ren. We’d file this under highly likely: his master Palpatine is definitely back, we know Anakin Skywalker has a Force ghost from the end of Return of the Jedi and, from a storytelling point of view, it’s too intriguing an opportunity to pass up. Which incarnation of his grandfather would Kylo Ren speak to? The original badass Vader, or the redeemed Anakin from Return of the Jedi? We’d love to find out if there’s still conflict in him....
Lando might be in need of redemption once again
Lucasfilm have confirmed that original Lando Calrissian is back in the fold for the first time since Return of the Jedi. This is great news – otherwise he'd have been the only one of the key surviving characters not to come back for the Disney movies – but there's no reason to suspect he's still the redeemed former scoundrel who led the assault on the Death Star. If there's one consistent factor in the rebooted trilogy it's that the intervening three decades haven't been kind to returning characters, with Han, Luke and Leia all having been put through the wringer in various ways. We'd be surprised if things hadn't been the same for Lando when we catch up with him in Episode 9 – ever the opportunist, perhaps he's been forced back into his old pirating ways.
There are also a couple of plot beats from Solo: A Star Wars Story that some Star Wars theories suggest we might see picked up in the latest entry in the saga. We'd love to see a reunion with his old droid sidekick L3-37, who we now know is joined with the Millennium Falcon – the first Star Wars 9 trailer shows Lando piloting the Falcon with Chewbacca. And also a return to the Calrissian Chronicles, the diaries we hear him recording in Solo – maybe it'll turn out the whole Star Wars saga was based on Lando's memoirs...
Then there’s the question of whether Naomi Ackie’s new character Jannah is Lando’s daughter. “Lando is a very charming man, so he could have children all over the universe, that’s all I’m saying," the actress said at Star Wars Celebration.
Episode 9 could spell the end for the Millennium Falcon
This one is perhaps the saddest of all the Star Wars theories – yet also has so much potential for emotional resonance that we fear it could be true. Han Solo’s ship has been as much of a part of the saga as any organic character – to the point it’s now the life raft for the Resistance. If this really is the end of the Skywalker saga, what better – or tearjerking – way to sign things off than with the destruction of Star Wars’ most iconic ship? We're not sure we could handle it...