The Greatest 'Star Wars' Movie Plot Twists of All Time

With the release of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" and the promise of even more edge-of-seat plot twists and turns looming ever closer, we look back and pick out the best moments from the movies when you said to yourself, “I did not see that coming.”

So if you haven't seen any "Star Wars" films, be warned. There are spoilers ahead for all eight of the Skywalker legacy films, as well as for the trailers only for "Rise of Skywalker." We're also including "Rogue One" and "Solo: A Star Wars Story" in this mix. And we'll be sure to update this once "Rise of Skywalker" warps in from a galaxy far, far away. 

Okay, here we go!

Related: 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' – A Closer Look at The Final Trailer

10. The Death Star II Is Fully Operational

Turns out the Bothan spies got their information wrong about the new Death Star. D’oh. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi"

Synopsis: After learning that the Emperor himself is overseeing the final stages of the construction of the second Death Star and believing the weapons systems to not yet be operational, the Rebel Alliance launches an all-out attack using every ship that they have. Upon emerging from hyperspace, they quickly discover to their horror that not only is the shield still functioning, but that the battle station is in fact fully armed and operational, capable of easily destroying every Rebel cruiser in the fleet.

The Twist: With half the Imperial fleet waiting to ambush the Rebel fleet, we assumed that would do it, but having the Death Star's weapon systems operation as well was just darned sneaky

9. Lando owned the Millennium Falcon

One YT-1300 Corellian light freighter, 120,000 light-years, two previous owners. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back"

Synopsis: Having only just evaded capture both on Hoth and the asteroid field chase, the Millennium Falcon with Leia, Han, Chewie and C-3PO onboard make their way to Cloud City, a Tibanna gas mining facility, located in the atmosphere of the gas giant Bespin. The administrator of this facility is Lando Calrissian, a smuggler, gambler and scoundrel. He's also an old friend of Han’s and it turns out, the former owner of the Millennium Falcon, which he lost to Han "fair and square" in a game of Sabacc.

The Twist: The love that Han has for the Falcon is obvious in "A New Hope" so we just never expected anyone else to have ever owned this gorgeous ship that can go .5 past light speed.

Related: Our Favorite 'Star Wars' Ships from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

8. Boba Fett was a clone

Boba's father, Jango wasn't considered a Mandalorian, despite wearing their armor. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones"

Synopsis: Obi Wan Kenobi has managed to pinpoint the location of the mystery planet Kamino and upon visiting it, he learns that the inhabitants specialize in cloning. He discovers a sizeable order had been placed for a clone army by Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas. The template for the cloned troopers was a bounty hunter named Jango Fett, regarded as the best hunter in the galaxy by the time of the Separatist Crisis. Aside from his payment, Fett asked for an unaltered clone for himself to raise as his son, Boba.

The Twist: Boba Fett's background was a blank canvas after "The Empire Strikes Back" and many theorized he may have been a former Stormtrooper, but no one expected he was a clone of his father.

 7. Leia is Luke's sister

Yikes, so, er…what happened on Hoth stays on Hoth, right? (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi"

Synopsis: Luke returns to Dagobah as promised Yoda – albeit a few years late – and Yoda peacefully passes, but before he does, he just about manages to exhale something about "another Skywalker." The Force Ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi appears and Luke asks him what Yoda meant. The Emperor knew that if Anakin had any children they'd be a potential threat, so Luke and his twin sister were separated at birth; Luke drew the short straw and ended up on Tatooine, while Leia was sent to Alderaan.

The Twist: After Luke spent all of "A New Hope" chasing after Leia and then making out with her in "Empire Strikes Back" we definitely didn't see the family connection coming. Ewww.

 6. Darth Vader kills the Emperor 

After 23 years as Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker realizes he still has good inside him and saves his son. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi"

Synopsis: Luke surrenders to Darth Vader on Endor and Vader delivers his son to the Emperor. Palpatine tries to goad Luke into attacking him and therefore having to fight his father. Luke’s anger boils over, but he refuses to kill his father and proudly announces to the Emperor that he has lost. So Palpatine goes to kill Luke with Force Lightning and at the last possible moment, Vader realizes there is still good inside him and throws Palapatine down a shaft that leads all the way from his throne room to the reactor of the Death Star II, a distance of about 80km.

The Twist: Yes, we knew the Emperor would have to die to free the galaxy, but we didn't expect Darth Vader would be the one to do away with him. 

 5. Balance was restored to the Force, just not how we expected

Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to the dark side. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith"

Synopsis: According to the Jedi prophecy (and the Star Wars Fandom wiki), "A Chosen One shall come, born of no father, and through him will ultimate balance in the Force be restored."

During the final years of the Galactic Republic, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn discovered the Chosen One in the form of Anakin Skywalker, a human child on the planet Tatooine. Skywalker became an exceptionally powerful Jedi before falling to the dark side of the Force. Adopting the identity of Darth Vader, he participated in the systematic purge that left the Jedi all but extinct.

The Twist: The prophecy told of balance being restored the Force. However, everyone assumed the light side would win over … not the dark. Peace was indeed restored, but under a dictatorship.  

 4. Kylo Ren kills Han Solo 

A character as important as Han really should have had a better-written ending. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens"

Synopsis: Han, Chewie and Finn have infiltrated the First Order's Starkiller Base to rescue Rey and deactivate a thermal oscillator (whatever that is)  so the main attack can begin – you know, just like in "A New Hope." Kylo Ren confronts his father, Han Solo and like an Anakin-esque child suffering from teenage angst, he mercilessly activates his lighsaber and instantly impales Han. What makes it really sad is that poor Chewbacca has to watch his best friend die, pointlessly. 

The Twist: To be honest, like the rest of this movie, Han's death was disappointing. No one saw this coming…because it was lame. Han's final scene should've been more like the end of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

 3. The Death Star's weakness was sabotage

Galen Erso originally believed he was working on a project to promote sustainable energy. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film:  "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"

Synopsis: Renowned scientist Dr. Galen Erso was kidnapped by Orson Krennic, Director of the Imperial Advanced Weapons Research Agency and forced to develop the Death Star. Since he was having to work under duress, he implemented a specific design feature into its construction that he knew would never be noticed; a small thermal exhaust port located in one of the many trenches that lead directly to the main reactor. A precise hit with a proton torpedo should start a chain reaction and destroy the station.

The Twist: Prior to 2016 – and for 39 years – we had believed that after careful analysis of the design specifications, the top Rebel boffins had found a flaw … but in fact it was deliberate.

 2. Darth Vader is Luke's father 

Without a doubt, one of the most dramatic moments in contemporary sci-fi, back when the "Star Wars" movies were well-written. (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back"

Synopsis: Darth Vader has carefully orchestrated a confrontation between himself and Luke Skywalker so that he could freeze Luke in carbonite and deliver him to the Emperor. However, Luke has had a little training from Yoda to prepare him and the lightsaber duel doesn't quite go the way Darth wanted. As the fight appears to be nearing its end, Vader tries another approach and reveals that contrary to what Obi Wan had told him, he is in fact Luke's father.  

The Twist: No one saw that coming! Thank heavens there wasn't social media in 1980 when Empire came out. There's no way the world would've been able to keep that a secret. 

 1. Palpatine is alive?

"Long have I waited ... " the Emperor sneers in the final trailer for "The Rise of Skywalker."

 "Long have I waited ... " the Emperor sneers in the final trailer for "The Rise of Skywalker." (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Film: "Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker"

Synopsis: Granted, we don't know the specifics of this one – yet – but we do know that somehow Emperor Palpatine features in the new "Star Wars" movie, which was unexpected, since the last time we saw him on the big screen he was plummeting 80km down a giant open shaft that lead directly to the second Death Star’s main reactor. There are a couple of theories as to how this is possible, which include time travel and something called the Unknown Regions, whether this play a part, we shall find out in the film. 

The Twist: It's safe to say Palpatine's return was a surprise … and depending on how it’s handled, it could either be a nice idea, or a disastrous one that radiates lazy writing. We shall soon see.

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" opens in theaters Dec. 20. It also has a 155-minute runtime, making it the longest Star Wars movie ever.

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.