The Double Meaning(s) of the Star Wars Movie Titles

What do the names of the Star Wars movies mean? Call us “Captain Obvious” but we thought it might be fun to explain the names or titles of the films in the franchise, just in case you missed a trick. For many, the first sequel in particular was fairly confusing as to its interpretation. Never fear, you'll know what all the titles mean by the time you've read this piece.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Phantom Menace

This title has two meanings. The eponymous phantom menace is the trade dispute that has been deliberately manufactured by Chancellor Palpatine AKA Darth Sidious. As one-half of the Sith duo with Darth Maul, he was the real threat.

Using his cunning, he manipulated various parties into blockade action against the planet of Naboo. While it was a real blockade, it was a “phantom” menace in that Sidious was using it as a means to an even greater end. That end, of course, is to strengthen his political position as part of his plan to build an Empire.

Another way to look at it is that he himself is the phantom menace in that he's part of a “whispers and shadows” campaign. He's a cloaked figure to many parties after all and his true identity is unknown. He is, thus, a phantom.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Attack of the Clones

The Battle of Geonosis, during which Yoda led his newly acquired Clone Army to rescue his lost Jedi (and Padmé), was where it really all began. Indeed, Yoda actually says “begun, this clone war has.” The Clone War was a further step in Sidious's path to greater power.

His manipulations via Count Dooku by way of leading the Separatist movement allowed for the Kamino Clones to be used as a legitimate counter to that movement.

Here's some trivia about the concept art for the movie. It gives some great insight into the filmmaking process.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Revenge of the Sith

If you'll go back to The Phantom Menace, you'll recall that Darth Maul was hankering for some revenge when he chatted with Darth Sidious. It's totally on the agenda.

As for Revenge of the Sith, after a long time of the Sith not being visible in the framework (not since the formation of the Republic), Palpatine has finally exerted his power, taken control of the Senate, and formed his own Empire.

The destruction of the Jedi via Order 66 serves as an act of literal visceral revenge by bringing the Sith back into control of the galaxy as they had once before.

Fun fact: Return of the Jedi was originally titled Revenge of the Jedi, so Revenge of the Sith was an opportunity to get that theme back on the agenda.

Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

A New Hope

Originally, Star Wars was known as just that: Star Wars. Then, in 1981, George Lucas added the title of A New Hope, and the episodic nature of Star Wars was born.

In terms of the title's meaning, the new hope for the galaxy is clearly Luke Skywalker. After all the troubles that befell Anakin, Obi-Wan sees Luke as the new hope in response to Vader and the Emperor taking over the Galaxy.

The new hope is the one who will bring balance to the Force. Obi-Wan was, however, wrong on that point and Anakin was actually the chosen one.

Given the ending of Rogue One, “hope” can also refer to that which came from Princess Leia receiving the Death Star plans.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back is a literal title. The Battle of Hoth is the Empire returning serve to the Rebel's first truly successful salvo. After the Rebels destroyed the Death Star I, the Empire hunted high and low around the galaxy and, in finding them, they turned up the heat. Han Solo being frozen in carbonite found it cold. However, it did serve as an example of the Empire winning back some ground against the Rebels.

Vader taking Luke's arm is a physical manifestation of the Empire “striking back” too. The psychological effects on Luke must have been quite indelible on him – given how close he was turning to the dark side in Return of the Jedi.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Return of the Jedi

You could be forgiven for thinking of Luke as being the Jedi who returned but you would be wrong. Luke is not a Jedi until he has faced Vader as his final test (Yoda tells him this), so, it's impossible for Luke to be “returning” as he has never been a Jedi.

However, if you look at it in the sense of Jedi as a collective, you could well argue that the Jedi (as a plural) have returned when he has this exchange with the Emperor:

Luke: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
Palpatine: “So be it… Jedi!”

The real Jedi returning is Darth Vader. When he decides to save his son in preference to Emperor Palpatine, he becomes a Jedi again. Listen carefully to the music that plays just as he's throwing the Emperor down the shaft, it is the Force theme (AKA “Binary Sunset”).

It is marking Vader (now actually returning as Anakin Skywalker) bringing balance to the Force. In short, Vader is the returning Jedi (singular), Vader and Luke together are the returning Jedi (plural).

Vader becoming a Jedi is not in the sense that he's rejoined the cult/religion/dogma of being a Jedi, rather he has chosen the light side of the Force, and finally done the right thing after all those years of being the puppet of Palpatine.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Force Awakens

One word: Rey.

Rey is a ray of hope  – a new one. She is also a ray of light – the light side of the Force. The Force has awoken in her. She's able to learn the ways of the Force just by an initial thought.

As a guess, she chances her arm with a Jedi mind trick. She can summons a lightsabre to her open hand just by thinking about it – all in less than two days' worth of action and adventure. The Force has indeed awoken in Rey.

You could also consider that the dark side of the Force has also fully awoken in Kylo Ren. When he killed his father, he fully committed to crossing over to the dark side and resisting the temptation of the light.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Rogue One

The title of Rogue One is a reference to three things.

The first is that it is the military call sign of the ship Jyn's crew used to head out on their mission. The second is a reference to Jyn Erso's personal nature and the third reference is the fact the movie is set somewhat outside of the Skywalker family saga. As a movie, in franchise terms, it's the “rogue one.”

Check out Rogue One's meaning in more detail.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Last Jedi

Yoda's dead, Ben Kenobi is dead, and Anakin Skywalker is dead. A cold read suggests the title is referring to Luke Skywalker who is the last Jedi known to be alive.
But is it really? Again, it's a double play on words.
Luke is indeed the last Jedi standing and he comes full circle in his character arc, as he understands that he must sacrifice himself to save Kylo Ren, Leia, Rey, and the rest of their band of merry rebels and in doing so, he becomes the epitome of what it means to be a Jedi Knight.
And in that act (and death), he hands over the title of being the last Jedi to Rey, to continue on her path – kind of like what Obi-Wan Kenobi did for Luke himself in A New Hope.
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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

Solo: A Star Wars Story

There's no hidden meaning here. We may be mistaken, but we think the Han Solo movie is about some guy called Landonis.

Here's some trivia from the Solo movie.

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Image Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The Rise of Skywalker

This movie's title has a double meaning too. Rey adopts the title of Skywalker as a mantle – to honor Luke and  Leia's legacy.She is literally willed to “rise” and face Palpatine by the other Jedi. 

But it also refers to Ben Solo (his mother is a Skywalker) rising from the depths of being under Snoke's influence and coming back from the dark side.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Editor in Chief at Wealth of Geeks | + posts

Paul Rose Jr is the Editor in Chief of Wealth of Geeks & manages the Associated Press program for The Insiders network. He has worked as TV News Producer, Forensic Analyst, and Train Conductor, among many other things. He’s the former TV Editor for InfuzeMag and owns more books, DVDs, and comics than most people have seen in their lifetimes. When he’s not writing or editing on Wealth of Geeks, he exercises his creative muscle writing screenplays and acting in film and television in Los Angeles, CA.