Star Wars prequel trilogy

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Star Wars prequel trilogy
Sw-ep1-logo.svg     Sw-ep2-logo.png
The Star Wars prequel trilogy logos
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay by
Music byJohn Williams
Edited by
Distributed by1999–2015:
20th Century Fox
since 2015:
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures[a]
Release date
CountryUnited States
Budget$343 million
Box office$1.834 billion

The Star Wars prequel trilogy is a set of three prequel films in the Star Wars franchise, an American space opera created by George Lucas. It was produced by Lucasfilm Ltd. and distributed by 20th Century Fox. The trilogy consists of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). The first two films received mixed reviews, while the third received positive reviews. It serves as the first act of the "Skywalker saga".

The trilogy follows the Jedi training of Anakin Skywalker and his fall to the dark side of the Force (as Darth Vader), as well as the corruption of the Galactic Republic and rise of the Empire. Together with the original trilogy of Episodes IVVI (1977–83), Lucas has collectively referred to the first six episodic films of the franchise as "the tragedy of Darth Vader."[1] The prequels were followed by the sequel trilogy of Episodes VIIIX(2015–19).


According to producer Gary Kurtz, loose plans for a prequel trilogy were developed during the outlining of the original two films.[2] In 1980, Lucas confirmed that he had the nine-film series plotted,[3] but due to the stress of producing the original trilogy and pressure from his wife to settle down, he had decided to cancel further sequels by 1981.[4]

Technical advances in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the ability to create computer-generated imagery, inspired Lucas to consider that it might be possible to revisit his saga. In 1989, Lucas stated that the prequel trilogy would be "unbelievably expensive."[5] After viewing an early CGI test created by Industrial Light & Magic for Jurassic Park, Lucas said:

We did a test for Steven Spielberg; and when we put them up on the screen I had tears in my eyes. It was like one of those moments in history, like the invention of the lightbulb or the first telephone call. A major gap had been crossed and things were never going to be the same.[6]

In 1992, Lucas acknowledged that he had plans to create the prequel trilogy in the Lucasfilm Fan Club magazine, and announced this to Variety in late 1993.[7] Producer Rick McCallum reached out to Frank Darabont, who had had previously written The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and The Shawshank Redemption, for possible future writing duties.[8] He was considered until at least 1995, but as time went on, Lucas continued writing the screenplays himself.[9] The popularity of the franchise had been prolonged by the Star Wars Expanded Universe, so that it still had a large audience. A theatrical rerelease of the original trilogy in 1997 "updated" the 20-year-old films with the style of CGI envisioned for the new episodes.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999, and Episode II: Attack of the Clones on May 16, 2002, both to mixed reviews. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the first PG-13 film in the franchise, was released on May 19, 2005, to positive reviews.[10] The plot of the trilogy focuses on the fall of the Galactic Republic, the formation of the Empire, and the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker's turn to the dark side.


Film Release date Director Screenwriter(s) Story by Producer(s) Distributor
May 19, 1999 (1999-05-19) George Lucas Rick McCallum 20th Century Fox (initial)
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
May 16, 2002 (2002-05-16) George Lucas George Lucas and Jonathan Hales George Lucas
May 19, 2005 (2005-05-19) George Lucas

Episode I: The Phantom Menace[edit]

32 years before the events of the original film, two Jedi, acting as negotiators of the Republic, discover that the corrupt Trade Federation has formed a blockade around the planet Naboo. Sith Lord Darth Sidious has secretly caused the blockade to give his alter ego, Senator Palpatine, a pretext to overthrow and replace the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic. Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, encounter Jar Jar Binks, a native of Naboo who helps them find the Queen of Naboo. With Queen Padmé Amidala, they escape the blockade, but not before their starship has been damaged. Landing on Tatooine for repairs, they meet a nine-year-old slave named Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon helps liberate the boy by betting with his master in a podrace, believing him to be the "Chosen One" prophesied by the Jedi to bring balance to the Force. Sidious dispatches his Sith apprentice, Darth Maul, to attack the queen's Jedi protectors. Arriving on Coruscant so the queen can plead Naboo's crisis before the Republic Senate, Anakin is brought before the Jedi Council, where Yoda senses that he possesses too much fear to be trained. The Jedi are ordered to accompany the queen back to Naboo, where she pleads with the natives for their help in the battle against the droid army. Anakin manages to destroy the control center and disable the droid army while Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan fight Maul; Maul kills Qui-Gon, but is in turn slain by Obi-Wan. With the council acknowledging the Sith's coming return, Obi-Wan is promoted to Jedi Knight and takes Anakin under his wing.[11]

The prequels were originally planned to fill in history tangential to the original trilogy, but Lucas realized that they could form the first half of one long story focusing on Anakin.[12] This would shape the film series into a self-contained saga. In 1994, Lucas began writing the screenplay for the first prequel, initially titled Episode I: The Beginning. Following the film's release, Lucas announced that he would be directing the next two.[13]

The central trio of the prequel trilogy was played by Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker, Episodes II & III), Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan Kenobi), and Natalie Portman (Padmé Amidala), respectively.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones[edit]

10 years after the Battle of Naboo, an assassination attempt is made on former Queen Padmé Amidala, who is serving as the Senator of Naboo. Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin are assigned to protect her; Obi-Wan tracks the killer, while Anakin and Padmé retreat to Naboo. They soon fall in love with each other, albeit secretly due to the Jedi Order's rule against attachment. Meanwhile, Chancellor Palpatine schemes to draw the entire galaxy into the "Clone War" between the Republic army led by the Jedi, and the Confederacy of Independent Systems led by Count Dooku (the former master of Obi-Wan's deceased master Qui-Gon, and Palpatine's new Sith apprentice).[14]

The first draft of Episode II was completed just weeks before principal photography, and Lucas hired Jonathan Hales, a writer from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to polish it.[15] Unsure of a title, Lucas had jokingly called the film "Jar Jar's Great Adventure".[16] In writing The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas initially considered that Lando Calrissian was a clone from a planet of clones which caused the Clone Wars mentioned in A New Hope.[17][18] He later came up with the concept of an army of clone shock troopers from a remote planet which attacked the Republic and were resisted by the Jedi.[19]

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith[edit]

Three years into the Clone Wars, Anakin and Obi-Wan lead a counter-strike to save Chancellor Palpatine from Count Dooku and the droid commander General Grievous. Anakin begins to have prophetic visions of his secret wife Padmé dying in childbirth. Palpatine, who had been secretly engineering the Clone Wars to destroy the Jedi Order, convinces Anakin that the dark side of the Force holds the power to save Padmé's life. Desperate, Anakin submits to Palpatine and is renamed Darth Vader. Palpatine orders the clone army to fire on their Jedi generals, and declares the former Republic an Empire. Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi, culminating in a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet Mustafar.[20]

Work on Episode III began before Episode II was released, with one scene shot during the earlier film's production. Lucas originally told concept artists that the film would open with a montage of the Clone Wars,[21] and included a scene of Palpatine revealing to Anakin that he had willed his conception through the Force.[22] Lucas reviewed and radically reorganized the plot,[23] having Anakin execute Dooku in the first act to foreshadow his fall to the dark side.[24] After principal photography was completed in 2003, Lucas made more changes, rewriting Anakin's arc. He would now primarily turn to the dark side in a quest to save Padmé, rather than just believing that the Jedi are plotting to take over the Republic. The rewrite was accomplished both through editing principal footage, and filming new and revised scenes during pick-ups in 2004.[25]


Political science has been an important element of Star Wars since the franchise launched in 1977, focusing on a struggle between democracy and dictatorship. Palpatine being a chancellor before becoming the Emperor in the prequel trilogy alludes to Adolf Hitler's role as chancellor before appointing himself Führer.[26] Lucas has also drawn parallels between Palpatine and historical dictators such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and former president of the United States Richard Nixon.[27][28][b] The Great Jedi Purge depicted in Revenge of the Sith mirrors the events of the Night of the Long Knives.[31] The corruption of the Galactic Republic is modeled after the fall of the democratic Roman Republic and the formation of an empire.[32][33]


The prequel trilogy received mixed reviews, generally transiting from negative to positive with later installments. Criticism surrounded the CGI character of Jar Jar Binks,[c] melodramatic dialogue including scenes of romance between Anakin and Padmé, and action scenes filmed in front of a green screen. However, some point out the handling of political issues, especially involving the rise of fascism, as a positive element of the prequels.[35] George Lucas has responded to the negative criticism by saying that, like the original films, they were intended "for 12-year-olds"—while acknowledging that fans who saw the originals when they were young had different expectations as adults.[36] The prequels have been noted as retaining a dedicated fanbase, primarily composed of those who were children at the time of their release.[37]

Critical response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic CinemaScore
The Phantom Menace 54% (6/10 average rating) (221 reviews)[38] 51 (36 reviews)[39] A−[40]
Attack of the Clones 65% (6.62/10 average rating) (249 reviews)[41] 54 (39 reviews)[42] A−[40]
Revenge of the Sith 80% (7.29/10 average rating) (292 reviews)[43] 68 (40 reviews)[44] A−[40]

Academy Awards[edit]

Academy Awards Film
The Phantom Menace Attack of the Clones Revenge of the Sith
Best Makeup Nominated
Best Sound Editing Nominated
Best Sound Mixing Nominated
Best Visual Effects Nominated Nominated

Box office performance[edit]

Film Release date Budget Box office revenue Box office ranking Refs.
North America Adjusted for
(North America)[n 1]
Worldwide All-time
North America
The Phantom Menace May 19, 1999 $115 million $474,544,677 $815,518,000 $552,500,000 $1,027,044,677 #15 #35 [46][47]
Attack of the Clones May 16, 2002 $115 million $310,676,740 $482,820,000 $338,721,588 $649,398,328 #73 #130 [48][49]
Revenge of the Sith May 19, 2005 $113 million $380,270,577 $535,701,000 $468,484,191 $848,754,768 #39 #71 [50][51]
Total $343 million $1,165,491,994 1,834,039,000 $1,359,705,779 $2,525,197,773
  1. ^ Adjusting for inflation is complicated by the fact that the first four films have had multiple releases in different years, so their earnings cannot be simply adjusted by the initial year of release. Inflation adjusted figures for 2005 can be found in Block, Alex Ben; Wilson, Lucy Autrey, eds. (2010). George Lucas's Blockbusting: A Decade-By-Decade Survey of Timeless Movies Including Untold Secrets of Their Financial and Cultural Success. HarperCollins. p. 519. ISBN 978-0061778896. Adjustment to constant dollars is undertaken in conjunction with the United States Consumer Price Index provided by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, using 2005 as the base year.[45]



  1. ^ Physical distribution rights were set to move to Disney in 2020 according to the 2012 deal, but eventually moved to Disney in 2019 as a result of the acquisition of Fox.
  2. ^ In his early drafts, Lucas used the plot point of a dictator staying in power with the support of the military. In his comment (made in the prequel trilogy era) Lucas attributed this to Nixon's supposed intention to defy the 22nd Amendment,[29] but the president was actually impeached and never ran for a third term. Fellow Republican President Ronald Reagan sought to repeal the movement after leaving the office.[30]
  3. ^ The character was so disliked, even by fans, that actor Ahmed Best considered suicide.[34]


  1. ^ Wakeman, Gregory (December 4, 2014). "George Lucas Was Terrible At Predicting The Future Of Star Wars". CinemaBlend. Retrieved February 28, 2019.
  2. ^ "Gary Kurtz Reveals Original Plans for Episodes 1-9". May 26, 1999. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  3. ^ Lucas, George (1980). "Interview: George Lucas" (PDF). Bantha Tracks (8).
  4. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 494.
  5. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 303.
  6. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 311.
  7. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 312.
  8. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 315.
  9. ^ Kaminski 2008, pp. 338-39.
  10. ^ "Episode III Release Dates Announced". April 5, 2004. Archived from the original on April 15, 2008. Retrieved March 27, 2008.
  11. ^ Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2001.
  12. ^ Kaminski 2008, pp. 299–300.
  13. ^ "Star Wars Insider". Star Wars Insider (45): 19.
  14. ^ Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2002.
  15. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 371.
  16. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 374.
  17. ^ Bouzereau 1997, p. 196.
  18. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 158.
  19. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 162.
  20. ^ Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 2005.
  21. ^ Rinzler 2005, pp. 13–15.
  22. ^ Rinzler 2005, p. 42.
  23. ^ Rinzler 2005, p. 36.
  24. ^ Kaminski 2008, pp. 380–84.
  25. ^ Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith documentary "Within a Minute" (DVD documentary). 2005.
  26. ^ Reagin, Nancy R.; Liedl, Janice (October 15, 2012). Star Wars and History. p. 144. ISBN 9781118285251. Retrieved August 30, 2013.
  27. ^ "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones". Time. April 21, 2002. Archived from the original on June 5, 2002. Retrieved December 13, 2009. The people give their democracy to a dictator, whether it's Julius Caesar or Napoleon or Adolf Hitler. Ultimately, the general population goes along with the idea ... That's the issue I've been exploring: how did the Republic turn into the Empire?
  28. ^ Reagin, Nancy R.; Liedl, Janice (October 15, 2012). Star Wars and History. p. 32. ISBN 9781118285251.
  29. ^ Kaminski 2008, p. 95.
  30. ^ Molotsky, Irvin (November 29, 1987). "Reagan Wants End of Two-Term Limit". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company.
  31. ^ Reagin, Nancy R.; Liedl, Janice (October 15, 2012). Star Wars and History. p. 341. ISBN 9781118285251.
  32. ^ Reagin, Nancy R.; Liedl, Janice (October 15, 2012). Star Wars and History. pp. 130–33. ISBN 9781118285251.
  33. ^ ""Star Wars" offers perspective into ancient history". University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. November 5, 2012. Archived from the original on November 23, 2015. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  34. ^ Newbold, Mark (January 5, 2019). "Ahmed Best: That Moment I Opened Up About Suicide". Fantha Tracks. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  35. ^ Placido, Dani Di (December 15, 2016). "Looking Back At The 'Star Wars' Prequel Trilogy". Forbes. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  36. ^ Mancuso, Vinnie (April 13, 2017). "George Lucas: 'Star Wars' Is a 'Film for 12-Year-Olds'". Observer. Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  37. ^ Leadbeater, Alex (June 8, 2017). "When Did The Star Wars Prequels Become Cool?". ScreenRant. Retrieved June 1, 2019.
  38. ^ "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  39. ^ "Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace : Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  40. ^ a b c "CinemaScore". Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  41. ^ "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  42. ^ "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones: Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  43. ^ "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  44. ^ "Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith: Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved December 16, 2015.
  45. ^ Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Community Development Project. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  46. ^ "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) - Box Office Mojo".
  47. ^ "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  48. ^ "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) - Box Office Mojo".
  49. ^ "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 24, 2018.
  50. ^ "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) - Box Office Mojo".
  51. ^ "Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 21, 2018.


  • Bouzereau, Laurent (1997). The Annotated Screenplays. Del Rey. ISBN 978-0-345-40981-2.
  • Kaminski, Michael (2008) [2007]. The Secret History of Star Wars. Legacy Books Press. ISBN 978-0-9784652-3-0.
  • Rinzler, Jonathan W. (2005). The Making of Star Wars, Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Del Rey. ISBN 978-0-345-43139-4.