- "It's a story about Ben Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker and how we got to the point where Obi-Wan Kenobi was waiting in the middle of the desert for something to happen. It's also about how Darth Vader got to be who he is, and how the Emperor came to power."
- ―George Lucas, speaking from the Second Star Wars Summit at Skywalker Ranch, April 20, 1995
The prequel trilogy describes what had taken place over 32 years before the events of Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope and it primarily focuses on a young Darth Vader, then the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and the story of how they went from being friends to enemies and the tragedy of Anakin's descent into the dark side as well as the origin of how the Galactic Republic became the Galactic Empire. It also features some familiar faces such as C-3PO, R2-D2, Yoda, Chewbacca, and a young Sheev Palpatine with the story of how he became the Emperor. It was the last trilogy to be distributed by 20th Century Fox.
The saga begins with a child Anakin Skywalker, the future Darth Vader, being discovered by legendary Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who senses the boy's enormous potential. It is here that Skywalker first encounters the young Obi-Wan Kenobi, who himself is still but a pupil. As the first film unfolds, key characters appear, such as Padmé Amidala, R2-D2, C-3PO, Yoda, and the villainous Sheev Palpatine, who is a mere Senator in the Galactic Republic at the time. After a debate with the Jedi Council, one which includes the possible resurface of the Sith in addition to Skywalker, it is decided that Anakin will not be trained as a Jedi. At the end of the film, the Sith, Darth Maul, leads an attack against the Jedi on Naboo, and only the tragic death of Qui-Gon at his hands persuades the Jedi to reconsider their decision. Anakin Skywalker then becomes Obi-Wan's apprentice in the ways of the Force.
Over the course of the next two films, the Clone Wars begin between the Galactic Republic and the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Episode II starts with mysterious attempts on Padmé Amidala's life. While Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates the attacker, Anakin takes Padmé off Coruscant to her home planet of Naboo. During the course of her protection, the two become entwined in a romantic relationship, furthering Anakin's future fall from the Jedi ways. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan discovers that, for years, Kaminoans have been growing and training clones for use by the Republic. This discovery also brings Jango Fett and his son Boba out of hiding. The two escape to Geonosis, where Obi-Wan follows them and discovers the leaders of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, including fallen Jedi Master Count Dooku.
Anakin, after his mother is brutally murdered by Tusken Raiders on Tatooine, feels the pull of the dark side growing stronger in himself and his surroundings. On Geonosis, Obi-Wan is captured, and the Jedi Council asks Anakin and Padmé to remain where they are. Padmé, however, decides to go to Obi-Wan's aid despite the urgings of the Council, forcing Anakin to follow her. They are also captured after a brief scuffle, and the trio are nearly executed in the arena. Moments before this, many Jedi appear and begin attacking the native Geonosians and battle droids alike.
The Senate gives newly elected Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine emergency powers to raise an army of clones (cloned from the notorious bounty hunter Jango Fett) to combat the rising Separatist threat. These clones are also dispatched to Geonosis to attack the Confederacy. While the major battle unfolds, presaging what the Clone Wars will become, Count Dooku escapes, the clones become the Grand Army of the Republic, and Anakin and Padmé fall in love, a love that must be kept hidden from the Jedi, including Obi-Wan.
The film opens with a brutal attack on Coruscant. General Grievous leads the attack, while Count Dooku holds the Supreme Chancellor hostage. When Clone War veterans Skywalker and Kenobi are dispatched to rescue him, Dooku is killed but the droid general escapes. Palpatine has managed to gain almost unlimited power over the Galactic Senate, and Anakin, who is pushed closer and closer to the dark side of the Force, has become close friends with him, deeply troubling his fellow Jedi. His secret wife, Padmé Amidala, is pregnant and stays at her apartment on Coruscant as Obi-Wan leaves for the Utapau system to search for Grievous. Leading an army of clones, Kenobi finds and destroys the droid general.
At first, the Jedi Council does not heed Skywalker's revelation that Palpatine is the Sith Lord, Darth Sidious. Upon realizing their error, the Jedi Council moves to confront the Chancellor. Master Mace Windu and three other Jedi Masters attempt to arrest Sidious. However, they are overcome, and with the help of the fallen Skywalker, the Jedi are all killed. With this act, Anakin becomes Darth Vader. His convictions that the Jedi are behind the treachery cause him to lead the destruction of the Jedi Order. Palpatine issues Order 66, whereupon many Jedi are slaughtered by the clone troopers. Darth Vader conquers the Jedi Temple and sets the Jedi beacon to call all remaining Jedi back to the temple into an ambush waiting to slaughter them. After Vader leaves for Mustafar, Yoda and Obi-Wan infiltrate the temple, where Obi-Wan alters the signal to alert all Jedi to stay away. While in the temple, Obi-Wan activates the security recording, leading him to learn the truth about Anakin. With this knowledge, Yoda and Obi-Wan agree the two Sith Lords must be defeated. Yoda would remain on Coruscant to confront Darth Sidious, while Obi-Wan would battle his former apprentice.
Yoda fails to defeat the Sith Lord, and, escaping with his life at the end of the battle, determines to go into exile. Obi-Wan, meanwhile, learns Anakin is responsible for Padmé's pregnancy. Padmé, afraid for Anakin, leaves for the volcanic world of Mustafar, where Vader has been sent to assassinate the remaining Separatist leaders, effectively ending the war. After sneaking aboard Padmé's ship, Obi-Wan confronts Vader on Mustafar. The two engage in a duel, which results in Vader suffering the loss of his limbs, severe burns, and damage to his lungs. Obi-Wan leaves his longtime friend and former apprentice for dead, and takes the critically injured Padmé with him.
Vader is rescued by Sidious and encased in a life-support suit before discovering that he killed Padmé in anger. Padmé dies in childbirth, and the Skywalker twins, Luke and Leia, are separated; Leia is adopted by Senator Bail Organa and his wife, while Luke is taken in by Beru and Owen Lars. (Owen was the son of Cliegg Lars, the man who freed and then married Shmi, Anakin's mother.) C-3PO and R2-D2 are now in the custody of Bail Organa with C-3PO's memory getting wiped in order to have the twins split-up and protected. On Naboo, mourners carry their former monarch, their beloved elected queen, through the streets of Theed. Clutched in her hands is the carving Anakin gave her when he was a young boy. Yoda begins his exile on Dagobah. On Alaaderan, Bail and his wife adopt Leia. On Tatooine, Obi-Wan delivers Luke to the Lars' where he will be safe before going in exile on Tatooine.
Sidious and Vader rise to take control first of the Senate and then of the galaxy, using the power gained from both sides of the Clone Wars and forming the Galactic Empire. The two Sith oversee the construction of the first Death Star, a glimpse of the dark times to come.
- "Anthony Daniels: Remembering That Galaxy Far, Far Away"—The Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine 1
- "Mark Hamill: 10 Years Later"—The Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine 3
- "George Lucas: The Force Behind Lucasfilm"—The Lucasfilm Fan Club Magazine 6
- The Secrets of Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire Limited Collector's Edition