The Star Wars saga, also referred to as the Skywalker saga, is the main line of Star Wars films that began in 1977 with Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (formerly titled Star Wars). While a larger universe of stories and characters has evolved around it, the saga films tell the story of the Skywalker family through a trilogy of trilogies. The original trilogy ran from 1977 to 1983, which was followed by the prequel trilogy from 1999 to 2005 and the sequel trilogy from 2015 through its intended conclusion in 2019.
Chronologically the story begins with Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One of Jedi prophecy, as the prequel trilogy charts his rise as a Jedi Knight through his fall to the dark side and becoming Darth Vader. The original trilogy tells the story of Anakin's children, Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, as they lead the fight against the Galactic Empire and as Luke saves Anakin from the dark side and becomes a Jedi in his own right. The sequel trilogy focuses on Rey, a Force prodigy unrelated to the Skywalkers who is swept up into a new galactic conflict and faces off against Anakin's fallen grandson, Kylo Ren, while becoming the first of a new generation of Jedi.
The series was created by George Lucas, who, as the writer and director of A New Hope and the entire prequel trilogy, has written and directed more films in the Skywalker saga than any other person. Other saga film directors include Irvin Kershner, Richard Marquand, J.J. Abrams, and Rian Johnson. Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt, Abrams, Johnson, and Chris Terrio have all been writers on the films. Gary Kurtz and Howard G. Kazanjian produced the original trilogy, Rick McCallum produced the prequel trilogy, and Kathleen Kennedy is producing the sequel trilogy.
In story order:
- Prequel trilogy
- Original trilogy
- Sequel trilogy
The-as-of-present eight released Skywalker Saga begin their designation with "Episode" followed by their chronological order displayed as a roman numeral.
Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, was originally released simply as Star Wars, as there was not yet clarity or green light for a sequel. Beginning with its April 10, 1981 re-release, (11 months after The Empire Strikes Back) it was renamed to Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope.
In defining the reboot, Lucasfilm streamlined all Star Wars narratives into two categories: Canon and Legends. Almost everything that was not a Saga Film became Legends; exceptions included The Clone Wars TV Series, its introductory movie, and Darth Maul—Son of Dathomir (a Dark Horse, 4-issue comic book mini-series based on non-produced The Clone Wars Season 7 scripts).
Going forward, most (if not all) officially-created and licensed Star Wars content will be canon.
All of the Saga Films begin with the blue text "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…" card which is then immediately followed-by the Star Wars logo and the slanted, yellow-text-on-starfield summaries of immediately preceding off-screen action. While the typefaces vary slightly, these all follow the same overall general format.
The Original Trilogy (Real-World: 1977 - 1983; In-Universe: 0 BBY - 4 ABY) focuses on protagonist Luke Skywalker, his unknown-to-him sister Princess Leia, and the reveal and redemption of their father, antagonist and former Jedi-turned-Sith Lord, Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker.
The Prequel Trilogy (Real-World: 1999 - 2005; In-Universe 32 BBY - 19 BBY) focuses on protagonist Anakin Skywalker as he matures from 9-year-old Tatooine slave child to Padawan to Clone Wars General and galaxy-defending Jedi Knight. His mother, Shmi Skywalker, features significantly in Episode I, also as a slave, with a return cameo in Episode II, in-which her later-and-surprise marriage provides Anakin with a previously unknown step-father and step-brother (who "retro-actively" appears in Episode IV as Luke's uncle).
The Sequel Trilogy (Real-World: 2015 - 2019; in-universe: 34 ABY - ?? ABY) focuses on the next generation, with special attention to antagonist Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, the bloodline and grandson of Anakin Skywalker, through his mother, General Leia Organa, initially Jedi-trained by his uncle, Luke Skywalker. Kylo survives Episode VIII and should be seen in the conclusion of Episode IX.
This characteristic is the most likely to change in some regards. The 2014 Canon Reboot initially reset the entirety of Canon between 32 BBY and 4 ABY (36 years, approximately the same as G-Canon) making The Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi the effective bookends of Canon. This practice continued in 2015's The Force Awakens, moving the current, final bookend to 34 ABY (2017's The Last Jedi takes place just moments after, also in 34 ABY), 66 years later.
Of note, the other Canon-but-not-Saga Reboot survivors, The Clone Wars Movie, TV Show and Darth Maul—Son of Dathomir, take place between 22 BBY and 19 BBY, clearly within the original reboot's timeline.
Presently, the slowly expanding Canon media closely adheres to these bounds (the 5-Part arc of the Star Wars comic "Yoda's Secret War" (Issues 26-30) taking place less than a year before The Phantom Menace). As all Saga Films are Canon, this practice of Timeline Boundaries may continue, but with many announced-but-unnamed film deals taking place, future Canon-but-not-Saga films are expected to take place outside this timeline.
One feature of this characteristic that seems now immutable is the importance and prominence of the Saga Timeline and its focal point: Star Wars events are measured in BBY/ABY, Before/After the Battle of Yavin (IV), the climactic finish of the Death Star I in A New Hope. At present, the apparent completed Saga will be almost evenly distributed before and after this event. Old, popular Legends properties, such as Knights of The Old Republic, blantantly use the Battle of Yavin and either subtly-or-blatantly use the Saga as their reference point for measuring time (and possibly softer-to-quantify concepts such as Jedi-Sith relations). It is reasonable and expected that future, far-reaching Canon properties will have to follow this trend.
George Lucas has changed the "planned" number of Saga Films from interview-to-interview over the years (with potentially as many as twelve as far back as 1978). After Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, their "announced" Saga Films presently rests at a total of 9, as they develop more television shows, web series, Anthology Films, other films and trilogies.