« Pentatonix Says They "Lucked Out" with Their Hit Christmas Album | Main | Larry Wilmore to Host White House Correspondents Dinner »

The Story of "Star Wars," from Episodes I Through VI

Lucasfilm(NEW YORK) -- Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters around the country today.  Even if you aren't a big fan of this galaxy far, far away, chances are you’ll be checking out this movie.

The seventh installment in the Star Wars franchise is expected to break multiple records for ticket sales, and early reviews indicate it’s good enough to stand on its own. But if you need a refresher on the plots of the previous six movies – or if you’ve never seen a Star Wars film – we’ve got you covered.

Here are brief recaps -- in order of the stories, not in the order the films were released – that’ll get you up to speed, even if you don’t know the difference between Jar Jar Binks and a Jedi.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
A young Jedi apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn, are caught up in a battle between the Trade Federation and the world of Naboo, led by Queen Amidala. The two Jedi fight to keep the Queen safe from harm and in the process end up on the planet of Tatooine, where they meet a talented boy, Anakin Skywalker, who was born under mysterious circumstances, and the Force seems to be strong in him. They free the boy, who leaves his mother, Shmi, behind. At the climax of the film, Obi-Wan must watch as a Sith Lord Darth Maul kills his master, but he eventually takes out the Sith. On a promise to his master, Obi-Wan vows to train the young boy Anakin, though the Jedi Council opposes this choice.

Also, during a vote of no confidence for the current Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, Naboo's Senator Palpatine is elected the new ruler. This will become important in future films.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Set ten years after "Phantom Menace," Count Dooku is now leading the charge against the Republic. Padmé Amidala is no longer a queen but now a senator, and there has been an attempt on her life. Obi-Wan and his now-apprentice, Anakin, are told to watch over her. While protecting her, Anakin falls in love with Amidala, even referring to a kiss she gave him in the first movie.

Meanwhile, Obi-Wan searches for who tried to kill Amidala and discovers a clone army has been created for the Republic by cloning bounty hunter Jango Fett. Jango has kept one of the clones for himself, whom he calls his son, Boba.

Anakin starts to have premonitions about his mother, whom he left behind on Tatooine in the first movie. He sees her in pain, even dying, so he travels back to Tatooine to save her. He ends up slaughtering Tusken Raiders who kidnapped her, just before she dies. It's the first sign of Anakin's dark side.

Later, Obi-Wan tracks down Dooku, who was behind the assassination attempt on Amidala and is leading a droid army. Obi-Wan transmits a message to Anakin, who tries to save his master, but is captured as well. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine is given greater power over the Republic and a team of Jedi are sent to rescue Anakin, Obi-Wan and Amidala. Master Yoda eventually joins the Jedi with the clones and they destroy the droids. Jango is also killed.

Toward the end of the movie, Dooku battles Obi-Wan and Anakin, cutting off the young apprentice's arm. Yoda steps in and saves the duo and Dooku leaves with the Death Star plans for his Sith master, Darth Sidious, who’s hooded and hidden. The movie ends with Anakin marrying Padme.

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The movie opens with Anakin and Obi-Wan saving Palpatine from General Grievous and Dooku. In the process, Anakin, at the prompting of Palpatine, kills an unarmed Dooku.

We then find out Padme is pregnant, and Anakin starts to have dreams that she dies in childbirth. Palpatine then tells the young Jedi that he knows ways to save people, and begins revealing he knows the ways of the Dark Side of the Force. Anakin later figures out Palpatine is the Sith lord, and reports this to Mace Windu and other Jedi.

Windu subdues Palpatine but Anakin stops him, which allows Windu to be killed. Realizing what he's done and that there's no turning back. Anakin pledges his allegiance to Palpatine and becomes Darth Vader.

The emperor orders the killing of all the remaining Jedi, even the young ones. Vader helps, but Obi-Wan and Yoda survive. The Republic becomes the Galactic Empire and Palpatine, now disfigured from his battle with Windu, is the emperor.

Padme tracks down her husband.  Thinking she’s turned against him, Vader uses his death choke on her, though he only renders her unconscious.  Obi-Wan and Vader duel on a volcanic planet.  The new Sith lord overestimates his powers and Obi-Wan defeats him, cutting off Vader’s legs and arm and watching him burn next to a river of lava.

Padme gives birth to Luke and Leia, then dies. Palpatine discovers the maimed and badly burned Vader, and oufits him with the black, life-supporting full body armor that becomes Darth Vader’s trademark.  Palpatine also lies, telling Vader that he killed Padme when he attacked her. Eliciting anger and despair that make Vader’s transformation complete.  The movie ends with Obi-Wan delivering the infant Luke Skywalker to his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru on Tatooine, and Leia to Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The Empire and the Rebel Alliance are in all-out war, and the movie opens with the now adult Princess Leia Organa sending a message to Obi-Wan before she’s captured by Darth Vader, who are unaware that they’re father and daughter. Leia has stolen plans for the Empire’s doomsday weapon, the Death Star, so that Obi-Wan can alert the rebels about how to destroy it. Leia hides the plans in R2-D2, a droid she knows once belonged to Obi-Wan. R2-D2 and C3PO head to Tatooine, where Obi-Wan is hiding under the name Ben Kenobi, watching over Luke Skywalker from afar.

Uncle Owen and Luke buy R2-D2 and C3PO after they’re captured by the junk-collecting Jawas, and Luke brings them to Obi-Wan.  A holographic message from Leia reveals R2-D2’s importance to the Rebel Alliance.  Obi-Wan tells Luke about his Jedi past and asks him to come along with him, presenting him with his father's old lightsaber. Obi-Wan tells Luke that his father was killed by Darth Vader – not that he is Darth Vader -- and that it’s his destiny to come along for this journey. But Luke refuses, only to go home and find his family murdered by Imperial Stormtroopers, searching for R2-D2 and the stolen plans. He decides to go with Obi-Wan.

Looking for a ride to Alderaan, where Leia told them to deliver the plans, Luke and Obi-Wan run into Han Solo and Chewbacca in a cantina. They leave only to find Alderaan has been destroyed by the Death Star. The Millennium Falcon, Han's ship, is captured the Death Star, and Luke runs off to find Leia after learning she’s being held prisoner there.  Obi-Wan encounters and battles his old apprentice Darth Vader. Vader strikes down Obi-Wan – who then vanishes, returned to the Force.

Vader and the Empire find the rebels and prepare to use the Death Star to destroy their base, while the rebels use the plans to learn the Death Star’s one vulnerability.  Luke pilots an X-Wing fighter as part of an all-out assault on the Death Star.  Guided by the spirit of Obi-Wan while pursued by Darth Vader – who doesn’t realize Luke is his son, but seses the Force is strong with him -- Luke makes a seemingly impossible shot, destroying the Death Star. Vader notices that the Force is strong in Luke, but he still doesn't realize it's his son.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
The Rebels are still fighting the Empire, on the icy planet Hoth.  Obi-Wan instructs Luke to find Yoda on the swamp planet Dagobah, so Yoda can train him in the ways of the Jedi. During an attack on the Rebel base, Han and Leia escape, and the two begin a tentative romance. Meanwhile, Darth Vader and bounty hunter Boba Fett search for the Millenium Falcon and its crew.

Han and Leia land on Cloud City to secure aid from Han's old smuggler friend, Lando Calrissian, but it's a trap: Vader takes Leia while giving Han to Boba Fett.  The bounty hunter carbon-freezes Solo so he can be delivered to the crime lord Jabba the Hutt.  Before he’s frozen, Leia tells Han she loves him, with Han responding, “I know.” Lando’s conscience gets the better of him and he frees Leia and Chewbacca.

While this is happening, Vader confronts Luke, who’s interrupted his training with Yoda to come to Cloud City to save his friends. They fight and Vader wins, cutting off Luke's hand. In a surprise twist, Vader reveals that he’s not the man who killed his father – he is Luke’s father.  Rather than accept Vader’s offer to join him at his side in the Dark Side, Luke leaps to what appears to be his death, but is rescued by Lando, Leia and Chewbacca. 

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Luke and Leia attempt to rescue Han in Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine, but are captured – or so I appears.  Luke gives Jabba one chance to free him and his friends or die at the hand of a Jedi.

After refusing, Leia strangles Jabba as Luke dispatches Jabba’s minions, including Boba Fett, who’s then eaten alive by a giant monster. After freeing his friends, Luke returns to Yoda.  Just before the ancient Jedi master dies, he tells Luke, “there is another," meaning another Skywalker.  Luke instinctively knows it's Leia, whom he now realizes is his sister.

Meanwhile, a new Death Star is being built, and Han leads a team to the forest moon of Endor, where the Empire has a remote base, to disable the Death Star’s energy shield so fighters can destroy it. Luke, meanwhile, now appearing very much a Jedi, surrenders to Vader to try and convince him to abandon the Dark Side, and the evil Emperor Palpatine.

Han and his team are captured  -- the Emperor knew of their plan. But with help from Ewoks, the teddy bear-like natives of Endor, Han and his new friends shut down the energy shield.

Luke battles Vader again, this time defeating his father.  However, he refuses to replace Dark Vader at the Emperor’s side.  In retaliation, the Emperor shoots bolts of the Force at young Luke, nearly killing him.  However, Darth Vader steps in, saving his son by killing the Emperor, and mortally wounding himself in the process.  Vader has Luke take off his mask before he dies, so he can see his son with his own eyes for once.  Telling Luke he succeeded in saving him in the end, a redeemed Anakin Skywalker dies.

The new Death Star is destroyed, and throughout the galaxy, the empire is overthrown.  At the end, Luke sees the spirits of Yoda, Obi-Wan and even Anakin, who are now all part of the Force.

Star Wars is owned by Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

ABC News Radio