Far off in a distant galaxy, the starship belonging to Princess Leia, a young member of the Imperial Senate, is intercepted in the course of a secret mission by a massive Imperial Star Destroyer. An imperial boarding party blasts its way onto the captured vessel, and after a fierce firefight the crew of Leia’s ship is subdued. The dark, forbidding figure of Darth Vader appears, brutally interrogating the crew and ordering his stormtroopers to search the ship for the secret documents he believes it is carrying: the technical readouts for the Empire’s mightiest weapon—a planet-sized battle station called the Death Star. In the confusion, Princess Leia slips away and hides the secret documents, as well as a recorded plea for help, in the memory of R2-D2, a maintenance droid (robot). Leia is taken prisoner, but R2 gets away in an escape pod, along with his best friend, the protocol droid C-3PO. After crash-landing on the planet below, a barren, desert world called Tatooine, the droids set off in search of civilization but soon quarrel over the way to go. R2 insists that he has a mission to perform, but C-3PO wants no part of such an adventure.
The two droids go their separate ways but are soon reunited when they are both captured by Jawas, child-sized scavengers who trade in droids and technological scraps. The Jawas sell the droids to Owen Lars, a moisture farmer on a remote homestead. Owen’s nephew, young Luke Skywalker, cleans the droids and, as he does so, stumbles across a bit of the message Princess Leia had hidden inside R2. The holographic message is addressed to “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” and Luke, fascinated by the beautiful princess, wonders if she means Ben Kenobi, a mysterious hermit who lives out in the desert wilds. R2, however, refuses to divulge any more of the message. When Luke asks his uncle about the identity of Obi-Wan, Owen is reluctant to even discuss the subject, but he does drop one tantalizing hint: Obi-Wan was a friend of Luke’s father, whom Luke never knew. Luke mentions his desire to leave home to attend the Imperial Academy for starpilots, but Uncle Owen is discouraging, much to Luke’s frustration. When Luke’s aunt Beru reminds Owen that Luke is too much like his father to stay on the farm, Owen replies that that is just what he’s afraid of.
During the night, R2-D2 slips away, intent on finding Obi-Wan and completing his mission. Luke sets out in search of the truant droid the next morning, taking C-3PO with him. They soon find R2 but are waylaid by Sandpeople, barbaric tribal creatures who attack anyone trespassing on their domain. Luke is knocked unconscious but is saved by the timely appearance of old Ben Kenobi, who frightens off the Sandpeople and brings the group back to his humble shelter. There, Ben explains that he was called Obi-Wan back in days when he was a Jedi Knight, one of an ancient order of warriors who fought for peace and justice in the time of the Old Republic, before the coming of the evil Galactic Empire. Further, he informs Luke that Luke’s father was also a Jedi, one of Ben’s closest friends, and that his father was killed by Darth Vader, a former pupil of Ben’s who turned to the dark side of the Force. The Force, Ben explains, is the source of a Jedi’s power. It is an energy field created and sustained by life itself, and it flows through the universe, binding it together. Through training, a Jedi is able to tap into the Force and gain great power and wisdom, but, as the example of Vader shows, there is a seductive, evil path to the Force as well.
Ben gives Luke his father’s lightsaber, the traditional weapon of a Jedi. After viewing the entirety of Leia’s message, Ben says that he intends to join up with the Rebel Alliance challenging the Empire and to bring them the plans hidden in R2’s memory. He urges Luke to join him and to learn the ways of the Force, but Luke, echoing his uncle, is reluctant to get involved. Meanwhile, Princess Leia has been taken into captivity on the Death Star. There, Leia is repeatedly interrogated by Darth Vader about the whereabouts of the hidden Rebel base, but she stoutly refuses to crack. When Vader is insolently challenged by the Death Star’s Commander, he demonstrates his mastery of the Force by choking the officer into submission merely by raising his finger, until he is restrained by Grand Moff Tarkin, the Imperial governor. Back on Tattooine, Luke and Ben discover that the Jawas have been slaughtered by Imperial troops tracing the droids. Fearing for his aunt and uncle, Luke races home only to find them murdered and the farm in flames. With nothing left to hold him on Tattooine, Luke resolves to join Ben and to become a Jedi.
With the droids in tow, Ben and Luke journey to Mos Eisley spaceport in search of a ship to take them to Alderaan, the Princess’s home planet. The Mos Eisley cantina, where the best pilots are to be found, is a rough place, and Ben is forced to act with deadly swiftness to defend Luke from a couple of toughs. Nevertheless, the pair manages to hire Han Solo, a brash smuggler, and his copilot, the Wookie Chewbacca, to take them to Alderaan without attracting the attention of the Empire. After the deal is struck, Han Solo is cornered by Greedo, a lackey of Jabba the Hutt and a gangster angry at Solo for dumping one of his shipments. Solo blasts his way out of the confrontation but is forced to talk his way past Jabba himself when he returns to the hangar where his ship, the ugly-but-fast Millennium Falcon, is docked. Solo and Chewbacca are surprised when Imperial troops appear and start firing on the ship in an attempt to reclaim the droids, and the Falcon barely makes it off Tatooine and into hyperspace on the way to Alderaan.
On the Death Star, meanwhile, Tarkin has decided to break Leia by threatening her home planet, Alderaan, with destruction. Faced with this appalling dilemma, Leia reveals the location of the hidden base, only to have Tarkin proceed with the attack on Alderaan, merely to demonstrate the power of the Death Star. Aboard the Millennium Falcon, Ben is stricken, feeling the death of Alderaan as a massive tremor in the Force. Luke trains with his lightsaber, even as Han scoffs at Ben’s trust in the Force. Ben replies by having Luke fight blind against a floating target, and Luke is able to defend himself by sensing the remote with his feelings alone, thereby taking his first steps, as Ben says, into “a larger world.” The ship exits hyperspace where Alderaan should be, only to find the planet missing and an asteroid field in its place. Ben realizes the horrible truth when they catch sight of the nearby Death Star, and the Millennium Falcon is quickly captured. The group manages to hide from the guards in Han’s smuggling compartments, but Vader senses the presence of his old master, Obi-Wan.
The ship is unable to escape the Death Star as long as the station’s tractor beam is operational, so Ben goes off alone to deactivate it. In his absence, the others learn that Princess Leia is aboard the station, and Luke convinces them to attempt a rescue. Han and Luke disguise themselves as stormtroopers and, with the droids plugged into the station’s computers, break Leia out of her cell. Unfortunately, their activities are soon discovered, and the rescue takes a detour through a massive, monster-infested garbage compactor and several corridors and pitfalls swarming with Imperial troops. Leia is unimpressed with her rescuers’ planning and soon begins to issue the orders, much to Han’s chagrin. As the group fights its way back to the Falcon, Ben stealthily deactivates the tractor beam. On his way to the ship, Ben is confronted by Darth Vader, who is eager to face his old master. Vader and Ben duel with lightsabers, and the fight draws the attention of the guards. Realizing he is trapped, and not wanting to endanger his friends, Ben allows Vader to strike him down, only to disappear before Vader’s stroke hits, merging his consciousness with the Force. Luke is horrified and lashes out, but the others force him onto the Falcon and make they their escape.
The fleeing ship is pursued by Imperial fighters but finally escapes, though Leia is convinced that they are being tracked, as indeed they are. The group travels to the Rebel base, with the Death Star right behind. A quick scan of the blueprints provided by R2 offers one slim chance: the Death Star has an Achilles’ heel. A direct hit on a small, easily overlooked thermal port will destroy the station, if only a fighter can get close enough to target it. Luke signs up for the desperate assault, but he is disappointed that Han, having received his payment, plans to leave immediately. Watched anxiously by the Rebel command, the fleet of small, single-pilot fighters speeds toward the massive, impregnable Death Star. As the station slowly moves into position to obliterate the Rebels, the pilots maneuver down a narrow trench along the station’s equator, where the thermal port lies hidden. Darth Vader leads the counterattack himself and destroys many of the Rebels, including Luke’s boyhood friend Biggs, in ship-to-ship combat. Finally, it is up to Luke himself to make a run at the target, and he is saved from Vader at the last minute by Han Solo, who returns in the nick of time and sends Vader spinning away from the station. Heeding Ben’s disembodied voice, Luke switches off his computer and uses the Force to guide his aim. Against all odds, Luke succeeds and destroys the Death Star, dealing a major defeat to the Empire and setting himself on the path to becoming a Jedi Knight.
After the destruction of the Death Star, the Empire quickly regroups and begins searching for the new location of the Rebel base. Imperial probe droids fan out across various star systems, and one lands on the surface of the icy planet Hoth. On the surface of Hoth, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker are on patrol near the newly hidden Rebel base. Luke sees the Imperial probe strike the surface and goes to investigate on his own. Before he can identify the probe, Luke is attacked and knocked unconscious by a hulking yeti-like creature. Meanwhile, having returned to the base, Han orders Chewbacca to prepare the ailing Millennium Falcon for departure. Han explains to the Rebel general that he feels compelled to leave because of the bounty hunters sent after him by Jabba the Hutt. As Han heads back to his ship, Leia confronts him and tries to convince him to stay for the sake of the Rebellion. Han tries to get Leia to admit that she has more personal reasons for wanting him to stay, but she refuses and the two quarrel.
When Han learns that Luke has still not reported in, he heads out into the deadly Hoth night to find him. In the cave of the creature that attacked him, Luke has been pinioned in ice but is able to use the Force and his lightsaber to fight his way back to the surface. As he wanders blindly in a snowstorm, Luke has a vision of Ben Kenobi, who tells Luke that he must seek out Yoda, the Jedi master who is to train him in the ways of the Force. As Luke collapses, Han appears out of the night to rescue him. Luke recovers after a short stay in the sick bay, and Han and Leia discover that the Imperial probe has located the Rebel base. Aboard his command ship, Darth Vader sees the transmission from the probe and, instantly recognizing the Rebel base, orders his fleet to the Hoth system. However, Admiral Ozzel brings the fleet out of hyperspace in such a way that the Rebels are alerted and have time to prepare an evacuation. Furious, Vader uses the Force to strangle Ozzel and promotes Piett in his place.
Luke leads the counterattack that attempts to hold off the approaching Imperial army of massive armored walking transports, as the Rebels hurriedly flee the base. Leia and C-3PO are forced to go with Han in the Falcon, while Luke and R2 head toward the Dagobah system, where Yoda is to be found. Unfortunately, the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon is broken, and Han and Leia are closely pursued by the Imperial fleet. In a desperate maneuver, Han flies into an asteroid field in order to escape the pursuit and barely avoids being crushed or shot down, ultimately finding shelter in a cave on one of the larger asteroids. Luke crash-lands on Dagobah, a swampy planet teeming with animal life but without any settlements or other signs of civilization. Luke and R2 make camp and are interrupted by the intrusion of an annoying, elderly little creature that pokes around, stealing food and offering to take Luke to Yoda. Luke reluctantly accompanies the creature to his home for a meal but quickly becomes impatient and angry at the delay. At this, the creature, who is of course Yoda himself, sighs and says that he cannot train someone so reckless and angry. To his surprise, Luke hears Ben’s voice defending him and urging Yoda to take Luke on as a student. Luke begs Yoda for another chance, and Yoda agrees, warning Luke that what is to come will be the greatest challenge he has ever faced.
Just as he is hiring a group of bounty hunters to find Han and the others, Darth Vader receives a call from the Emperor, who has sensed that Luke has begun his Jedi training. Vader is given the mission of luring Luke to him so that Luke can either be claimed for the dark side of the Force or destroyed. As the Imperial fleet searches the asteroid field, Han and the others work to get the Falcon repaired. Han and Leia have a tender moment together, and Leia admits that she is drawn to Han when he isn’t acting like a scoundrel, a term with which Han is inordinately pleased. The brief moment of peace is cut short, however, when Han realizes that the “cave” they have taken shelter in is actually the gullet of an enormous, worm-like monster. Han speeds out of the maw of the creature, back into the asteroid field, and back into the sights of the Imperial fleet. Still unable to jump to hyperspace, Han improvises, hiding the Falcon by latching directly onto one of the Star Destroyers. The captain of the Star Destroyer assumes that the ship has escaped, apologizes to Vader, and pays for his error with his life. Meanwhile, Han detaches the Falcon when the larger vessel dumps its garbage and floats away, unseen, with the debris.
Han decides to travel to the nearby planet of Bespin, where Lando Calrissian, an old friend, runs an independent mining station. However, Han himself fails to notice that his stealthy maneuver has been anticipated by the bounty hunter Boba Fett, who follows close behind. On Dagobah, Luke’s training pushes him to the brink of physical and mental exhaustion. As Luke and Yoda rest before a sinister cave, Yoda tells Luke that the place is connected to the dark side and that Luke must go within and see what he finds. Luke enters the cave only to see a vision of Darth Vader approaching. Luke battles Vader and strikes off his head, but the face he sees within Vader’s destroyed mask is his own. Later, when Luke is practicing levitating stones, he is distracted by the sound of his ship sinking further into the swamp where he crashed. Yoda encourages Luke to levitate the ship out of the water, but Luke is convinced such a feat is impossible. Luke makes the attempt, but he doubts himself and therefore fails. Luke is frustrated and angry but quickly awed by the ease with which Yoda then draws the ship out of the water.
Han and Leia arrive at Cloud City on Bespin, where they are greeted by Lando, who pretends at first to be angry with Han. Han marvels at the way Lando, once a gambler and rogue, has become a responsible businessman. Leia still does not trust him, sensing something odd about the situation. C-3PO wanders off on his own and disappears, only to be found later, in pieces, by Chewbacca. Before Chewbacca can reassemble C-3PO and find out what happened, Han, Leia, and he are taken to a banquet by Lando. Much to their horror, Lando has betrayed them and Darth Vader is awaiting them in the dining room. The three are taken captive and Han and Chewbacca are tortured, though seemingly without purpose. Back on Dagobah, Luke has another vision, this time of his friends suffering. Yoda tells Luke that what he has seen is may in fact occur, but he warns Luke not to act rashly. Luke insists on going to rescue his friends, though both Ben and Yoda urge him not to face Vader before his training is complete. As Luke and R2 depart Dagobah, Yoda reminds Ben that even if Luke fails, “there is another.”
Lando, meanwhile, has come to regret his decision, which he made in order to preserve the independence of his settlement. Clearly, Vader has no intention of honoring his side of the bargain and plans to do just as he pleases. Vader’s goal is to lure Luke to him so that he can be captured and brought before the Emperor, but first he needs to test one last part of his plan. Vader orders that Han be placed in “carbon freeze,” a sort of suspended animation, so that Vader can be sure that the process he has in store for Luke is not fatal. As Han is lowered into the freezing chamber, Leia at last admits that she loves him, to which he replies, “I know.” Han is frozen safely and is handed over to Boba Fett. As Luke arrives, Vader lies in wait and Lando resolves to free the others. Luke is guided into Vader’s presence and the two at last stand face-to-face. Lando’s men surprise the Imperial troops and free Leia and the enraged Chewbacca, who almost kills Lando with his bare hands. Lando convinces them that there is still time to save Han, and they race off.
Meanwhile, Luke and Vader duel within the depths of the mining complex. Luke is clearly overmatched by Vader, though he fights bravely and avoids the carbon-freeze ambush. Vader is relentless, however, and continues to push Luke, slowly increasing the intensity of his attacks. Eventually, Luke is bloody and desperate, fighting now simply to escape. Vader is too strong, however, and slices off Luke’s hand. Though he is defeated, Luke angrily refuses Vader’s offer to join him on the dark side, saying that he could never join the man who killed his father. Luke is devastated by Vader’s next revelation: he, Vader, is Luke’s father. Unable to deny what the Force tells him to be true, Luke casts himself off of the bridge on which they stand. Leia, meanwhile, has just missed Boba Fett, who has made his escape with Han as his captive. Lando orders the city evacuated, and he, Leia and Chewbacca head to the Millennium Falcon, joined by R2-D2 and C-3PO. Clinging to a weather vane below the floating city, Luke calls out mentally to Leia, who hears him and orders Lando to fly back for him. Luke is saved but deeply shaken by what he has learned. The hyperdrive on the Falcon is still not operational, as Vader gave orders that it be disconnected. R2, fortunately, is aware of the problem and reconnects it just in time for the friends to escape the pursuing fleet. Once they are reunited with the Rebel forces, Luke is given a cybernetic replacement hand. Luke, Leia, and the droids watch as Lando and Chewbacca head off in search of Han.
C-3PO and R2-D2 approach the imposing compound of Jabba the Hutt. At the gate, C-3PO explains that they have been sent by their master with a message for Jabba. Despite some resistance, the droids are able to talk their way into the presence of the powerful gangster in his throne room, where he wallows in the presence of his monstrous alien cronies. R2 delivers the message from Luke, who now claims to be a Jedi Knight. Luke simply asks Jabba to bargain for Han Solo’s life and offers the droids to Jabba as a gesture of goodwill. Jabba accepts the gift of the droids (to C-3PO’s dismay) but flatly refuses to discuss Han, whom he uses, still in carbon freeze, as a decoration in the throne room. C-3PO is put to work as a translator and is soon called upon to interpret for a masked bounty hunter who arrives with Chewbacca in tow. The bounty hunter bargains dangerously with Jabba, earning his respect. Chewbacca is taken to Jabba’s dungeons, while the bounty hunter joins the ongoing party.
Later that evening, as the others sleep, the mysterious bounty hunter stealthily approaches the frozen Han. The bounty hunter unfreezes Han, who is weakened and temporarily blinded by his hibernation. Just as the bounty hunter reveals herself to be none other than Leia in disguise, Jabba, who has been observing all along, reveals himself and takes her captive. Leia becomes Jabba’s personal slave, and Han is reunited with Chewbacca in the dungeons. Soon, Luke appears before Jabba, calmly striding past the guards, whom he immobilizes with a gesture. Luke attempts to use his Jedi powers to influence Jabba, but Jabba’s mind is much too strong for such tricks. Jabba uses a trap door to send Luke to meet his pet, the giant rancor, but much to Jabba’s surprise, Luke manages to slay the beast. Jabba decides to execute Han, Luke, and Chewbacca together by casting them into the maw of the Sarlacc, a monster something like a cross between a sand lion and a gigantic squid. Luke is unfazed, though Han is less optimistic about their chances. As they hover above the Sarlacc’s pit, Luke springs his trap. R2, aboard Jabba’s barge, launches Luke’s new lightsaber to him, and Lando, who has been undercover as one of Jabba’s guards, helps release Han and Chewbacca. Luke uses his Jedi skills to deadly effect, sending many of Jabba’s henchmen, including Boba Fett, into the belly of the Sarlacc. Leia makes use of the confusion of the battle to strangle Jabba with her chains. In the end, the friends escape after having destroyed Jabba and freeing Han, Chewbacca, and the droids.
Meanwhile, Darth Vader pays a surprise visit to the new Death Star, where construction is running behind schedule. Vader informs the commander that he intends to put them back on schedule before the Emperor himself arrives to inspect the work. Suitably terrified, the commander redoubles his efforts. Luke journeys back to Dagobah, where Yoda tells him that his training is almost complete. All that remains is for Luke to face his father, Darth Vader, once more. Luke tells Yoda that he felt some spark of goodness still within Vader, and that it could be awakened. Luke watches as Yoda dies, fading into oneness with the Force. Ben appears in his ghostly form, and explains that what he told Luke was true, in the sense that, when he became Darth Vader, the man who had been Anakin Skywalker was killed. Ben then reveals that Luke has a sister as well, and Luke instantly knows that he means Leia.
In the meantime, the Rebel Alliance has received word of the location of the new Death Star, and, further, that the Emperor himself plans to visit the site soon. The Rebel leaders hastily put together a plan: Lando and Admiral Ackbar will lead a direct assault on the Death Star while it is unfinished and vulnerable. At the same time, Han will lead a commando raid on the nearby moon of Endor to knock out the force field generator that is the Death Star’s only protection. Leia, Chewbacca, and the droids volunteer for the mission, as does Luke, who arrives at the last minute from Dagobah. As the commando group makes its way to the forest moon, Luke senses Vader’s presence nearby, just as Vader senses him. Soon, the Emperor arrives aboard the Death Star and Vader informs him of Luke’s presence on the moon below. The Emperor instructs Vader to bring Luke before him, and Vader departs.
The commando group, meanwhile, soon encounters Imperial scouts, who speed off on hoverbikes. Luke and Leia take off after them and become separated after a chaotic running battle through the trees. Luke returns safely, but Leia encounters Wicket, an Ewok—a creature rather like a teddy bear—who helps her defeat the stormtrooper she was chasing and takes her back with him to his village. Han, Luke, Chewbacca, and the droids soon meet Ewoks of their own, when Chewbacca springs a trap and they are all captured. The primitive Ewoks regard C-3PO as a god and begin to prepare to cook the others as part of a feast in his honor. Luke uses his powers, and their mistaken belief that C-3PO is a deity, to frighten the Ewoks into releasing them. Leia soon rejoins the group and they spend the night in the Ewok village. As C-3PO regales the tribe with tales of the group’s adventures, Luke tells Leia that he intends to face Vader and that if he is killed, she, his sister, must carry on the Jedi legacy. Luke then departs to seek out Vader. Han sees Luke and Leia deep in discussion and grows jealous. Leia comforts him without explaining.
Luke turns himself in to the Imperial forces and is soon with Vader. Luke tells Vader that he intends to turn him away from the dark side of the Force, but Vader dismisses the notion, though somewhat regretfully. Meanwhile, the Rebel fleet has assembled and moves into hyperspace for the assault. Han’s commando team is taken by the Ewoks to a “back door” to the shield generator, where they quickly break in and begin to set their explosives. Luke is soon standing before the Emperor, the master of the dark side. The Emperor explains to Luke that the entire situation was a set-up: he has foreseen the approach of the Rebel Fleet and laid a trap on Endor for Han’s group. On Endor, the Emperor’s trap is sprung as Imperial stormtroopers appear out of nowhere and overwhelm the commandos. The Ewoks, however, see what is taking place and decide to act themselves, and they suddenly attack the Imperial troops.
The Rebel fleet appears out of hyperspace only to find the shield still up and a fleet of Star Destroyers awaiting them. Lando, aboard the Millennium Falcon, convinces Ackbar to stay and fight, trusting Han to get the shield down before they are all destroyed. The Emperor then tells Luke his last surprise: the Death Star, though structurally incomplete, is fully operational. The Emperor gives the order, and the Death Star begins blasting the Rebel fleet apart. Lando and Ackbar take their ships right among the Star Destroyers, hoping to use them as shields against the overwhelming power of the Death Star. Luke, meanwhile, is fighting for self-control as the Emperor tries to goad him into acting out of anger and hatred, which will carry him over to the dark side. Luke springs into action, reclaiming his lightsaber. The Emperor watches with glee as father and son begin to duel before him, knowing that the survivor will remain his servant.
On Endor, the Ewoks fight bravely, using their primitive spears and slings to surprisingly good effect against the heavily armored, well-trained, and vastly technologically superior Imperial forces. Eventually, Han is able to use the confusion the Ewoks cause to lure the Imperial officers out of the bunker and take them captive. They then destroy the shield generator, leaving the Death Star open to attack. Luke masters himself and refuses to fight Vader aggressively, simply defending himself from attack. However, Luke is forced to attack when Vader is able to read his feelings and learns for the first time that Luke has a twin sister. In order to save Leia, Luke attacks and defeats Vader, as the Emperor spurs him on. Luke, however, does not kill Vader when he has the chance. Rather, he throws away his lightsaber and faces the Emperor, fully in control and now a true Jedi.
Lando and several fighters fly directly into the superstructure of the Death Star and blow up the main reactor, escaping just ahead of the resulting blast. Enraged at losing Luke, the Emperor strikes him with purple bolts of pure dark side energy, slowly killing him as Vader watches. At last, something in Vader snaps, and he heaves the Emperor bodily into an abyss where he is torn apart by the Death Star generators. Luke has a last conversation with his father, now Anakin Skywalker again, and sees his shattered face before he dies. Luke escapes with his father’s body just before the Death Star explodes. The friends are reunited on Endor, where Luke and Leia’s relationship is explained to Han. As celebrations break out across the galaxy, on Endor, Luke sees the ghostly forms of Ben, Yoda, and now Anakin, smiling at him.
In the last days of the Galactic Republic, dissension is being spread across the galaxy and in the halls of the Republic Senate by the actions of the Trade Federation, a scheming cartel that has blockaded the planet of Naboo in the hopes of coercing the inhabitants into signing an exploitative treaty. Jedi Knights, defenders of peace and justice in the galaxy, are sent to negotiate an end to the conflict before it escalates any further. However, almost as soon as the Jedi ambassadors, Master Qui-Gon Jin and his “Padawan,” or apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, have boarded the Trade Federation’s command vessel, they are attacked by the droid (robot) soldiers of Nute Gunray, viceroy of the Trade Federation. Gunray is acting on the orders of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, a shadowy figure who is manipulating events for sinister purposes of his own. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan battle their way out of trouble and stow away aboard vessels that are carrying a massive droid army to the surface of Naboo. The Jedi Knights hope to find Queen Amidala, leader of the Naboo, who has refused the Trade Federation’s terms but still hopes to avert a war.
On the surface of Naboo, Qui-Gon saves Jar-Jar Binks, a friendly but clumsy (and rather stupid) native of the planet from being crushed by a droid tank. Jar-Jar is a Gungan, a member of an amphibian race that shares the planet with the human Naboo. In gratitude, Jar-Jar offers to take Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to the safety of the underwater Gungan city, even though he himself has been exiled. Despite their best efforts, the Jedi are unable to convince the mistrustful Gungans to ally with the Naboo, though Qui-Gon uses his Jedi powers on Boss Nass, the Gungan leader, to finagle a transport out. With Jar-Jar as their navigator, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan take a harrowing, monster-plagued trip through the planet’s core, surfacing outside the palace of Queen Amidala. The palace has already been breached by the droid army, and Qui-Gon acts quickly to free the queen before she can be imprisoned or forced to sign the treaty. The queen makes her escape from the planet along with the Jedi, but her ship is damaged when they pass through the Federation blockade, only escaping thanks to the efforts of R2-D2, a valiant astromech droid (maintenance robot).
The queen’s ship makes an emergency landing on the planet Tatooine, an out-of-the-way desert planet where the Trade Federation has no presence. Qui-Gon, R2, and Padme, one of Amidala’s handmaids, go into the nearby town to search for replacement parts for the damaged ship. In the shop of Watto, a winged alien motivated purely by greed, they meet a young boy named Anakin Skywalker, who has a remarkable facility with machines, having built his own protocol droid, the unfinished C-3PO. Watto has the parts Qui-Gon needs but refuses to accept Republic credits as payment. When young Anakin acts bravely to save Jar-Jar from an alien hoodlum named Sebulba, Qui-Gon notices that the boy seems to have an extraordinary connection to the Force—the energy field, created by life itself, that gives the Jedi their power. Determined to investigate the boy, Qui-Gon visits his home and meets his mother, who, like her son, is a slave of Watto’s. Padme accompanies Qui-Gon and quickly befriends the intense little boy. Qui-Gon learns from Anakin’s mother that Anakin has no father, apparently having been conceived in some miraculous manner. Qui-Gon is now convinced, thanks to Anakin’s miraculous conception and to the extremely high midichlorion count in Anakin’s blood (midichlorions being microscopic life forms that connect organisms to the Force) that Anakin is the “Chosen One,” a mysterious figure in Jedi prophecy, who is destined to bring balance to the Force.
Qui-Gon schemes to win Anakin’s freedom by entering Anakin in a Pod race, an incredibly dangerous contest involving jet-powered speeders. When Anakin defeats the other racers, including the vicious Sebulba, Qui-Gon wins both the parts he needs and Anakin’s freedom from Watto. Anakin is reluctant to leave his mother behind, but she urges Anakin to seek out his true destiny with the Jedi. As the group prepares to leave Tatooine, they are attacked by the apprentice of Sidious, Darth Maul, who has been dispatched to kill Queen Amidala. Qui-Gon fends him off, and they make their escape. The queen and her Jedi escort proceed to the planet Coruscant, which is one enormous city and the capital of the Republic. There, she learns from her representative, Senator Palpatine, that the Senate is deadlocked by intrigue and corruption, and it will not act to save Naboo. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon reports his disturbing findings to the Jedi Council: not only have the Jedi’s ancient enemies, the Sith, resurfaced, but Anakin, an untrained boy, seems to be the Chosen One. The Jedi Council, led by Masters Yoda and Mace Windu, do not want to train Anakin, but Qui-Gon vows to train the boy himself if they will not.
In the Senate, debate bogs down just as Palpatine predicts. In a last-ditch effort to spur the Senate to action, Amidala calls for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor Velorum, the ineffectual leader of the Senate. As a result, Palpatine himself is now well positioned to take the Chancellor’s position. Despite this victory, Amidala fears that it is too late for a political solution to the crisis on her homeworld and immediately returns to face whatever happens at the side of her people. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Anakin accompany Amidala to the encampment of the Gungans, whom she hopes to recruit to her cause. At the ensuing meeting, Padme reveals that she is, in fact, none other than the queen herself, having employed a series of look-alike decoys for security and to allow herself greater freedom. Padme begs the Gungans for help, assuring them that the Naboo do not look upon them as inferiors, as the Gungans have always believed. The plan that Padme proposes involves the Gungan army drawing the Federation droids into a battle outside the city, allowing Padme’s smaller group to sneak into the palace and capture the viceroy. Not only does Boss Nass agree to help out, he also promotes Jar-Jar to general in recognition of his help in bringing the two races together.
After a massive battle, the Gungans are at last forced to surrender, and all seems lost. However, in the meantime, Padme’s soldiers attack the palace and send up a fleet of fighters to destroy the main ship, which is remotely controlling the droids. Padme is able to capture the viceroy, and little Anakin takes part in the battle when the fighter ship he hides in takes off under autopilot. Anakin takes control with R2’s help and manages, with a combination of luck and natural ability, to destroy the ship controlling the droids. All the while, a smaller but no less intense battle is raging elsewhere in the palace, as the fearsome Darth Maul reappears and takes on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan together. Obi-wan is forced to watch as Maul cuts down his master, Qui-Gon, but Obi-Wan is finally able to vanquish Darth Maul after a furious lightsaber duel. With the control ship destroyed, the droid army shuts down, and the Trade Federation is forced to surrender. Naboo is free and united, Obi-Wan is made a Jedi Knight, and Anakin is his new Padawan, though the Republic remains under a mysterious, growing shadow.
A separatist group of star systems has broken off from the Republic, led by Count Dooku, a former Jedi. Padme Amidala, now the Republic Senator from Naboo, returns to Coruscant to debate the creation of an Army of the Republic to meet this new challenge. When Padme’s ship lands on Coruscant, however, it is blown up in an assassination attempt. Padme survives, thanks to the Naboo custom of using decoys and doubles. However, Chancellor Palpatine insists that Padme receive an extra guard detail: Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan, Anakin, now grown from a small boy to a brash young man. Anakin is the most gifted Jedi of his day, but he is also reckless and headstrong, challenging Obi-Wan’s authority though looking up to him as a father figure. Anakin has never forgotten his early friendship with the beautiful Padme and is now completely in love with her. As they stand guard over Padme’s bedroom, Obi-Wan advises Anakin to control his feelings, reminding him that he has pledged his life to the Jedi.
An assassin, taking orders from a mysterious bounty hunter, attempts to kill Padme using poisonous centipede-like creatures. Obi-Wan and Anakin foil the plot and trace the droid sent by the assassin back to her hiding place. After a wild speeder chase through the skies of Coruscant, Obi-Wan corners and captures the assassin in a nightclub. Before Obi-Wan and Anakin have the chance to interrogate her, however, the assassin is herself killed by the bounty hunter who hired her, who then makes his escape. In response to this new development, the Jedi Council asks Obi-Wan to investigate the assassination attempts, while Anakin is assigned to escort Padme back home and to guard her once she is there. In addition to these political matters, the Jedi are concerned that as the dark side waxes in power, their own influence over the Force seems to be waning. While Anakin and Padme travel incognito, they continue to grow close, with Anakin explaining the way of the Jedi to Padme and having more and more trouble hiding his affection for her.
Obi-Wan learns through his sources that the poison dart used by the bounty hunter comes from a distant planet, outside the Republic, called Kamino. Obi-Wan discovers that Kamino has somehow, and for some unknown reason, been erased from the charts in the Jedi archives, as if to keep the system hidden. At Yoda’s urging, Obi-Wan travels to Kamino, where he discovers that the master cloners of that world have been busy creating a massive clone army at the request of the Republic and the Jedi, or so they say. When Obi-Wan asks the leaders on the Jedi Council about this army, however, they are as surprised to learn of its existence as he. Back on Naboo, Anakin’s crush on Padme blossoms into a full-fledged love affair, despite Padme’s initial reluctance. Padme and Anakin’s idyllic time together is disturbed, however, both by the knowledge that theirs is a forbidden love and by a vision Anakin has of his mother’s suffering on Tatooine. Padme and Anakin journey together to Tatooine so that Anakin can investigate his vision.
On Kamino, Obi-Wan inspects the clone army and learns that the model for the clones is none other than Jango Fett, the bounty hunter he has been pursuing all along. Obi-Wan questions Jango and his clone son Boba, but with little result. Jango then tries to sneak off the planet, but Obi-Wan catches him and, after a short but fierce clash, tracks him through space to the planet Geonosis, where Dooku’s Separatist movement is based. There, Obi-Wan finds yet another giant army under construction, this one composed of droids. Obi-Wan sends a message reporting his findings to Anakin, telling him to relay it to the Jedi Council, and then Obi-Wan is captured. On Tatooine, Anakin and Padme learn that Anakin’s mother, Shmi, has been sold by Watto to a man named Cliegg Lars, who later fell in love with and married her. Anakin now has a stepbrother, Owen, and meets his old droid C-3PO as well, but he is more concerned with finding Shmi, who has been kidnapped by the Sandpeople. Anakin tracks down the Sandpeople and finds his mother, but it is too late, and she dies in his arms. Enraged, Anakin slaughters the Sandpeople, including the women and children, as he later confesses to Padme. Padme is disturbed by this confession and by Anakin’s desire for power great enough to stop death itself, though she tries to remind him that there is good in him as well.
In response to Obi-Wan’s message, Padme and Anakin journey to Geonosis to rescue him, taking C-3PO along with them. Count Dooku attempts to win Obi-Wan to his side, telling him that the Sith have somehow gained control of the Senate and are manipulating events, but Obi-Wan refuses. On Coruscant, Jar-Jar Binks, acting in Padme’s place and under the influence of Chancellor Palpatine, calls a vote to give the chancellor emergency powers. Thanks to this vote, Palpatine now has unprecedented sway over the Republic and vows to bring an end to the Separatist movement. After a dangerous battle in the Geonosian robot factory, Padme and Anakin are captured and sentenced to execution, along with Obi-Wan, in a huge arena. Obi-Wan, Anakin, and Padme battle the giant creatures sent out to kill them, though with little hope. The sudden arrival of Mace Windu and a strike team of Jedi Knights alters the situation. The Jedi free the captives, and Mace Windu himself kills Jango Fett, but soon even the skills of the Jedi begin to be overwhelmed by the unending waves of droid soldiers Count Dooku commands.
At the last second, rescue arrives in the form of the clone army, which has been commandeered by Yoda. Yoda evacuates the surviving Jedi and leads the clone army in an all-out assault on the Separatist base. The Jedi and their new army defeat the Separatists, though the Separatist leadership mostly escapes. Anakin and Obi-Wan follow the fleeing Dooku to his hangar, where they finally confront him. Anakin foolishly attacks Dooku on his own, and Dooku is able to take on each in turn, defeating first Obi-Wan and then Anakin, severing Anakin’s arm in the process. Yoda appears on the scene once more, however, and forces Dooku to flee after a spectacular lightsaber duel. Dooku returns to Coruscant, where he is greeted as Darth Tyranus by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who has indeed engineered this chain of events. Yoda reminds his followers that despite the triumph on the battlefield, there is no victory, since the Clone Wars have now begun. Padme and Anakin, fitted with a cybernetic arm, are secretly wed. They look forward to an uncertain future.