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Since the original trilogy was released back in the 70s, Star Wars has amassed what is probably the largest fan base of any film in history (certainly the most passionate fan base, at any rate).

Fans and critics alike have spent decades arguing over which film is the best, which characters are the best, and more recently, which trilogy is the best. Those latter arguments usually involve the original trilogy versus the sequel trilogy, as very few believe that the prequels are superior to anything (although the prequels really do have their perks). One of the biggest focuses of these arguments centers around character development–the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy approach their characters in a very different way. 

‘Star Wars’: The original trilogy

The original Star Wars trilogy consisted of A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). The beloved trilogy follows what is undoubtedly the most popular rebellion in movie history–the Rebels versus the Empire. 

While the first three films had a huge cast of memorable characters, they focused on the main group of rebels–Luke, Leia, Han, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C3PO– and one ultimate villain–Darth Vader. When A New Hope begins, audiences were immediately thrown into the middle of a war. There isn’t much backstory to explain why these groups are fighting, although it’s not too hard to figure out. 

The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi both continue to follow this ultimate battle between good and evil. Some of the characters evolve as the story continues–most notably Luke Skywalker, as he trains with Master Yoda to become a Jedi that rivals his father in both skill and power–but there isn’t a ton of character development. 

The original trilogy is a story that takes place entirely in those moments, with a sense of urgency and focus on the present battle. There are some major revelations along the way, but the characters personalities, motivations, and desires aren’t really examined very closely.

It wasn’t necessary to understand these nuances about each character, because the focus of the films was about the group banding together to defeat evil. The original trilogy is all about the way these characters interacted with one another, and the bond they built while saving the galaxy from the evil of the Empire. It’s simple, fun, and the story flows wonderfully. 

‘Star Wars’: The sequel trilogy

Mark Hamill
Mark Hamill | Rich Fury/Getty Images

The Star Wars sequel trilogy–The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017), and The Rise of Skywalker (2019)–continues the story of the rebellion but approaches it all in a new way. The characters in the sequel trilogy are richly developed, giving the films a more complex feeling than the originals. 

The Force Awakens starts the trilogy off much the way A New Hope did–it throws us immediately into an action-packed battle between the new rebels (a.k.a. the Resistance) and the new Empire (the First Order). We’re hooked immediately, just as we were before. This time, we understand a bit more about what makes the characters tick, and what has made them the way they are. 

We are introduced to Rey on Jakku. We can imagine what her daily life is like, rooting through wreckage to find parts to trade for food. She’s tough, she’s a survivor, and she’s all alone. It’s also clear that she has no alliances as of yet, but it’s interesting that she has salvaged objects from both sides–the x-wing pilot’s helmet, and the ruined AT-AT that serves as her shelter.

On the flip side of that, we are also given a glimpse into the darker side of things. The audience is able to gain an understanding of what fuels Kylo Ren–we grasp his desperation as he tries to prove himself a worthy successor to Darth Vader, and his intense need to live up to the family name. 

The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker continue to focus on these two characters and their internal struggles, which creates a much more complex storyline. It’s so complex, in fact, that it loses some of the excitement and the sense of urgency associated with the raging battle between the Resistance and the First Order. 

Why we shouldn’t try to compare them…


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The internet is full of articles scrutinizing both trilogies, trying to determine which one is better, and why. Every aspect of the films have been analyzed, from plot to action sequences to musical scores. Some will argue that one trilogy is better than the other, when the truth is, they are just different. 

Like many other aspects of the films, character development can’t really be compared. The films may have some of the same characters, and the same overall theme of good versus evil, but overall, their compositions are very different.

The original trilogy was very straightforward, what-you-see-is-what-you-get. It was a space opera full of fast-paced battles between X-wings and TIE fighters, with the Death Star always looming in the background. 

The sequel trilogy focused more on individual characters, rather than the overall battle. Rey was lonely, and wanted nothing more than to find her family. Kylo Ren felt incredible pressure to be exactly like his grandfather. Finn was an individual who desperately wanted to break away from the life he had ended up in. Poe was a charismatic leader who inspired others to follow him. 

Star Wars fans recently used Reddit to voice their opinions regarding the comparisons between the originals and sequels. Many agreed that while the sequels had more complex characters, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better films. One fans said, “comparing the ST to the OT shows that the ST arguably has more character development for its head characters and more subtle and nuanced themes. It’s not Citizen Kane, but I’d argue it’s more complex than the OT (not necessarily making it better).”

Overall, each of the Star Wars films combine to create an iconic galaxy that will forever stun audiences with incredible visuals, gripping battles, and unforgettable characters.