Are you interested in journeying to a galaxy far, far away, where valiant knights known as Jedis battle evil with laser swords and where space stations could be as large as a moon?
Are you eager to dive into the Star Wars universe with its many movies, series, video games, and novels but are a little confused about where to start? Or, you are confused by terms such as Canon, Legends, and Expanded Universe?
If the latter applies to you, fret not! Here’s a quick guide to understanding what is “Star Wars Canon.”
The lack of such an understanding wouldn’t hamper your enjoyment of any Star Wars media; most movies and series were scripted as standalone adventures. However, knowing what is Canon and what’s not will greatly enhance your viewing, reading, or playing experience.
First off, terms! Some proper explanation of terms. (So crucial in any fandom)
Canon: The main timeline. What “actually” happened.
Legends: Alternate stories and inspired spinoffs. Previously known as Expanded Universe
Expanded Universe: The many books, video games, and comics published before 2015’s The Force Awakens.
The Big Shakeup
A huge, huge shakeup occurred in the Star Wars franchise a few years ago. A good many characters introduced in Star Wars books, games, and comics were relegated to Star Wars Legends. These include characters such as Corran Horn, Kyle Katarn, Jacen Solo (the basis for Kylo Ren in the Sequel Trilogy), and fan favourite Mara Jade, i.e., the wife of Luke Skywalker.
Previously called the “Expanded Universe,” these characters and their stories are now seen as … It’s tough to explain. The easiest way to understand is perhaps to just view these tales and characters as part of an alternate reality.
Legends are, of course, not canon, which is heartbreaking for many fans. On the bright side, this shakeup does dramatically shorten the list of things new fans have to familiarize themselves with. It’s a removal of barriers of entry, to use an awkward phrase.
The Three Trilogies
Needless to say, the three Star Wars cinematic trilogies are Canon. They are the heart of the entire franchise and will always be.
It’s not tough to find out how to watch Star Wars movies in order, thanks to Disney+. There are other options for those not under the thumb of the big Mouse too.
For the sake of clarity, let me spell out the trilogies as well. A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are the oldest movies. Episodes IV, V, and VI, respectively, and considered the Original Trilogy.
1999’s The Phantom Menace, 2002’s Attack of the Clones, and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith are usually called the Prequels or the Prequel Trilogy.
The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker form the Sequel Trilogy.
On another note, the Big Shakeup mentioned earlier was (no) thanks to The Force Awaken. Tens of Star Wars EU novels published before J. J. Abrams’ 2015 sequel developed the story in a direction completely unlike what Abrams envisioned. So that The Force Awaken “makes sense,” the Expanded Universe stories were renamed Legends.
This renaming, expectedly, shocked many long-time fans.
The Spin-Off Films
There are other movies in the franchise that are currently considered Canon. No, this doesn’t include the Christmas Special (as far as I know and thank the Force!)
Rather, the spin-off films currently included in Star Wars canon are simply Solo and Rogue One. There are other spin-off movies confirmed but most of them are still unnamed except for the Lando movie.
The Animated Series
A couple of older animated spinoffs made before Disney’s ownership of the franchise are designated as Canon. For example, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Star Wars Rebels. Should you wish to understand the “main” universe better, these are must-watchs.
Don’t be put off by their animated nature too; these critically acclaimed series do not skimp on quality and are full of compelling stories. (Unforgettable dialogue and storylines too) For viewers who need a smoother, more logical transition from Anakin Skywalker the Jedi war hero to the megalomaniacal Darth Vader, The Clone Wars provides that link too.
And then there’s The Bad Batch. What happens in this more recent animated outing isn’t necessary for understanding the other series or movies, even though it’s Canon. However, you will still appreciate the tropes explored in this gritty new series.
The Recent Disney+ Series
Where people start getting a little mixed up is with the release of more recent Disney+ series. There are quite a few series that have been airing in recent years, each expanding on and building bits of the Star Wars universe.
As of this time of writing, all of the live-action spin-off series on Disney+ are considered Canon. These include The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi, the massively underrated Andor (seriously, it’s the best Star Wars media to be released in a decade), and of course, Ahsoka.
Even though she didn’t directly appear in the movie trilogies, Ahsoka is completely Canon.
What About the Books?
If you’re just interested in keeping up with the things you should watch to understand Star Wars Canon, then that’s it. There’s nothing else.
However, if you’re hungry for more Star Wars content, then there are numerous books and comic for you to dive into. In publication since the 80s, there are, simply put, too many to list here, so you might want to check a chronological list before jumping in.
These adventures greatly add to the universe that exists on screen, even though most are nowadays branded as Legends. Most fans would also be hard-pressed to say that these tales are truly “must-knows.” However, all undeniably add to the colours of the mythos that is so fascinating.
Note: In the ever-fickle world of … commercialism, some Legends content could transform into Canon. A development to keep an eye on would be Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire novels.
Are Star Wars Video Games Canon?
Yes, there are Canon video games too. While older games such as the Kyle Katarn Dark Forces episodes and Jedi Academy have been relegated to the Legends brand, more recent games like Star Wars Jedi: Survivor are considered part of the main universe.
There is a lot to Star Wars Canon and what’s listed in this article is but the briefest summary. However, hopefully, the info here at least highlights for you what is and what isn’t Canon in that galaxy far, far away.