'Star Wars': A look back at the franchise before 'The Rise of Skywalker'

The first "Star Wars" film, "A New Hope" was released 42 years ago in 1977. Since then, countless films, video games, television spin-offs and books have been produced to fill in every corner of the galaxy far, far away.

What started out as a campy, low-budget sci-fi flick that was expected to flop, quickly grew into a juggernaut of a film franchise with plenty of content for everyone.

Before the saga concludes with "The Rise of Skywalker" on December 20, take a look at the most iconic moments from the "Star Wars" franchise.

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"A New Hope" - 1977

Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2 in "A New Hope."

Luke Skywalker, C-3PO and R2-D2 in "A New Hope." (Lucasfilm)

A farmboy rescues a princess with the help of an old wizard and a sharp-tongued outlaw.

But in space, "A New Hope" introduced us to the world of "Star Wars" and showed us the plucky little rebels fighting to take down the evil Darth Vader and the ominous Empire.

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This movie wasn't ever intended to spur a sequel, much less eight, but who could resist those cute Jawas, our heroes nearly getting squished in a trash compactor and, of course, the destruction of the Death Star.

"The Empire Strikes Back" - 1980

Billy Dee Williams as Landa Calrissian in "The Empire Strikes Back."

Billy Dee Williams as Landa Calrissian in "The Empire Strikes Back." (20th Century Fox)

What was more iconic: Darth Vader revealing that he's Luke's father, or Han Solo's snarky "I know" after Leia professes her love for him?

Either way, "Empire" offers an emotional rollercoaster in the form of Luke's training with Master Yoda, Lando Calrissian's charm and getting a glimpse at the mean, green Boba Fett.

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Luke also had to say goodbye to his hand AND his lightsaber, Leia got kidnapped and Han got trapped in carbonite, so that was kind of a bummer.

"Return of the Jedi" - 1983

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in "Return of the Jedi."

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in "Return of the Jedi." (20th Century Fox)

Here, we finally get to see Luke kick some bad-guy-butt as a full-fledged Jedi Knight.

In fact, there's a lot of butt-kicking in this movie.

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We see fuzzy little Ewoks taking out stormtroopers, Han Solo sends Boba Fett careening into the mouth of a vicious, underground monster and, of course, Darth Vader returns to the light and throws the evil Emperor to his death in order to save Luke.

Unfortunately, that means that Vader died, but after several years of waiting, we finally got to see him after all.

"The Phantom Menace" - 1999

Anakin Skywalker and his mother, Shmi, in "The Phantom Menace."

Anakin Skywalker and his mother, Shmi, in "The Phantom Menace." (Lucasfilm)

The film that kicked off the story of Anakin Skywalker, "The Phantom Menace" introduced us to the like of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Queen Padme Amidala.

Of course, there were funny moments ("There's always a bigger fish") and heartwarming ones (pod racing), but what sticks out most about this movie is the moment Darth Maul reveals that his lightsaber, different than any we've seen so far, is double-bladed.

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Unfortunately, his unique weapon led to one of the film's most heartbreaking moments: the death of Qui-Gon Jinn.

"Attack of the Clones" - 2002

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in "Attack of the Clones."

Supreme Chancellor Palpatine in "Attack of the Clones." (Lucasfilm)

In "Attack of the Clones," we start to see the prequel trilogy (Episodes 1-3) tie into the original trilogy with Padme and Anakin falling in love, a baby Boba Fett and a whole bunch of soldiers that look an awful lot like stormtroopers.

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But who can forget those funky creatures in the area? Or Yoda battling Count Dooku?

What's most interesting about "Attack of the Clones" is we start to see Anakin teetering on the edge of the dark side when he kills a group of Sand People on his home planet to save his mother -- to no avail.

"Revenge of the Sith" - 2005

Mace Windu and his Jedi comrades in "Revenge of the Sith."

Mace Windu and his Jedi comrades in "Revenge of the Sith." (Lucasfilm)

Here's where all the drama goes down.

We finally see Anakin fall completely to the dark side, setting in motion the events of the original trilogy.

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This flick features a lot of lightsaber duels and gruesome deaths, but don't forget about the four-armed lightsaber-wielding robot or young Chewbacca making appearances.

We see a lot of key characters die in "Revenge" -- Padme, Mace Windu, almost every single Jedi -- but we see a few key characters born as well -- Luke, Leia and Darth Vader ("Noooooooo!")

"The Force Awakens" - 2015

John Boyega as Finn in "The Force Awakens."

John Boyega as Finn in "The Force Awakens." (Walt Disney Studios)

You thought the story was over, didn't you?

Not so fast because as it turns out, the First Order (which looks a lot like the Empire) has risen to power and still oppresses its citizens and squashes any sign of the light side of the force.

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However, when chance brings Finn and Rey to the Resistance, led by Leia and Poe Dameron, wheels are set in motion to defeat the First Order.

Unfortunately, Han Solo perishes at the hands of his son Kylo Ren (AKA Ben Solo) and Rey finally finds the elusive Luke Skywalker, who doesn't look too thrilled to see her.

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" - 2016

Leaders of the Rebel Alliance gather in "Rogue One."

Leaders of the Rebel Alliance gather in "Rogue One." (Lucasfilm)

This movie allowed us to step directly into the Rebel Alliance and their fight against the Empire.

We get to see a lot of references to the original films like the building of the Death Star and a cameo from Senator Bail Organa, but it's the end of the movie that really ties everything together.

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Darth Vader makes an appearance to slash through rebel soldiers with ease as R2-D2 and C-3PO intercept the Death Star plans and handing them over to none other than Princess Leia.

"The Last Jedi" - 2017

Daisy Ridley as Rey in "The Last Jedi."

Daisy Ridley as Rey in "The Last Jedi." (Walt Disney Studios)

Just when things started looking up... The Resistance takes a serious hit in this film, losing ships and soldiers as their blasted right out of the sky.

Luckily, their pink-haired leader knows how to save the day (mostly) while Leia is out of commission.

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We also learn why Luke is in self-imposed exile and what made Ben Solo fall to the dark side. Supreme Leader Snoke makes an appearance before being cut in half -- but, hey, Maul survived.

Luke also makes the ultimate sacrifice in this film, giving his life so his sister and the Resistance can escape the First Order.

"Solo: A Star Wars Story" - 2018

L3-37, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in "Solo."

L3-37, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian in "Solo." (Lucasfilm)

One of the franchise's spin-off films, "Solo" follows a young Han Solo as he comes into his own as an intergalactic scoundrel.

In the film, we see Han and his first love (who looks a lot like Leia) join forces with Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian to make money.

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In typical Han Solo-fashion, however, he ends up double-crossing his employers and helping out the rebels in their fight against the Empire.

The most shocking piece of information we get, however, is that Darth Maul is alive and well, despite being sliced in half.

"The Rise of Skywalker" - 2019

What can we expect from the final film in the franchise (for now)?

We don't know much, but we know that the Emperor will somehow be back and that we'll see Kylo Ren and Rey showdown one more time on the ruins of the Death Star. We also know that thanks to unused footage from "The Force Awakens," we'll get to see Carrie Fisher in action as Leia one last time.

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"The Rise of Skywalker" is due to hit theaters on Friday, Dec. 20.