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Force ghosts in Star Wars explained - the truth behind Jedi death

Star Wars may be a sci-fi, but it's also pretty haunted. Here's our guide fully explaining what Force ghosts are and all the rules that surround late Jedis.

Anakin Skywalker as a Force Ghost in Star Wars

What’s a Force ghost? Star Wars is one of the biggest and most detailed cinematic franchises around. With movies, shows, books and more being released over decades, it’s understandable that past characters and lore haunt every new entry in this beloved IP. However, sometimes, Jedi hauntings get pretty literal. So, let’s talk about the pale blue floating specters in the room.

Every Star Wars fan is aware that this franchise has ghosts. Whenever you sit to rewatch all the Star Wars movies in order, you’ll often see some of the best Star Wars characters perish, only to be resurrected an hour later to smile at the camera before the credits begin to roll. We’ve seen Force ghosts in the original trilogy, the new movies and, most recently, in the Star Wars series Ahsoka. So, let’s break down these iconic and recurring figures.

Below, we fully explain Force ghosts. From the definition, the requirements to become one, and the odd cases in the franchise, we’ve left no undead stone unturned.

What is a Force ghost?

A Force ghost is a Force-sensitive being who preserves their consciousness before they die. So basically, instead of fully letting the power of the Force absorb them when they pass away, their souls manifest into Force ghosts, and they can retain their individual appearance and personality.

So, as we’ve seen in the Star Wars movies and Star Wars series, this is how dead Jedi such as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda can appear to their past students as eerie see-through specters. They are souls that exist between the mortal realm and the Force, acting as immortal figures who can in some way interact or be perceived by living Force users.

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However, not everyone can become a Force spirit. Late Force-sensitives need to undergo special training in order to retain their consciousness and communicate with the living. Once they achieve spiritual immortality, their physical body would disappear upon death. Another factor in the Force ghost requirements is that you need to be a Light side Force user. So that’s why we often see Jedi as Force ghosts, since it’s impossible for Sith to learn the techniques.

Sith are followers of the Dark side and are still powerful but lacking in Force spirit requirements. So, despite not being Force ghosts, they can still use similar techniques and other powers to commune with the dead and retain their voices after death.

Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker as a Force Ghost in Ahsoka

How did Anakin become a Force ghost?

Anakin Skywalker is one of those rare cases where a Jedi turned Sith still managed to be a Force ghost after their death despite moving away from the Light side of the Force. Well, the reason Anakin managed to become a Force Ghost is simple – it’s all thanks to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s spirit and some redemption, too.

According to the ‘in-canon’ book, A Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan brings his past student into the Force Ghost plane. Dragging Anakin’s spirit into the immortal realm, he guides him to the moon of Endor so that Anakin can see his son, Luke Skywalker, destroying the black armor of Darth Vader.

Obi-Wan explains that the reason why Anakin isn’t Darth Vader in the spiritual plane is because he chose to bring balance to the Force during his final moments. So basically, thanks to Anakin’s sacrifice and redemption during the Battle of Endor, he reverted to the light side of the Force. With this big revelation, and Obi-Wan’s help, Anakin became a Force ghost and would go on to appear in tons of Star Wars movies and, most recently, during the Disney Plus show, Ahsoka episode 8.

And there you have it, all the Force ghost information you need to know as we wait for these specters’ next big appearance on screen. Speaking of the future, here is everything you need to know about the new Star Wars movies and The Acolyte release date.

We also have guides on the best Star Wars villains, everything we learned at the Star Wars Celebration this year, and the best movies of all time. Or, if you need a break from the Star Wars cast, here is everything we know about Avatar 3.