Star Wars – the Rebellion explained

The Rebellion is the beating heart of the Star Wars movies, so let's dig into who's in it, what they stand for, and why it all matters.

Star wars: the Rebellion

What do we know about the Rebellion in Star Wars? For the most part, Star Wars has been about the eternal galactic struggle between good and evil. Evil has typically been represented by an oppressive, cruel, totalitarian regime, while good is represented by the rebels brave enough to rise up and oppose it.

The story of the Rebellion started with the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, which focussed on the struggle is between the Galactic Empire, and the Rebellion. Since then, it has been followed up with the prequel spy-thriller movie Rogue One, and the new Star Wars series Andor. Both have added depth and dimension to the Rebellion, with the sci-fi series in particular fleshing out why it’s a cause worth fighting for .

But what is the Rebellion really all about? What Star Wars villains are they actually rebelling against, who are they, and how did they manage to win against the sheer might of the Galactic Empire? We’ve got it all here, with our guide to the Rebellion explained.

Who are the Rebellion?

The Rebellion, also known as The Rebel Alliance and the Rebels, were a group of people across the galaxy who took action to overthrow the Empire, led by the Sith lords Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader.

The alliance was made up of members of all species and statuses, from all across the galaxy. They ranged from the social elites in the upper echelons of galactic society, such as Mon Mothma, Princess Leia, and her adoptive father Bail Organa, to ex-prisoners like Melshi, and your typical moisture farming late-teen: Luke Skywalker. This diversity was one of the Rebellion’s key strengths.

Star Wars: The Rebellion explained - Saw Gerrera in Rogue One

Who was the leader of the Rebellion?

Mon Mothma became the de facto leader of the Rebellion after the Galactic Senate was disbanded following the destruction of Alderaan by the Death Star. However, it’s also true that the Rebellion had plenty of leaders and key figures, such as Luthen Rael and Cassian Andor, and it doesn’t seem as if there was any one person who fully led the Rebellion and took all the decisions. Instead, decision-making seemed to be collective.

Who are the key figures in the Rebellion?

  • Mon Mothma
  • Bail Organa
  • Princess Leia
  • Luke Skywalker
  • Han Solo
  • Chewbacca
  • Jyn Erso
  • Cassian Andor
  • Admiral Ackbar
  • Luthen Rael
  • Saw Gerrera

Of course, there are plenty of other heroes involved with the Rebellion too. But, these listed above can be considered some of the major players in the success of the Rebellion, and in its formation too.

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What are the aims of the Rebellion?

The main aim of the Rebellion was to restore democracy to the galaxy and free the galaxy from the iron-grip of the Empire and its rulers. This is because the Empire is an oppressive, brutal regime, and rarely has that been more clear than in Andor.

In the TV series Andor we see the true impact of the Empire like never before. Planets have their natural resources stripped from them and cultures, like on Aldhani, have their practices denied and banned. Meanwhile, people are arrested without provocation and subjected to unending stints in labour camps to create parts for the Imperial machine.

Then of course, there’s the overt violence and we hear from Doctor Gorst that the Empire was perfectly willing to exterminate an entire race called the Dizonites because they refused to have their moon turned into an Imperial refuelling centre.

There are other concerns about the Empire too, that stretch beyond the more obvious examples of villainy. The constant stream of over-reaching legislation passed through the senate slowly aims to take more and more control over the lives of the citizens in the galaxy, and restrict everyday freedoms. So, these (and other more local, personal motivations) are the splashes of fuel that have ignited the Rebellion.

Star Wars: The Rebellion explained - Princess Leia in A New Hope

Key events in the Rebellion

Key events of the Rebellion stretch from the prequels right through to the end of the Skywalker saga. After Emperor Palpatine destroyed the majority of the Jedi order and used emergency powers to transform the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire, resistance began to ferment almost immediately.

The animated series Rebels explores the earlier era of the Rebellion, prior to the events that occurred in the science fiction movie A New Hope. A New Hope was directly preceded by the prequel movie Rogue One (which now has it’s own prequel series as well) which showed how the Rebellion got hold of the Death Star plans which the Star Wars droid R2-D2 takes from Leia at the beginning of A New Hope.

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Luke Skywalker becomes involved in the Rebellion after R2-D2 lands on Tatooine, with the Death Star plans. Luke becomes determined to help the Rebellion after Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are killed by Imperial Stormtroopers hunting for R2-D2. He is then vital in the success of the Rebellion by helping Princess Leia escape from confinement, and in later destroying the Death Star.

After the first Death Star has been destroyed, the Rebellion takes a major blow when its base is found on Hoth at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, and this forces the Rebellion to disperse and fall back to less secure positions across the Galaxy.

The battle between the Rebellion and the Empire came to its conclusion on Endor, which was being used as a base from which to construct the second Death Star. The Rebellion, led by Leia and Han Solo deactivated the Death Star’s shields while Luke confronted Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. This confrontation led to the death of Darth Vader and the (temporary) death of Emperor Palpatine, ending the era of the Galactic Empire’s dominance over the galaxy, and meaning that the Rebellion had succeeded in achieving its aims.

And, that’s all you need to know about the Rebellion and its fight against the Empire, but there’s sure to be more when the Andor season 2 release date arrives. To keep up to date with everything else you need to know about Star Wars, check out our Andor guides including our Andor season 1 recap, explainers on; Kino Loy, Syril Karn, and the Andor filming locations, as well as Luthen Rael’s ship, and find out does Luthen Rael have a lightsaber?

Keep an eye on our new movies guide to see when the Rebellion will return, or bow to the dark side in our list of best movies.