20 Recycled Elements in The Force Awakens from the Original Trilogy

This post contains spoilers; so quit reading now if you’re one of the dozen people who didn’t see The Force Awakens this weekend.


Why come up with a new movie when the old ones were so good?

As I noted in an earlier post, The Force Awakens recycles a number images and plot devices from the original trilogy—a shocking amount really. Though I enjoyed the movie, I feel like this patch-work quilt approach to film making would be more appropriate for a film-school project than for the beginning of a series expected to justify Disney’s $4 billion investment. But then again, perhaps this is just what fans of the original trilogy (i.e., the fans who have disposable income—there are plenty of children who love the prequels but they don’t have the same spending power) needed to reassure them that the real Star Wars is back.

I’ve jotted down twenty recycled elements from the original trilogy. I’m sure I missed many more.

  1. Desert planet setting—ep. IV.
  2. Cute droid with plans that everyone wants—ep. IV.
  3. Millennium Falcon flies through a superstructure—ep. VI.
  4. Crack pilot and novice adventurer blow up some TIEs as they escape desert planet in the Millennium Falcon with the cute droid that everyone wants—ep. IV.
  5. Han Solo owes money to gangsters—ep. IV, V, and VI.
  6. Suction mouth latches onto the Falcon’s cockpit window—ep. V.
  7. Jungle Temple setting—ep. IV.
  8. Cantina!—ep. IV.
  9. Small force-sensitive creature says uncomfortable things to untrained force-sensitive human—ep. V.
  10. Dark Lord interrogates a young girl—ep. IV.
  11. Big planet-killing base—ep. IV and VI…
  12. Complete with countdown to destruction of the good guys!—ep. IV.
  13. Snow planet setting—ep. V.
  14. Han, Chewie, and a novice adventurer attempt to rescue a young girl from big planet-killing base—ep. IV.
  15. Han and company set charges to blow up a base—ep. VI.
  16. Estranged father and son face each other on a catwalk—ep. V.
  17. X-wings fly into trenches—ep. IV.
  18. Big planet-killing base explodes—ep. IV and VI.
  19. Novice hero left to recover from wounds while Chewie and a friend of Han’s fly off in the Falcon to look for an old friend—ep. V.
  20. Untrained force-sensitive human searches out a Jedi master who lives like a hermit on a wet world—ep. V.

These are just the ones that I noticed on the first viewing. Feel free to leave any allusions or recycled plot points that you noticed in the comments below.

(And yes, I did notice that Kylo Ren’s haircut was recycled from Anakin’s head in episode III, but there weren’t many other references to the prequels, as far as I could tell.)

2 thoughts on “20 Recycled Elements in The Force Awakens from the Original Trilogy

  1. Death of the Mentor at the hands of the villain. (IV)
    Captured rebel saved by someone dressed as a storm trooper. (IV)
    Seeking out the wise old jedi who went into hiding after all his students are murdered. (V)

    I think the biggest reversal is the difference between Rey’s and Luke’s motivations. Luke can’t wait to get off Tatooine. All Rey wants is to go back to Jaaku.

    1. Nice. I didn’t notice the Obi-Wan/Han-Solo death scene connection. It even had companions looking on, just like in ep IV. I was too struck by the Vader-and-Luke-on-the-catwalk imagery. I definitely think both were intended.

      This movie is like one big Easter egg hunt.

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