It's been four years since the last Star Wars movie and no sign of another movie any time soon
However there are multiple movies in development from various directors
Box office returns suggest the future of the franchise could be in TV
We explore the current state of play for Star Wars on the big screen
We’ve come a long way from the fateful meeting between Princess Leia Organa and Darth Vader aboard the Tantive IV during 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, and in 2023, the sci-fi staple has grown to the size of a Mythosaur.
Although there are multiple projects in the works covering animation, live-action series, and movies, the franchise's future remains in flux.
2016's Solo: A Star Wars Story — and its franchise low haul of $393 million (£317m) at the global box office — seems to have frightened Lucasfilm off taking swings at the box office, leaving fans wondering whether the ongoing Star Wars slate should rely on shows instead of movies.
With Disney now having a Vader-inspired Force choke on the galaxy far, far away, what does the future hold for Star Wars?
Swapping the silver screen for the small screen
Once upon a time, it was hard to imagine the Star Wars story going beyond George Lucas’ original plan for the original and prequel trilogy.
Then, following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2021, J.J. Abrams' Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduced a new crop of heroes in 2015, giving us Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) alongside legacy characters Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
The Force Awakens earned a jaw-dropping $2.017 billion at the box office, was the highest-grossing movie of the year, and is currently the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time. Rian Johnson took over for the divisive The Last Jedi in 2017, while Abrams returned for The Rise of Skywalker in 2019. Unfortunately, The Force Awakens represented a franchise peak, with box office returns dropping since.
Around this time, there was also the trial of anthology movies, but while Rogue One: a Star Wars Story was critically and commercially acclaimed in 2016, Solo: A Star Wars Story flopped in 2018.
This scuppered plans for more anthology movies and the proposed Obi-Wan Kenobi movie trilogy being revamped as a live-action series.
What’s next on the Star Wars slate?
Although Patty Jenkins’ Rogue Squadron was scheduled for 2023, it was moved back so she could focus on Wonder Woman 3. Following its cancellation, Jenkins has reiterated Rogue Squadron is in active development.
Thor: Love and Thunder’s Taika Waititi is working on a movie that Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy claims is next on the roster, however, it has since had its 2023 release date removed.
Read more: How Andor's finale sets up second season
Watchmen’s Damon Lindelof has co-written an outing set after The Rise of Skywalker, and although it's rumoured to be a standalone, it could feature characters from the sequel trilogy. There’s no word on who, but with fans feeling undersold on the mysteries surrounding Lupita Nyong'o's Maz Kanata — and Daisy Ridley saying she’s “open to a phone call” about reprising her role as Rey at some point — these are two likely candidates.
The final movie in active development comes from Deadpool 3’s Shawn Levy, who vows his mysterious movie will be made.
Four years after The Rise of Skywalker, there are no confirmed release dates and several movies have been cancelled or placed on hold. Rian Johnson’s “new” trilogy is on the back burner because he’s busy with Knives Out, J.D. Dillard’s movie has been scrapped, and so has a trilogy from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss.
Finally, there’s no word on Kevin Feige’s Star Wars movie that’s supposedly in a brand-new corner of the cosmos. As well as having the might of the Marvel Cinematic Universe overlord behind the camera, a wholly new adventure should help alleviate complaints that out of all the cantinas in the galaxy, we largely return to the same Skywalkers.
Even if the cinematic universe of Star Wars is unclear, there’s a Clone army of TV shows to keep us busy.
The future will be televised
Whereas Star Wars shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels were once considered cartoons for kids and die-hard fans, that all changed when Jon Favreau brought The Mandalorian to Disney+ in 2019.
This has already become a jumping-off point for The Book of Boba Fett and helped bring forgotten arcs from the nixed Expanded Universe back into mainline canon.
Read more: The Mandalorian recap: The story so far
Even though The Mandalorian Season 3 hopes to continue the show’s winning streak as the most-watched Disney+ series, there’s a lot of excitement for the Rosario Dawson-led Ahsoka.
Making it three for three, Dave Filoni has promised Star Wars: Skeleton Crew (starring Jude Law) will intertwine in “weird ways” with the other shows taking place during this lucrative period between the original and sequel trilogies.
In terms of diversity, there’s been an influx of female talent thanks to Bryce Dallas Howard and Deborah Chow directing — with hopes the latter could return for Obi-Wan Kenobi Season 2. We’re also getting more experimental titles, as Russian Doll’s Leslye Headland is developing The Acolyte as a “female-centric” series set in the High Republic Era, some 100 years before The Phantom Menace.
Following its stellar first season, a final batch of 12 episodes will conclude Tony Gilroy’s Andor and lead directly into the events of Rogue One. These live-action shows are before we take into account the animated The Bad Batch (currently in its second season) and another run of the animated anthology series Star Wars: Visions.
Away from the Skywalker saga
A televised future isn’t without its problems, with critiques that Star Wars is following the route of the MCU by using established stories to launch too many spin-offs. This became evident when The Book of Boba Fett was critiqued as The Mandalorian Season 2.5.
The planned Rangers of the New Republic series was seemingly absorbed into other projects when Disney cut ties with Gina Carano, while there are whispers the disaster of Solo could be redeemed via a Disney+ series.
Read more: Star Wars: Visions episodes ranked
If not, there’s always Donald Glover’s potential return for the live-action Lando series from Dear White People’s Justin Simien. Even controversial elements like The Last Jedi’s Supreme Leader Snoke are being reworked because all signs point to his arc and Rise of Skywalker’s infamous Palpatine plotline getting overhauled in The Mandalorian Season 3.
Despite a clear push away from Luke and Leia, we’re tied to familiar formulas. Alongside The Bad Batch having the obligatory Palpatine cameo, theorists already guess Clone Force 99’s story will cross over with a young Boba Fett’s in Season 2.
For better or worse, Star Wars presents a united front akin to the MCU. This avoids the DCU’s confusion, like whether Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker lives in the same continuity as Robert Pattinson’s Batman, but instead, you’re in danger of getting lost in these sprawling character threads if you don’t watch every movie or series.
Disney isn’t giving up on Star Wars movies just yet, but with a sparse silver screen slate in 2023 and a bumper crop of Disney+ shoes, it’s clear to see the current trajectory.
Even Rian Johnson has said he’d be willing to return for a series instead of a movie. The moral of the story is that no Star Wars material is left on the junkyard planet of Bracca, meaning anything could be repackaged for some project with an A-list star and well-known director.
Read more: Every upcoming MCU movie and TV show
As shows multiply quicker than failed Palpatine clones on Exegol, it remains to be seen whether everything will be our next version of The Mandalorian or whether we’ve got just another Holiday Special waiting in the X-wings.
Fan convention Star Wars: Celebration 2023 will take place 7-10 April, and we expect to learn more about the future of the series then.
The Mandalorian Season 3 premieres on Disney+ on 1 March. Watch a trailer below.