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Star Wars: A Rebellion Built on Hope – The Rebel Alliance Explainer

5 Minute Read
Oct 26 2023

Taking on the entire Galactic Empire with almost nothing, The Rebel Alliance are some of Star Wars‘ first heroes.

The First Years

The Rebel Alliance truly began as the Republic fell and the Empire came into power. After all, the parts were forming throughout the Clone Wars years. Bubbles of resistance showed up within the Separatist worlds. But central leadership, cohesion, or a name wouldn’t happen for a few years.

When Sheeve Palpatine began to take on emergency powers and set himself up to be the future Emperor, Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and Padme Amidala were the first to oppose him. Despite their pull though, he soon claimed Imperial leadership for himself. He issued Order 66, beginning the Galactic Empire. This brought the Clone Wars to an end.


Mon Mothma and Bail Organa began working nearly immediately to make plans to overthrow the newly formed Empire. But with virtually no opposition and a great deal of military prowess, very little was to stand a chance against Emperor Palpatine for some time.

In the earliest years, much of the resistance was made up of smaller groups or even individuals. For example, Cham Syndulla’s Free Ryloth Movement was prevalent on amongst the Twi’lek on Ryloth, but little known in other systems.

An Organized Rebellion

By about 5 BBY a few organized cells of rebellion had formed. Slowly this began to form together, some of the first groups joining with Mon Mothma in what she had begun calling, “The Alliance.” Other major players in these first building years were Bail Organa and Ahsoka Tano who oversaw the Pheonix Cell of the Rebellion. These cells worked towards the same end. Though many members of them didn’t yet know that there was a larger Alliance forming.

Eventually, the Empire was alerted to the existence of the budding rebellions while capturing Kanan Jarrus. And after a bit of eluding, fighting, and running, it was time for the Rebellion to be formally introduced to the Galaxy. Then Senator Mon Mothma made a formal declaration of the Rebel Alliance. She resigned from the Senate and officially denounced Emperor Palpatine. The scattered groups and splinter cells answered her call, forming into one cohesive group, and the Rebel Alliance was finally born.


Successes and Loss

Despite having some of the most dedicated members in the galaxy, the Rebel Alliance was often outnumbered and outgunned. A lack of funding and equipment forced them to be smarter and more resourceful in their missions. Small groups of skilled people would take on specific jobs to win back support, supplies, or territory, inch by inch.

One of Rebellion’s first biggest altercations was the battle of Scarif. Though the ground team working to find the Death Star‘s plans was small, the resulting space battle above took as much of the Rebellion fleet as could make it. This was quickly followed by an assault on the Death Star, which was one of the Alliance’s most significant wins.

After the destruction of the First Death Star the Alliance went back to fighting the empire in small, thoughtful chess moves. That is until it was once again time to destroy the second Death Star. Then an all-out attack was planned from multiple positions at once.

This marked the destruction of the Empire and the end of the need for the Rebel Alliance. But they would stick around in one form or another. We all know bits of Imperial power tried to continue fighting the new Republic.

What is your favorite mission or battle of the Rebel Alliance? Who is your favorite member of the Rebellion? When do you consider the Alliance to have officially formed? Let us know in the comments!

Is the Rebel Alliance Good or Bad?

For the purposes of us, as viewers of Star Wars, the Rebels are the good guys. They’re freedom fighters working against a fascist government. And it’s easy to root against the Empire when we’re given hundreds of on-screen reasons to recognize that they’re bad.


But in recent years Star Wars has become a little more thoughtful, realistic, and nuanced. While we’re not given fewer reasons to hate the Empire, it’s become easier to see some of the main villains as multifaceted and relatable characters- Andor’s Dedra and Syril as well as Ciena from Lost Stars were especially good examples of this. At the same time, we see the Rebel Alliance join forces with rogue players who probably skew a little closer to ‘terrorists’ compared to the rest of the Alliance’s organized and regimented military.

In short, you’re supposed to see the Rebel Alliance as “good” and the Empire as “bad”. And personally, I completely agree with this reading in a broad sense. But the bigger takeaway may be that war is messy and hard to neatly qualify into definable boxes.

Was Luke Skywalker in the Rebel Alliance?

Yes. Luke joined the Rebel Alliance during the Battle of Yavin and joined the assault on the Death Star. Prior to that, he wanted to join the Imperial Academy. But this is likely not linked to any beliefs or values as much as a desire to leave Tatooine, see the galaxy, and maybe experience a little adventure.

What is the Difference Between the Rebel Alliance and the Separatists?

During the Clone Wars, the Separatists wanted to break free of the Republic and form a new, separate multi-planet society.

The Rebel Alliance is a group fighting against the Empire made up primarily of leaders who would prefer to return to the days of the Republic.

When the Republic fell and turned into the Empire, some former Separatist fighters and leaders joined the Rebels because the enemy of their enemy was–temporarily–their friend. Others saw the Rebel Alliance as a continuation of the Republic and wanted nothing to do with that. These are two separate groups. In fact, the Rebel Alliance was formed about twenty years after the Separatists. It wouldn’t even be accurate to say that one replaced the other. But sometimes holdout Separatist forces would be known to assist the Rebels.

May the Force be with you, adventurers!


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