On the desert planet Jakku, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron receives a map to Luke's location from Lor San Tekka. Stormtroopers commanded by Kylo Ren raid the village and capture Poe, while Kylo kills San Tekka. Poe's droid, BB-8, escapes with the map and encounters a scavenger named Rey near a scavenger settlement. Kylo tortures Poe using the Force and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187, disillusioned by the First Order, frees Poe, and they escape in a stolen TIE fighter. Upon learning that FN-2187 has no other name, Poe gives him the name "Finn". As they head to Jakku to retrieve BB-8, they are shot down by a First Order Star Destroyer and crash-land. Finn survives and assumes that Poe died in the crash. He encounters Rey and BB-8, but the First Order tracks them and launches an airstrike. Rey, Finn, and BB-8 steal the Millennium Falcon as a last resort saying "the garbage will do". Finn shoots down their First Order pursuers while Rey pilots the Falcon between the hulls of other spaceships and then off the planet.
A large ship piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca captures and reclaims the Falcon. Gangs seeking to settle debts with Han attack the ship. Han and the others escape in the Falcon. At the First Order's Starkiller Base, a planet converted into a star-powered superweapon capable of targeting systems across the galaxy, Supreme Leader Snoke allows General Hux to use the weapon for the first time. Snoke questions Kylo's ability to deal with emotions relating to his father, Han Solo, who Kylo states means nothing to him.
Aboard the Falcon, Han determines that BB-8's map is incomplete. He then explains that Luke attempted to rebuild the Jedi Order but exiled himself when an apprentice turned to the dark side, destroyed the temple, and slaughtered the other apprentices. The crew travels to the planet Takodana and meets with cantina owner Maz Kanata, who offers assistance getting BB-8 to the Resistance. Rey is drawn by the Force to a secluded vault, where she finds the lightsaber once belonging to Luke and his father, Anakin Skywalker, before him. She experiences disturbing visions and flees into the woods, confused and terrified. Maz gives Finn the lightsaber for safekeeping.
Starkiller Base destroys the planetary system which is home to the New Republic's capitol and senate, and a portion of its fleet. The First Order attacks Takodana in search of BB-8. Han, Chewbacca, and Finn are saved by Resistance X-wing fighters led by Poe, who survived the crash. Leia arrives at Takodana with C-3PO and reunites with Han, who says he saw their son (Kylo Ren). Meanwhile, Kylo captures Rey and takes her to Starkiller Base, but she resists his mind-reading attempts. Discovering she can use the Force, Rey escapes using a Jedi mind trick on a guard.
At the Resistance base on D'Qar, BB-8 finds R2-D2, who had been inactive since Luke’s disappearance. As Starkiller Base prepares to fire once more, the Resistance devises a plan to destroy it by attacking the main facility. Using the Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, and Finn infiltrate the facility, find Rey, and plant explosives. Han confronts Kylo, calling him by his birth name, Ben, and implores him to abandon the dark side. Kylo seems to consider this, but ultimately refuses and kills his own father. Devastated, Chewbacca shoots Kylo and sets off the explosives, allowing Poe to attack and destroy the base's thermal oscillator, which begins a fatal chain reaction from the planet's core.
The injured Kylo pursues Finn and Rey into the woods. Finn fights Kylo with the lightsaber to protect Rey and cuts his arm before Kylo knocks him unconscious. Rey takes the lightsaber and channels the Force to defeat Kylo in a duel; they are then separated by a fissure as the planet surface begins to splinter. Snoke orders Hux to evacuate and bring Kylo to him to complete his training. Chewbacca rescues Rey and the unconscious Finn, and they escape aboard the Falcon. As the Resistance forces flee, Starkiller Base implodes, forming a star. On D'Qar, Leia, Rey and Chewbacca mourn Han's death. R2-D2 awakens and reveals the rest of the map, which Rey and Chewbacca use to find the oceanic planet Ahch-To via the Falcon.
After landing on a small remote island, Rey climbs the rock-carved steps to the top of the island, where she finds Luke Skywalker. Without a word, Rey presents him with his father's lightsaber.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo: A rogue and a smuggler, formerly a key player in the Rebel Alliance. Ford said, "Han does not aspire to the position of Obi-Wan, nor do I aspire to be some New Age Alec Guinness. His development is consistent with the character, and there are emotional elements which have occasioned his growth… There's a lot of the rogue still left in Solo. Some things don't change…"
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker: The last Jedi, who has gone into hiding. Regarding Luke, Han, and Leia, Abrams stated: "They'd be as old and as mythic as the tale of King Arthur. They would be characters who [the new characters] may have heard of, but maybe not. They'd be characters who they might believe existed, or just sounded like a fairy tale…" Hamill was initially skeptical of Luke only appearing at the end of the film and called his limited screentime "a great surprise". Abrams added that the film's ending was intended to be "this great long drumroll up to seeing this guy".
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa: The former princess of the destroyed planet Alderaan, now General of the Resistance, and Luke's twin sister. After the events of Return of the Jedi, she is described as "a little more battle weary, a little more broken hearted". Fisher described Leia as "Solitary. Under a lot of pressure. Committed as ever to her cause, but I would imagine feeling somewhat defeated, tired, and pissed." Abrams said: "The stakes are pretty high in the story for her, so there's not much goofing around where Leia's concerned."
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren: A dark warrior who is strong with the Force, the leader of the Knights of Ren, and a high-ranking member of the First Order. He is the son of Han and Leia, nephew of Luke and the grandson of the deceased Darth Vader. Driver said the team tried "not to think of him as being bad, or evil, or a villain. Something that was more three-dimensional. He's more dangerous and unpredictable, and morally justified in doing what he thinks is right."
Daisy Ridley as Rey: A highly Force-sensitive scavenger who was abandoned as a child on the desert planet Jakku and awaits her absent family's return. Ridley said: "She's completely self-sufficient and does everything for herself, until she meets [Finn] and an adventure begins."
John Boyega as Finn: A reformed First Order stormtrooper. Boyega said that he learned he obtained the part "over a nice breakfast in Mayfair" during which Abrams told him, "John, you're the new star of Star Wars." Boyega said: "When we find Finn, he's in incredible danger. And the way he reacts to this danger changes his life, and launches him into the Star Wars universe in a very unique way." He said in another interview: "He's been taught about [Luke], he knows about his history. For him it's like joining the army and then learning about one of the great enemies of your country."
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron: A Resistance X-wing fighter pilot. Isaac said: "He's the best freaking pilot in the galaxy… He's been sent on a mission by a certain princess, and he ends up coming up across [Finn], and their fates are forever intertwined."
Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata: A wise and perceptive figure operating a somewhat shady cantina on the peaceful forest planet Takodana who is acquainted with Han. Abrams said Kanata has "lived over a thousand years. She's had this watering hole … and it's like another bar that you'd find in a corner of the Star Wars universe." According to Abrams, the character was based on his former high school English teacher, Rose Gilbert, who lectured at the Palisades Charter High School from 1961 to 2013. Abrams said the team "really wanted the story to feel authentic, despite being a wild fantasy. I mentioned Rose in an early story meeting as a sort of timeless, wise figure that I'd actually known in my life."
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke: The political leader of the First Order. He is Kylo Ren's master, who seduced him to the dark side and is very powerful in the dark side of the Force. Serkis described Snoke as "quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful… He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design—you couldn't have gotten there with prosthetics… Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone and facial structure."
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux: The commander of the First Order's Starkiller Base. Gleeson described him as "pretty ruthless. A strong disciplinarian would be a mild way of putting it… He's kind of opposite Kylo Ren. They have their own relationship, which is individual and unusual. One of them is strong in different ways than the other. They're both vying for power."
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO: A humanoid protocol droid in Organa's service. Daniels said the actors were allowed to experiment with their performances, and that Abrams "made a field, a playpen where you were allowed to take your time and suggest things".
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca: A Wookiee and Solo's longtime companion. Mayhew's double Joonas Suotamo portrays the character in several action scenes, and Ian Whyte performed stunts, as the 71-year-old Mayhew suffered from knee problems. This film marked the final time Mayhew physically portrayed the character before relinquishing the role to Suotamo in subsequent films.
Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka: A retired adventurer on Jakku, aiding the Resistance in finding Skywalker.
Star Wars creator George Lucas discussed ideas for a sequel trilogy several times after the conclusion of the original trilogy, but denied any intent to make it. In October 2012, he sold his production company Lucasfilm, and with it the Star Wars franchise, to The Walt Disney Company. Speaking alongside Lucasfilm's new president, Kathleen Kennedy, Lucas said: "I always said I wasn't going to do any more and that's true, because I'm not going to do any more, but that doesn't mean I'm unwilling to turn it over to Kathy to do more."
As creative consultant on the film, Lucas attended early story meetings and advised on the details of the Star Wars universe. Among the materials he turned over to the production team were his rough story treatments for Episodes VII–IX, which Lucas requested be read only by Kennedy, Bob Iger, Alan F. Horn, and Kevin A. Mayer. Lucas later said Disney had discarded his story ideas and that he had no further involvement with the film. Lucas's son Jett told The Guardian that his father was "very torn" about having sold the rights to the franchise and that his father was "there to guide" but that "he wants to let it go and become its new generation".
The Force Awakens' first screenplay was written by Michael Arndt. Early drafts had Luke appear midway through the film, but Arndt found that "every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over. Suddenly you didn't care about your main character anymore." The writers decided to use Luke as the film's MacGuffin and, as something that the protagonists needed to find, would not appear in person until the final scene.
Several directors were considered, including David Fincher,Brad Bird,Jon Favreau,Ben Affleck and Guillermo del Toro; after a suggestion by Steven Spielberg to Kennedy,J. J. Abrams was named director in January 2013, with Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg as project consultants. Arndt worked on the script for eight months, but said he needed 18 more, which was more time than Disney or Abrams could give him. The production announced Arndt's exit from the project on October 24, 2013, and Kasdan and Abrams took over script duties. Abrams expressed relief that the release date was announced for December 2015 instead of a previously discussed summer release. He and Kasdan planned the story while walking in Santa Monica, New York City, Paris and London. The first draft was completed in six weeks. Abrams said the key to the film was to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and be based more on emotion than explanation. In January 2014, Abrams confirmed that the script was complete. In April 2014, Lucasfilm clarified that Episodes VII–IX would not feature storylines from the Star Wars expanded universe, though other elements could be included, as with the TV series Star Wars Rebels.
Abrams stated that he purposely withheld some plot elements from The Force Awakens, such as Rey and Finn's last names and backgrounds. Kennedy admitted that "we haven't mapped out every single detail [of the sequel trilogy] yet", but said that Abrams was collaborating with The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, and that Johnson would work with The Rise of Skywalker's then-director Colin Trevorrow to ensure a smooth transition and that "everybody's got a say in how we move forward with this". Daisy Ridley later recounted that J.J. Abrams had written drafts for episodes 8 & 9.
A fictional language was developed for use in the film by YouTube star Sara Forsberg, who created the viral video series "What Languages Sound Like To Foreigners"; Forsberg developed the language by studying languages such as Hindi and Gujarati.
In November 2015, Lucas recorded an hour-long interview with CBS News reporter Charlie Rose in which he said Disney had not been "keen" to involve him and conceded: "If I get in there, I'm just going to cause trouble because they're not going to do what I want them to do, and I don't have the control to do that any more, and all it would do is just muck everything up." He also said, "They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different … I made them completely different—different planets, different spaceships to make it new." In early December 2015, Kathleen Kennedy told The Hollywood Reporter that Lucas had seen the movie and "liked it". In the same month, at the Kennedy Center Honors, Lucas stated, "I think the fans are going to love it, It's very much the kind of movie they've been looking for." Abrams felt that, as the first in a new trilogy, the film "needed to take a couple of steps backwards into very familiar terrain" and use plot elements from previous Star Wars films.
In May 2013, it was confirmed that The Force Awakens would be filmed in the United Kingdom. Representatives from Lucasfilm met with Chancellor of the ExchequerGeorge Osborne to agree to produce The Force Awakens in the UK. Osborne committed £25 million of public money towards the film, claiming it was a boost for British culture and the film industry. According to production company account filings in the United Kingdom, The Force Awakens ultimately received a total of £31.6 million ($47.4 million) from the government.
Casting began around August 2013, with Abrams meeting with potential actors for script readings and screen tests. Open auditions were held in the UK, Ireland, and the United States in November 2013 for the roles of Rachel and Thomas. Casting began in earnest in January 2014, because of changes to the script by Kasdan and Abrams. Screen tests with actors continued until at least three weeks before the official announcement on April 29, 2014, with final casting decisions made only a few weeks earlier. Actors testing had strict nondisclosure agreements, preventing them, their agents or their publicists from commenting on their involvement.
On April 29, 2014, the cast was announced with a photo of the first table read of the script at Pinewood Studios near London, picturing director Abrams with Ford, Ridley, Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Hamill, Serkis, Oscar Isaac, Boyega, Driver, and writer Lawrence Kasdan. The announcement was originally planned for May 4 (Star Wars Day), but was announced early for fear of media leaks. In June 2014, cast additions Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie were announced.
To prepare for his role, Hamill was assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist at the request of the producers, who wanted him to resemble an older Luke. Fisher was also assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist. Abrams initially considered using Daniels only in a voice role for C-3PO, but Daniels opted to reprise the role physically as well; the production team built a new C-3PO costume to accommodate him. A flashback scene was cut from Rey's vision (following her discovery of Luke's lightsaber), which would have featured Robert Boulter standing in for Luke as he appeared in his duel with Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
In May, Abrams announced a donation contest for UNICEF from the Star Wars set in Abu Dhabi; the winner was allowed to visit the set, meet members of the cast and appear in the film. In October 2014, Warwick Davis, who played Wicket in Return of the Jedi, as well as Wald and Weazle in The Phantom Menace, announced that he would appear in The Force Awakens, but did not reveal his role. In November 2014, Debbie Reynolds confirmed that her granddaughter (Fisher's daughter), Billie Lourd, was in the film. Isaac's uncle, a Star Wars fan, was cast as an extra at Abrams's invitation upon visiting the set.
In December 2015, The Mail reported that Ford would be paid $25 million plus a 0.5% share of the revenue. Ridley and Boyega each would receive $460,000 plus a share if the movie grossed over $1 billion. Fisher received $1.5 million; Abrams was paid $5.1 million plus a 2% share of the revenue. For the original 1977 film, Ford was paid $10,000 (equivalent to $42,000 in 2019).
In February 2014, Abrams said filming would begin in May and last about three months. The official announcement came in March, when Disney and Lucasfilm announced that principal photography would commence in May and be based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. That month, it was revealed that pre-production filming would take place in Iceland prior to the start of official filming in May, consisting of landscape shots that would be used for scenery in the film. In April, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn confirmed that filming had begun, filming in secret in the United Arab Emirates around Liwa Oasis, part of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, by a second unit. Later that month, it was revealed that in addition to 35mm film, segments of the film were being shot in the 65mm IMAX format. In July, Bad Robot reported via Twitter that the film would be at least partially shot on IMAX cameras.
On May 4, 2014 (Star Wars Day), the studio posted a selfie taken by Iger with an unidentified actor in a Chewbacca costume. Iger said the photo was taken when he visited Pinewood Studios two weeks earlier to discuss the shoot, "which was just about to start", with Abrams, Kennedy, and Horn. Principal photography began in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2014. Abrams and the cast members went to Abu Dhabi in early-May, where large sets were built on location—including a shuttle-like spacecraft, a large tower, and a big market—and where explosives were used to create a "blast crater". Cast members were spotted practicing driving vehicles that would be used during filming. Production moved to Pinewood Studios in June.
That same month, Harrison Ford fractured his leg while filming at Pinewood after a hydraulic door on the Millennium Falcon set fell on him, and was taken to a hospital. According to Abrams, Ford's ankle "went to a 90-degree angle". Production was suspended for two weeks because of Ford's injury. Ford's son Ben said the ankle would likely need a plate and screws and that filming could be altered slightly, with the crew needing to shoot Ford from the waist up for a short time until he recovered. A month later, Jake Steinfeld, Ford's personal trainer, said Ford was recovering rapidly. Abrams also suffered a fractured vertebra in his back when he was trying to help lift the door after Ford's accident, but he kept this to himself for over a month. In February 2016, it was reported that the Health and Safety Executive brought four criminal charges against Disney subsidiary Foodles Production (UK), Ltd. for alleged health and safety breaches relating to Ford's accident. Foodles Production (UK) Ltd was subsequently fined $1.95 million in October 2016 for two health and safety breaches, after admitting the counts at an earlier hearing.
Storyboard artists Simon Duric said, "The security on the film was a challenge. That script was locked in a safe. Most of the time on a film you can sit at your desk with a copy of the script next to you. On this, you couldn't. That's fine but it was tricky in places. We had people flying drones over Pinewood studios trying to take photographs. It was nuts. If a prop was being moved we had to have them covered in a big black sheet. We were told in an email to be [wary] of drones."
In July 2014, filming took place over three days at Skellig Michael, an island off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland, with a cast including Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley. Landscape shots for the planet Takodana were shot in July in the Lake District in the northwest of England. Production was halted for two weeks in early August 2014 so Abrams could rework shooting in Ford's absence and resumed with a fully healed Ford in mid-August. In September, the former RAF Greenham Common military base in Berkshire was used and featured set constructions of several spaceships.Puzzlewood in the Forest of Dean was used for some scenes. Principal photography ended on November 3, 2014.
Bad Robot Productions headquarters in Santa Monica, where Abrams supervised post-production of the film
Cinematographer Daniel Mindel said The Force Awakens would use real locations and scale models over computer-generated imagery to make it esthetically similar to the original Star Wars trilogy. Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, reiterated that Abrams would use little CGI and more practical, traditional special effects, saying: "I think people are coming back around to [practical effects]. It feels like there is sort of that gravity pulling us back toward it. I think that more and more people are hitting kind of a critical mass in terms of the CG-driven action scene lending itself to a very specific type of action scene, where physics go out the window and it becomes so big so quick." Abrams's intention in prioritizing practical special effects was to recreate the visual realism and authenticity of the original Star Wars. To that end, the droid BB-8 was a physical prop developed by Disney Research, created by special effects artist Neal Scanlan and operated live on set with the actors.
In February 2014, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) announced plans to open a facility in London, citing Disney's Star Wars films as a catalyst for the expansion. ILM's Vancouver branch also worked on the special effects for the film.
Abrams supervised post-production and editing of the film at Bad Robot Productions' headquarters in Santa Monica. In August 2015, he gave the film's estimated running time as 124–125 minutes. Abrams made changes to the film's plot in the editing process to simplify the film, by removing some sequences shown in trailers: "At one point, Maz used to continue along with the characters back to the Resistance base, but we realised that she really had nothing to do there of value, except to be sitting around." The film was converted to 3D in post-production.
It's all a continuation of an initial set of ideas. It's a bit like adding paragraphs to a letter that's been going on for a number of years. Starting with a completely new film, a story that I don't know, characters that I haven't met, my whole approach to writing music is completely different—trying to find an identity, trying to find melodic identifications if that's needed for the characters, and so on.
—John Williams on returning to the Star Wars universe
In July 2013, John Williams was confirmed to compose the score. The music for the film's first two trailers was reworked from earlier Williams compositions. He began working on the film in December 2014, and by June 2015 had been through most of the film reels, working on a daily basis. In May 2015, Williams said he would return to themes from the previous films, such as those for Luke, Leia and Han, in ways that "will seem very natural and right in the moments for which we've chosen to do these kinds of quotes. There aren't many of them, but there are a few that I think are important and will seem very much a part of the fabric of the piece in a positive and constructive way." He said that working with Abrams was similar to the process he went through with Lucas in the earlier films.
Recording sessions for The Force Awakens began in June 2015 at the Sony Pictures Studios' Barbra Streisand Scoring Stage in Culver City, with William Ross conducting most of the music. The first day of recording was June 1, 2015. Williams attended the sessions and conducted the remainder of the recordings.
Williams said the recording process was "very luxurious", with 12 sessions scattered over a five-month period between June and November. The score was recorded by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, a freelance orchestra, with sessions continuing on and off over that five-month period. The 90-piece orchestra recorded 175 minutes of music, although nearly an hour of that was discarded, modified, or rerecorded as Abrams reedited the film. Williams's theme for Snoke was recorded by a 24-voice men's chorus. Gustavo Dudamel conducted the opening and end title music for the film at Williams's behest. Recording of the score was completed on November 14, 2015. The film's soundtrack was released by Walt Disney Records on December 18, 2015. Williams's score is more than two hours long.
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Abrams contributed music to the film's cantina scene. Abrams met Miranda at a performance of his Broadway musical Hamilton, where Miranda jokingly offered to compose cantina music, should it be needed. Unknown to Miranda, Williams had previously told Abrams that he did not want to compose the music for that scene, wanting to focus on the orchestral score. Abrams then contacted Miranda, and the two collaborated on the music for the scene over a period of two months.
South Korean boy band EXO released their song "Lightsaber" in collaboration with the film for its release in their home country on November 11. The promoted track was subsequently released as part of their Sing for You album with a Chinese version, as well as being released in Japanese. Chinese pop singer Luhan provided the Chinese theme "Inner Force" for the Chinese release of the film.
The premiere tent, with the film's poster above. A moisture vaporator-themed lamp can be seen inside.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiered in Los Angeles at the TCL Chinese Theatre, El Capitan Theatre and Dolby Theatre on December 14, 2015. A white tent stretched along Hollywood Boulevard from Orange Drive to Highland Avenue, covering the "massive" premiere event that hosted more than five thousand guests. The film was released in 12 countries, including European nations (such as Italy and France, releasing it on a Wednesday), the Philippines and Thailand on December 16; 32 countries including the United Kingdom (releasing on a Thursday), Mexico and additional European, Asian, African, South American and Oceania countries on December 17; and in North America, Japan, Spain, and Venezuela on December 18, in 3D and IMAX 3D. It was released in India on December 25 and in China on January 9, 2016.
In North America, it had the widest release of December across 4,134 theaters of which 3,300 were 3D locations, a record 392 IMAX screens (13 of which were 70mm), 451 premium large format screens, 146 D-Box locations, as well as releasing in the Dolby Vision format (High dynamic range, Rec. 2020 color) in Dolby Cinema. Worldwide, it was released across 940 IMAX theaters, a new record. On December 18, 2015, the film began playing on every IMAX screen in North America for four straight weeks up to January 14, 2016. This made it the first film since Warner Bros.' The Hobbit trilogy to receive such a release. The film finally shed some of its IMAX screens with the release of The Revenant and The Finest Hours in mid-January 2016.
On November 6, 2014, the film's title was announced as Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Similarly to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, "Episode VII" was included in the film's opening crawl. In December 2015, Pablo Hidalgo, the creative executive at the Lucasfilm Story Group which handles all the canonical continuity for the Star Wars universe, revealed that the working title for the film was Shadow of the Empire "for the longest time". Advance ticket sales for the film began on October 19, 2015, and were in strong demand, resulting in online movie ticket sites crashing.Vue Cinemas, the United Kingdom's third-largest theater chain, sold 45,000 tickets in 24 hours, 10,000 of which were sold in 90 minutes, a record for the theater. In the United States, the film pre-sold a record-breaking $6.5 million worth of IMAX ticket sales on a single day. IMAX has never previously registered more than $1 million in pre-sales on a single day. In total it sold over $50 million in pre-sales breaking the record. This number was raised to $100 million including $50–60 million in advance ticket sales by December 14. However, not all tickets that were pre-sold were for the film's opening weekend, with Fandango President Paul Yanover saying "people have set aside tickets for screenings in January, weeks after the big opening… We have people buying Star Wars [The Force Awakens] into 2016. It's not just an opening-weekend phenomenon." Similarly, the film broke pre-sales records in the UK, Canada, and Germany.
The film is the first live-action Star Wars film not to be released theatrically by 20th Century Fox; accordingly the film is not introduced with either that company's logo, or its signature fanfare composed by Alfred Newman. Instead, the film is the first in the series to be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Shortly following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, the studio had indicated that the then-untitled film would be released under the "DisneyLucasfilm" branding, similar to the branding used for Star Wars Rebels, and akin to the "Disney·Pixar" co-branding of Pixar-produced films released by Walt Disney Pictures. Ultimately, Disney's logo was largely absent from the film's marketing—but nonetheless, appeared on merchandise and the startup sequences of Star Wars smartphone games—and the film is presented with only Lucasfilm's production logo shown silently before the main titles; Disney chairman Bob Iger explained the change by saying it was "for the fans".
Disney backed The Force Awakens with extensive marketing campaigns. On November 28, 2014, Lucasfilm released an 88-second teaser trailer. It was screened in selected cinemas across the United States and Canada and in theaters worldwide in December 2014. It was also released on YouTube and the iTunes Store, generating a record 58.2 million views on YouTube in its first week. Critics compared the brief footage favorably to the production values of the original trilogy. The Hollywood Reporter called the trailer "perfectly potent nostalgia", praising its mix of old and new.Empire was impressed by the continuity with the first films—"the feel of classic Star Wars"—but noted the absence of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher and speculated about the significance of the new characters.The Guardian wrote that the use of the Star Wars fanfare by John Williams reinforced brand loyalty among fans.
Large-scale outdoor advertising for Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the city center of Nuremberg, Germany
On December 11, 2014, Abrams and Kennedy released a series of eight mock Toppstrading cards revealing the names of several characters. On April 16, 2015, a second teaser trailer, this one lasting two minutes, was shown at the opening panel at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, California. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy said the reaction to the trailer was "staggering… the entire room of almost eight thousand people just leapt to their feet and roared, I mean I can't think of anything I've ever been to – other than a rock concert – that felt quite like that". The trailer was viewed over 88million times within the first 24 hours of release, breaking the record. According to the Guinness World Records, the second teaser trailer amassed 30.65 million in 24 hours, setting a new world record for the "most viewed movie trailer on YouTube in 24 hours". The event was broadcast live by Verizon on YouTube, StarWars.com and in movie theaters. The trailer shows many of the new characters and the first footage of Chewbacca and Han Solo. The Huffington Post's Graham Milne wrote that the trailer "was an affirmation of something that we'd long been told was never going to happen. This was a gift. This was faith rewarded. About damn time."
Vanity Fair was the first magazine to release an exclusive cover issue devoted to The Force Awakens. The magazine, released on May 7, 2015, featured exclusive interviews and photos of the cast photographed by Annie Leibovitz. At the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con International, in addition to a panel with many of the actors, a behind-the-scenes look at the film demonstrated the film's use of practical sets and effects. It was positively received, with Nigel M. Smith of The Guardian writing: "The featurette's angle is a strong one and connects with fans of the original trilogy in an incredibly poignant way. It also does a sly job of teasing Fisher's new look as Leia and Simon Pegg's mysterious involvement as a rumored alien in the movie, without actually showing the actors in action." Smith compared the marketing strategy for the film to that of a previous Abrams film, Super 8, saying "the promos… are notable for what they tease, not what they give away."
Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm presented a look at The Force Awakens at Disney's D23 Expo in August 2015.Drew Struzan—who designed the poster artwork for the previous Star Wars films—produced a commemorative poster given to the event's attendees. In October 2015, Lucasfilm unveiled the theatrical release poster and a third trailer. The poster omitted Luke Skywalker and revealed a Death Star-like "orb". The trailer debuted during the halftime break of Monday Night Football, before being released online. The reaction to the trailer by fans on social media was "frenzied", with Lizo Mzimba of the BBC writing that "perhaps the most significant thing about the final trailer before the film's release is how little of the story it reveals." Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph felt the trailer was "a perfect blend of old and new, in keeping with the old-fashioned Star Wars aesthetic". The trailer received 128million views in 24 hours, a new record for the most views of a trailer in 24 hours. 16 million of the views came from its airing on Monday Night Football. At the end of October, Air France announced a "Flight and Cinema" package, providing customers who book select flights to Paris transportation to a theater to see the film, since France is one of the first countries to release the film. On November 6, a Japanese trailer for the film was released. After seeing the new trailer Forbes' Ollie Barder stated the trailer gave him "hope" that the film would not "let us all down like the prequels did… [with] a worthwhile story this time". On November 23, a partnership with Google was announced, in which Google users could choose to affiliate themselves with either the Dark or Light Side, which would change the appearance of their Google websites. Additionally, Disney teamed up with Verizon to create a virtual-reality experience for Google Cardboard.
On December 17, 2015, select theaters across North America aired a Star Wars marathon, airing the six previous Star Wars episode films in 2D, followed by The Force Awakens in 3D. Attendees received a special lanyard featuring exclusive marathon art.
Tie-in literature and merchandise
Disney Publishing Worldwide and Lucasfilm announced a series of at least 20 books and comics, "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens", with releases from multiple publishers starting in late 2015, prior to the film's premiere. The series includes books by Del Rey and Disney-Lucasfilm publishers and comic books from Marvel Comics. All titles under the program are canonical to the Star Wars universe.Alan Dean Foster wrote a novelization of The Force Awakens which was released in e-book form on December 18. In an effort to avoid revealing plot details before the film's release, the print release of the novelization was delayed until January 2016. Marvel Comics published a six-issue comic book adaptation of The Force Awakens between June and November 2016.
Disney Consumer Products and Lucasfilm announced that September 4, 2015 would be deemed "Force Friday" and would be the official launch of all the merchandise for The Force Awakens. Beginning at 12:01 am, fans could buy toys, books, clothing and various other products at Disney Stores and other retailers throughout the world. Disney and Maker Studios hosted an 18-hour live-streaming presentation on YouTube, showcasing multiple merchandise products beginning on September 3, 2015. Among these products were a remote-controlled BB-8 developed by Sphero. Sphero had participated in a Disney-run startup accelerator in July 2014, where they were invited into a private meeting with Disney CEO Bob Iger, in which they were shown on-set photos and imagery of BB-8 before its public unveiling. Many retailers were unable to meet demand for Star Wars products.
The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film to not have a direct tie-in game to accompany it. Instead, select characters, scenes and/or locations from the film became part of other Star Wars video games, as described below:
A condensed version of the film's plot becomes an add-on "playset" in the toys-to-life game Disney Infinity 3.0, with Finn and Rey becoming its starting characters. Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren are playable add-on characters.
In January 2016, it was confirmed that Starz would hold the U.S. premium television rights for The Force Awakens, having been released just before the end of Starz's output deal covering most Disney-released films, which includes releases through the end of 2015.The Force Awakens began broadcasting on all Starz networks on September 10, 2016. The equivalent rights in Canada were held by Netflix.
A Blu-ray 3D "collector's edition" of the film was released on November 15, 2016, including all the features of the original home releases, as well as several new bonus features, including new deleted scenes and audio commentary by Abrams. The package includes a Blu-ray 3D, regular Blu-ray, DVD, and digital copy of the film, as well as an additional Blu-ray disc for the bonus features.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens grossed $936.7million in the United States and Canada, and $1.132billion in other countries for a worldwide total of $2.068billion.Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold close to 110million tickets in North America, the most tickets sold by any film in North America since Titanic in 1997 (128 million).The Force Awakens earned 8.6% of the total 2015 releases in North America, second only to the 8.8% of the box office earned by Titanic in 1997. The film is the highest-grossing film of 2015, the highest-grossing film in the franchise (surpassing The Phantom Menace), the second highest-grossing film released by Walt Disney Studios, the highest-grossing film in North America (dethroning Avatar), and the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time. When adjusted for inflation, it also stands as the tenth-highest-grossing film in cinematic history, with a worldwide gross of $2.103 billion. It was the 24th film in cinematic history to gross $1 billion worldwide, standing as the fastest film to surpass the mark at the time, doing so in 12 days.Avengers: Infinity War later did so in 11 days. It was also the third film in history to surpass $2 billion worldwide, doing so on its 53rd day of release.Deadline Hollywood calculated the net profit of the film to be $780.1 million, when factoring together all expenses and revenues for the film, making it the most profitable film of 2015 and the most profitable film in the last seven years.
The Force Awakens was released in the United States and Canada on December 18, 2015. It made a record-breaking $57 million from Thursday night previews,[N 1] of which IMAX screenings generated a record-breaking $5.7 million from 391 screens. On its opening day, the film grossed $119.1 million, marking the biggest single and opening day record and the first time a film has earned more than $100 million in a single day. Without Thursday night grosses, the film earned the second largest opening-day gross ($62.1 million). In total, it earned a record $247,966,675 (surpassing the original Sunday weekend estimate of $238 million by almost $10 million) for its opening weekend from around 14,400 screens at 4,134 theaters, for an average of $59,982 per theater (or $17,220 per screen). The debut was 19% bigger than the previous record holder(s) Marvel's The Avengers ($207 million) and Jurassic World ($208 million). The opening weekend figure included an IMAX opening-weekend record of $30.1 million (12.65%) from 391 IMAX theaters, which nearly amounts to the $252.5 million total earned by Return of the Jedi – the 2nd lowest-grossing film in the series – in its original run. Minus the $57 million it earned from Thursday previews, the film earned $190.8 million on straight Friday to Sunday, giving it an average of $63.6 million per day. 2D screenings accounted for 53% of the total opening gross while 3D accounted for 47%. RealD 3D comprised $78 million of the opening gross, setting a new record. Other records set by the film include the biggest weekend per-theater average for a wide release ($59,982 per theater from 4,134 theaters), biggest holiday opening, biggest PG-13 rated opening, and biggest December opening. The opening-weekend audience was evenly split among those under and over the age of 25, with 58% of the audience male, 71% adults, 20% families and 9% teenagers.
Internationally, the film was released in over 30,000 screens. It opened on December 16, 2015 in 12 international markets and earned $14.1 million on its opening day, debuting at first place in all of them. It expanded in an additional 42 countries on December 17, generating $58.6 million for a two-day international total of $72.7 million, reaching first place in all 44 markets. It grossed a total of $129.5 million in three days after adding $56.8 million on its third day, topped the daily box office in all countries except for South Korea and Vietnam where it was the second, and set a new midnight record in the United Kingdom with $3.6 million. It broke opening day records in the UK, Ireland and Malta ($14.3 million), Germany ($7.1 million), Australia ($6.8 million), Sweden ($1.7 million), Norway ($1.1 million) and in 16 other countries. Other markets which generated large opening days were Spain ($3.5 million), Mexico ($3.4 million), Italy ($3.1 million) and Japan ($3 million). After the five days, The Force Awakens had a total international opening gross of $281 million from 30,000 screens in 72 markets, a new record for December opening and the third biggest international opening of all time. International markets generating opening weekend tallies of at least $10 million were the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta ($50.6 million), Germany ($27.5 million), France ($22.5 million), Australia ($19.6 million) and Japan ($13.4 million) and Russia ($12.3 million). The film had the biggest opening of all time in 18 countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Russia and Sweden. IMAX generated $17.9 million from 276 IMAX theaters.
After five days, the film had a total worldwide opening record of $529 million from 74 territories, which was the biggest worldwide opening at that time, making it only the second time in cinematic history – after Jurassic World – that a film had opened to more than $500 million globally. This included an IMAX opening record of $48 million.
Revenues in the film's second weekend decreased by only 39.8% in the United States and Canada, earning $149.2 million, to remain in first place at the box office and recording the biggest second weekend of all time. Revenues from IMAX dipped slightly, generating $19 million in its second weekend, for a record total of over $70 million in 10 days. Internationally, the film had a steeper decline in its second weekend, falling 51% to $136.9 million. Of the notable major markets, the film had an unsuccessful opening in India where it opened third against two local blockbusters with a mere $1.51 million. As of February 21, the largest markets outside of the United States and Canada are the United Kingdom ($180.7 million), China ($124.5 million), Germany ($109.7 million), Japan ($92.6 million) and France ($88.2 million).
The Force Awakens crossed the $1 billion mark on the 12th day of its general release (December 26, 2015), making it the fastest film to reach this mark at that time. It became the twenty-fourth film grossing more than $1 billion worldwide, and the fifth film of 2015 to do so, making 2015 the first year to have five films gross more than $1 billion. The film experienced another decrease in revenue in its third weekend, dropping 39.5% to $90.2 million domestically, remaining in first place at the box office, to set a third-weekend record.
On January 2, after just 16 days of release, it became the second film (following Avatar) to gross over $700 million in North America, and on January 6 became the highest-grossing film of all time domestically, doing so in 20 days. By January 8, it became the highest grossing film of all time in the United Kingdom and Ireland after only 22 days on release. On January 9, it became the first film in cinematic history to cross $800 million domestically unadjusted for inflation, and in the same weekend set a Saturday to Sunday opening weekend record for the studio in China with $52.6 million. On January 17, 2016, it passed the $1 billion mark overseas becoming the first film of Disney, the third film of 2015 and the fifth film overall to achieve this feat. It topped the international box office chart for five consecutive weekends, becoming the first film since Avengers: Age of Ultron to have five straight wins, before being dethroned by The Revenant in its sixth weekend. In Japan, it topped the box office for six straight weekends.
On February 5, the fiftieth day of release, The Force Awakens became the first film to earn over $900 million, unadjusted for inflation, in the United States and Canada. On the following day, it became the third film in cinematic history to pass $2 billion in ticket sales worldwide (after Titanic and Avatar) and the second in original release (after Avatar). It became the third film to earn over $600 million in Europe. In North America and the United Kingdom and Ireland, it fell outside of the top ten for the first time in its eleventh weekend during the weekend February 26–28, 2016, and in the U.S. it did not achieve $1 million in ticket sales for the first time in its fourteenth weekend.
With a production budget of $306 million, plus $175 million for marketing, printing and advertising costs, The Force Awakens was predicted to be a major box office success. The cost of the film was subsidized by £31.6 million (US$47 million) from the UK film incentive program. Total costs, after accounting for profit participations, production and distribution of home videos, as well as other ancillary mediums, is expected to run $423 million. Reports in April 2015 from The Hollywood Reporter and Amboee Brand Intelligence predicted the film would earn up to $540 million worldwide for its opening, breaking the record for the biggest worldwide opening, as well as breaking the record for the biggest U.S. opening. They believed that The Force Awakens would have the widest release ever, across 4,500 theaters in North America. Instead, it received a total of 4,134 theaters, and had the widest December opening. Box office analyst Phil Contrino likened the film to Avatar (2009), which opened to $77 million in North America and went on to earn $2.8 billion worldwide, saying The Force Awakens would earn $1 billion "without blinking" and could gross $2 billion. In August 2015, Deadline Hollywood predicted an opening weekend of $615 million worldwide could be possible, including a $300 million opening in North America. In November, box office analysts reported opening weekend projections were at $175–250 million. In December, capital analyst Barton Crockett suggested that the film will be the first to gross over $3 billion worldwide at the box office.
Analysts said that the box office receipts of the film, when compared to predecessors, must be adjusted for inflation, and that the first Star Wars film made more when this adjustment is made. It has further been observed that each of the first three films in the series was more profitable in calculating revenue against production costs. Box office analyst Paul Dergarabedian said that while Avatar and The Force Awakens were both released on the same date of December 18, higher ticket prices in 2015 and IMAX screenings could push Star Wars "into the box office stratosphere". On December 23, Mark Hughes of Forbes stated that The Force Awakens had matched the most optimistic projections for its opening, and he predicted that The Force Awakens would likely surpass Titanic as the second-highest-grossing film of all time. He commented that The Force Awakens could catch Avatar as the top-grossing film of all time, but only if it managed to avoid major week-to-week declines in ticket sales.
By January 13, analysts concluded that it was unlikely that The Force Awakens would surpass Avatar's global gross. While The Force Awakens was very successful in North America, the same success was not witnessed in many overseas individual markets such as Germany, India, Latin America, and parts of Asia. One cited reason for this is that overseas audiences do not have the same nostalgia or affinity for the film as those in the U.S. The Star Wars franchise has traditionally lacked resonance with filmgoers in China, and marketing for The Force Awakens heavily focused on appealing to that market. Pamela McClintock of The Hollywood Reporter stated that, for these territories, Star Wars "doesn't have the same legacy as it does in North America and more mature markets. It's also a faster burn, meaning it likely won't stay in theaters as long as Avatar did." Dergarabedian said, "As in all box-office trajectories, the higher the altitude, the tougher it becomes to rack up sales at the kind of breakneck pace as in the beginning of the run."
Nancy Tartaglione of Deadline.com argued that, if accounting for its 40/60 domestic to international split, The Force Awakens did well overseas.Avatar did well internationally because of its novelty, the marketing campaign advertising it as showcasing the newest 3D technology that can only be fully appreciated in the theaters, and because of its extended time in overseas theaters. While The Force Awakens had appeal with its special effects, analysts feel that it lacked the novelty factor; they also cite that its gross was stilted due to markets making way for new films sooner than was previously done. Films do not play in overseas theaters as long as they did back when Avatar was released. Dergarabedian stated, "No matter what, [The Force Awakens] is an absolute, all-out blockbuster without peer in terms of the sheer speed at which it has crossed all of these major box-office milestones." Moreover, Mike Fleming of Deadline.com argued that the movie was the "most valuable movie" of the year, with "the net profit to Disney an astounding $923M, and the Cash on Cash Return twice that of any other film [released in 2016], at 2.31".
Star Wars: The Force Awakens received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 93% approval rating based on 426 reviews, with an average rating of 8.27/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 55 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale; women, under-25s and under-18s gave it an "A+", while 98% of audiences gave it either an "A" or a "B". Filmgoers polled by PostTrak gave the film an 88% "definite recommend" while 96% said it met or exceeded their expectations.
Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph said the film "sets out to shake Star Wars from its slumber, and reconnect the series with its much-pined-for past. That it achieves this both immediately and joyously is perhaps the single greatest relief of the movie-going year."Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian said that it was "both a narrative progression from the earlier three films and a shrewdly affectionate next-gen reboot … ridiculous and melodramatic and sentimental of course, but exciting and brimming with energy and its own kind of generosity."Variety's Justin Chang wrote that the film has "sufficient style, momentum, love and care to prove irresistible to any who have ever considered themselves fans".Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times described it as "a beautiful, thrilling, joyous, surprising, and heart-thumping adventure". Tom Long of The Detroit News wrote that though some may find the film too similar to the original Star Wars, it leaves "the ungainly and unneeded clumsiness of the subsequent prequels far behind … the energy, humor and simplicity of direction [has] been recaptured". The Associated Press called it "basically the same" as the original film but "isn't that what we all wanted anyway?"
Ann Hornaday, writing for The Washington Post, thought the film had "enough novelty to create yet another cohort of die-hard fans … The Force Awakens strikes all the right chords, emotional and narrative, to feel both familiar and exhilaratingly new."Christopher Orr, writing in The Atlantic, called the film "a mashup masterpiece" that "may be completely derivative" but is "a delight nonetheless".The Charlotte Observer's Lawrence Toppman said Abrams had "pulled off a delicate balancing act, paying clever homage to the past."Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film his highest rating and called it "the best Star Wars sequel yet and one of the best films of 2015". Frank Pallotta, reviewing the film for CNN Money, found it was the best Star Wars film since the original trilogy and that it "is bound to be a film experience long remembered by fans and non-fans alike". Jack Bottomley, writing for Starburst, awarded the film a 10 out of 10 score, saying "From old joys to fresh twists, this is a unique blockbuster experience that celebrates the franchise whilst also expanding it."
Certain critics found The Force Awakens derivative of the original Star Wars trilogy, some expressing their opinion that the film was essentially a remake of A New Hope. Andrew O'Hehir wrote for Salon that it was "the work of a talented mimic or ventriloquist who can just about cover for the fact that he has nothing much to say".Stephanie Zacharek of TIME wrote that Abrams had delivered "everything we expect, as opposed to those nebulous wonders we didn't know we wanted". Reviewing for Forbes, Scott Mendelson cited the film's "top-tier production values and a strong sense of scale and scope", but felt it was so much "an exercise in fan service [that] it is only due to the charisma and talent of our newbies and J. J. Abrams' undeniable skill as a visual storyteller that the Mad Libs narrative doesn't outright destroy the picture". Brian Merchant of Motherboard wrote that "Science fiction is supposed to be all about exploring the unexplored, not rehashing the well-trod … one of the most unabashedly creative enterprises of the 20th century has been rendered another largely enjoyable, but mostly forgettable Hollywood reboot."RogerEbert.com's Gerardo Valero went as far as to accuse the film of plagiarizing A New Hope and resorting to nostalgia. He felt that it "didn't [justify] a return to the universe" from not having an original story of its own to tell in the plot, characters, and musical score, negatively comparing it to George Lucas' prequel trilogy, and that some of its climactic moments felt unearned.
In an interview with journalist Charlie Rose that aired on December 24, 2015, Lucas likened his decision to sell Lucasfilm to Disney to a "divorce" and outlined the creative differences between him and the producers of The Force Awakens. Lucas described the previous Star Wars films as his "children" and criticized the "retro feel" of The Force Awakens, saying: "I worked very hard to make [my films] completely different, with different planets, with different spaceships – you know, to make it new." Lucas also likened Disney to "white slavers", which drew some criticism; he subsequently apologized. In a 2019 memoir, Disney chairman Bob Iger said that George Lucas "couldn't even hide his disappointment" towards J.J. Abrams's interpretation. According to Iger, Lucas said, "there's nothing new" after seeing the film, and that "there weren't enough visual or technical leaps forward". Lucas liked more the Rian Johnson directed and written sequel The Last Jedi and the anthology film Rogue One.
Rian Johnson confirmed in August 2014 that he would direct Episode VIII, later titled The Last Jedi. It was released on December 15, 2017. Some second-unit filming took place in September 2015 in Ireland, with principal photography beginning in February 2016 at Pinewood Studios. Hamill, Fisher, Driver, Ridley, Boyega, Isaac, Serkis, Nyong'o, Gleeson, Daniels, Christie, Vee, and Suotamo reprised their roles in the film, and are joined by Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro.
^The $57 million figure incorporates revenues generated from the "Star Wars Marathon Event" from 135 theaters in which all previous six Star Wars films were shown along with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Ticket prices cost $59.99 for all the films (including The Force Awakens) at an average of $8.57 per movie.