Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a movie that needed to be three things at once. It had to be a standalone story and bring the current trilogy, known as the "Age of Resistance," to a conclusive end. It also needed to bring the Skywalker Saga to an end — 12 films and nine TV series spanning 42 years. It was a tall order, but one with an answer already built into the framework. These Force ghost appearances in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker were part of how the film created such a satisfying ending.
Warning: Spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker follow.
Force ghosts have been a part of Star Wars since A New Hope in 1977. After killing off Alec Guinness' Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi dissipates instead of leaving a corporal body behind. Luke is shocked when he sees it happen. What he didn't know was Obi-Wan had passed on to become a Force Ghost — his soul was redeemed of all trespasses.
Obi-Wan was the first to reappear as a Force Ghost as well, as part of the original trilogy. His spirit appeared to Luke and talked him through emotional trials, like discovering Darth Vader was his father. At the end of Return of the Jedi, all the fallen Jedi appear to Luke, including Anakin.
Using this ability, J.J. Abrams found a way to bring back all the main original trilogy characters who passed throughout this sequel trilogy. Fans suspected, quite rightly, that Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker since the 1970s, would be back for the final film as a Force Ghost. Hamill wasn't exactly shy about hinting he would be back. So when Rey went to Ahch-To and Luke turned up, fans weren't surprised. Luke's appearances helped Rey the way Obi-Wan's once supported him, bringing everything full circle.
Nor were fan surprised when Leia turned up as a Force Ghost. With Carrie Fisher's untimely death, fans knew the series would have to address the loss of the character as well. When she appeared as a Force Ghost at the very end of the movie, it was a moving moment.
But then there was Han Solo.
Han isn't a Jedi. He's barely Force-sensitive. When the character was killed off in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it wasn't just a significant plot point; it was a fulfillment of actor Harrison Ford's promise that the only way he'd come back and play Han is if the writers killed him off.
And yet, there he was: a Force Ghost standing before his son, Ben Solo. Han offered him unconditional love and no judgment, encouraging Ben to do the right thing and follow Rey to the Emperor's planet of Exegol to fight alongside her.
It was the perfect ending to the Han Solo arc, giving fans closure after Han's death. It turns out Luke was right — no one's ever really gone. Not even Harrison Ford.