There are more women than ever in ‘Star Wars.’ Men still do most of the talking

A resourceful scavenger who grew up fending for herself on a desert planet, Rey is a quick-thinking mechanic, an ace pilot and a formidable warrior.

Portrayed by actress Daisy Ridley, Rey is the central Force-sensitive protagonist of the “Star Wars” sequel trilogy, whose introduction in 2015’s “The Force Awakens” sparked hope that the franchise was finally moving to reflect the diversity of the real world.

Her adventure continues in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the ninth and final installment of what has come to be known as the Skywalker saga. In advance of the film’s Friday release, we’ve taken a look at how Rey’s story so far compares to that of the heroes of the original “Star Wars” trilogy as well as the prequel films.

It’s no secret that “Star Wars” has not had the best track record when it comes to its female characters. Besides the original trilogy’s standout Leia Organa, whose bravery and proficiency with a blaster set her apart from most other movie princesses, many of the franchise’s most memorable women have come from animated “Star Wars” series such as “The Clone Wars” and “Rebels.”

The prequel series’ Padmé Amidala starts off as a principled political figure committed to fighting for her people, holding her own in both diplomacy and physical skirmishes. But in the end, she dies of a broken heart — losing the will to live after learning that the love of her life, Anakin Skywalker, had become evil. Her legacy is reduced to merely being the catalyst for the most iconic “Star Wars” villain’s turn to the dark side.

Leia Leia



Padme Padme



Rey Rey



Words per movie

Unlike Leia and Padmé, Rey is never a politician or a diplomat. But she has already averaged more spoken words per movie than the other lead female characters in a “Star Wars” trilogy.

However, despite being able to hold her own in her very first lightsaber duel against a foe with much more training and a famous pedigree, Rey has not brought gender balance to the Force when it comes to spoken dialogue. She has averaged fewer words per movie than fellow-Force-wielding heroes Luke and Anakin Skywalker in their respective trilogies.

Luke Luke



Anakin Anakin



Rey Rey



Words per movie

For Rey to match the raw number of words spoken by Luke and Anakin in their main films, she would have to say more in “The Rise of Skywalker” than in both her previous movies combined (including 2017’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”).

How many words does Rey still need to catch up with Luke and Anakin?

How many words does Rey still need to catch up with Luke and Anakin?First movieSecondThirdLukeAnakinRey1,0518652,164 words needed1,7591,0461,5259521,0212,107
How many words does Rey still need to catch up with Luke and Anakin?FirstmovieSecond2,107Luke1,0219521,046Anakin1,5251,7591,051Rey8652,164words neededThird

Rey, of course, is not the only woman who appears in the sequels. Among the others in the latest trilogy are the Resistance’s Gen. Leia (Carrie Fisher), Vice Adm. Holdo (Laura Dern) and mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), the underworld’s knowledgeable Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) as well as Capt. Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) of the First Order. (“The Rise of Skywalker” also promises new characters played by Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell.)

This is a big change from the previous trilogies, which generally do not feature any other prominent female characters outside of each of their main heroines.

A Times analysis examining the first 15 characters listed in each of the “Star Wars” film credits has found that despite the visible shift to diversify the cast in the latest series, the movies have continued to allocate most of the dialogue to male characters.

(Because Times reporters are fluent only in Galactic Basic, characters like Chewbacca and R2-D2 who speak only in unsubtitled languages such as Shyriiwook or Astromech Binary were excluded from this analysis. These characters are top-credited in their respective films and portrayed by male actors. In cases where characters appear in the credits more than once, the character was counted only once. More details on the methodology below.)

Top-credited actors and actresses by movieOriginaltrilogyPrequelsSequelsTop credited actresses and actors Top-credited actors and actresses by movieOriginal trilogyPrequelsSequelsTop credited actresses and actors

The original series features only two major female characters: Leia (Fisher) and Beru Lars (Shelagh Fraser), Luke Skywalker’s aunt.

Besides Padmé (Natalie Portman), Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August) in “The Phantom Menace” is the only female character in the prequel series with more than a small speaking part. Some women have no lines at all.

Rey is one of many women who speak in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi.” The male-to-female ratio in “The Last Jedi,” at 6 to 9, is the narrowest in franchise history.

Because there are more women actually speaking, the sequel films comparatively have the most lines said by women than in any of the other trilogies. But the percentage of words spoken by female characters in this series still pales in comparison to those by male ones.

Words spoken by top-credited actors and actresses

Words spoken by top-credited actors and actressesA New Hope1977Empire Strikes Back’80Return of the Jedi’83Phantom Menace’99Attack of the Clones02Revenge of the Sith’05Force Awakens’15Last Jedi178%11%8%16%18%9%26%33%
Words spoken by top-credited actors and actressesA New Hope (1977)8%Empire Strikes Back (’80)11%Return of the Jedi (’83)8%Phantom Menace (’99)16%Attack of the Clones (’03)18%Revenge of the Sith (’06)9%Force Awakens (’15)26%Last Jedi (’17)33%

Merely tracking the number of words a character says in a film can provide only limited quantitative information. To help figure out why Rey speaks so little compared to her Jedi counterparts in their trilogies, we counted up the words exchanged during interactions among major characters in all the movies.

The data show that Rey has spent more time being spoken to than speaking herself — and that most of the characters talking to her are men. Rey has said more to Chewbacca than she has to Leia and Maz combined, and they are the only two women she has had any interactions with so far.

This quantitative analysis cannot measure the quality of the words spoken or the character interactions. One of Rey’s most emotional exchanges with Leia is their wordless embrace toward the end of “The Force Awakens.”

Rey’s history as a scavenger leading a solitary life may account for her reticence. Her first appearance in “The Force Awakens” shows how little she needs to speak in her daily life: A number of scenes spanning nearly five minutes pass before she says anything (and her first words are in Teedospeak).

Movies are not math and there is no formula on how to create a “Star Wars” hero. Rey has already set herself apart from Luke and Anakin by being much more reluctant to leave her planet and more hesitant about picking up a lightsaber. Plus, being someone who listens and learns is not a bad thing.

Unlike in other recent films that have been called out for the lack of lines spoken by female characters, Rey is the hero of this “Star Wars” trilogy. But it’s a shame that even in Rey’s story, it’s still men who are doing most of the talking.

Who are characters talking to?

See who has spoken to who in the first eight movies of the “Star Wars” saga, including the first and last words they said to each other. In some cases, the lines were delivered to a group of people that included the character or were delivered via the Force.

803 words exchanged
speaks to
First words spoken
Where am I?
The girl I've heard so much about. The droid. Where is it?
Last words spoken
They were nobody.
They were filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money. They're dead in a paupers' grave in the Jakku desert. You have no place in this story. You come from nothing. You're nothing. But not to me. Join me. Please.

These are not the characters you're looking for.
0 words have been exchanged between them.

More in this project

We counted all the words spoken in ‘Star Wars.’ Here are the galaxy’s most talkative characters

We spent over 100 hours studying Star Wars’ female characters. Here’s why we did it