Here’s why Anakin Skywalker became young as a force ghost while Yoda and Obi-Wan didn’t:
This was done so that fans would recognize Hayden Christensen as Anakin in the final scene of Return of the Jedi.
You can try to justify it in the story by suggesting that force ghosts can look however they want, so Yoda and Obi-Wan appeared in forms Luke would recognize.
Or, they might appear at the age that they die.
So if you want to learn all about why Anakin appeared young as a force ghost, then you’re in the right place.
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Who Is Anakin?
Let’s start at the beginning.
We’re comparing force ghosts, but if you’re not a fan of Star Wars, you might be a little lost.
I’m going to first issue a spoiler warning.
If you’re not up to date on the Star Wars saga, there will be major spoilers in this article.
That’s the only warning I’m going to give.
With that covered, we need to talk about a few characters, so why not do Anakin first?
Anakin Skywalker is arguably the single, central figure of the entire Star Wars saga.
He is first found by Obi-Wan Kenobi (more on him later) and Qui-Gon Jinn when he’s still young— around the age of nine.
When they find him, they discover that he is exceptionally gifted in his connection to the Force, making him a very powerful character.
He is trained as a Jedi (knights who protect peace across the galaxy) and has incredible success in his training.
He’s expected to become the most powerful of all of the Jedi.
Before he gets to that point, though, he ends up falling in with the dark side of the Force.
He ends up becoming a Sith (evil counterparts to the Jedi).
As a Sith, he joins the evil emperor, changes his name to Darth Vader, and together, they rule the galaxy for a while.
To call them evil is an understatement.
They commit genocide, murder their own subordinates, and rule the galaxy with an iron fist of brutality.
At the very end of his life, he redeems himself.
He dies killing the emperor and freeing the galaxy from their reign of terror.
It’s also worth noting that very shortly after turning evil, Anakin fights with Obi-Wan, and basically dies in the fight.
He is more or less resurrected as a cyborg, with lots of machine parts sustaining the little bit of Anakin that remains.
The mostly machine villain is who really becomes known across the galaxy as Darth Vader.
Who Is Yoda?
That covers Anakin.
Yoda is a non-human creature and one of the leaders among the Jedi.
He’s known as the most powerful of all of the Jedi and often considered the wisest.
As a non-human species, Yoda lives to be about 900 years old before he dies.
That means that he had massive experience as a Jedi before the emperor took over.
After the rise of the emperor and Darth Vader, Yoda went into exile.
But, he eventually trained Luke Skywalker (Anakin’s son) in the ways of the Force.
It was a redemptive arc for Yoda, and through that training, Yoda helped bring about the end of the evil empire.
Before Luke brought down the empire (with his father’s help), Yoda died from old age.
Who Is Obi-Wan?
Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of the most famous and prominent Jedi knights in the Star Wars saga.
He is finishing up his training when he first meets Anakin, and after some intense events, Obi-Wan becomes a full-fledged knight and agrees to train Anakin as his apprentice.
They are together for quite a few years, and bond as though they are brothers.
Over the course of their time together, Anakin becomes a very powerful Jedi, but Obi-Wan is no slouch either.
Eventually, when Anakin chooses the dark side, Obi-Wan stops him with force (not to be confused with “The Force”).
They have an epic duel, and Obi-Wan wins.
Anakin is left basically dead, only to be revived as Vader.
Despite this, the empire still takes over, so Obi-Wan goes into hiding to look after Luke, the son Anakin doesn’t know exists (he thought his kids died in childbirth).
When Luke is grown, Obi-Wan trains him in the ways of the Force.
Obi-Wan eventually confronts Vader, where Vader wins the fight and kills Obi-Wan.
Ultimately, Obi-Wan returns as a force ghost, the first one that the fans ever see.
What Is a Force Ghost?
We’ve almost covered the background information necessary to get to the real question of the day.
You know who the important characters are.
Now, I just need to explain the force ghost.
The Force is a mystical energy and power in the Star Wars universe.
It seems to have a will of its own, almost like divine guidance.
At the same time, special people can tap into the Force and direct its power as they see fit.
These special people are either Jedi (good guys who use the Force) or Sith (the bad guys who can use the Force).
There are some exceptions, but we only really need to focus on the Jedi for this discussion.
If a Jedi is in tune with the Force enough, then when they die, they become one with the Force.
As such, they can reappear as a force ghost.
They’re basically a ghost, and they can converse with the living.
As a ghost, Obi-Wan actually reaches out to Luke to help him on his journey to save the galaxy from the evil empire.
Several other characters are also force ghosts, but Obi-Wan is the most prominent.
Why Is Anakin’s Force Ghost Young While Yoda’s and Obi-Wan’s Force Ghosts Are Old? (2 Reasons)
Finally, we can get to it.
Why does Anakin look young as a ghost when the others don’t?
There are a few reasons for this.
First, I’ll take you through the practical reasons.
These are the reasons why the production crew decided to make Anakin look young.
Then, I’ll talk about in-story reasons as to why this might make sense.
This is the real reason for the differences in ages.
I’ll talk about other motivations and possible in-universe explanations, and they’re all fine.
But, it really comes down to casting.
The first time we see a force ghost is in The Empire Strikes Back, and the only ghost at that point is Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Later, at the end of Return of the Jedi, we see the force ghosts of Yoda and Anakin.
When the movie was released, Yoda was a puppet, and Obi-Wan was played by Alec Guinness.
He played Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars movie, and he reprised the role as a force ghost in the two sequels.
At that point, there was no one younger to play Obi-Wan, so it wouldn’t make sense for the force ghost to suddenly be portrayed by a young actor.
As for Yoda, he was a puppet (technically a muppet).
Why make a younger puppet of Yoda?
What is gained from that?
Additionally, there was an actor cast to play Anakin Skywalker, the human, non-robot form of Darth Vader.
He was cast to look like a human Darth Vader of an appropriate age, meaning he wasn’t that much younger than Obi-Wan.
It all made sense to audiences and within the universe.
Anakin actually wasn’t suddenly younger than you might expect.
In later, remastered versions of Jedi, the original Anakin actor was replaced by Hayden Christensen.
You might remember that Hayden played Anakin in all of the prequels.
This change served as a retcon.
That is, the original movie was changed, and with that change came some things that require explaining.
The full reason for adding Christensen as a force ghost at the end of Jedi was for audience familiarity.
By that point, the vast majority of Star Wars fans had seen the prequels, and they recognized Christensen as the face of Anakin.
The force ghost at the end was changed to play to this familiarity.
Fans who knew Christensen as Anakin would think it’s weird to have this random, older actor portray the character at the end of the original trilogy.
It no longer made sense.
So, the ending was retconned, and Anakin was suddenly much younger in appearance when compared to his counterparts.
This is the real reason why it happened.
If you want explanations that make sense within the fictional universe, I’ll try to supply some, but this was a production decision—not a story decision.
What Are the Star Wars In-Universe Explanations for the Ages of Anakin’s, Yoda’s, and Obi-Wan’s Force Ghosts? (2 Things)
Ok. The real reason that Anakin looks young is that the production team retconned the ending of Return of the Jedi.
That’s easy enough to understand.
But, can we explain this within the Star Wars universe?
Are there reasonable explanations?
I have two for you.
Either the ghosts get to choose their appearance, or they look like they did when they died.
Both are a little complicated, so allow me to take you through a deeper explanation of each idea.
Here’s the thing.
The ghosts at the end of Jedi appear only to Luke.
They’re trying to effectively tell him that he did a good job.
It only makes sense for them to do that if Luke can recognize them.
For Yoda, that means appearing as the same old Yoda who Luke came to know.
With Obi-Wan, this is doubly true.
After all, Ewan McGregor (who played Obi-Wan in the prequels) looks almost nothing like Alec Guinness.
If Luke is supposed to recognize the force ghost, it makes sense for that ghost to appear in a form that Luke already knows.
Since Luke talks with ghost Obi-Wan before he ever sees the other two ghosts, this is kind of set as a precedent.
Obi-Wan and Yoda are deliberately appearing so that Luke will know who they are.
As for Anakin, Luke never knew him.
Luke only ever knew Vader, and the implication is that an evil Sith Lord can’t come back as a force ghost.
Instead, Anakin is able to return to the man he was before he turned evil.
Luke isn’t going to recognize him by appearance anyway, so he might as well return as the Anakin the other ghosts can recognize, which is the younger version.
#2 When Anakin, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Died
We can go a little further and suggest that maybe the force ghosts don’t get to pick their appearance.
Maybe, instead, they come back to the age they were when they died.
If this is the case, then Yoda and Obi-Wan again make sense.
They were both relatively old when they died.
They come back looking exactly like we last saw them, and it all works.
Anakin is a little weirder.
He died as Darth Vader, and it’s unlikely that his force ghost is going to include all of the machinery that was Vader.
So, at the very least, we expect a human form of Anakin, which we get.
As for the age, you could argue that Anakin died when Vader was born.
Anakin and Obi-Wan fought to the death on Mustafar, when Anakin was still in his prime.
Anakin was cut down and burned by the extreme temperatures on the planet.
You could say that he truly died.
Vader was “more man than machine,” according to Obi-Wan.
That suggests that Darth Vader was built out of what remained of Anakin, but that Anakin was never actually alive from that moment on.
If we take this explanation, then we would expect Anakin’s force ghost to look like he did as a person, before he became the villainous machine known as Darth Vader.