The Rise of Skywalker paid tribute to Leia Organa in a really cool way, forever immortalizing her as a Force ghost, as she is now one with the Force – along with her brother, Luke Skywalker, and her son, Ben Solo.
But we’ve actually seen Leia use the Force in all but one of her theatrical appearances, so I thought it would be worth pointing out all the times we get to see her use the Force on-screen.
In The Empire Strikes Back, as the Millennium Falcon flies away from Cloud City and Luke Skywalker’s life hangs in the balance over Bespin, we see Luke cry out to Leia for help. As the Force theme plays, and as a desperate Luke pleads with Leia to hear him, we see Leia staring intently in the pilot’s seat of the iconic ship before whispering, “Luke.” Sensing Luke, Leia knows his whereabouts and knows that he is in trouble, ordering Chewbacca to fly back – into the face of danger – to rescue him.
In Return of the Jedi, Leia again senses Luke’s presence. This time, though, she’s not sensing that Luke is in danger but rather that he’s not. As Leia and Han Solo watch the Death Star explode over the Forest Moon of Endor, Han assures Leia that Luke surely wasn’t on the station when it blew up. Leia, though, stares off into the distance and is far more certain: he wasn’t. She can feel it. This leads them into the big reveal, as Leia tells Han that Luke is her brother. The two of them then share a kiss, and we have learned that they were married on Endor shortly after that.
Having sensed Luke’s presence in the original trilogy, the first time we see Leia use the Force in the sequel trilogy is to sense Han. In The Force Awakens, Leia commands the attack on Starkiller Base from afar at the Resistance base on D’Qar. Han Solo, meanwhile, leads a strike team on the ground on the First Order superweapon, and he winds up confronting their son, Ben Solo. Ben kills Han, sending him plummeting to the depths of Ilum. Sensing this through the Force, a devastated Leia Organa sinks to her chair in pain, as others around her look at their General with concern.
One of the countless things The Last Jedi gets right is the character of Leia Organa, as we see her as the heart of the Resistance, the fearless leader, and someone strong in the Force. The first instance of Leia using the Force in this film comes in the opening battle, during the Evacuation of D’Qar. Poe Dameron ignores the General’s orders to retreat and instead decides to take on the First Order Dreadnaught, leading to massive losses. As the Dreadnaught prepares to fire on the Raddus, Leia (standing at her command station) raises her head in concern, sensing the imminent danger. Thankfully, Paige Tico drops the bombs on the Dreadnaught just in time, preventing the destruction of the Raddus and allowing what’s left of the Resistance to escape.
The second time that Leia is seen using the Force in The Last Jedi is also aboard the Raddus, which this time actually is under attack. The First Order successfully tracked them through hyperspace, and the Resistance is simply trying to outrun the enemy. Kylo Ren attacks the Raddus, but right as he prepares to fire on the bridge, he senses his mother. Leia, too, senses Ben, and the two share a connection through the Force. Ben doesn’t fire upon the ship, but his wingmen do. Leia senses this as the bridge explodes and she is sucked out into the vacuum of space…
And that’s when we get the most powerful and obvious display of Leia using the Force of any Star Wars film. As an unconscious Leia floats in space, she almost instinctively reaches out her hand toward the Raddus. Her eyes open as she regains consciousness, and she pulls herself back to the ship with the Force, barely surviving. Rather than simply losing the will to live, Leia isn’t done yet – and nor is the Force done with her. She knows that she still has work left to do, so she uses the Force to save herself. It’s a beautiful moment, accompanied by a touching rendition of Leia’s theme.
The fourth time in The Last Jedi in which we see Leia use the Force is again when she is unconscious, but in a nod to the original trilogy, she is once again sensing Luke. This comes at a pivotal point in the film, as Luke finally opens himself back up to the Force. And what does Luke first do when opening back up to the Force? He reaches out for Leia. In a coma aboard the Raddus, Leia senses this, and whispers, “Luke.” I’m not sure if it’s ever been officially confirmed or not, but I view this moment as the one that brings Leia out of her coma.
The fifth and final time in The Last Jedi that was see Leia using the Force is on Crait, as the Millennium Falcon is about to escape. Luke is back on Ahch-To, having exerted himself with a stunning mastery of the Force to allow the Resistance time to escape, but is now preparing to pass on into the living Force. Rey and Leia both sense this, and they talk about it later on the Falcon, realizing that it was with peace and purpose that Luke became one with the Force.
As you’ve noticed, most of the time we’ve seen Leia use the Force, she is sensing something happening – with the notable exception of her actions to save her life in The Last Jedi. In The Rise of Skywalker, we see Leia reach out with the Force to save someone else: her son, Ben Solo. As Ben and Rey duel atop what’s left of the Death Star, Leia is back at the Resistance base on Ajan Kloss. She senses something and has to steady herself, and she is escorted away by Lieutenant Connix. Maz Kanata explains to R2-D2 that Leia knows to save her son will take all the strength she has left. Just before Ben can strike a killing blow on Rey, Leia calls out to him with the Force, whispering his name. Ben is surprised by this, and he turns. Leia lies down in her bed and passes away, but her final act was a heroic one. Through her actions, Leia turned her son back to the light. Right before that duel Ben had told Rey that he couldn’t go back to his mother, so Leia went to him. His mother’s love, expressed through the Force, is what disrupted Palpatine’s plans and brought Ben Solo back to the light.
Later in The Rise of Skywalker, we see Leia briefly use the Force in a flashback sequence. We see Luke training Leia in the ways of the Jedi shortly after Return of the Jedi, and right at the onset of their training duel Leia uses the Force to call her lightsaber to her hand. Luke then explains that the reason Leia stopped her Jedi training is because she sensed the death of her son at the end of the path, should she continue.
Finally, at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, after Leia has passed on and become one with the Force, we see Rey go to Tatooine to bury the Skywalker lightsabers and pay tribute to them. As she prepares to go look out at the binary sunset from the Lars homestead, she looks to the side and sees the Force ghosts of Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa smiling at her as she takes the name “Skywalker.” Leia truly lives on forever, as she is one with the Force.