Practically since A New Hope premiered in 1977, Star Wars fans have been coming up with their own theories to explain what's happening on-screen. Star Wars has always relied on shocking revelations - "I am your father" - so it makes sense that diehard fans would be inspired to find meaning in the smallest details. We're still arguing over whether Han fired first over 40 years later.
Even the prequels get this treatment. They might be among the most reviled movie trilogies of all time, and some Star Wars fans might prefer to forget them, but plenty of other fans are happy to dissect the prequels and come up with theories about them.
Like many fan theories, some of these prequel theories are outlandish and not supported by evidence. These are really just fun "what if?" exercises. But some prequel fan theories are so spot-on that they ended up becoming canon in later Star Wars supplementary material. Here are some fan theories about the Star Wars prequels that might just be better than the actual movies.
This is one of the rare fan theories that was later confirmed by Star Wars supplementary material. For years, fans have wondered what would have happened if Qui-Gon Jinn had survived the lightsaber fight with Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace. Specifically, they've wondered if Qui-Gon could have accomplished what Obi-Wan Kenobi could not: training Anakin Skywalker into a Jedi without Anakin breaking bad. And thanks to the 2018 comic Star Wars: Age of Republic: Qui-Gon Jinn, which takes place before The Phantom Menace (making it a prequel of a prequel), we now know Qui-Gon would have been better prepared for Anakin than the rest of the Jedi.
Anakin's downfall really begins with the Jedi Council. The Jedi believed their purpose was to protect the Galactic Republic by eradicating the Dark Side from existence, and they believed Anakin was the "Chosen One" who would do this. Of course, Anakin had too much of the Dark Side already in him to fulfill the prophecy.
But in the comic, Qui-Gon has a different understanding of the role of the Jedi - and one that's probably closer to their true purpose. After a crisis of faith, Qui-Gon communes with the Force and sees a vision of the galaxy at peace, which is only possible because both the Light Side and the Dark Side are in harmony - meaning, the Dark Side has to exist for the galaxy to be in balance.
Senator Palpatine was able to exploit Anakin's darkness to turn him into a Sith. But if Qui-Gon had lived, and encouraged Anakin to accept his duality, it's possible his path would have gone in a completely different direction.
The climactic lightsaber showdown between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith comes down to arrogance. Obi-Wan has taken the high ground, while Anakin is only able to stand on a small platform floating in a river of lava. Obi-Wan points out his tactical advantage and warns Anakin not to attack. Anakin ignores him and tries to jump over him, but Obi-Wan anticipates the move and severs both of Anakin's legs and one of his arms.
But as Redditor u/mrparsnip points out, this scene parallels the lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace - and it may have helped Obi-Wan prevail. After Darth Maul has taken down Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan is dangling precariously on a ledge over a deadly drop, while Maul stands over him - giving Maul the high ground and Obi-Wan the low ground. Like Anakin, Obi-Wan attempts to jump over Maul, but Obi-Wan pulls it off and cuts Maul in half.
So when Anakin attempted his desperate maneuver in Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan likely knew it was coming, because he had done it himself years earlier.
Various fans have posted versions of this theory, like Joseph Tavano at Retrozap and Redditor u/cyborgcommando0, and it makes a whole lot of sense. Instead of Padme dying of a broken heart because Anakin turned to the Dark Side, what if Palpatine did the deed himself?
For starters, Padme's demise is the event that pushes Anakin over the edge and allows him to become Darth Vader, which was Palpatine's plan. Palpatine offing Padme would have been a relatively easy way to accomplish this goal. The fan theory speculates that Palpatine was "draining her life force" from across the galaxy. The medical droid treating her never says she's dying of a broken heart, it just says she's "lost the will to live," which could be how a droid interprets Palpatine's invisible Force powers.
But there was another reason Palpatine might be the guilty party here. According to the theory, Palpatine specifically drained Padme's life force and then transferred it into Anakin to ensure he would survive his transformation into Darth Vader. Anakin is awake during the transformation, and he later says he sensed Padme the entire time. But the moment the procedure ended, he stopped sensing Padme. When it was clear Anakin would live on as Darth Vader, Palpatine had no need for Padme to live.
The former Jedi Count Dooku was Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious's secret Sith apprentice. So when Anakin defeats Dooku and Palpatine orders him executed, it's a massive betrayal. But according to a theory from Redditor u/KillKrites, if Dooku had lived, it's likely he would have betrayed Palpatine himself.
The reason has to do with Count Dooku's motivation. Although he does voluntarily join the Sith and leads Palpatine's Separatist army, he wasn't a true believer in Palpatine's plan. Dooku had already become disillusioned with the Jedi Council, which he believed was more interested in manipulating the Galactic Republic than listening to the Force. So when his apprentice, Qui-Gon Jinn, perished, it was the last straw. Secretly joining Palpatine was Dooku's best chance at overthrowing the corrupt Jedi Council and Galactic Republic. According to this theory, Dooku then would have slain Palpatine and taken over the galaxy himself, with General Grievous acting as his right-hand droid.