With Disney+ series The Book Of Boba Fett, Lucasfilm is finally giving the fan-favorite Star Wars character his own solo live-action adventure—more than 40 years after he was first introduced. Boba Fett has been a prominent part of Star Wars for a long time, popping up in every toy line, multiple video games, and even a painfully distracting cameo in George Lucas’ special edition version of A New Hope (it’s easy to miss if you keep your eyes closed for several minutes after Han Solo is introduced). But now that he’s getting a more direct spotlight, it seems like a good time to take a step back and investigate who Boba Fett really is beneath his Mandalorian-style helmet.
Most people first met Boba Fett in 1980's Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back, when he was one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to track down the Millennium Falcon. But he had already appeared in an animated segment of the not-entirely-canonical Star Wars Holiday Special (which you can now see on Disney+ under the title The Faithful Wookiee) in 1978.
In that holiday special, Boba Fett poses as a helpful stranger trying to assist Luke Skywalker in tracking down Han and Chewbacca after an accident. The good guys eventually discover he’s a bad guy, and after basically telling him to leave, the short ends. It’s telling that this is held up as “the good part” of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
As for stories that actually count, though, Boba Fett’s first chronological appearance in the Star Wars timeline was in Star Wars: Episode II—Attack Of The Clones. There, it’s revealed that he’s the “son” of legendary bounty hunter Jango Fett, played by Temuera Morrison, who serves as the template for the Republic’s army of clone soldiers. But Boba’s not really his son; he’s just another clone who ages at a normal rate and hasn’t been brainwashed by the supposed good guys into being a mindless drone in their war against robots.
When Jango is decapitated by Samuel L. Jackson’s Mace Windu, Boba sees it happen and is there to sorrowfully hold up his ersatz father’s severed head (still stuck in its chromed-out helmet). Star Wars isn’t generally a subtle film series, so this presumably serves as the motivation for Boba growing up to be a not-very-nice person.
After that, we catch up to his original big-screen debut, decades later in the Star Wars timeline, when Boba Fett was on Darth Vader’s Star Destroyer with his goofy-looking bounty hunter buddies—including lizard man Bossk, weird robot 4-LOM, weirder robot IG-88, and a grouchy man in bandages known as Dengar, though it’s worth explicitly noting that none of them are named onscreen here, including Boba Fett.
Tasked with capturing Luke Skywalker and his friends, Boba Fett tails the Millennium Falcon to Cloud City and tips off Darth Vader, who gives him Han Solo as payment. Han owes money to Boba’s real boss, crime lord Jabba The Hutt, and Boba Fett takes him to Jabba’s party palace on Tatooine frozen in a block of carbonite.
Boba next shows up during Luke and Leia’s rescue mission to save Han in Return Of The Jedi, hanging out with the rest of the degenerates at Jabba’s house and enjoying the occasional performance from Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band. When the heroes made their failed play to save Han, Boba Fett joined Jabba on his trip out into the desert to dump them all into the Great Pit Of Carkoon, nesting place of the all-powerful Sarlacc, where they would “find a new definition of pain and suffering as they were slowly digested over a thousand years.” When the heroes revealed their actual plan to save Han, it didn’t work out well for Boba Fett; he was immediately knocked right into the Sarlacc’s mouth and killed. That’s it.
If that’s it, how is Boba Fett in The Mandalorian and how does he have his own show?
Alright, that’s clearly not “it”—but as far as the original movies are concerned, it is. Boba’s arrival on The Mandalorian is what you call a “retcon” (or “retroactive continuity” change), meaning it’s something about a fictional work that was changed in a subsequent work. When Disney took over Star Wars, it erased everything in the original canon aside from the movies and (where it’s convenient) the Clone Wars animated series. Old Star Wars books had revealed that Boba survived his fall into the Sarlacc a long time ago, but those stories are no longer part of the official Star Wars canon.
In other words, as far as Disney was concerned, nobody had any reason to suspect that Boba Fett had not died in the Sarlacc pit until he showed his face on The Mandalorian. The Book Of Boba Fett will probably address the question of how he survived and what he was doing in the years between Return Of The Jedi and The Mandalorian, but this is all we’ve got until that happens—save for Boba Fett getting his armor back and then claiming Jabba The Hutt’s criminal empire for himself and new friend Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen).
If you’re really desperate for more Boba Fett, he did make some appearances in the Clone Wars cartoon as a little kid. It won’t tell you anything about what to expect from The Book Of Boba Fett, and anything in those episodes that is contradicted by later movies doesn’t count, but there are some more Boba Fett stories out there at least.
He first appeared in the episode “Death Trap,” posing as a regular clone kid while trying to enact a plan to get revenge against the Jedi for killing his dad. He returned in the episode “Bounty,” leading his own team of bounty hunters (including a young Dengar), but after that, he mostly drops out of the larger Star Wars saga until The Empire Strikes Back.
If there’s one lesson to take away from this, it’s that there really has never been a lot to Boba Fett. He has cool armor, but it wasn’t until The Mandalorian that he actually did much of anything while wearing it. The trailers for The Book Of Boba Fett also tease that he’s going to be imposing some kind of honor code on the galaxy’s criminal underbelly, in contrast to the excesses of Jabba’s reign, which isn’t exactly something he’s ever talked about before—if only because he’s never really talked about anything before.
At best, Boba Fett has always just been an interesting player in someone else’s story, so it’s hard to predict what the new show is going to do with him. It will hopefully serve as a long-awaited payoff for Boba Fett’s generations of fans, but you never know when he’s going to get bopped on the back, fall into a pit, and then die.