The Story Behind the Final Line in ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’

·7 min read
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Everett/Disney+
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Everett/Disney+

It’s no secret that the Star Wars prequels were not well-received. It’s not something we need to rehash, but despite their critical reception—or maybe because of it—some of the best and longest-lasting memes that have come out of this galactic franchise stem from those early 2000s films. There’s Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious’ “Do it;” the tragedy of Darth Plageius the Wise; and there’s, of course, Anakin’s hatred for sand.

But there’s one part of the prequels that sticks out among the seemingly never-ending content that these movies produce. And those are two simple words, spoken by Obi-Wan Kenobi: “Hello there.”

If there’s one thing about Episodes I, II, and III that people only have good things to say about, it’s the character of Obi-Wan. Ewan McGregor’s portrayal as the steadfast Jedi knight remains one of the consistently acclaimed parts of the franchise, even now. Amid the prequel-related content renaissance that we find ourselves in—from The Clone Wars to The Bad Batch to Jedi: Fallen Order—it was the perfect time for McGregor, and “Hello there,” to make a comeback in his own miniseries, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

It’s a celebration of all things Obi-Wan, which means that it must include his most iconic line.

To fully understand the history of the phrase, we have to go back all the way to the very first film, Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope. Despite the fact that the meme’d version we’re most familiar with comes from Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan, the words actually predate the prequel trilogy altogether. The very first line that Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi says is “Hello there.”

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Thanks to Kenobi, fans now know much more about Obi-Wan’s time on Tatooine and his connection to Leia and Luke. But even without that backstory, those words signaled a character who was a friend, not a foe.

The take on that line that fans are most smitten with these days comes from Revenge of the Sith. Toward the movie’s end, McGregor’s Kenobi dashingly utters “Hello there” to General Grievous, in the twilight of the end of the Clone Wars.

It’s an iconic scene: Obi-Wan drops onto Grievous’ platform, says the line, and has an eager smile when Grievous pulls out his many lightsabers. It’s also an important one: The Republic knows that the Separatist general is still working out of this base, even though the war is coming to an end. All Obi-Wan needs to do now is end Grievous’ operations right there and the Clone Wars will be over (mostly). But no one knows that this is all part of soon-to-be Emperor Palpatine’s plan and that only worse things are on the horizon (like, say, the fall of the Republic as a whole). But at this moment, Kenobi is ready to fight this half-alien, half-robot one last time.

Obi-Wan’s greeting to his enemy is what endures, even more than the scene itself. As with most one-liners that become cultural staples, there isn’t much rationale as to why “Hello there” is such a popular meme. Perhaps it’s because the moment is just so easy to parody: From the music that accompanies Obi-Wan’s theatrical entrance within this scene, to Grievous’ menacing response of “General Kenobi,” it’s an amusingly dramatic moment befitting of memedom.

Since Revenge of the Sith’s premiere in 2005, “Hello there” has taken on a life of its own. Fans have created YouTube video remixes of the line, with names like “OBI-WAN SAYS HELLO WHILE I PLAY UNFITTING MUSIC” and “Hello There (The Democracy on the High Ground Song).” There’s even an hour-long video remixing the three total times we hear Obi-Wan say “Hello there” on-screen—that first time in A New Hope, in Revenge of the Sith, and the most recent one from the finale of Kenobi. And as with any good meme, there’s also merch inspired by it, including shirts bearing the phrase on them.

But if you really want to know how big a meme is, check TikTok. “Hello there” has had a fruitful presence on that app too. A few popular versions of the line exist for people to recreate the scene and put hilarious spins on it. Cumulative views for videos using these “Hello there” sounds range from 32.2 million views to 374.8 million views in total, depending on which version of the sound is used—a huge number representative of both the number of videos out there and how many views those videos receive. The hashtag for this trend alone—#obiwanhellothere—has 3.4 million views.

The meme has gotten so big that even McGregor himself knows about it. During the press tour for Obi-Wan Kenobi, interviewers either asked about or greeted him with the phrase several times, including during appearances on E! News and Good Morning America. He made sure to show that he’s very much aware of its pop-cultural significance.

The phrase is also still a sure-fire way to get some attention on Reddit, with some of the top posts invoking or meme-ing “Hello there” getting tens of thousands of likes and thousands of comments. Reddit’s spin on “Hello there” ranges from edits and remixes to plainly inserting the phrase in different scenarios. The Star Wars fandom can be pretty toxic at times, but “Hello there” proves to be one thing that’s tame enough to not really cause too much strife.

But probably the thing that most proves how far this little phrase has traveled is actress Emma Roberts’ Instagram post from Dec. 13, 2018. Accompanying a photo of Roberts in a bejeweled dress the actress wrote the seemingly harmless phrase, “Hello there” as her caption. It seems highly unlikely that the actress was referencing Obi-Wan Kenobi, but that doesn’t matter to her followers: The comments soon flooded with Star Wars fans responding to Roberts the same way that General Grievous does in Revenge of the Sith, “General Kenobi.” No, Roberts didn’t take the post down or limit the comments. And yes, there are still people commenting Grievous’ line on her post to this day.

With such a stronghold this tiny phrase has on the Star Wars fandom and the internet that not even Emma Roberts is safe from, it was only natural for fans to want to hear it once more in Kenobi. This is the first time McGregor’s reprised the role since he first uttered that phrase, and even though animated versions of several other characters have said it since such as in The Clone Wars—including the time that General Grievous himself got to utter it—it would be a missed opportunity to not have McGregor say “Hello there” to us once more.

It took a while for us to get that, though. There are a couple of teasing moments early on where Obi-Wan chooses to say simply “hello”. When he and Leia meet Freck, an Empire-sympathizer with a transport, in Episode 3, Leia sets Obi-Wan up by saying, “Father, aren’t you going to say hello?” There’s a pause then that feels monumental, almost like waiting for your favorite team to sink that winning free-throw point. However, Obi-Wan only offers a lonesome “Hello.”

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It wasn’t until the final moments of Kenobi’s finale that Obi-Wan does finally speak those two beloved words. As Obi-Wan—now back on Tatooine and going by the name Ben full-time —is heading away from the Lars family's moisture farm, Owen asks him if he wants to say “hi” to Luke. He obliges, and Obi-Wan takes a long look at the young Skywalker. He says what we wanted him to say: “Hello there.”

It’s a small line to obsess over, and surely it was never meant to win over the internet as it has. But its meaning to fans makes it just as perfect a greeting for Luke—and ending for us—in Obi-Wan Kenobi as it was in A New Hope.

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