In Star Wars: The Force Awakens, we run into our old friend C-3PO:

Goodness! Han Solo! It is I, SeeThreepio!

You probably don't recognize me because of the red arm.

Look who it is! Did you see who? Oh. Excuse me, Prin-- uh, General. Sorry. Come along, BB-8. Quickly. (BB-8 beeps)

Yes, I must get my proper arm reinstalled.

For some reason, he has a red left arm. However, the situation/reasons behind how he got this red arm is glossed over.

Is it just a fresh coat of paint on his old arm? A salvaged part from another (presumably destroyed) Protocol droid? A newly manufactured arm that is able to perform more/different functions?

  • 1
    I wouldn't feel confident enough posting an answer, but he mentions something about it to BB-8, I'm not sure he mentions the reason but IIRC he talks about getting his old chassis arm back. Dec 17, 2015 at 5:11
  • @CandiedMango - That's probably the part I remember. He says something like "you won't believe the story behind this arm!" and then drops the subject
    – Robotnik
    Dec 17, 2015 at 5:15
  • Yeah, I don't really know what could have happened to it. I'll pay attention when I rewatch in a couple of days. Although to answer two Dec 17, 2015 at 5:19
  • It's definitely a new arm, probably from a spare protocol droid or a spare parts planet, doesn't seem to have any special functions. Dec 17, 2015 at 5:25
  • There are plenty of gaps between RotJ and tFA that have yet to be explained. It seems pretty likely that this will feature in a flashback (e.g. when Rey's background is revealed in more detail) in VIII or IX, or possibly in Aftermath book 2 or 3.
    – Tony Meyer
    Dec 17, 2015 at 6:15

6 Answers 6


This was revealed in Star Wars Special: C-3PO #1

He loses the arm to a sea creature, which rips his arm off.

3PO loses his arm

The droid OMRI (whose coloring/paint-job is black) is destroyed by acid rain. The acid rain strips the coating of black paint from OMRI’s metal casing as well revealing the original red coloring casing beneath the paint. C3PO takes OMRI’s arm with him to replace his own lost arm. C3PO gets a new arm

Source: ComicBookResources


We will find out on the March 30th, 2016

Marvel will be releasing a one shot comic book covering the story of C-3PO coming into the world of Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Follow everyone's favorite protocol droid as he Journeys to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, in this special one-shot leading up to his appearance in the film! Just how did Threepio get a red arm, anyway?

Star Wars Wiki C-3PO #1


According to this page from the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary:

C-3PO is uncharacteristically quiet when it comes to discussing his salvaged arm; it is a memento of another droid’s sacrifice.

Page on C-3PO from the “Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary”

  • 6
    Off universe, it is obviously to draw attention at the novelty detail and sell more toys ;) Jan 4, 2016 at 5:22
  • 5
    And also to add a comical line where he assumes he would not be recognized just because of that arm.
    – Kai Qing
    Jan 22, 2016 at 0:38

A potential out of universe answer is that is is an homage. JJ is a supporter of Hideo Kojima and the video game Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, upon its completon they met and even took some photos together.

twitter post by @Kojima_Hideo

The reason this is relevant is the main character of the game is given a bionic arm with a very similar color.

  • The comic detailing the red arm was titled C-3PO 1: The Phantom Limb, which leads credence to the Metal Gear Solid homage.
    – pk_
    Oct 23, 2019 at 22:56

Since this has popped back up to the top, and nobody has posted this yet, I wanted to point out one clear out-of-universe reason for the red limb. It is an allusion to the fact that C-3PO always had a silver leg in the original trilogy—a fact which is easy to miss, but became reasonably well known after the series had been combed over by devoted fans.

*The Empire Strikes Back*, final scene

Even when he is at his cleanest and most polished (at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, the silver right leg is clearly present if you actually know to look.

Although the origin of this mismatched leg was explained in Expanded Universe materials in the 1990s, in the original films themselves, it was never remarked upon. A droid having a slightly mismatched limb was just part of the "used future" setting. Calling attention to the mismatched part was just another instance of the The Force Awakens unsubtly calling attention to how it duplicated so many of the beats from A New Hope.


According to J.J. Abrams, the red arm was introduced to mark that time had passed since the events of Return of the Jedi.

Very quickly, it became an incredible advantage to have [Production Designer Rick Carter] dealing with the designers and artists, prepping the conceptual work based on our story meetings.

Almost immediately, designs would start to roll in that gave shape to the ideas we were working on. Moments like Threepio’s arm came from the desire to, well, mark time.

It’s almost like... unknown events have transpired.

You know the moment when you reconnect with someone after years apart? You see the lines on their face, you think, oh, they’ve lived 10 years! Or when you see someone has a scar they didn’t have—physical or emotional—you recognize it. It lets you know it’s not two minutes later.


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