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At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke has a vision of three persons: Obi-Wan, Yoda, and some other fellow in Jedi robes. I asked myself: “Who is that third person?”, “Why is he there?”, and “How is the audience supposed to recognize him?”

It’s only with 20/20 hindsight—i.e., having subsequently seen Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith—do we deduce that it was Anakin when he turned back from the Dark Side moments before his death as Darth Vader.

Seems to me to be able to identify that third person at the end of Return of the Jedi, the audience would have had to have been clairvoyant.

marked as duplicate by RedCaio, FuzzyBoots, Rand al'Thor, ThePopMachine, Jason Baker Dec 19 '15 at 21:26

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    I believe that in the original, it was actually an old fellow in Jedi robes, and that George Lucas edited the younger Anakin in for the digital version. – DJMcMayhem Dec 19 '15 at 19:55
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    @DJMcMayhem In the original 1983 release of Return of the Jedi the same older actor who played Darth Vader when he was unmasked (Sebastian Shaw) played the role of Darth Vader as a “Force Ghost.” I think the retroceded story that the new “Force Ghost” should be the younger Anakin is garbage for the reason the question raises. Anakin the value of good when he was old and redeemed as old. But they made him “young” just to appeal to “the kids” supposedly. Also a bit agist if you ask me: “Fear the old! Only the good die young! Anakin was good when he was young but bad when he was old!” – JakeGould Dec 19 '15 at 20:25

The very short answer is that when the film was first released, the same actor originally played both Vader (unmasked) and Anakin's force ghost; Sebastian Shaw.

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In the event that you weren't able to work it out from context (Luke burns Vader, followed a few seconds later by us seeing an older man approximately the same age as Luke's father would have been), it was also referred to in the novelisation which means you could have confirmed it easily.

When the film was ruined by George Lucas retconned to include Hayden Christensen, the assumption was evidently that anyone who was watching the Original Trilogy would almost certainly have seen the new trilogy as well (or at least some of the publicity/trailers) and would therefore recognise the actor.

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    Having sworn off Star Wars after the fifth film confirmed that Lucas gad waited so long because he'd had absolutely nothing to say, i've never seen the butchered versions.. so I really want to award a bonus +1 for "ruined". – keshlam Dec 19 '15 at 21:30

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