Movie Name: Star Wars
Release Date(s): May 25, 1977
MPAA Rating: PG
The Rebel Alliance is on the run, and the Empire has a new weapon to use against them. Helmed by Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), the Death Star is a planet destroying starbase that could turn the tide of the battle. When Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) smuggles stolen plans for the Death Star into a droid named R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), R2-D2 and his companion droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) could be the Rebellion’s only hope. Aided by a moisture farmer named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a former Jedi named Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), the plans must reach the Rebellion. Fortunately, Skywalker and Kenobi have recruited pilots Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to help them reach Alderaan before it is too late…but the Empire is unstoppable and their agent Darth Vader (David Prowse voice by James Earl Jones) will stop at nothing to protect it.
Written and directed by George Lucas, Star Wars (also known as Star Wars—Episode VI: The New Hope) is a fantasy space opera. Lucas loosely based the story upon Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 film Hidden Fortress, and Star Wars became a box office success which (along with movies like Jaws and The Exorcist) changed how movies were released in theaters by boosting the idea of “the blockbuster” with multiple screen and wide releases. The film won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and a special achievement award for Ben Burtt for his creations with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Guinness), Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 1989.
Star Wars is one of those movies that shaped the lives of kids my age. I was born into Star Wars and owned everything Star Wars before even seeing Star Wars. I can remember going to a rerelease just before The Empire Strikes Back was released and crying when it was sold out (we were able to go to a later one). As a kid who lived and breathed Star Wars, it holds a sentimental first place in my “Top Ten” movies even though it isn’t the best of the series.
The story is actually not that bad, though it is simplistic and a lot of the dialogue is rather cheesy and over-the-top sci-fi jargon. A lot of the basic framework comes from Akira Kurosawa’s film, but Star Wars largely feels like it is independent of the basis of its creation. By choosing to have Star Wars be “Episode IV”, viewers are thrust directly into the story in a non-stop type of adventure which helps and logic problems involving the plot can be ignored as a result.
The movie made stars out of its cast. Though Mark Hamill might be the “star”, Luke comes off as really whiny in this film and Harrison Ford really skyrocketed to fame. Carrie Fisher played the princess that broke archetypes by not really being a damsel in distress and Alec Guinness added class to the script. Anthony Daniels provides comic relief as C-3PO along with Kenny Baker as R2-D2. Peter Mayhew’s size helped make Chewbacca a massive and intimidating figure but this also holds true for David Prowse as Darth Vader…while James Earl Jones deep booming voice gave him scare factor. The movie was famously cast at the same time as Brian De Palma’s Carrie and much of Carrie’s cast was considered for major roles (and vice versa).
Visually, Star Wars really changed the game. The space battles weren’t the cheap fights from other space movies and they weren’t ’50s sci-fi films like The Day the Earth Stood Still. The flying saucers were replaced with fighters and ships with tactical advantages…plus, the film was loaded with fun aliens that became a huge way to market the movie through toys and merchandise. Lucas has since tweaked the movie and faced backlash from fans (Han shot first), but the original film with its original effects still stands.
Star Wars started an epic. Lucas claimed it was his grand design (his original story has been adapted in comic form as The Star Wars and seems entirely different…also the sequels and prequels lead you to question how much Lucas really did plan out). To kids, Star Wars was life, and the Force was with you as a four year old. In 2016, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was released and told the backstory of the stolen plans which led up to Star Wars. Star Wars was followed by the superior Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in 1980.