Star Wars screenshot

Star Wars (1977)

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Tatooine farm boy Luke Skywalker discovers that he's destined to join the Rebel Alliance, become a Jedi, and destroy the Empire's super-weapon space station.

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It's impossible to overstate the importance of Star Wars, the original film that created a massive multimedia franchise. The unprecedented popularity and countless spin-offs and follow-ups using the title's two-word branding now necessitates use of the much more specific retroactive title, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. But after forty-plus years and those two words now encapsulating so much varied additional material, it's shockingly easy to forget that it all started with one perfect film.

Luke Skywalker is working on the moisture farm where he was raised when he stumbles onto a secret message: a princess asking an old Jedi for his help in defeating the Empire. Once he delivers the message to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke discovers that his own father was also a Jedi, and Luke himself may be able to follow the same path. With the help of Old Ben, the scoundrel Han Solo, a Wookiee named Chewbacca, two droids, and the Force, young Skywalker may be able to save Princess Leia, join the Rebel Alliance, and destroy the Death Star.

Star Wars screenshot

With Star Wars, George Lucas quite literally created the textbook version of the "hero's journey." Luke Skywalker's story was written to follow the same structure of countless tales that came before, as compiled, dissected, and outlined by literary professor Joseph Campbell. And, because of the film's popularity and strict adherence to the classic structure, it is the prototypical example of the "hero's journey" used today. Watching Luke's adventure play out seems real and feels familiar, whether you're seeing the film for the first time, or have long since lost count of viewings.

But while the story taps into what we subconsciously recognize as a well-told tale, it's what we see on the screen or hear characters say that pulls us in. Obi-Wan speaks of wars fought long ago while Luke ignites his father's lightsaber, and we wonder what the "clone wars" were like. The cantina is packed with bizarre aliens, and we imagine what each of their stories could be. It's not just Luke's path that we're watching unfold, but the myriad of implied tales that we imagine in each frame of film.

The galaxy created by Star Wars feels like a real place that we could actually visit, and in the decades since the film's release we have revisited that galaxy: through additional movies, toys, books, games, theme parks, cosplay, fan fiction, fast food promotional tie-ins, and countless other ways. Today, the name Star Wars covers a practically immeasurable wealth of media and products. But in 1977, those two words referred primarily to a movie about a farm boy who was, like the Star Wars brand, destined for more.

Star Wars poster Star Wars title screen

Director

  • George Lucas

Cast

  • Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
  • Harrison Ford as Han Solo
  • Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa
  • Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin
  • Alec Guinness as Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi
  • Anthony Daniels as See Threepio (C3PO)
  • Kenny Baker as Artoo-Detoo (R2-D2)
  • Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
  • David Prowse as Lord Darth Vader
  • James Earl Jones voicing Darth Vader