Star Wars

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This article is about the Lucasfilm movies as cultural phenomena. For other uses of the term Star Wars, please see Star Wars (disambiguation).

Star Wars is a seven-film space-adventure saga that began in 1977 with the release of the movie Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope). The epic has been presented as a set of two trilogies, with the first of a new series of films released in 2015. The movies are unusual in that the "Original Trilogy," Star Wars episodes four through six, were produced between the years 1977 and 1983, while the "Prequel Trilogy" was created more than 20 years later. It also crosses several film genres: science fiction ("sci-fi"), fantasy, epic, and adventure.

2007 marked the thirtieth anniversary of the release of the original film, sparking re-releases, intense merchandising, books and games, and much discussion. Particularly contentious among fans are the questions of whether or not the series was intended to be a set of six or nine films, whether George Lucas has been true to his fans in releasing revamped editions of the original trilogy, the impact of mass merchandising on the development of the subseqent trilogy, and of course, which film set is best.

What is not debated is that the films (particularly Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) have had a lasting impact on society, changed movie-making techniques and contributed significantly to the development of new ones, and have influenced later film releases, particularly the action-adventure film genres and "Space Operas" in a copy-cat style.

He (Alan Ladd, Jr.) did to me one of the best things any studio executive could do. I don't know if it happens anymore, but it did happen then. When I gave him the script, which was incomprehensible, he said, "I don't really get this at all, but I believe in you. But I'm making this movie because I want to see what you are going to do. Not because this is a great movie or this is something that I understand, but because I know you're going to do something wonderful and I want to be a part of it."
-- George Lucas[1]

Background: Society in 1977

There was severe economic recession in the industrial west, largely related to the oil crises and the end of the Vietnam War. The iconoclastic reformers of the 1960s had been replaced by a hedonistic group of young adults who would come to be referred to as the “Me Generation.”

It has been argued that the mood of the country was similar to that which existed at the time of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and so there was the same need for escapism in popular culture, a need that ‘’Star Wars’’ was well able to fill.

The Star Wars saga, the film's debut and reaction to it

Film reviews

Public reaction

Writing for a newsgroup in 1996, film reviewer Steve Rhodes said, "Almost twenty years after I as blown by the sheer majesty of STAR WARS, my seven year old son Jeffrey has turned from The Power Rangers to STAR WARS....In all of the thousands of movies to which I have gone, STAR WARS is the only one where I was so pumped up when I saw it originally in 1977 that I told my wife we had to see it again immediately. .... Since I originally saw it before I became I movie critic, I have never written a review of it. I will correct that omission now, but I will stick more to commentary and just highlight some of my favorite scenes. To be fair to both of the people on earth who do not know the story, let me sketch it out for them first." [2] His comments speak to two undisputed facts: 1) at its launch, Star Wars had an incredible number of repeat viewers and 2) it has become ubiquitous; even persons born after the initial series are familiar with the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars' influence on film and the film industry

Film theory

  • Homage to other films—particularly The Searchers; other genres including the Saturday afternoon serial, and Arthurian legend
  • Pioneering film techniques now taken for granted

Film criticism

  • An extraordinary body of reviews and critique in professional newspapers and journals, as well as online sites and forums.
  • Controversy about what concept/how many films Lucas originally had in mind
  • Controversy about whether Lucas stayed true to his fans and his original vision—marketing gimmicks—fan forums such as
  • A good resource is Star Wars on Trial. Brin, David and Stover, Matthew Woodring. Dallas: Benbella Books, 2006. It contains debaites on the issues by science fiction and fantasy writers.

Film making

  • Special Effects techniques
  • Influenced the “blockbuster” movie and the science fiction/fantasy boom of the closing decades of the 20th Century.
  • For an insider account of the development of Lucas's private company ILM (from a purely techie point of view), see Rubin, Michael, Droidmaker George Lucas and the Digital Revolution (Gainesville, Florida: Triad Publishing Company, 2006).

Cultural influence of Star Wars


Political references

• “Star Wars” for the Strategic Defense Initiative

George Lucas lost his bid to have the Reagan administration shoulder liability for the political use of the Star Wars trademark [3]

• “Evil Empire” for the Soviet Union

Cultural references

• Words and phrases that entered common parlance and are still used and understood thrity years later without the need for explanation include: “The Force”, “Use The Force, Luke”, “May the Force be with you”, "The Force is strong with this one/him/her", “The Dark Side”, “s/he has gone over to The Dark Side”

• In an interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, dancer and actress Debbie Allen describe seeking Spielberg’s help in producing the motion picture “Amistad”, she paraphrased “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope” and the audience laughed, indicating their familiarity with the quotation, if not with Spielberg’s connection to it.


Star Wars's symphonic main title became a disco hit, and has now entered the standard musical lexicon, especially in terms of school music education and performance recitals. In addition, the Star Wars themes have now entered the standard musical repertory of high school and university marching bands.


The Star Wars Phenomenon

  • Video Games and role playing games
  • Books (non-fiction), comic books, novelizations
  • Films, spinoff films, television series, cartoons

Later film reviews, analysis and criticism


  1. From 30 Years: Star Wars -- Great To Be Nominated April 25, 2007. Sourced at on 3rd July 2007.
  2. The review was posted to the newsgroup for German reviews. REVIEW WRITTEN ON: April 15, 1996. Sourced 3 July 2007
  3. Lucasfilm Ltd. v. High Frontier, 622 F. Supp. 931 (D.D.C. 1985)