Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Star Wars Episode IV:
A New Hope

An original 1977 North American theatrical film poster by Tom Jung[1]
Directed by George Lucas
Produced by Gary Kurtz
Written by George Lucas
Starring Mark Hamill
Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher
Peter Cushing
Alec Guinness
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Gilbert Taylor, BSC
Editing by Richard Chew
Paul Hirsch
Marcia Lucas
Studio Lucasfilm
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) May 25, 1977 (1977-05-25)
Running time 121 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $11 million[2]
Box office $775,398,007 (Worldwide)[2]

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, originally released as Star Wars,[3] is a 1977 American epic space opera film,[4] written and directed by George Lucas. It is the first of six films released in the Star Wars saga: two subsequent films complete the original trilogy, while a prequel trilogy completes the six-film saga. It is the fourth film in terms of the series' internal chronology. Groundbreaking in its use of special effects, unconventional editing, and science fiction/fantasy storytelling, the original Star Wars is one of the most successful and influential films of all time.

Set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", the film follows a group of freedom fighters known as the Rebel Alliance as they plot to destroy the powerful Death Star space station, a devastating weapon created by the evil Galactic Empire. This conflict disrupts the isolated life of farmboy Luke Skywalker when he inadvertently acquires the droids carrying the stolen plans to the Death Star. After the Empire begins a cruel and destructive search for the droids, Skywalker decides to accompany Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi on a daring mission to rescue the owner of the droids, rebel leader Princess Leia Organa, and save the galaxy.

Produced with a budget of $11 million and released on May 25, 1977, the film earned $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, surpassing Jaws as the highest-grossing film and remained that way until being surpassed by E.T. the Extra Terrestrial in 1982. Among the many awards the film received, it gained ten Academy Award nominations, winning six; the nominations included Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Picture. The film is widely ranked among the best films of all time. Lucas has re-released the film on several occasions, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition, the 2004 DVD release, and the 2011 Blu-ray release, which have modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, and added scenes.



The galaxy is in a state of civil war. Spies for the Rebel Alliance have stolen plans to the Galactic Empire's Death Star: a weaponized space station capable of annihilating an entire planet. Rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is in possession of the plans, but her ship is captured by Imperial forces under the command of the evil lord Darth Vader (David Prowse). Before she is captured, Leia hides the plans in the memory of a droid called R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), along with a holographic recording. The small droid escapes to the surface of the desert planet Tatooine with fellow droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels).

The two droids are quickly captured by Jawa traders, who sell the pair to moisture farmer Owen Lars (Phil Brown) and his nephew, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). While Luke is cleaning R2-D2, he accidentally triggers part of Leia's holographic message, in which she requests help from Obi-Wan Kenobi. The only "Kenobi" Luke knows of is an old hermit named Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) who lives in the nearby hills; Owen, however, dismisses any connection, suggesting that Obi-Wan is dead.

During dinner, R2-D2 escapes to seek Obi-Wan. By the time Luke discovers his escape it is too late for pursuit. The next morning Luke and C-3PO look for R2-D2, and just after finding him are attacked by Sand People. The assailants are scared off by Ben Kenobi, who reveals himself to be Obi-Wan. He takes Luke and the droids to his home, where he tells Luke of his days as a Jedi Knight. The Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy before being wiped out by the Empire. Obi-Wan tells of the Force, from which the Jedi draw their power. He goes on to tell Luke of his father, Anakin Skywalker, another Jedi who fought alongside Obi-Wan. Contrary to his uncle's claims, Luke learns that his father was betrayed and killed by Darth Vader, Obi-Wan's former pupil who turned to the "dark side of the Force". Luke is presented with his father's lightsaber, the Jedi's weapon of choice.

Obi-Wan views Leia's complete message. Leia begs Obi-Wan to take R2-D2 and the Death Star plans to her home planet of Alderaan, where her father will be able to retrieve and analyze them. Obi-Wan asks Luke to learn the ways of the Force and join him on the trip. Luke initially refuses, offering Obi-Wan transit to a local space port. When he discovers that his home has been destroyed and his aunt and uncle were killed by Imperial stormtroopers in search of the droids, Luke agrees to join Obi-Wan and travel to Alderaan. The two hire smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to transport them on their ship, the Millennium Falcon.

Meanwhile, Leia has been imprisoned on the Death Star and has resisted revealing the location of the secret Rebel base. Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), the Death Star's commanding officer and Vader's superior, tries to coax information out of her by threatening to destroy Alderaan. Leia pretends to cooperate, but Tarkin destroys the planet anyway to demonstrate the power of the Empire's new weapon. When the Falcon arrives at Alderaan's coordinates, it finds only a cloud of rubble. They follow a TIE fighter, not realizing they are being drawn towards the Death Star. When they attempt to flee, the ship Falcon is captured by the station's tractor beam, and is brought into its hangar bay.

The group escapes from the Falcon and takes refuge in a command room while Obi-Wan goes off to disable the tractor beam. While they are waiting, Luke discovers that Princess Leia is aboard and is scheduled to be executed. Sizing up the situation, Han, Luke, and Chewbacca stage a rescue and free the princess. After several harrowing escapes, they make their way back to the Falcon, where they witness a lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. As the others race onto the ship to escape, Obi-Wan allows himself to be struck down by Vader's lightsaber; Kenobi disappears while his empty cloak and deactivated lightsaber fall to the ground.

As the Falcon makes its escape, Vader and Tarkin reveal that a tracking device was placed aboard the ship in order to finally find the rebel base. After fighting their way through a token defence, the Falcon flies clear of the Death Star and reaches the Yavin IV Rebel base. The Death Star plans are analyzed by the Rebels, disclosing a vulnerable exhaust port leading to the main reactor. Luke joins the assault team but Han collects his reward for the rescue and leaves, despite Luke's request to stay and fight.

The Death Star arrives and is met by Rebel fighters. The Rebels suffer heavy losses - after several failed attack runs few pilots survive. Vader appears in a TIE Advanced X1 and attacks the Rebel ships. Luke, one of the few Rebel pilots left, begins his attack as the Death Star moves into to attack range. Vader closes on Luke, but as he is about to fire, Han arrives in the Falcon and attacks Vader's wingmen. Vader's ship is sent careening off into space. Guided by Obi-Wan's voice telling him to use the Force, Luke switches off his targeting computer and fires a successful shot, destroying the Death Star seconds before it is about to fire on the Rebel base. Later, Princess Leia awards medals to Luke and Han for their heroism.


The three lead protagonists of Star Wars, from left to right: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford).

Lucas shared a joint casting session with long-time friend Brian De Palma, who was casting his own film Carrie. As a result, Carrie Fisher and Sissy Spacek auditioned for both films in each other's respective roles. Lucas favored casting young actors without long-time experience. While reading for Luke Skywalker (then known as "Luke Starkiller"), Hamill found the dialogue to be extremely odd because of its universe-embedded concepts. He chose to simply read it sincerely and was selected instead of William Katt, who was subsequently cast in Carrie.[5][6][7]

Lucas initially rejected the idea of using Harrison Ford, as he had previously worked with him on American Graffiti, and instead asked Ford to assist in the auditions by reading lines with the other actors and explaining the concepts and history behind the scenes that they were reading. Lucas was eventually won over by Ford's portrayal and cast him instead of Kurt Russell, Nick Nolte,[7] Sylvester Stallone,[8] Christopher Walken, Billy Dee Williams (who would play Lando Calrissian in the sequels), and Perry King, who wound up playing Solo in the radio plays.[5][9]

Many young actresses in Hollywood auditioned for the role of Princess Leia, including Cindy Williams.[5] Carrie Fisher was cast under the condition that she lose 10 pounds for the role. Aware that the studio disagreed with his refusal to cast big-name stars, Lucas signed veteran stage and screen actor Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi.[5] Additional casting took place in London, where Mayhew was cast as Chewbacca after he stood up to greet Lucas. Lucas immediately turned to Gary Kurtz, and requested that Mayhew be cast.[10] Daniels auditioned for and was cast as C-3PO; he has said that he wanted the role after he saw a McQuarrie drawing of the character and was struck by the vulnerability in the robot's face.[5][11]



Elements of the history of Star Wars are commonly disputed, as Lucas' statements about it have changed over time.[a 1] George Lucas completed directing his first full-length feature, THX 1138, in 1971. He has said that it was around this time that he first had the idea for Star Wars,[12] though he has also claimed to have had the idea long before then.[13] One of the most influential works on Lucas's early concepts was the Flash Gordon space adventure comics and serials.[14] Lucas even made an attempt to purchase the rights to remake Flash Gordon at one point, but could not afford them.[15] Friend and collaborator Walter Murch suggested in an interview that Star Wars was Lucas' "transubstantiated version of Apocalypse Now"; at one time, Lucas had planned to direct that film.[16]

Following the completion of THX 1138, Lucas was granted a two-film development deal with United Artists at the Cannes Film Festival in May of that year for American Graffiti, and an idea for a space opera he called The Star Wars. He showed United Artists the script for American Graffiti, but they passed on the film. Universal Studios picked the film up,[17] and Lucas spent the next two years completing it. Only then did he turn his attention to The Star Wars. He began writing the treatment in January 1973, unsure what would come of Graffiti, and still very much in debt.[17]

Lucas began his creation process by taking small notes, inventing odd names and assigning them possible characterizations. Lucas would discard many of these by the time the final script was written, but he included several names and places in the final script or its sequels (such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo). He revived others decades later when he wrote his prequel trilogy (such as Mace Windy, renamed Windu). He used these initial names and ideas to compile a two-page synopsis titled "The Journal of the Whills", which bore little resemblance to the final story.[18] The Journal told the tale of the son of a famous pilot who is trained as a "padawaan" apprentice of a revered "Jedi-Bendu".[18] Frustrated after being told that his story was too difficult to understand,[19] Lucas started again on a completely new outline, this time borrowing heavily from Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress,[20] so much so that he at one time considered buying the rights to the film.[21] He relied on a plot synopsis from Donald Richie's book The Films of Akira Kurosawa and wrote a 14-page draft that paralleled The Hidden Fortress, with names and settings reminiscent of the science fiction genre.[22]

Both United Artists and Universal passed on their options for the film later that year, citing the risk involved in the project's potentially high budget. Lucas pursued Alan Ladd, Jr., the head of 20th Century Fox, and in June 1973 closed a deal to write and direct the film. Although Ladd did not grasp the technical side of the project, he believed that Lucas was talented. Lucas later stated that Ladd "invested in me, he did not invest in the movie."[5] The deal afforded Lucas $150,000 to write and direct.

Later that year, Lucas began writing a full script of his synopsis, which he would complete in May 1974. In this script he reintroduced the Jedi, which had been absent in his previous treatment, as well as their enemies, the Sith. He changed the protagonist, who had been a mature General in the treatment, to an adolescent boy, and he shifted the General into a supporting role as a member of a family of dwarfs.[5][23] Lucas envisioned the Corellian smuggler, Han Solo, as a large, green-skinned monster with gills (this would turn out to be Greedo, who Han would shoot in the Mos Eisley Cantina when we first meet his character). He based Chewbacca on his Alaskan Malamute dog, Indiana, (whom he would later use as namesake for his next hero Indiana Jones), who often acted as the director's "co-pilot" by sitting in the passenger seat of his car.[23]

Many of the final elements in the film began to take shape, though the plot[24] was still far removed from the final script. It did, however, begin to diverge from The Hidden Fortress and take on the general story elements that would comprise the final film. Lucas began researching the science fiction genre, both watching films and reading books and comics.[25] His first script incorporated ideas from many new sources. The script would also introduce the concept of a Jedi master father and his son, training to be a Jedi under the father's Jedi friend, which would ultimately form the basis for the film and even the trilogy. However, in this draft, the father is a hero who is still alive at the start of the film.[26] The script was also the first time Darth Vader appeared in the story, though other than being a villain, he bore little resemblance to the final character.

Lucas grew distracted by other projects, but he would return to complete a second draft of The Star Wars by January 1975; while still having some differences in the characters and relationships. For example, the protagonist Luke (Starkiller in this draft) had several brothers, as well as his father who appears in a minor role at the end of the film. The script became more of a fairy tale quest as opposed to the more grounded action-adventure of the previous versions. This version ended with another text crawl which previewed the next story in the series. This draft was also the first to introduce the concept of a Jedi turning to the dark side; a historical Jedi that became the first to ever fall to the dark side, and then trained the Sith to use it. Lucas hired conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie to create paintings of certain scenes around this time. When Lucas delivered his screenplay to the studio, he included several of McQuarrie's paintings.[27]

A third draft, dated August 1, 1975, was titled The Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Starkiller which now had most of the elements of the final plot, with only some differences in the characters and settings. Luke was again an only child, and his father was, for the first time, written as dead. This script would be re-written for the fourth and final draft, dated January 1, 1976 as The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the Journal of the Whills. Saga I: Star Wars. Lucas worked with his friends Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck to revise the fourth draft into the final pre-production script.[28] 20th Century Fox approved a budget of $8,250,000; American Graffiti, having been released in 1973 to positive reviews, allowed Lucas to renegotiate his deal with Alan Ladd, Jr. and request the sequel rights to the film. For Lucas, this deal protected Star Wars' unwritten segments and most of the merchandising profits.[5][29] Lucas would continue to tweak the script during shooting, most notably adding the death of Kenobi after realizing he served no purpose in the ending of the film.[30][31]

Lucas's claims

Lucas has often alleged that the entire original trilogy was written as one film; that the Star Wars script was too long, so he split it into three films.[5][32][33] However, none of Lucas's drafts had more pages or scenes than his final draft. Lucas's second draft is usually cited as the script he is referring to with these comments.[34] Michael Kaminski argues in his work The Secret History of Star Wars that this draft is structurally very similar to the final film in plot arrangement, and that the only elements from it that were saved for the sequels were an asteroid field space chase (moved to The Empire Strikes Back) and a forest battle involving Wookiees (moved to Return of the Jedi, with Ewoks in place of Wookiees), and that none of the major plotlines of the sequels are present.[34] Lucas himself has admitted this.[35]


In 1975, Lucas founded the visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) after discovering that 20th Century Fox's visual effects department had been disbanded. ILM began its work on Star Wars in a warehouse in Van Nuys, California. Most of the visual effects used motion control photography, which creates the illusion of size by employing small models and slowly moving cameras. Model spaceships were constructed on the basis of drawings by Joe Johnston, input from Lucas, and paintings by McQuarrie. Lucas opted to abandon the traditional sleekness of science fiction by creating a "used universe" in which all devices, ships, and buildings looked aged and dirty.[5][36][37]

A traditional underground building in Matmâta, Tunisia, was used as a set for Luke's home on Tatooine.

When filming began on March 22, 1976 in the Tunisian desert for the scenes on the planet Tatooine, the project faced several problems.[38] Lucas fell behind schedule in the first week of shooting due to a rare Tunisian rainstorm, malfunctioning props, and electronic breakdowns.[38][39] When actor Anthony Daniels wore the C-3PO outfit for the first time, the left leg piece shattered down through the plastic covering his left foot, stabbing him. After completing filming in Tunisia, production moved into the more controlled environment of Elstree Studios, near London.[39] However, significant problems, such as a crew that had little interest in the film, still arose.[5][39] Most of the crew considered the project a "children's film," rarely took their work seriously, and often found it unintentionally humorous.[5][40] Actor Kenny Baker later confessed that he thought the film would be a failure. Harrison Ford found the film "weird" in that there was a Princess with buns for hair and what he called a "giant in a monkey suit" named Chewbacca. Ford also found the dialogue difficult, saying "George, you can type this shit, but you can't say it!".[41]

Lucas clashed with cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, whom producer Gary Kurtz called "old-school" and "crotchety". Moreover, with a background in independent filmmaking, Lucas was accustomed to creating most of the elements of the film himself. His camera suggestions were rejected by an offended Taylor, who felt that Lucas was over-stepping his boundaries by giving specific instructions. Lucas eventually became frustrated that the costumes, sets and other elements were not living up to his original vision of Star Wars. He rarely spoke to the actors, who felt that he expected too much of them while providing little direction. His directions to the actors usually consisted of the words "faster" and "more intense".[5]

Ladd offered Lucas some of the only support from the studio; he dealt with scrutiny from board members over the rising budget and complex screenplay drafts. After production fell two weeks behind schedule, Ladd told Lucas that he had to finish production within a week or he would be forced to shut down production. The crew split into three units, led by Lucas, Kurtz and production supervisor Robert Watts. Under the new system, the project met the studio's deadline.[5][39]

Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala, which were used in the film as the rebel base.

During production, the cast attempted to make Lucas laugh or smile as he often appeared depressed. At one point, the project became so demanding that Lucas was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion and was warned to reduce his stress level.[5][39] Post-production was equally stressful due to increasing pressure from 20th Century Fox. Moreover, Mark Hamill's car accident left his face visibly scarred, which suppressed re-shoots.[39]


Star Wars was originally slated for release in Christmas 1976; however, delays pushed the film's release to summer 1977. Already anxious about meeting his deadline, Lucas was shocked when editor John Jympson's first cut of the film was a "complete disaster." According to an article in Star Wars Insider #41 by David West Reynolds, this first edit of Star Wars contained about 30-40% different footage from the final version. This included scenes that have never been seen elsewhere along with alternate takes of existing scenes. After attempting to persuade Jympson to cut the film his way, Lucas replaced him with Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew. He also allowed his then-wife Marcia Lucas to aid the editing process while she was cutting the film New York, New York with Lucas's friend Martin Scorsese. Richard Chew found the film had an unenergetic pace; it had been cut in a by-the-book manner: scenes were played out in master shots that flowed into close-up coverage. He found that the pace was dictated by the actors instead of the cuts. Hirsch and Chew worked on two reels simultaneously; whoever finished first moved on to the next.[5]

Meanwhile, Industrial Light & Magic was struggling to achieve unprecedented special effects. The company had spent half of its budget on four shots that Lucas deemed unacceptable.[39] Moreover, theories surfaced that the workers at ILM lacked discipline, forcing Lucas to intervene frequently to ensure that they were on schedule. With hundreds of uncompleted shots remaining, ILM was forced to finish a year's work in six months. Lucas inspired ILM by editing together aerial dogfights from old war films, which enhanced the pacing of the scenes.[5]

During the chaos of production and post-production, the team made decisions about character voicing and sound effects. Sound designer Ben Burtt had created a library of sounds that Lucas referred to as an "organic soundtrack". Blaster sounds were a modified recording of a steel cable, under tension, being struck. For Chewbacca's growls, Burtt recorded and combined sounds made by dogs, bears, lions, tigers and walruses to create phrases and sentences. Lucas and Burtt created the robotic voice of R2-D2 by filtering their voices through an electronic synthesizer. Darth Vader's breathing was achieved by Burtt breathing through the mask of a scuba regulator implanted with a microphone.[42] Lucas never intended to use the voice of David Prowse, who portrayed Darth Vader in costume, because of Prowse's English West Country accent. He originally wanted Orson Welles to speak for Darth Vader. However, he felt that Welles' voice would be too recognizable, so he cast the lesser-known James Earl Jones.[7] Nor did Lucas intend to use Anthony Daniels' voice for C-3PO. Thirty well-established voice actors read for the voice of the droid. According to Daniels, one of the major voice actors, believed by some sources to be Stan Freberg, recommended Daniels' voice for the role.[5][23]

When Lucas screened an early cut of the film for his friends, among them directors Brian De Palma, John Milius and Steven Spielberg, their reactions were disappointing. Spielberg, who claimed to have been the only person in the audience to have enjoyed the film, believed that the lack of enthusiasm was due to the absence of finished special effects. Lucas later said that the group was honest and seemed bemused by the film. In contrast, Alan Ladd, Jr. and the rest of 20th Century Fox loved the film: one of the executives, Gareth Wigan, told Lucas, "This is the greatest film I've ever seen", and cried during the screening. Lucas found the experience shocking and rewarding, having never gained any approval from studio executives before.[5] The delays increased the budget from $8 million to $11 million.[43]

Cinematic and literary allusions

According to Lucas, the film was inspired by numerous sources, such as Beowulf and King Arthur for the origins of myth and world religions.[5] Lucas originally wanted to rely heavily on the 1930s Flash Gordon film serials; however, he resorted to Akira Kurosawa's film The Hidden Fortress and Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces because of copyright issues with Flash Gordon.[44] Star Wars features several parallels to Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, such as the conflict between Rebels and Imperial Forces, the "wipes" between scenes, and the famous opening crawl that begins each film. A concept borrowed from Flash Gordon—a fusion of futuristic technology and traditional magic—was originally developed by one of the founders of science fiction, H. G. Wells. Wells believed the Industrial Revolution had quietly destroyed the idea that fairy-tale magic might be real. Thus, he found that plausibility was required to allow myth to work properly, and substituted elements of the Industrial Era: time machines instead of magic carpets, Martians instead of dragons, and scientists instead of wizards. Wells called his new genre "scientific fantasia".[45]

Star Wars was influenced by the 1958 Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress; for instance, the two bickering peasants evolved into C-3PO and R2-D2, and a Japanese family crest seen in the film is similar to the Imperial Crest. Star Wars borrows heavily from another Kurosawa film, Yojimbo. In both films, several men threaten the hero, bragging how wanted they are by authorities. The situation ends with an arm being cut off by a blade. Kuwabatake Sanjuro (portrayed by Toshirō Mifune) is offered "twenty-five ryo now, twenty-five when you complete the mission", whereas Han Solo is offered "Two thousand now, plus fifteen when we reach Alderaan." Lucas's affection for Kurosawa may have influenced his decision to visit Japan in the early 1970s, leading some to believe he borrowed the name "Jedi" from jidaigeki (which in English means "period dramas," and refers to films typically featuring samurai).[45]

Tatooine is similar to Arrakis from Frank Herbert's book Dune. Arrakis is the only known source of a longevity drug called the Spice Melange. References to "spice," various illegal stimulant drugs, occur throughout the last three films of the Star Wars saga. In Episode IV Han Solo is a spice smuggler who has been through the spice mines of Kessel. In the conversation at Obi-Wan Kenobi's home between Obi-Wan and Luke, Luke expresses a belief that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter. Other similarities include those between Princess Leia and Princess Alia (play /əˈlə/), and between Jedi mind tricks and "The Voice," a controlling ability used by Bene Gesserit. In passing, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are "Moisture Farmers"; in Dune, Dew Collectors are used by Fremen to "provide a small but reliable source of water."[46] Frank Herbert reported that, "David Lynch, [director of 1984 film Dune] had trouble with the fact that Star Wars used up so much of Dune." The pair found "sixteen points of identity" and they calculated that, "the odds against coincidence produced a number larger than the number of stars in the universe."[47]

The Death Star assault scene was modeled after the film The Dam Busters (1955), in which Royal Air Force Lancaster bombers fly along heavily defended reservoirs and aim "bouncing bombs" at their man-made dams to cripple the heavy industry of the Ruhr. Some of the dialogue in The Dam Busters is repeated in the Star Wars climax; Gilbert Taylor also filmed the special effects sequences in The Dam Busters. In addition, the sequence was partially inspired by the climax of the film 633 Squadron (1964) directed by Walter Grauman,[48] in which RAF Mosquitos attack a German heavy water plant by flying down a narrow fjord to drop special bombs at a precise point while avoiding anti-aircraft guns and German fighters. Clips from both films were included in Lucas's temporary dogfight footage version of the sequence.[14]

The opening shot of Star Wars, in which a detailed spaceship fills the screen overhead, is a nod to the scene introducing the interplanetary spacecraft Discovery One in Stanley Kubrick's seminal 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The earlier big-budget science fiction film influenced the look of Star Wars in many other ways, including the use of EVA pods and hexagonal corridors. The Death Star has a docking bay reminiscent of the one on the orbiting space station in 2001.[citation needed] The film also draws on The Wizard of Oz (1939): similarities exist between Jawas and Munchkins; the main characters disguise themselves as enemy soldiers; and when Obi-Wan dies, he leaves only his empty robe, similar to the melting of the Wicked Witch of the West. Also note that Luke lives on a farm with his uncle and aunt like Dorothy.[49] Although golden and male, C-3PO is inspired by the robot Maria from Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis. His whirring sounds were speculated to be inspired by the clanking noises of The Wizard of Oz character the Tin Woodsman and C-3PO has an arc throughout the Star Wars saga that is similar to the arc of the Cowardly Lion.[50]


On the recommendation of his friend Steven Spielberg, Lucas hired composer John Williams, who had worked with Spielberg on the film Jaws, for which he won an Academy Award. Lucas felt that the film would portray visually foreign worlds, but that the musical score would give the audience an emotional familiarity. In March 1977, Williams conducted the London Symphony Orchestra to record the Star Wars soundtrack in twelve days.[5]

Lucas wanted a grand musical sound for Star Wars, with leitmotifs to provide distinction. Therefore, he assembled his favorite orchestral pieces for the soundtrack, until John Williams convinced him that an original score would be unique and more unified. However, a few of Williams' pieces were influenced by the tracks given to him by Lucas. The "Main Title Theme" was inspired by the theme from the 1942 film Kings Row, scored by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and the track "Dune Sea of Tatooine" drew from the soundtrack from Bicycle Thieves, scored by Alessandro Cicognini. The American Film Institute's list of best scores lists the Star Wars soundtrack at number one.[51]


Charles Lippincott was hired by Lucas's production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., as marketing director for Star Wars. As 20th Century Fox gave little support for marketing beyond licensing T-shirts and posters, Lippincott was forced to look elsewhere. He secured deals with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Marvel Comics for a comic book adaptation and with Del Rey Books for a novelization. A fan of science fiction, he used his contacts to promote the film at the San Diego Comic-Con and elsewhere within fandom. Worried that Star Wars would be beaten out by other summer films, such as Smokey and the Bandit, 20th Century Fox moved the release date to the Wednesday before Memorial Day: May 25, 1977. However, fewer than forty theaters ordered the film to be shown. In response, 20th Century Fox demanded that theaters order Star Wars if they wanted an eagerly anticipated film based on a best-selling novel titled The Other Side of Midnight.[5]

Within three weeks of the film's release, 20th Century Fox's stock price doubled to a record high. Before 1977, 20th Century Fox's greatest annual profits were $37,000,000; in 1977, the company earned $79,000,000. Although the film's cultural neutrality helped it to gain international success, Ladd became anxious during the premiere in Japan. After the screening, the audience was silent, leading him to fear that the film would be unsuccessful. Ladd was later told that, in Japan, silence was the greatest honor to a film. When Star Wars made an unprecedented second opening at Mann's Chinese Theatre on 3 August 1977 after Sorcerer failed, thousands of people attended a ceremony in which C-3PO, R2-D2, and Darth Vader placed their footprints in the theater's forecourt.[52][5] Some cinemas continuously screened the film for more than a year.

Little Star Wars merchandise was available for several months after the film's debut; only Kenner Toys had accepted Lippincott's licensing offers. Kenner responded to the sudden demand for toys by selling boxed vouchers in its "empty box" Christmas campaign. Television commercials told children and parents that vouchers within a "Star Wars Early Bird Certificate Package" could be redeemed for toys "between February 1 and June 1".[5]

In 1978, at the height of the film's popularity, Smith-Hemion Productions approached Lucas with the idea of The Star Wars Holiday Special. The result is often considered a failure; Lucas himself disowned it.[53] Lucas entered into a wager with longtime friend Spielberg during the production of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Lucas was sure Close Encounters would outperform the yet-to-be-released Star Wars at the box office and bet 2.5% of the proceeds of each film against each other. Lucas lost the bet and Spielberg still receives proceeds from the first of the Star Wars movies.[54]

The film was originally released as Star Wars, without Episode IV or the subtitle A New Hope. The 1980 sequel, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, featured an episode number and subtitle in the opening crawl. When the original film was re-released in 1981, Episode IV: A New Hope was added above the original opening crawl. Although Lucas claims that only six films were ever planned, representatives of Lucasfilm discussed plans for nine or twelve possible films in early interviews.[55] The film was re-released theatrically in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, and with additional scenes and enhanced special effects in 1997.

Original home video releases

The film was released on VHS, Betamax and Laserdisc during the 1980s and 90s by CBS Fox Video.[56][57]

Special Edition

After ILM used computer-generated effects for Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Lucas concluded that digital technology had caught up to his original vision for Star Wars.[5] For the film's 20th Anniversary in 1997, A New Hope was digitally remastered and re-released to movie theaters, along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. The Special Edition versions contained visual shots and scenes that were unachievable in the original release due to financial, technological, and time restraints; one such scene involved a meeting between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt.[5] The process of creating the new visual effects for A New Hope was featured in the Academy Award-nominated IMAX documentary film, Special Effects: Anything Can Happen, directed by veteran Star Wars sound designer, Ben Burtt. Although most changes were minor or cosmetic in nature, some fans believe that Lucas degraded the movie with the additions.[58] For instance, a particularly controversial change in which a bounty hunter named Greedo shoots first when confronting Han Solo has inspired T-shirts brandishing the phrase "Han Shot First".[59]

Although the Special Edition's changes were artistic, A New Hope required extensive restoration before Lucas could even attempt his modifications. It had been discovered that in addition to the negative motion picture stocks commonly used on feature films, Lucas had also used internegative film, a reversal stock which deteriorated faster than negative stocks did. This meant that the entire printing negative had to be disassembled, and the CRI (color reversal internegative) portions cleaned separately from the negative portions. Once the cleaning was complete, the film was scanned into the computer for restoration. In many cases, entire scenes had to be reconstructed from their individual elements. Fortunately, digital compositing technology allowed them to correct for problems such as alignment of mattes, "blue-spill," and so forth.[60]

The film was then color-corrected and digitally printed onto a new negative, from which prints would be struck.

DVD releases

A New Hope was released on DVD on September 21, 2004, in a box set with The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and a bonus disc of supplementary material. The movies were digitally restored and remastered, and more changes were made by George Lucas.

The DVD features a commentary track from George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher. The bonus disc contains the documentary Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, three featurettes, teaser and theatrical trailers, TV spots, still galleries, an exclusive preview of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, a playable Xbox demo of the LucasArts game Star Wars: Battlefront, and a "Making Of" documentary on the Episode III video game. The set was reissued in December 2005 as part of a three-disc "limited edition" boxed set without the bonus disc.

The trilogy was re-released on separate two-disc Limited Edition DVD sets from September 12 to December 31, 2006, and again in a box set on November 4, 2008;[61] the original versions of the films were added as bonus material. Controversy surrounded the release because the unaltered versions were from the 1993 non-anamorphic Laserdisc masters, and were not retransferred with modern video standards.[62]

Blu-ray release

On August 14, 2010, George Lucas announced that all six Star Wars films would be released on Blu-ray Disc in Fall 2011.[63] On January 6, 2011, the release was announced for September 16, 2011 in three different editions.[64] Star Wars: The Complete Saga includes 9 discs and over 40 hours of special features, including deleted and alternate scenes from the films.[65]

3D re-release

On September 28, 2010, it was announced that all six films in the series will be converted to stereo 3D. The films will be re-released in internal chronological order beginning with The Phantom Menace in early 2012. A New Hope is scheduled to re-release in 3D in 2015.[66]


On opening day I ... did a radio call-in show ... this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. I said, ‘You know a lot about the film.’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve seen it four times already.’

—Producer Gary Kurtz, on when he realized Star Wars had become a cultural phenomenon[67]

Star Wars debuted on Wednesday, May 25, 1977, in 32 theaters, and eight more on Thursday and Friday. It immediately broke box-office records, effectively becoming one of the first blockbuster films, and Fox accelerated plans to broaden its release.[52] Lucas spent most of the day in a sound studio in Los Angeles. When he went out for lunch with his then-wife Marcia, they encountered a long queue of people along the sidewalks leading to Mann's Chinese Theatre, waiting to see Star Wars.[39] Even technical crew members, such as model makers, were asked for autographs, and cast members became instant household names.[5]

Star Wars remains one of the most financially successful films of all time. The film's original total U.S. and Canada gross came to $307,263,857, and it earned $6,806,951 during its first weekend in wide release. The film became the highest-grossing film of 1977 and the highest-grossing film of all time until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial broke that record in 1982. With subsequent re-releases, Star Wars reclaimed the title, but lost it again to James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic. The film earned $775,398,007 worldwide,[2] and adjusted for inflation it is the second highest grossing movie of all time in the United States, behind Gone with the Wind (1939).[68]

Critical response

The film received a largely positive critical reception. In his 1977 review, Roger Ebert called the film "an out-of-body experience", compared its special effects to those of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and opined that the true strength of the film was its "pure narrative".[69] Vincent Canby called the film "the movie that's going to entertain a lot of contemporary folk who have a soft spot for the virtually ritualized manners of comic-book adventure".[70]

However, there were a few negative responses. Pauline Kael of The New Yorker criticized the film, stating that "there's no breather in the picture, no lyricism", and that it had no "emotional grip".[71] Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader stated, "None of these characters has any depth, and they're all treated like the fanciful props and settings."[72] Peter Keough of the Boston Phoenix said "Star Wars is a junkyard of cinematic gimcracks not unlike the Jawas' heap of purloined, discarded, barely functioning droids."[73] According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 94% of 66 reviews assessed are favorable, with an average rating of 8.2/10, stating in summary: "A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possiblites of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same."[74]

Top ten lists

Prolific film producer Roger Corman considers A New Hope to be one of the greatest films of all time.[77]


Star Wars won six Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction, which went to John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley and Roger Christian. Best Costume Design was awarded to John Mollo; Best Film Editing went to Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew; John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack all received awards for Best Visual Effects. John Williams was awarded his third Oscar for Best Original Score; the Best Sound went to Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler and Derek Ball; and a Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing went to Ben Burtt.[78] Additional nominations included Alec Guinness for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, George Lucas for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture, which instead went to Annie Hall.[79]

At the Golden Globe Awards, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness), and it won the award for Best Score.[79] It received six BAFTA nominations: Best Film, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Production/Art Design, Best Sound, and Best Score; the film won in the latter two categories.[79] John Williams' soundtrack album won the Grammy Award for Best Album of Original Score for a Motion Picture or Television Program,[79] and the film was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.[79] In 1997, the MTV Movie Awards awarded Chewbacca the lifetime achievement award for his work in the Star Wars trilogy.[79]

Cinematic influence

Critic Roger Ebert wrote, "Like The Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane, Star Wars was a technical watershed that influenced many of the movies that came after."[80] It began a new generation of special effects and high-energy motion pictures. The film was one of the first films to link genres—such as space opera and soap opera—together to invent a new, high concept genre for filmmakers to build upon.[36][80] Finally, along with Steven Spielberg's Jaws it shifted the film industry's focus away from personal filmmaking of the 1970s and towards fast-paced big-budget blockbusters for younger audiences.[5][80][81]

After seeing Star Wars, director James Cameron quit his job as a truck driver to enter the film industry. Other filmmakers who have said to have been influenced by Star Wars include Peter Jackson, Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich, Christopher Nolan, John Lasseter, David Fincher, Kevin Smith, John Singleton, and Ridley Scott.[36] Scott was influenced by the "used future" (where vehicles and culture are obviously dated) and extended the concept for his science fiction horror film Alien and science fiction noir film Blade Runner (which also starred Harrison Ford). Jackson used the concept for his production of The Lord of the Rings trilogy to add a sense of realism and believability.[36] Nolan cited Star Wars as an influence when making the blockbuster Inception.[82]

Some critics have blamed Star Wars and also Jaws for ruining Hollywood by shifting its focus from sophisticated and relevant films such as The Godfather, Taxi Driver, and Annie Hall to films about spectacle and juvenile fantasy.[83] Peter Biskind complained for the same reason: "When all was said and done, Lucas and Spielberg returned the 1970s audience, grown sophisticated on a diet of European and New Hollywood films, to the simplicities of the pre-1960s Golden Age of movies… They marched backward through the looking-glass."[83][84]

In an opposing view, Tom Shone wrote that through Star Wars and Jaws, Lucas and Spielberg "didn't betray cinema at all: they plugged it back into the grid, returning the medium to its roots as a carnival sideshow, a magic act, one big special effect", which was "a kind of rebirth".[81]

Star Wars has been the subject of many parodies, including those in Robot Chicken, South Park, Family Guy in the episode "Blue Harvest", the short film Hardware Wars and Mel Brooks' full-length parody, Spaceballs.


In 1989, the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress selected the film as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" film.[85] In 2002, Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were voted as the greatest films ever made on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Films poll.[86] In 2006, Lucas's original screenplay was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 68th greatest of all time.[87]

American Film Institute Lists:

  • AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (1998) - #15[88]
  • AFI's 100 Years…100 Thrills (2001) - #27[89]
  • AFI's 100 Years…100 Heroes and Villains (2003):
    • Han Solo - #14 Hero[90]
    • Obi-Wan Kenobi - #37 Hero[90]
    • Princess Leia - Nominated Hero[91]
    • Luke Skywalker - Nominated Hero[91]
  • AFI's 100 Years…100 Movie Quotes (2004):
  • AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores (2005) - #1[51]
  • AFI's 100 Years…100 Cheers (2006) - #39[93]
  • AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) (2007) - #13[94]
  • AFI's 10 Top 10 (2008) - #2 Sci-Fi Film[95]

In 2011, ABC aired a primetime special, Best in Film: The Greatest Movies of Our Time, that counted down the best movies chosen by fans based on results of a poll conducted by ABC and People magazine. Star Wars was selected as the #1 Best Sci-Fi Film.



The novelization of the film was published in December 1976, six months before the film was released. The credited author was George Lucas, but the book was revealed to have been ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who later wrote the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. The book was first published as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker; later editions were titled simply Star Wars (1995) and, later, Star Wars: A New Hope (1997), to reflect the retitling of the film. Certain scenes deleted from the film (and later restored or archived in DVD bonus features) were always present in the novel (since it had been based on the screenplay), such as Luke at Tosche Station with Biggs and the encounter between Han and Jabba (referred to as "Jabba the Hut") in Docking Bay 94. Other deleted scenes from the movie, such as a close-up of a stormtrooper riding on a Dewback, were included in a photo insert added to later printings of the book.

Smaller details were also different from the film version; for example, in the Death Star assault, Luke's callsign is Blue Five instead of Red Five as in the film. Also Obi-Wan does not sacrifice himself; Vader actually defeats and executes him in the lightsaber duel. Charles Lippincott secured the deal with Del Rey Books to publish the novelization in November 1976. By February 1977, a half million copies had been sold.[5]

Book-and-record sets

Lucasfilm adapted the story for a children's book-and-record set. Released in 1979, the 24-page Star Wars read-along book was accompanied by a 33⅓ rpm 7-inch gramophone record. Each page of the book contained a cropped frame from the movie with an abridged and condensed version of the story. The record was produced by Buena Vista Records, and its content copyrighted by Black Falcon, Ltd., a subsidiary of Lucasfilm "formed to handle the merchandising for Star Wars".[96]

The Story of Star Wars was a 1977 record album presenting an abridged version of the events depicted in Star Wars, using dialogue and sound effects from the original film. The recording was produced by George Lucas and Alan Livingston, and was narrated by Roscoe Lee Browne. The script was adapted by E. Jack Kaplan and Cheryl Gard.[citation needed]

Radio drama

A radio drama adaptation of the film was written by Brian Daley, directed by John Madden, and produced for and broadcast on the American National Public Radio network in 1981. The adaptation received cooperation from George Lucas, who donated the rights to NPR. John Williams' music and Ben Burtt's sound design were retained for the show; Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) reprised their roles as well. The radio drama featured scenes not seen in the final cut of the film, such as Luke Skywalker's observation of the space battle above Tatooine through binoculars, a skyhopper race, and Darth Vader's interrogation of Princess Leia. In terms of Star Wars canon, the radio drama is given the highest designation (like the screenplay and novelization), G-canon.[97][98]



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  • Baxter, John (1999). Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas (1st edition). William Morrow. ISBN 978-0380978335.
  • Bouzereau, Laurent (1997). Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays. Del Rey. ISBN 0-345-40981-7
  • Kaminski, Michael (2008). The Secret History of Star Wars. Legacy Books Press. ISBN 978-0978465230
  • Pollock, Dale (1999). Skywalking: The Life and Films of George Lucas. Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80904-4
  • Rinzler, J. W. (2007). The Making of Star Wars. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0-345-49476-4

Further reading

  • Bailey, T.J. (2005). Devising a Dream: A Book of Star Wars Facts and Production Timeline. Wasteland Press. ISBN 1-933265-55-8
  • Blackman, W. Haden (2004). The New Essential Guide to Weapons and Technology, Revised Edition (Star Wars). Del Rey. ISBN 0-345-44903-7
  • Sansweet, Stephen (1992). Star Wars - From Concept to Screen to Collectible. Chronicle Books. ISBN 0-8118-0101-2

External links

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