- Note: This article deals with the science fiction saga, not the American Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
For the original Star Wars film, see Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Star Wars is a science fiction film saga and fictional universe created by American director George Lucas. The original Star Wars movie (Episode IV) came out on May 25, 1977. The earlier set of Star Wars movies (Episodes IV, V and VI) are renowned as classics of cinema, and were some of the first "summer blockbusters" ever made. Episodes I, II and III were released in 1999, 2002 and 2005 respectively. All six movies are among the top 50 highest-grossing films of all time.
During the time of the Prequel trilogy, Lucas's liberal politics came to the forefront, with there being a more overt left-leaning agenda in the films, including a negative depiction of creating a military, a negative depiction of capitalism in Episode I and II via the main antagonistic groups of the Trade Federation and the Separatists, respectively (the former showing the Trade Federation literally owning a seat in the Senate, and the latter having the inner circle of the Separatists being composed of various corporations such as the aforementioned Trade Federation as well as the Techno Guild, Intergalactic Banking Clan, and the Corporate Alliance), some demonization of Republicans in the form of the main antagonist Nute Gunray (who was explicitly named after both Ronald Reagan in reference to his role in SDI as well as then-Senate Majority Leader Newt Gingrich), the minor character and "senator" of the Trade Federation Lott Dod (referring to Trent Lott, then-current House Majority Leader of the Republican Party), and to a lesser extent the entire Republican party (as the first film, and the decision to make the Trade Federation the main villains was derived largely from the Republican Revolution of 1994 as well as Gingrich's Contract with America plan, all of which had occurred within eight days of Lucas draft-writing Episode I), as well as some George W. Bush jabs in the third movie (as well as at least one implied instance of promoting postmodernism via the line "Only a Sith deals in absolutes."). In addition, the prequel movies had implicitly condemned elements of the family unit, as part of the Jedi code denounced having any attachments, with parental attachments being included, as well as George Lucas implying that Vader turning to the Dark Side was ultimately rooted in a desire to protect his family, which he labeled as "greedy". While box office successes, the Prequel Trilogy had controversial reception, with complaints including the creation of Jar-Jar Binks as well as the more overt pushing of politics in the films (particularly pushing a more left-wing view of politics).
In 1984 and 1985, two spinoff movies to the original trilogy (Episode IV, V and VI) were made featuring the Ewok characters seen in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. An animated film called Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released in 2008. In 2012, George Lucas sold the franchise to The Walt Disney Company, which plans to make three more movies  Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released on December 18, 2015, making it the second film in the overall franchise (the first being The Clone Wars), and the first in the main series, to not be released in May. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi followed suit, releasing on December 15, 2017. Episode IX is slated for a December 20, 2019 release, with J.J. Abrams returning to direct. Overall, with the comics, movies, video games, books of various genres, and toys, it is the second-highest grossing media franchise in existence, with only Pokemon surpassing it.
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
- Caravan of Courage (1984; TV)
- The Battle for Endor (1985; TV)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
- The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
- Droids (1985-1986)
- Ewoks (1985-1986)
- Clone Wars (2003-2005)
- The Clone Wars (2008-2014)
- Rebels (2014-2018)
- The Mandalorian (2019)
The story of Star Wars was originally planned to be the third entry of a trilogy focusing on, or more accurately, criticizing the events of American involvement in the Vietnam War, after American Graffiti (set in 1962) and Apocalypse Now, and as such was intended to initially be in our galaxy as well as take place in the thirty-third century (the implication being that after America won the war in Vietnam, it would become a fascistic dictatorship desiring to conquer the universe). However, Apocalypse Now ended up changing hands from George Lucas to Francis Ford Coppola due to Warner Bros. shutting down his studio, American Zoetrope. He then made American Graffiti, which indirectly alluded to Vietnam in its plot, which was a moderate success. He eventually decided to revisit the idea of Apocalypse Now in 1973, although because America was still within the Vietnam War, he couldn't directly tie it to the Vietnam War, and upon settling on an idea for subtly pushing the anti-war agenda in the film by moving it to a galaxy far from our own and in the past, he then proceeded to get started on filming after Fox agreed to make it. During Cannes Film Festival 2005, George Lucas also implied that, in addition to the direct inspiration by Nixon and the Vietnam War (as well as the more indirect similarities in the films to the second Iraq war and George W. Bush), the Old Republic in the prequel trilogy took inspiration from the First French Republic under Robespierre, the Roman Republic under Julius Caesar, and the Weimar Republic, and the transition of power into the Empire, and in particular the implication that the people willingly turned democracy into a dictatorship, was taken from when Napoleon Bonaparte took over France, when the Roman Republic shortly after Julius Caesar's assassination turned into the Roman Empire under Augustus, and the Weimar Republic turned into Nazi Germany and brought Adolf Hitler into power.
Development of the Monomyth
George Lucas built on the idea of the monomyth - a dominant mythic structure that resounds strongly with the human psyche - in structuring his narrative. He consulted closely with Joseph Campbell, author of the book, Hero of a Thousand Faces, in his utilizing of the monomyth structure for the movie. In Star Wars (now known as Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), the reluctant hero is Luke Skywalker, the teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the archetype villain Darth Vader.
There have been many short films created by Star Wars Fans. One major website is www.fanfilms.com; which contains many fanfilms including TROOPS, The Essence of The Force, The Jedi Hunter, the Pink Five trilogy, Revelations, and Ryan Vs. Dorkman 1 and 2. One major high-quality fan based movie is I.M.P.S: The Relentless; which can be found at www.impstherelentless.com, and is the first chapter of a future full-length, chapter-based movie based on the Imperial Starship Relentless and her crew.
Since the success of the film franchise, Lucasfilm has licensed a number of novels, comic books, and video games that take place in the Star Wars universe, otherwise known as the Expanded Universe (EU). Hundreds of novels and comics and dozens of video games have been, and continue to be produced. Although these spin-off media often take place before, after or in between the films, some take place in "alternate realities." A major focus of the EU is to feature characters not on-screen or only briefly shown in the films. All officially licensed works are considered canon, except in places where they contradict the films. There are also two cartoon series and three TV movies, two about the Ewoks and the Star Wars Holiday Special, which represented a secularized version of Christmas for Wookiees known as "Life Day." The last has been disowned by Lucas due to its incredibly poor quality, however an animated sequence from the special featuring Boba Fett was released as an Easter egg on the Star Wars Blu-ray collection.
Of note is Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the only part of the Expanded Universe to reach the big screen.
After the franchise was bought out by The Walt Disney Company, a new expanded universe was established, with the old one being designated as "Legends" material.
From 1999-2005, George Lucas released Episodes I, II and III of the Star Wars saga. Although released after the original films, they take place prior to them. The films tell the story of Anakin Skywalker, from being discovered on Tatooine, his Jedi training, his role in the Clone Wars, and ultimately, how he becomes Darth Vader. The films have been met with mixed reaction. Out of the three, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, is generally considered the best of the prequels.
The Star Wars film series and its expanded universe has been a large revenue producer. As of 2005 the Star Wars franchise has produced over $20 billion. With the release of the expanded universe series it has increased.
Portrayal of religion
George Lucas has stated that he came up with the idea of "The Force" as he wanted to promote a vague idea of hollow Hollywood-style spirituality without referencing any recognizable religion. Despite this, the depiction of the philosophy and beliefs of the Jedi seem to be a way to promote eastern mysticism (in particular Buddhism) and undermine Christianity in the movie's western audience. This is typical of the New Age movement's tendency to use parts of different religions willy-nilly without any structure of sense, and shows the influence of Lucas growing up in 1960s California, which he had briefly referenced in an interview regarding his film Red Tails. In addition, the Sith and Empire, largely due to Lucas's attempts at trying to push an anti-Vietnam War message within the movie, come across as being closer to Western religions than the Jedi. Lucas is strongly liberal and actually describes himself as a "Buddhist Methodist". In large part because of the Force largely being based on new-age elements, the commentator Ben Shapiro, otherwise a massive Star Wars fan, condemns the concept of the Force as being "stupid" and "amoral" largely because of the implication that having any anger at all automatically means you are an evil person, even if the anger in question is actually directed towards something that actually is an evil act.
Regarding moral relativity, the franchise has generally depicted the concept in a more neutral light overall, while being a bit closer to promoting it, with Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith both having the character Obi-Wan Kenobi implicitly supporting moral relativity, at least under the context of the Jedi using it. In particular, the former had Obi-Wan Kenobi, when admitting that his telling Luke that Vader killed his father was not quite true, stated that what he said was "true - from a certain point of view", he tells a dumbfounded Luke (who had already learned that Vader was in fact his biological father all along) that the latter will eventually learn that many of the great many truths that people cling to depend greatly on that person's point of view; and the latter had Obi-Wan Kenobi, when confronting Vader on Mustafar just prior to the duel, saying "Only a Sith deals in Absolutes" after the latter yelled "If you are not with me, then you are my enemy!" On the other hand, Palpatine while tempting Anakin claimed that "good was a point of view", and upon stating that evil is simply a point of view, Anakin is berated by Obi-Wan and his worldview is condemned. "From my point of view," Anakin states, "the Jedi are evil." Obi-Wan responds by claiming that this means that he is "lost" to darkness, which has been interpreted as condemning moral relativity.
Similar to other works, Star Wars fell under some controversy at some points. When covering Return of the Jedi in Empire of Dreams, George Lucas admitted that he based the Ewoks on the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, otherwise known as the Viet Cong, while implying that the Galactic Empire was intended to be based on America's involvement in the Vietnam War. It should also be noted that George Lucas since 1973 had intended for the Rebel Alliance was intended to represent the Viet Cong, and as noted above the first Star Wars movie had intended to be the third of a trilogy of anti-Vietnam War films, after Apocalypse Now and American Graffiti. Former president Richard Nixon in his 1985 book No More Vietnams cited Return of the Jedi and its depiction of the Ewoks taking down the Galactic Empire's war machines with little more than wooden bows and arrows (as well as Lucas's explicit admission to the Ewoks being based on the Vietcong at the time) as ultimately one reason why America, at least by that time, had initially felt so guilty of their strength that they were unwilling to use it even to defend their freedom and that of others.
Star Wars became forever linked to politics when a missile-defense plan, devised under the Reagan administration, was nicknamed Star Wars. Attempts to bring back such a system are still referred to by this name. Ironically, the name "Star Wars" being applied to the SDI was originally coined by left-wing journalists as an insult towards the program. In addition, despite the moniker actually being invented by the mainstream media rather than Ronald Reagan himself, George Lucas held a grudge against Reagan for "stealing" his work when naming it.
In recent years, Star Wars has become infamous for its re-releases, as well as edits to the film that have been met with heavy criticism from fans. In 1997, in honor of the 20th anniversary of A New Hope, the Original Trilogy was released in theaters, with a film being released each month from January to March. Later that year, the trilogy was released on VHS. It was during this release of the original films that the alterations began. Some of the most infamous changes include Greedo proceeding to shoot first and missing despite being inches away from Han before Han shot him when originally, Han Solo shot first (Lucas, when discussing this particular change, would later claim to the Hollywood Reporter that it was "always Greedo shooting first" and that they just did closeups and that they went back to the original intention to dissuade any notions that Han was a "cold blooded killer" despite Han shooting first being mentioned in a shooting script), as well as Jabba the Hutt being added to A New Hope, which was created from a deleted scene in which Jabba was played by an actor. The same scene also included a cameo from Boba Fett, who first appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. Out of the 1997 re-releases, The Empire Strikes Back received the least amount of changes, with the most significant being different angles in the wampa cave on Hoth. Another was Luke's scream when falling after the duel with Darth Vader. The scream was actually used for Emperor Palpatine when he is thrown down the Death Star by Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi. In Return of the Jedi, the music from Jabba's palace was changed, as was the ending of the film. The sarlacc scene was altered as well, with a CGI beak being added. The original ending featured the song called "Yub Nub", with just the celebration on Endor. The 1997 version would feature a new song, simply called "Victory Celebration," which has a more tribal sound than "Yub Nub". Scenes were added featuring celebrations occurring on Bespin, Tatooine, and Coruscant following Palpatine's downfall, even though Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace was still two years away from release.
In 2004, the Original Trilogy was released on DVD for the first time, eight months before the release of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. These releases featured even more changes. In A New Hope, Jabba's appearance was altered to look more like he did in Return of the Jedi. In The Empire Strikes Back, the scene in which Darth Vader talks to Palpatine was altered. Elaine Baker, who played the Emperor, and Clive Revill, who provided the voice, were replaced with Ian McDiarmid. McDiarmid played Palpatine in Return of the Jedi as well as the Prequel Trilogy. The way the Emperor looks in The Empire Strikes Back is similar to his appearance in Revenge of the Sith. The voice of Boba Fett was also changed. Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, provided the voice. Out of the three original films, Return of the Jedi has the most notorious changes. The first was the inclusion of a celebration scene on Naboo in the ending following Palpatine's death, as well as a Gungan saying "Wesa Free!" in the background. The second was Sebastian Shaw, the actor who played Anakin Skywalker as a force ghost being edited out from the Endor celebration scene and replaced with Hayden Christensen. The reason provided for the change was that he "died as a Jedi" in Revenge of the Sith, hence why he looks the same.
2011 saw the entire saga released on Blu-Ray. Like the 2004 releases, these films also had significant changes. In A New Hope, rocks were included in the small cave that R2-D2 was hiding in when they were found by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Like 2004, Return of the Jedi, once again, had the most talked about changes. The first was that the eyes of the Ewoks could now blink. The second, and most controversial, was when Darth Vader screamed "No!" right before throwing the Emperor down the Death Star shaft. This set also saw an alteration to the Prequel Trilogy. In The Phantom Menace, the puppet Yoda was replaced with a CGI model used in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, many fans hoped this would mean a release of the Original Unaltered Trilogy. However, the rights to A New Hope permanently belong to 20th Century Fox, while the rights to the Prequel Trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi revert to Disney in the year 2020. However, Disney eventually managed to get the rights to A New Hope via its purchase of 20th Century Fox in late 2017 (a purchase cleared by U.S. antitrust officials in June 2018, but which still needs the approval of international regulators).
- How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise by Chris Taylor.
- The Making of Star Wars, pages 7-8; 17
"I started to work on Star Wars rather than continue on Apocalypse Now. I had worked on Apocalypse Now for about four years and I had very strong feelings about it. I wanted to do it, but could not get it off the ground... A lot of my interest in Apocalypse Now was carried over into Star Wars. I figured I couldn't make that film because it was about the Vietnam War, so I would essentially deal with some of the same interesting concepts that I was going to use and convert them into space fantasy, so you'd have essentially a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters or human beings... a small independent country like North Vietnam threatened by a neighbor or provincial rebellion, instigated by gangsters aided by empire. [...] The empire is like America ten years from now, after Nixonian gangsters assassinated the Emperor and were elevated to power in a rigged election; created civil disorder by instigating race riots aiding rebel groups and allowing the crime rate to rise to the point where a 'total control' police state was welcomed by the people. Then the people were exploited with high taxes, utility and transport costs"
"Lucas said he patterned his story after historical transformations from freedom to fascism, never figuring when he started his prequel trilogy in the late 1990s that current events might parallel his space fantasy.
"As you go through history, I didn't think it was going to get quite this close. So it's just one of those recurring things," Lucas said at a Cannes news conference. "I hope this doesn't come true in our country.
"Maybe the film will waken people to the situation," Lucas joked
"When I wrote it, [the 2003 Iraq war] didn't exist," Lucas said, laughing.
"We were just funding Saddam Hussein and giving him weapons of mass destruction. We didn't think of him as an enemy at that time. We were going after Iran and using him as our surrogate, just as we were doing in Vietnam. ... The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we're doing in Iraq now are unbelievable."
The prequel trilogy is based on a back-story outline Lucas created in the mid-1970s for the original three "Star Wars" movies, so the themes percolated out of the Vietnam War and the Nixon-Watergate era, he said.
Lucas began researching how democracies can turn into dictatorships with full consent of the electorate.In ancient Rome, "why did the senate after killing Caesar turn around and give the government to his nephew?" Lucas said. "Why did France after they got rid of the king and that whole system turn around and give it to Napoleon? It's the same thing with Germany and Hitler.
"You sort of see these recurring themes where a democracy turns itself into a dictatorship, and it always seems to happen kind of in the same way, with the same kinds of issues, and threats from the outside, needing more control. A democratic body, a senate, not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling, there's corruption.""
- No More Vietnams by Richard Nixon, 1985
The assertion that our very bigness is badness has infested our culture to a surprising degree. The creator of the phenomenally successful Star Wars series recently explained that the climactic scene in one of his moves - in which the evil “Empire’s” giant war machines are destroyed by fuzzy little good guys with wooden bows and arrows - was inspired by the Vietnam experience. No matter that in Vietnam the Communist “good guys” packed Soviet automatic rifles and, in 1975, rode state-of-the-art Russian tanks across the South Vietnamese border. The propaganda of disproportionate forces in Vietnam, the myth of small/good versus big/bad, did enough damage to help lose the war for the United States and the people of South Vietnam. Today it is one symptom of the Vietnam syndrome to the extent that it makes Americans ashamed of their power, guilty about being strong, and forgetful about the need to be willing to use their power to protect their freedom and the freedom of others.