What is there to say about Star Wars that hasn’t already been said a million times by a million different people? Yes, it’s one of the top grossing movie franchises of all time. Yes, it’s a masterpiece of storytelling and vision that brims with energy, passion and heart. Yes, it features special effects and film making techniques that still feel fresh and exciting over 30 years later. And yes, it has captured the imaginations of countless children and adults alike, helping to make it one of the most beloved movies in cinema history. But more importantly, it also helped the entertainment industry realize the vast economic and creative potential of the Science Fiction genre. Every Sci-Fi movie that came after it owes a debt to the impact it had on popular culture and the way that Science Fiction was viewed by mainstream America. For that, if nothing else, Star Wars deserves to be near the top of any list of the top Science Fiction movies of all time.
Star Wars Summary: Since we’re dealing with multiple movies in this entry (and since most people already know every detail of the story), I won’t try to provide a comprehensive summary. I’ll just say that the first three films in the series (actually the 4th, 5th and 6th chronologically) deal with a group of rebels as they struggle to fight against the rule of the mighty Galactic empire. Led by the evil Lord Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones), the Empire is in the midst of building a terrifyingly powerful space station, known as the Death Star, in order to help destroy the remaining rebels in the galaxy. The rebel alliance knows that if the Death Star is allowed to become fully functional, it will mean the end of their rebellion. Because of this, the alliance knows that the destruction of the Death Star is their only means of survival. Thrust into the middle of this galactic struggle is a young farmboy named Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who gets caught up in the alliance after helping rescue the Princess Leia (Carrie Fischer) from the clutches of Darth Vader, with help from Han Solo (Harrison Ford) of course. With the help of a mysterious galactic force (aptly named “The Force”), Luke and the rest of the rebel alliance battle the Empire for the fate of the galaxy.
While most fans know the story and plot details inside and out, not very many of them know about its origins and the influences that George Lucas used when writing it. Although Star Wars seems to show us a vision of a technologically advanced future (even though it’s set “A long time ago…”), the structure of Luke’s quest is actually based on the archetypal myth of the “Hero’s Journey,” which is a story that can be seen in cultures throughout the world and throughout history. Coined by Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s journey is based in part on the work of psychiatrist Carl Jung who noticed that stories and fables from a variety of cultures all seemed to include some of the same basic elements. From the call to adventure (Leia’s message to Obi-Wan Kenobi), to the trials and tribulations (Learning how to use the force) and the eventual return of the Hero (‘Return of the Jedi’), the narrative of Star Wars follows a similar structure to epic myths throughout time. Obviously it puts its own unique spin on the myth, but just the fact that it is based on a story that everyone can relate to is one of the main reasons I think it has become such a widely love and respected piece of entertainment.
On a personal level, I should probably also acknowledge the impact that the Star Wars movies had on me as a young kid (and by extension me as an adult). Although I was born one year after the original movie was released, by the time I was old enough to watch them I fell in love. What got me hooked was the way it took me out of my ordinary life and catapulted me into a world that was so foreign and unusual, yet at the same time so familiar and comforting. To me, Star Wars wasn’t a Science Fiction movie, it was just a movie. And a movie that brought me so much excitement and joy while growing up that it would be hard to point to anything else as a bigger reason for my lifelong love of Sci-Fi. By taking something old and making it new again, the creators of Star Wars helped spawn a generation of fans who grew up always comparing the latest action adventure film to this seminal film. And while the new Star Wars Trilogy may have somewhat sullied the reputation of the franchise, its still hard to watch the original movies without experiencing the same sense of wonder and excitement that I felt the first time.
Buy the original Star Wars Trilogy
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