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On May 25, 1977 - exactly 35 years ago today - audiences saw Star Wars for the first time. Back then, it wasn't known as Episode IV: A New Hope, audiences saw Han Solo shoot first, there was no Jabba the Hutt and Darth Vader was just a bad guy who killed Luke Skywalker’s father. They marveled at the score, the characters and the mythology that would spawn two sequels, a (less than stellar) prequel trilogy, TV shows, merchandise and more. It redefined the term ‘summer blockbuster,’ which had only been created a few years before to describe the Jaws phenomenon. What George Lucas created is still beloved by audiences worldwide, but there is nothing like the original film.
Here’s a top 10 list of just some of the several reasons why we continue to watch the film.
10. Aliens: The aliens in Star Wars are crude - some of the aliens in the cantina are simply extras wearing cheap masks. Still, the ambiance these creatures created for the film gave the audience a small peek into the larger universe.
9. Ships: X-Wings, TIE Fighters, the Death Star, the Star Destroyers and (especially) the Millennium Falcon have become some of the most iconic vehicles in film history and it never gets tiring seeing them in action...especially the Falcon. It may be just a “piece of junk,” but its our piece of junk.
8. Technology: Lightsabers, blasters, comlinks, droids and Darth Vader’s breathing apparatus. Everyone wants to make them a reality and most of them already are.
7. Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing: Lucas’ dream added some prestige when he got these two acclaimed British actors. Guinness defined witty British humor in The Lavender Hill Mob, The Ladykillers and others and pulled off one of the all-time great performances in film history in The Bridge on the River Kwai. While he probably saw Star Wars as nothing more than a paycheck (and he hated the idea that he became known more for Obi-Wan Kenobi than his other roles later in life), he pulled off a great performance. As for Cushing, he was a major player in British Hammer Horror films and only he could play the evil, sadistic Grand Moff Tarkin.
6. Han Solo and Chewbacca: Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is simply the coolest smuggler in the universe. His First Mate, Chewbacca, might be a “walking carpet,” but the Wookie’s ability to go from cuddly friend to threatening monster makes him a great character.
5. Mythology: Star Wars is steeped in traditions set by thousands of years of myths from all over the world. The story of an undiscovered hero helped by a collection of friends and an old sage has been around for centuries. That Lucas could transplant the story into another universe ensures that Star Wars will continue to be enjoyed for decades in the future.
4. Darth Vader: In Star Wars, Darth Vader was the big baddie, before we found out that he was just a whiny man-child in a black suit. He’s the guy that killed Luke’s father...the guy that kills Luke’s mentor...the guy that kills Luke’s friends. The fact that he survives at the end of the movie might have angered audiences, but at least it meant that there would be another movie.
3. C-3PO and R2-D2: The genius of Star Wars is that the film is told through the point of view of two minor characters who are constantly arguing with each other (one of whom we can’t even understand). This was an idea Lucas borrowed from Akira Kurosawa and it helps the audience connect even more to the action going on on the screen.
2. The score: John Williams revolutionized film score, turning it into a popular medium. While guys like Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman and others showed the importance of a score to a film’s overall style, Williams’ music almost becomes another character. Williams won his third Oscar for the score, which remains one of the best in history.
1. The opening: As great as all two hours of the film are, the opening crawl is where it all started. Williams’ main title and those words melt straight into the shot of the Rebel Blockade Runner trying to get away from a Star Destroyer. It seems to crawl right over our heads, taking forever before we finally reach its end. It sets a high standard for the rest of the film, one that it certainly lives up to.