A long time ago (well, May 1977) in a galaxy far, far away, an iconic film franchise was born that helped shape the film industry for the decades that followed. George Lucas introduced the world to what has now become a global phenomenon, and after nearly 40 years Star Wars remains one of the world’s most popular entertainment franchises.
Star Wars is one of our most successful (and favourite) film franchises of all-time. Spanning over four decades, 2015 brought the arrival of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), the seventh film in the series, with spin-off Rogue One landing just a year later in 2016. With Episode VIII coming in December 2017 there's plenty more to come in the battle between the light and dark sides of the Force.
“May the force be with you”
Star Wars tells the story of an epic, galaxy-wide civil war between the totalitarian Galactic Empire and a band of resistance fighters known as The Rebellion. In taking over the galaxy, The Empire has all but wiped out the Jedi, a quasi-religious order dedicated to peace and the mastery of the universe's all-pervading, living energy field, known as the Force. But the Force has a dark side too and the Emperor, along with his fearsome protege Darth Vader, are members of the order of the Sith, who seek to exploit the dark side of the Force for their own evil purposes and attain total domination of the galaxy.
Why do people love Star Wars?
Star Wars captured the imaginations of cinema audiences with its good vs. evil storyline and its cast of intriguing characters, reinventing the space opera genre and setting a new standard for science fiction films with its groundbreaking special effects. But even though its story is nothing less than the battle for the future of the galaxy, the films never take themselves too seriously and there's a surprising amount of comedy, from the sarcastic wit of characters like Han Solo to the comedy double act of the film's loveable robots, C3-PO and R2-D2.
Whether its an epic battle between rival spacecraft or a one-on-one lightsaber fight between a Jedi and a Sith lord, the films are packed with enough action to keep audiences on the edge of their seats.
Our love for the characters
Interesting and complex characters, who people of all ages can relate to and remember, have always been fundamental to Star Wars. Darth Vader has become the personification of evil, while Luke Skywalker is the epitome of good, but it isn't just about the boys. Princess Leia has been described as a feminist icon and was one of the first female lead characters in a major science-fiction film, while her 'cinnamon buns' hairstyle and her famous metal bikini from Return of the Jedi have become cultural icons in their own right.
But it's the entire family of characters, from R2-D2, C3-PO and Chewbacca to the backwards-talking Yoda and Jedi veteran Obi-Wan Kenobi, who have helped to make the Star Wars series such a phenomenal success.
Paving the way for other films to follow
The original Star Wars film from 1977 wasn't the first science-fiction film to come out of Hollywood, of course, but it was the first to really bring the space opera sub-genre to the big screen successfully and certainly paved the way for many others to follow. All seven of the films in the main series have received at least one nomination at the Academy Awards and the films are synonymous with advances in visual effects.
This massively popular franchise has spawned many copycats and a series of spin-offs including animated series, comic books, toys, merchandise and video games. The films are so ingrained in popular culture nowadays that even those who haven't seen the films could probably name at least one of the main characters or quote a line from the script.
A new chapter
In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm and the rights to the Star Wars franchise for just over $4 billion and quickly went on to announce a new Star Wars trilogy, kicking off with a direct sequel to 1983's Return of the Jedi with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, helmed by director JJ Abrams, the man who recently brought another well-loved space opera Star Trek back to the big screen.
The film quickly became one of the most anticipated films in history, a fact proved by The Force Awakens' record-breaking opening, raking in a massive $247.9 million its first weekend and going on to gross over $529 million.
The Gareth Edwards-directed spin-off Rogue One continued in a similar vein, opening slightly lower than The Force Awakens in December 2016, but expected to match or even exceed the total of its predecessor.
Star Wars still matters after all these years
As one of the highest-grossing film series of all-time along with Marvel, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and James Bond, Star Wars still captures the imagination and generations young and old remain immersed in this fictional universe. Not only was Star Wars one of the first of its kind, it’s also perhaps the last of its kind too. That’s why Star Wars still matters after all these years.
Have you seen all the films? No!? We find your lack of faith disturbing... (watch and you’ll understand)
Here are the films you’ll have to catch up on before the next release.
1. Star Wars (1977)
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
3. Return of the Jedi (1983)
4. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
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