Forty years ago, on May 25, 1977 to be exact, a certain movie called Star Wars was released. It would go on to become one of the greatest movie franchises of all time, spawning prequels, sequels, animated series, TV shows, holiday specials (shudder), video games and tons and tons of merchandise.
Today being Star Wars Day (May the Fourth, geddit?), we pay tribute to it with a look back at the one that started it all – Star Wars: A New Hope (otherwise known 40 years ago as plain old Star Wars), and pinpoint the 40 things that defined the film, as well as the mega-franchise it created.
(We present No. 1-20 here; the remaining items will appear in Part 2 tomorrow.)
1 A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
This simple line of blue words was the beginning of it all. But it was only the prelude to the epicness that followed …
2 The Star Wars theme
To this day, John Williams’s score remains one of THE greatest and most famous film scores of all time, and for good reason – the opening theme, in particular, was a piece of music so majestic, so memorable that it was seared into my brain forever the instant I heard it.
3 The Star Wars title/logo
There’s just something about the words “Star Wars” together that evokes a feeling of wonder and fires up your imagination. A war fought among the stars? How cool could that be?
4 Episode IV? What?
One of George Lucas’ masterstrokes with Star Wars was adding “Episode IV, A New Hope” to the opening crawl, which implied that this movie could be (and eventually was) just a small part of a much bigger story. Indeed, after watching the movie, all I could think of was, “Episode IV? Where’s Episode I to III? And are they going to make Episode V and VI?”
5 The opening crawl
How do you get your audience to actually read long paragraphs of expositional text before the movie without getting bored? Put it in a cool-as-hell opening crawl of yellow text that seems to be flying towards space, of course!
6 The opening chase scene
Oh look, the vast blackness of space … and, a spaceship! But wait, what is it running away from? And then there it was, a massive, gigantic, humongous Star Destroyer that seems to go on, and on, and on … as far as opening scenes go, it’s a mighty impressive one, and one that perfectly shows, right from the start, just how small the Rebels are compared to the Empire.
7 R2-D2 and C-3PO
The first characters to appear in the Star Wars franchise are also the only ones to appear in every official film in the Star Wars saga, from Episodes I all the way to VII.
Anthony Daniels will be reprising his role as C-3PO. Sadly, Kenny Baker, who plays R2-D2, passed away in August last year. So The Last Jedi will be the first time he will not be playing the iconic astromech.
They may be famous for their non-existent marksmanship these days, but in the beginning, the Stormtroopers were actually pretty good shots, taking out several Rebels as they, er, storm the Tantive IV, paving the way for …
9 Darth Vader
That black flowing cape; that terrifying mask; that ominous breathing; if you don’t know who Darth Vader is by now, which rock have you been hiding under these 40 years? The first appearance of the Sith Lord is one of the greatest villain entrances of all time – striding forward onto the Tantive IV, he grabs a Rebel Officer by the throat and demands to know where the Death Star plans are.
10 Princess Leia Organa
From the moment we saw her peering out of a corridor, and subsequently defiantly standing up to Darth Vader, we knew that Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) was no mere damsel in distress. Leia is the heart and soul of the Star Wars franchise, and we shall miss her dearly when her story comes to an end in The Last Jedi, which was the last film Fisher made before her death last December.
11 Luke Skywalker
A New Hope is essentially the story of how a young farm boy rose to become the hero of the Rebellion; but little did we know that the name “Skywalker” would become the driving force for the entire franchise.
From the revelation of Luke’s (and Leia’s) parentage in The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi, to the fall of Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, all the way to Luke and Leia’s “legacy” roles in the new trilogy, Skywalker connects everything.
The desert planet with the twin suns is the only planet that has featured in every Star Wars movie so far (or in the case of The Empire Strikes Back, just mentioned), with the exception of The Force Awakens and Rogue One.
13 Obi-Wan Kenobi
The first Jedi to come onscreen, Old Ben Kenobi’s life came to an end in A New Hope, but his legend was only just beginning.
Through the subsequent additions to the franchise, Obi-Wan would come to be known as one of the greatest Jedi of them all.
14 Let there be light
Obi-Wan and Luke’s first meeting is memorable not just for Luke getting knocked out by a Tusken Raider, but also for the first time we ever get to see a lightsaber. From the moment we heard that SWOOOOSH sound of the lightsaber being lit and the VMMM VMMM VMMM sound of it being swung around, we knew we wanted, nay, NEEDED one.
15 ‘I find your lack of faith disturbing’
Note to self: never mock Darth Vader’s devotion to the Force by calling it an “ancient religion”, unless you want to get Force choked.
16 The death of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru
The sight of Uncle Owen and Aunt Betha’s charred corpses on the ground remains one of the most disturbing and horrific scenes in the entire franchise.
17 Mos Eisley
Mos Eisley is a hive of scum and villainy, and the Cantina was where we got to an inclination of just how many aliens there are in the Star Wars universe.
18 ‘These are not the droids you are looking for’
Cue endless hours of trying to use the Jedi mind trick on pets and younger siblings to get them to do what you want.
19 The Cantina Band song
Listen to that Cantina song once, and you’ll never get it out of your head for the rest of the day.
20 Lightsaber action
When Obi-Wan Kenobi whips it out and slices off the hand of Ponda Baba, it was the first time we see a lightsaber in action. It may have been just a brief flash of light, but it underlined the power of this “elegant weapon for a more civilised age”.
Look out for Part 2 tomorrow.