In May 1977, 20th Century Fox released George Lucas’s Star Wars and Hollywood would never be the same. Combining amazing characters, thrilling action, and a creative screenplay, Star Wars went on to become the most successful film of all-time. Grossing $307.2 million domestically and earning 10 Oscar nominations (including prestige categories like Best Picture and Best Director… yes, there was a time when George Lucas was considered to be the Best Director), it quickly became a classic film. Spawning two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars trilogy went on to become the defining cinematic event for an entire generation.
For over three decades, Star Wars has endured and is still as immensely popular as it was when it was originally released. While the disappointing prequels may have hurt the brand during the 2000s, it’s a testament to the original trilogy’s strength that the franchise still has legions of fans who will continue to share the adventures of the Rebel Alliance no matter what age of Hollywood we are currently living in. The films are that timeless.
The main reason why the first (and in some fans’ minds, only) three movies still hold up is because they are full of classic movie moments that stand out and stay in your mind long after you’re done watching them. To celebrate Return of the Jedi‘s 30th anniversary (which was May 25 this year) here’s a list of ten of these moments and as you read this article, you’ll begin to understand the enormous task JJ Abrams has when attempts to bring the saga back.
NOTE: It’s impossible for me to rank these, so the moments are listed in no particular order.
10. The Opening Sequence - Star Wars
A great opening sequence should immediately draw you into the film’s world and command your attention so you remain invested for the next few hours. That’s exactly what the very first sequence in the whole trilogy accomplished. I can’t think of a better way to open the film. It was perfect.
Capturing the sense of interstellar adventure in the opening shots, Lucas set the stage for his Galactic Civil War. The audience gets a feel for just how outmatched the Rebels are as soon as that jaw-dropping shot of the Star Destroyer flying by is shown. Immediately, without hearing any dialogue or meeting any of the characters, we understand the magnitude of the threat. We see the Rebels’ tiny ship getting pulverized by the Empire and we feel helpless and excited at the same time. How can these guys possibly win? we wonder as we never take our eyes of the screen.
Of course, the action shifts to the interior of the Rebel ship and again we are shown again how uneven the fight is. The stormtroopers (who are smartly nameless, faceless uniformed soldiers) blast their way through the Rebels (the audience sees their faces in pain and they seem more human to us. Another smart choice) as they take over the ship. With the knowledge of what’s at stake – the Rebels already have the Death Star plans – there’s a rooting interest and a reason to care about what’s happening as explosions go off. We feel relieved when R2-D2 and C-3PO get away safely, setting the story in motion.
And obviously, we get our first glance at Darth Vader, perhaps the greatest villain in film history. As he enters the scene, we are immediately filled with a sense of dread and fear. Vader is the personification of evil and we see that even the stormtroopers are afraid of him.
Combining the iconic text crawl, the music of John Williams, and some outstanding visuals, Lucas draws moviegoers into his galaxy by crafting a terrific example of effective filmmaking. The sense of wonder and adventure that incapsulates the series is established and the film has only just begun.
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