Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Photo: 20th Century Fox/Walt Disney Company

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." - Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

Some argue that The Empire Strikes Back is the more entertaining film. And they may be right (Lando is still my favorite Star Wars character). But there should be no doubt that the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope) was, and still is, one of the most influential films of all time. Forty-five years after its release, this masterwork still holds up as a great romp, a thrill ride of a popcorn movie.

Everyone has an opinion on Star Wars: A New Hope and why the film was such a worldwide phenomenon. Was it the special effects? The strong male leads (Mark Hamill as the whiny but ambitious Luke Skywalker, and Harrison Ford as the space cowboy Han Solo)? Or perhaps it was the cute droids R2D2 and C3PO? For sure, all of these characters are awesome.

However, the key to this sci-fi classic is Princess Leia Organa, a strong female character who doesn't take bullying from anyone. Not Darth Vader, not the cocky Han Solo, and not even from her so-called rescuer, Luke Skywalker: "Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?" Star Wars wouldn't have the same energy if George Lucas wrote Leia as a helpless, wimpy character. While the Princess may have needed rescuing, she made it clear that she was still in charge. This character knows who she is and isn't about to back down without a fight. Leia was fearless, wholly devoted to the cause, and in no uncertain terms, a badass.

By now, everyone knows the story behind the production of the first Stars Wars film. George Lucas initially wanted to do a reboot of Flash Gordon, a space serial that he grew up idolizing as a child. He couldn't secure the screen rights (Dino Delaurentis owned them, later producing his own reboot), so he decided to create the Star Wars space fantasy series instead. Star Wars and its subsequent sequels, prequels, and spinoffs have become one of the most successful film franchises in the history of Hollywood.

While the popularity of Star Wars is known to all, many may not recall that Star Wars was not just a blockbuster fan favorite when it was released - it was also a critical smash. Episode Four - A New Hope (named Star Wars upon initial release) garnered ten Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay), winning seven, including Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Score. Star Wars Episode IV is a masterpiece in almost every word.

Kicking off legendary characters such as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, Star Wars Episode IV is now fully absorbed into popular media culture. Today, it holds up well as a fun space thriller with memorable characters, innovative storytelling, and incredible art direction. While the franchise would stumble as the years passed, the original film, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, remains one of the greatest movies ever. (A-)

Directed by George Lucas
Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew
Genre: Science Fiction

Photo: 20th Century Fox/Walt Disney Company

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