Film, History, Pop Culture

Star Wars: A Brief History

The date of May 4th recently passed with what many might recognize as Star Wars Day. “May the fourth” is a pun on one of the most quoted movie lines “May the Force be with you” made famous by the beloved space-opera franchise. Created by George Lucas with the first film released in 1977, Star Wars changed the landscape of pop culture and has continued to influence it to this day.

George Lucas may have created Star Wars, but he sold the rights to it with his company Lucasfilms to Disney in 2012 for a value of over $4 billion. Disney now helms the creation, promotion, and distribution of Star Wars content and has continued to do so after its acquisition. They officially recognize the fan-created holiday of Star Wars Day on “May the fourth” and embrace it as an annual celebration of all things Star Wars. I can’t think of a better PR move than this.

From the most iconic movie opening credits and score to arguably the most shocking twist in cinema history (“No, I am your father.”) to the popularity of lightsabers to the actual creation of a practicing religion invented in the movies (Jediism), Star Wars has touched millions of lives bringing us both entertainment and intellectual discourse. People might have blown off Star Wars as something for little kids or geeks back in the day, but it has taken a grip on our culture much like Darth Vader choking someone with the Force. It is for everyone and brings families, friends, people of all backgrounds together to enjoy as a community of fans.

The story of Star Wars is predominantly told through feature films set up in trilogies, but has always centered around the lives of the Skywalker family. Lucas released the first film in 1977 kicking off the “Original Trilogy,” following the adventures of Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion against the Empire. Almost two decades later he released the “Prequel Trilogy” that takes place chronologically before the first three original movies following the origins of Darth Vader. Once Disney took over, they released a “Sequel Trilogy” taking place chronologically after the original movies, finishing the “Skywalker Saga” by bringing back most of the original cast in one way or another. Disney also began releasing anthology films to tell one-shot stories in between the main films of the saga.

The movies of the franchise in chronological order are as follows:
Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The Clone Wars (2008)*
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

*Theatrical animated movie that kicked off The Clone Wars (2008-2014, 2020) television series

Other Star Wars content can be found in novels, comics, television shows, and an assortment of other mediums that act as tie-ins to the main movies of the series. Before Disney bought Lucasfilms, there were hundreds of stories told in these alternate forms. They have since relegated these stories under a “Legends” banner and rebooted the canon releasing new content. Only the listed films, The Clone Wars television series, and a few select written stories made the transition of retaining their official status in the Star Wars story.

More films, books, and stories in general are certain to come for our consumption. I remember the Return of the Jedi being the first Star Wars movie I saw, thanks to my older brother. I grew up with the “Prequel Trilogy” and will proudly say I am a Star Wars fanatic. I have seen all the movies, watched all the shows, read all the new novels released under the Disney canon as well as most of the comics. I encourage everyone to dive into anything Star Wars if you haven’t already, and see what the fuss is about.

We can celebrate the wonder of Star Wars, not just on May 4th, but everyday when we immerse ourselves in its universe and explore the themes, music, and characters we have all grown up with and love. Whether you are inspired by the hope found in the ways of the Jedi and the Rebellion or prefer to indulge in the sins of the Sith and the Empire, everyone can find something to like in Star Wars.

“Remember, the Force will be with you always.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

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