(Check out the list so far)
The Movie: Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
One Sentence Plot Summary: A group of rebels battle fascists and are only victorious when all of the main characters realize they must give of themselves to defeat an empire.
Why It’s on the List: Seriously, what do you even say about these movies? They’ve been dissected to death and broken down by people way smarter than me.
For me, I watched this along with the two movies in the trilogy on VHS. I liked the movies certainly, but it wasn’t until seeing the special editions in 1997 that I truly learned to appreciate this trilogy in full. There are legitimate criticisms of the changes made in those special editions which I’m sympathetic to, but I fell in love with Star Wars in that winter and spring of 1997 and some of the important demarcations of my life are closely associated with Star Wars films.
Here’s what strikes me most about A New Hope and is something I don’t think the prequels or modern trilogy have ever returned to: Folks, this movie is weird. We spend the first 20 minutes mostly with the droids and Jawas who are non-verbal. The main character is introduced as being a farm boy, and almost everything he does on Tattooine is whine. Oh my goodness, does Luke Skywalker whine. Seriously, the people who complain about his portrayal in The Last Jedi must have missed the many times Luke whines or pouts his way through this movie. This is not even a complaint about Mark Hamill’s performance, but I think it’s George Lucas’s characterization.
I know Alec Guinness gets credit for being the ringer of this movie and bringing credibility. However, I am always impressed by how Harrison Ford is able to be an action star and also have just a hint of “You know this whole thing is crap right?” Part of what makes for great sci-fi and fantasy is having the one character who isn’t totally sold on what’s happening.
I also am always impressed by Carrie Fischer as Princess Leia. The term princess does not exactly have a positive connotation when it comes to the way those characters are portrayed on film. Just look at most of your Disney classics. Leia, in this case, is not a damsel in distress at all times. She is a leader and knows how to use a blaster. I only wish we had more Fischer performances like this outside of this trilogy.
I know picking the entire original Star Wars trilogy isn’t original. However, these films will always be an important aspect of my life
*Luke and Leia’s moment as they swing across the Death Star definitely isn’t that of two siblings.
MVP: It is, without question, George Lucas. This is not about adjudicating any of the subsequent films but about this one. He is the one who crafted a story that has survived over 40 years and inspired filmmakers for multiple generations. He took the stories of his childhood and reinvented the blockbuster along the way. Even if the story is mostly a riff on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, then there’s the fact that Lucas made this movie on a shoestring budget and space flying still looks solid. He basically created a space where technology changed forever in how movies looked and sounded. And if that’s not enough for you, he also signed a deal with 20th Century Fox where he kept all of the merchandising money, something that probably seems inconceivable now, but studios didn’t realize what movies could be beyond the film in theaters. Lucas being the MVP in this case is easy.
Best Performance: This is a tough choice, but I’ve always said Harrison Ford is the key to this franchise. Princess Leia does not get nearly enough time to shine although Carrie Fischer is so much better than the role probably was intended. I still think that the reason so many Star Wars movies outside of this trilogy struggle is due to the lack of Harrison Ford and/or Han Solo.
Best Quote: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”- Obi-Wan Kenobi
Is there a sequel? There are eight sequels and five prequels, all of which are universally beloved and there’s no controversy about any of them.