Star Wars

William Brooker and Davina Quinlivan

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Star Wars


The Star Wars saga consists of six feature films, divided into two trilogies (the Original Trilogy and, later, the Prequel Trilogy) and released over twenty-eight years. The Original Trilogy is made up of Star Wars (directed by George Lucas, 1977), The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980), and Revenge of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983). Star Wars was given the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope shortly after its successful release, and the subsequent two films are subtitled Episode V and Episode VI. Whether Lucas mapped out the entire saga from his earliest drafts—and whether he originally planned to make nine films, rather than six—is open to question, as later interviews contradict his earlier statements and notes. It is certain, however, that Lucas intended the story to begin in medias res, to recall the Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon episodic serials of his own youth. In 1997, Lucas released updated and expanded “special editions” of the original films, attempting to enhance the special effects through CGI technology. These were followed by the Prequel Trilogy—The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith(2005)—all of which were directed by Lucas himself and constitute Episodes I–III of the saga as a whole, providing “backstory” to the Original Trilogy. As a narrative, the six-film Star Wars saga describes the fall and salvation of Anakin Skywalker, who turns to evil, is renamed Darth Vader, and is saved in Return of the Jedi by his son, Luke. This family saga is set against a background of political intrigue—the corruption of a vast Republic—followed by galactic war between the expansionist, tyrannical Empire and the freedom fighters of the Rebel Alliance. Lucas draws on a variety of science fiction, fantasy, and generic tropes—most famously, the westerns of John Ford and the samurai iconography of Akira Kurosawa—and combines religious motifs from a range of cultures into a vague mythology of “the Force,” with its light and dark sides. While Lucas has consistently denied plans for a further trilogy, other movies and authorized spin-off narratives exist at the margins of the six-film saga, including Caravan of Courage (directed by John Korty, 1984), the Star Wars Holiday Special (Steve Binder and David Acomba, 1978), and the CGI-animated TV series The Clone Wars (2008–). An “expanded universe” of official, semiofficial and fan-created stories, across various media from video games to comics and online stories, fills out the detail of Lucas’s fictional galaxy.

Article.  6722 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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