The History and Evolution of the Star Wars Films: Learn about the history of the Star Wars films and the new episode premiering in December

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The symphonic opening theme of George Lucas’s acclaimed Star Wars tune can be recognized from almost anywhere. Since the birth of the science-fiction franchise in 1977 with “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope,” Lucas’s films have grown into one of the highest-grossing series of all time.

George Lucas’s epic space phenomena that pit good against evil were created in a unique order. Interestingly enough, the numbering of the Star Wars films wasn’t added until the second film of the first trilogy in 1980: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back. The episode listing was added because Lucas had sci-fi author Leigh Brackett help him write Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas, however, didn’t like the draft Brackett came up with. According to Virginia Johnson, writer for Librarypoint, Brackett passed away from cancer before Lucas could discuss his disappointment with the script. Thus, when he rewrote a second version of Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, he felt the need to add an episode listing to differentiate his version from Brackett’s. In 1983, Lucas ended the first trilogy with Episode VI — Return of the Jedi.

The storyline of the first Star Wars trilogy starts in the desert planet Tatoonine with the main character, Luke Skywalker, joining forces with a Jedi master named Obi-Wan Kenobi, a wookie named Chewbacca, a pilot named Han Solo and two droids named R2D2 and C-3PO, to save the universe from the Empire’s battle-station. On top of that, Luke Skywalker trains to become a Jedi master with Yoda while trying to rescue Princess Leia from the evil Darth Vader.

Through the process of writing the first trilogy, Lucas had another trilogy in the back of his mind that would take place 20 years before Episode VI — Return of the Jedi. The prequel trilogy premiered in 1999 with Episode I — The Phantom Menace, where young Anakin Skywalker (Luke Skywalker’s father) joins forces with two Jedi knights as the evil Sith Lord resurfaces for glory. In 2002, Episode II — Attack of the Clones was released with Anakin Skywalker having a forbidden romance with Queen Padmé, and Obi-Wan Kenobi discovering the secret clone army. Lastly, Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005, ends with Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader after the Clone Wars come to an end.

In 2012, the Disney Corp bought George Lucas’s production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., which consists of the Star Wars trilogy and a few others. Even though Disney bought Star Wars, George Lucas did not lose ownership of the franchise, because he wrote the epic story, and it will always be his creation.

According to Scott Tobias, writer for The Dissolve, George Lucas still owns Star Wars to some degree: “While all sequels or remakes are beholden to the original to varying degrees, the amount of intellectual energy this one man invested in creating Star Wars makes it a special case. It’s his playground and his toys, and even if his name doesn’t appear on the deed anymore, it’s only a rental.”

This Christmas, 30 years after Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi, the next episode, Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens — directed for the first time by a different director, J.J. Abrams — will hit the screens with the same classic scores composed by John Williams. Fans of the epic Star Wars franchise will be treated to an extension of the legendary adventure with Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and Princess Leia.


Alison Hamilton is a senior professional writing major who loves to hike, read, and watch cult movies. She loves to travel around the U.S. and her favorite destinations are to the arches in Utah and in the mountains in Colorado.


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