Best Movies of All Time + [Star Wars]

Movie Recommendation: STAR WARS

STAR WARS(Episode IV: A New Hope)
1977

(Disclaimer: this post could very easily turn out quite long, so just know that going in...)

Star Wars (or as its now know, Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) is a 1977 science fiction film written and directed by George Lucas. The basic synopsis of the film resides in the struggle of good against evil - in this case, the Rebellion against the Empire, respectively. The film opens on a Rebel spacecraft being pursued by an Imperial Star Destroyer. We immediately meet two of our main characters: a human-like droid named C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and a smaller, rounder droid called R2-D2 (movement by Kenny Baker). R2 has been given the secret plans of the Empire's newest weapon, a space station known as the Death Star, by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) just before the Imperials board the ship and take her prisoner. The two droids escape in an escape pod and land on the desolate planet, Tatooine. They are subsequently bought by a local farmer who instructs his nephew Luke (Mark Hamill) to clean them and prepare them for work. As he does so, he stumbles across Leia's message to a man named Obi-Wan Kenobi. R2 eventually leaves to find Kenobi, and after a series of incidents, Luke and C-3PO find their counterpart and the old man as well. Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) tells Luke that he knew his father when he was still a Jedi Knight and tells him that a Jedi called Darth Vader (acted by David Prowse; voiced by James Earl Jones) "betrayed and murdered" him. Obi-Wan finds the message from Leia, and we learn that she's urging him to take the secret plans to her home planet of Alderaan. When Luke finally agrees to accompany him, the two set out for Mos Eisley in order to find transport. They find Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) in a local bar, and the two agree to take the group to Alderaan.

Essentially, I've given you the opening bit of exposition for Star Wars with the above synopsis. I could go forward with the rest of the storyline, but then I'd be giving away the rest of the flick for those of you who by some chance have yet to see this piece of classic cinema. I wouldn't want to do that, now would I? I think I've introduced all the major players in the story already (except for Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin...), but I'm sure I'll touch on everyone in more detail momentarily.

I'm actually at a little bit of a loss as to how I should start this post. I feel like everything that's ever going to be said about Star Wars has already been said by someone else, so there's little light I could shed on its overall greatness. This is probably the most-watched film of the ones that I've "recommended," so I honestly doubt I'm going to sway anyone in one way or the other in terms of actually watching it. I do know a few people who've never seen any of the Star Wars films, but there are so many out there that are absolute fanatics as well. I'm going to try to give a little bit of a different reasoning for watching this movie aside from the fact that it's an absolute classic. I'm sure I'll go into some of the more commonly known knowledge about the film, but let me give my personal take on it first.

Until I re-watched the movie today, it had been years since I had seen Star Wars in its entirety. I'd catch little bits here and there on television, but I'd never actually sat down to watch any of the films all the way through. I used to be absolutely obsessed with the entire franchise - granted, I do hold more love for the original trilogy, but I also have mad love for the prequels while so many others do not. (Side note: I do have one friend who thinks the prequels are better than the originals, but that's just silly.) I used to be able to quote every line in the movie, but those days are long past. Since I've been running this blog, I had started to wonder whether this film deserved to be ranked so highly on my list of greatest films of all time. As I tried to recall everything from memory, I couldn't quite see why I had ranked it so highly, so I figured I'd give it a shot to defend itself. Ladies and gentlemen, I say to you know that Star Wars has officially cemented itself in its spot on that list.

Now, you can talk about the various amount of accolades this movie has received over the years. It currently holds a 94% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes.com. Users on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) have rated it as the fifteenth greatest film of all time. Hell, let's just talk about all it got back in 1977. Star Wars became only the second film ever to pass the $100 million gross mark (the first was 1975's Jaws), so you know that it was a smash hit with audiences. And the following year, it garnered a whopping ten Oscar nominations, winning six (all technical, save for John Williams' rousing score). However, here are the four nominations it didn't win: Best Supporting Actor (for Alec Guinness), Best Original Screenplay (for George Lucas), Best Director (also for Lucas) and Best Picture of the Year. This was an absolutely gigantic film back in its heyday, and its no wonder that it has developed such a following.

That all being said, let's talk about my personal reasons for why Star Wars is such a good film. Let's start with screenplay, as I often do. As I thought back on the movie before re-watching it today, I remembered the story to be relatively good but nothing terribly fascinating. I remembered it as being rather rote and conventional, to be honest. However, as I watched it this afternoon, all those thoughts immediately went out the window as those bright yellow letters started to scroll across the stars.

Aside from being memorable, the opening crawl also serves an important purpose: it catches the audience up on all the action. This is especially important considering Lucas decided to create "Episode IV" first, rather than starting with the first saga chronologically. So, even though audiences back in 1977 were essentially seeing something brand new, they must have had an immediate familiarity with the story; I believe the opening crawl has a lot to do with this. A quick story: my dad once told me that when he first saw Star Wars in theaters back in 1977, the entire audience booed the moment Darth Vader first steps on-screen. Before you see him, there's really no warning that he's the villain aside from the fact that he's wearing all black (although, all of his stormtrooper minions are clad in white, so that could throw things off). Like I said, the opening crawl establishes familiarity with the story, allowing the audience immediately to differentiate between good and evil.

Another reason Star Wars succeeds so well is that George Lucas successfully crafted an entire universe and made it all believable. When Avatar was released in 2009, many praised James Cameron for creating an entirely new world with a new language and all that, but I'm sure much of the same should have been said for Lucas's imagination back in 1977. I mean, the thought process that must have gone into creating this entire universe boggles the mind. As you move into the successive sequels and prequels, you really get a sense for how intricate everything is, but for one film, Star Wars is pretty damn intricate. Even the dialogue seems original and fresh, but familiar enough that we're not scratching our heads wondering what the heck they're saying. So kudos, Mr. Lucas, on your creative originality.

The story in itself is actually pretty simple: we have secret plans to a massive, planet-destroying space station hidden inside a droid, and the plans need to be delivered to the Rebellion before their secret base is found. That's really all there is; everything else is exposition and added fluff. Fortunately for us, that added "fluff" is some pretty engaging and captivating stuff, and a lot of that has to do with the extremely well-written characters with interesting and compelling backgrounds. Let's break down the major characters, shall we?

  • Luke Skywalker: He's a down-home boy living on the desert planet Tatooine with his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. We learn that he wants to leave Tatooine and enlist in the Academy so that he can ultimately join the Rebellion and fight the Empire. However, his uncle thinks he would end up just like his father - dead. As Luke meets Obi-Wan, we learn that Luke's father was actually a Jedi Knight, and the same possibilities run through his veins. When his guardians are slaughtered, he joins Obi-Wan and starts to learn the way of the Force, the energy that binds the universe. Luke is a little hot-headed and very headstrong, but ultimately has a very kind heart and knows what is right.
  • Han Solo: Solo is the captain of the broken-down but ultra-fast Millennium Falcon. Like Luke, he's also hot-headed and headstrong, but he cares much more about himself that does Luke. Han dabbles in some illegal spice running that left him with a bounty on his head, so his major motivation throughout Star Wars was repaying his debt. Deep down, he knows what's right, but he thinks that looking out for himself and his co-pilot Chewbacca should take precedence over everything else.
  • Princess Leia Organa: Leia is the daughter of a bureaucrat from Alderaan, which explains her ties to the Rebellion. She's very headstrong (seems like a common thread with our young leads) but is very capable of acting when she needs to. For example, when you watch the film, listen to how she speaks when she's around Vader and Tarkin in the early parts of the film and how it differs with how she speaks when she's around Han and Luke. She has a sense of entitlement, but that probably comes from her apparent lineage...
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi: An aging man living in solitude on Tatooine, Obi-Wan essentially comes out of nowhere to start this epic adventure. Soft-spoken in his old age, he still carries quite a presence. He plays the role of mentor for Luke, and his wisdom drives Luke's decisions throughout the film.
I'd go into detail on some of the other characters (i.e., Vader or C-3PO), but I think their stories really come out more in the later films. However, every actor in this movie brings his or her A-game, creating a character that's so original and so engaging that it's hard not to cheer or boo for them, depending on their side of the fight.

The real selling point of Star Wars, however, is the musical composition crafted by the always-brilliant John Williams. If you noticed my post for Williams' birthday, you'll have seen that the score for Star Wars ranks as my third favorite of Williams' compositions. This, along with the score for Jaws, are probably the most instantly recognizable scores ever placed within a motion picture, and that's saying quite a bit. Here's a little taste, in case you're so deprived that you've never actually heard it:

Overall, I'm not really sure what more I could possibly say about such an iconic film. Star Wars is exciting. It's fun. It's adventurous. It's original. It's groundbreaking. It's totally worth your time. So please, if you haven't already seen it, give it a shot. It may not be the greatest flick you'll ever see, but I can guarantee you'll be entertained. Isn't that what movies are all about?

----------Previous Recommendations:
AMERICAN HISTORY X (1998)
CLUE (1985)
PSYCHO (1960)