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We're doomed!

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"A film for a generation growing up without fairy tales."
―George Lucas[4]

Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope, originally released as Star Wars, is a 1977 film written and directed by George Lucas. It is the first part of the Star Wars original trilogy and the first Star Wars film released.

The film is set 19 years after the formation of the Galactic Empire and the events of Revenge of the Sith; construction has finished on the Death Star, a weapon capable of destroying a planet. After Princess Leia Organa, a leader of the Rebel Alliance, receives the weapon's plans in the hope of finding a weakness, she is captured and taken to the Death Star. Meanwhile, a young farmer named Luke Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi, who has lived in seclusion for years on the desert planet of Tatooine. When Luke's home is burned and his aunt and uncle killed, Obi-Wan begins Luke's Jedi training as they—along with Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2—attempt to rescue the princess from the Empire.

Inspired by films like the Flash Gordon serials and the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, as well as such critical works as Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Frank Herbert's Dune books, Lucas began work on Star Wars in 1974. Ground-breaking in its use of special effects, this is considered to be among the most successful—and most influential—films of all time. Produced with a budget of US$11,000,000 and released on May 25, 1977, the film became one of the most successful of all time, earning $215 million in the United States and $337 million overseas during its original theatrical release, as well as winning several film awards, including 10 Academy Award nominations. It was re-released several times, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions were the 1997 Special Edition and the 2004 DVD, which were modified with CGI effects and recreated scenes. It was re-released in the Blu-ray format in September of 2011. The film was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry. The film was selected in 1989, the program's first year in existence.

Opening crawl

Episode IV
A NEW HOPE
It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire's
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power
to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire's
sinister agents, Princess
Leia races home aboard her
starship, custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her
people and restore
freedom to the galaxy....

Synopsis

Assault on Tantive IV

19 years after the formation of the Galactic Empire and the events of Revenge of the Sith, the galaxy is in a state of civil war. The Rebel Alliance has won their first major victory by stealing plans to the Galactic Empire's secret weapon, the Death Star. Hoping that the stolen plans can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy, Princess Leia Organa, who is in custody of the plans, attempts to race home aboard the Tantive IV. However, her ship is intercepted by the Imperial I-class Star Destroyer Devastator over the desert planet of Tatooine.

Princess Leia is captured by the Galactic Empire.

The ship is captured, and several Imperial stormtroopers come aboard. After defeating the small number of guards defending the ship, the Sith Lord Darth Vader arrives to assess the damage. Vader is outraged and questions Captain Antilles, whom he eventually strangles and kills. Hiding on the ship, Princess Leia is able to record a holographic message with the help of R2-D2, and gives the droid the plans for the Death Star and the responsibility of taking the message to Obi-Wan Kenobi, a Jedi-in-hiding on Tatooine. Leia is spotted by stormtroopers and they shoot her with a stun blast and bring her before Vader. Leia claims she and the ship's crew were on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan, but is disbelieved by Vader, who denounces her as a traitor and has her taken prisoner. Vader orders a message be sent to the Imperial Senate, informing them that the ship was destroyed, with everyone on board killed. R2-D2 and C-3PO use an escape pod in order to escape the ship and reach the planet of Tatooine below.

Luke's destiny

Luke Skywalker receives his father's lightsaber.

"There's nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father."
―Luke Skywalker[1]

After arguing and going their separate ways for a while, the droids are individually picked up by Jawa traders and brought aboard a Sandcrawler. They are later bought by moisture farmer Owen Lars and his nephew, Luke Skywalker, a young farmer who lost his parents as a baby and hopes to one day be a starfighter pilot just like his friends. While cleaning R2, Luke discovers the hologram, at the mention of Obi Wan, he wonders if she means his neighbor Ben Kenobi.

While eating dinner with Owen and his Aunt Beru, Owen asks Luke to take R2 to Anchorhead the next day to have his memory wiped, and expresses his hope Luke will stay with them for one more harvest season before sending his application to the Academy. R2 escapes from the Lars' homestead in search of Obi-Wan, whom the droid claims to be the property of. Luke and C-3PO search the desert and find R2 the next day, only to be attacked by Sand people. Luke and his droids are rescued by Ben Kenobi, who confirms he is Obi-Wan.

At his home, Obi-Wan gives Luke his father's lightsaber, as Obi-Wan recalls his own friendship with Luke's father. He tells Luke that he and his father were a part of the Jedi order that once protected the galaxy before the Empire took over and that Darth Vader was once his apprentice before he fell to the Dark side of the Force and murdered Luke's father. After viewing Princess Leia's message carried by R2-D2, Obi-Wan attempts to persuade Luke to accompany him to Alderaan. Luke refuses to go until the group discovers the remains of the Sandcrawler, the Jawas having been killed by stormtroopers searching for the droids. Realizing this, Luke hurries home only to find his aunt and uncle's charred remains, having been brutally murdered by the same stormtroopers.

Luke returns upset, but Obi-Wan tells him there was nothing he could do, and that he would have been killed too and the plans would be in possession of the Empire. With nothing keeping him on Tatooine, Luke, Obi Wan and the two droids travel to Mos Eisley to find passage to Alderaan, Princess Leia's home planet.

Aboad the Death Star, Cassio Tagge argues with Conan Antonio Motti about the stations vulnerability to the rebels and points out that the rebellion has been gaining support within the imperial senate. Wilhuff Tarkin enters the room with Darth Vader and informs them that the Emperor has dissolved the senate completely, sweeping away the last remnant of the Old Republic. Believing fear will keep the galaxy in line, Motti boasts the power of the Death Star, to which Vader replies that its power is insignificant compared to The Force. When Motti mocks Vader's belief in the force, Vader Force chokes him until Tarkin orders him to stop, and expresses his own desire to crush the Rebellion.

Back in Mos Eisley, Luke, Obi-Wan and the Droids run into a patrol of stormtroopers, who ask for their identification. Obi-Wan uses a Jedi Mind trick on the lead trooper, who lets them pass. Arriving at Chalmun's Spaceport Cantina, the group hires smuggler Han Solo and his First Mate, a Wookiee named Chewbacca, for 17,000 credits, 2,000 in advance and 15,000 upon arrival, to take the four of them to Alderaan aboard their ship, the Millennium Falcon. After Han has a brief run-in with Greedo over his debts to crime lord Jabba The Hutt, which ends with Han fatally shooting Greedo, they make it to the Falcon's hanger. A brief scuffle with stormtroopers and henchmen sent by Jabba ensues, and the Falcon escapes Imperial Star-Destroyers over Tatooine and sets a course to Alderaan, unaware that the Death Star has just arrived there as well.

Rescue of the princess

"Here's where the fun begins!"
―Han Solo[1]

Leia, having resisted being tortured with a Mind probe for the location of the Rebel Alliance's headquarters, is brought before Grand Moff Tarkin. Tarkin threatens to use the Death Star's Superlaser on Leia's Homeworld of Alderaan if she does not tell them the Rebel base's location. She reluctantly tells them the base is on Dantooine, but Tarkin orders Alderaan to be destroyed anyway for its role in supporting the rebels.

Aboard the Millennium Falcon, Obi-Wan feels a great disturbance in the force while Luke undergoes Lightsaber training with a training remote. Upon dropping out of Hyperspace, they find what seems to be an asteroid field in Alderaan's place. The Millennium Falcon is then pulled aboard the Death Star by its powerful tractor beam.

Heroes en route to the Death Star

Tarkin and Vader discover that Leia lied about the Rebel bases location when their forced only discover the ruins of a base on Dantooine. Tarkin orders her to be executed.

Having docked with the Death Star, Solo ambushes two stormtroopers and the Imperial scanning crew sent to investigate the Falcon by hiding in hidden smuggling compartments. With Han and Luke now disguised as the two stormtroopers, the group storms a control room to figure out how to escape. Obi-Wan separates from the group to disable the tractor beam, leaving the others alone. While connected to the Imperial Network, R2-D2 discovers Princess Leia is aboard the station and is set for termination. Luke convinces Han and Chewbacca to rescue her with the vague promise of a grand reward. Han and Chewbacca reluctantly agree. Luke plans to march into Detention Block AA-23, claiming that Chewbacca is part of a prisoner transfer. C-3PO and R2-D2 are instructed to remain behind, and the trio sets off on their rescue attempt. Upon being met with suspicion from an imperial officer, they are quick to subdue the officers and guards in the princess's cell block. Luke frees Leia from her cell, but the group are pinned down by a squad of stormtroopers. Leia takes charge, blasting a hole in a nearby grate and jumping through while Chewbacca, Luke and Han all dive after the princess.

The chute ends up leading to a garbage compactor that is also home to a resident dianoga. Soon after landing, the creature pulls Luke under the surface, but releases him and is scared away when the Imperials realize where the heroes escaped to and activate the compactor. As the walls close in on the foursome, Luke desperately calls to C-3PO over his comlink asking for the compactor to be shut down. Leia struggles to get to the top and Chewbacca tries to unlock the door. R2-D2 manages to shut down the compactor just in time, although, amidst the muffled cries of joy over the comlink, C-3PO is briefly convinced that his master and friends have been crushed.

After escaping from the trash compactor, the group hurries back to the Millennium Falcon, hoping that Obi-Wan has successfully shut down the tractor beam. Leia and Han bicker about who is in charge of the mission, while Han muses no reward is worth dealing with Leia's scathing criticism. Luke and Leia briefly become separated from Han and Chewie when Han chases after a group of stormtroopers, only to run into a whole battalion and be chased by them instead. Luke and Leia nearly run into a large chasm and are forced to swing across with a Grappling hook amongst blaster fire, with Leia giving Luke a brief kiss "for luck". The group soon rejoins and makes there way back to the Falcon.

Sacrifice and victory

"You can't win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine."

"This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Kenobi. It will soon see the end of the Rebellion."
―Darth Vader[1]

Meanwhile, Obi-Wan, remaining completely undetected, shuts down the tractor beam. Vader, however, had sensed his presence through the force, and, while Obi-Wan makes his way to the Falcon, confronts his old master and engages him in a lightsaber duel. Luke and the others make it back to the Falcon, where Luke and several stormtroopers witness the battle. Sparing one last glance at Luke, Obi-Wan allows himself to be struck down by Vader, thus becoming one with the Force and allowing Luke and the others to escape. Horrified and angered at having witnessed Obi-Wan's demise at the hands of Vader, Luke and the others are forced to flee on the Millennium Falcon under a hail of blaster fire from the stormtroopers.

Still mourning Obi-Wan's death, Luke helps Solo fend off a squadron of TIE fighters. Despite their supposed victory, Leia correctly believes the empire let them go in order to track them to the rebel base. The crew of the Falcon finally meets the Rebel Alliance on the moon of Yavin-4, and the information in R2-D2 is turned over to them. General Dodonna plans the attack on the Death Star, as the plans reveal a weakness in the Death Stars design in the form of a thermal exhaust port leading to the station's reactor. Believing a direct hit with Proton torpedos will cause a chain reaction that will destroy the station, Dodanna tells the pilots to man their ships in preparation for the battle. To Luke's dismay, Han leaves after receiving his reward to settle his debts.

Rebel fighters approach the Death Star.

The Rebel strike force begins its attack on the Death Star, as the space station approaches Yavin-4. A group of X-wing, and Y-wing starfighters, Luke among them, assault a trench on the Death Star's surface to hit the station's vulnerable spot before it can destroy the Alliance's base. During this, most of the Rebel craft, including Luke's friend Biggs Darklighter, are picked off by a group of Imperial fighters led by Darth Vader. Tarkin is told by an imperial officer that the Rebels do pose a danger, but Tarkin refuses to evacuate in their supposed moment of triumph. With the Death Star only minutes from being in range to destroy Yavin-4, Luke makes one last run down the trench toward the exhaust port. Just as Vader opens fire on Luke from his personal TIE Advanced fighter, Han returns in the Millennium Falcon and attacks the Imperials, resulting in Vader's ship getting knocked out of the trench. Luke, aided by the voice of Kenobi and guided by the Force, accurately fires two proton torpedoes into the exhaust port, and the battle station explodes, killing Tarkin and everyone on board, while Vader escapes into space.

The few remaining ships (those of Wedge Antilles, Luke, Han, and a Y-wing Pilot) return to Yavin 4 and a victory ceremony commences, where medals are presented to the heroes, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, by Princess Leia, as the rebels give them a standing ovation.

Development

Conception

During post-production on his previous film, American Graffiti, Lucas repeatedly discussed the concept of a "space opera" with producer Gary Kurtz. In January 1973 Lucas began work on this, and by May had prepared a 14-page story outline for distribution among film studios.[5] He had originally envisioned the film as being a continuation of both American Graffiti and Apocalypse Now (the latter of which he helped make before Warner Bros. Studios shut down his studio of American Zoetrope and thus forced him to hand over development to his compatriot, Francis Ford Coppola). His note for the basic plotline for the film, which was intended to be a response to the Vietnam War era, was that it involved "a technological empire going after a small band of freedom fighters."[6][7] According to Walter Murch, a former associate of Lucas when the latter was filming Apocalypse Now, the space opera setting was conceived in large part because, due to the Vietnam War still going on, the audiences would not have been receptive to a direct attack on American involvement in Vietnam.[8][9] Because of its outer space setting, the story was viewed as science fiction, an unpopular genre at the box office. Lucas later proposed that terms like "space fantasy" or "science fantasy" better fit the story.[5] He brought the outline to Universal Studios and United Artists; both rejected the project (the former refused directly, while the latter withheld their answer until after the 10 day wait period ended).[6][7] He also turned to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, though they also turned him down.[6][7] Lucas disliked the studio system because his previous two films, American Graffiti and THX 1138, had been re-edited without his consent.[10] Still, aware that studios were unavoidable, he pursued Alan Ladd, Jr., the head of 20th Century Fox. Although Ladd did not grasp the technical side of the project, he believed that Lucas was talented. Lucas later stated that Ladd "invested in me, [but] he did not invest in the movie."[5]

Production

Lucas finished a draft of the screenplay in May 1974. As the draft developed, the characters evolved significantly. Early in development, Luke Skywalker's character changed from a 60-year-old general to a member of a family of dwarfs;[5][11] the Corellian smuggler, Han Solo, was envisioned as a large, green-skinned monster with gills.[11] Chewbacca was inspired by Lucas' Alaskan malamute dog, Indiana, who often acted as the director's "co-pilot" by sitting in the passenger seat of his car.[11] The Force, a mysterious energy field, was initially conceived as the Kyber crystal, a "galactic holy grail."[12][5] The completed script was too long for one movie; however, Lucas refused to condense it. Instead, he expanded the first third of it into one movie and left the rest for two future films, effectively creating the original Star Wars trilogy.[13][5]

Lucas hired conceptual artist Ralph McQuarrie to create paintings of certain scenes during screenwriting. When Lucas delivered his screenplay to the studio, he included several of McQuarrie's paintings.[14] 20th Century Fox approved a budget of $8,250,000; American Graffiti's positive reviews allowed Lucas to renegotiate his deal with Alan Ladd, Jr. and request the sequel rights to the film. For Lucas, this deal protected Star Wars' unwritten segments and most of the merchandising profits.[5][15]

A storyboard panel depicting Imperial stormtroopers searching for R2-D2 and C-3PO

In 1975, Lucas founded the visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) after discovering that 20th Century Fox's visual effects department had been disbanded. ILM began its work on Star Wars in a warehouse in Van Nuys, California. Most of the visual effects used motion control photography, which creates the illusion of size by employing small models and slowly moving cameras. Model spaceships were constructed on the basis of drawings by Joe Johnston, input from Lucas, and paintings by McQuarrie. Lucas opted to abandon the traditional sleekness of science fiction by creating a "used universe" in which all devices, ships, and buildings looked aged and dirty.[5][16][17]

When filming began on March 22, 1976 in the Tunisian[18] desert for the scenes on the planet Tatooine, the project faced several problems.[source?] Lucas fell behind schedule in the first week of shooting due to a rare Tunisian rainstorm, malfunctioning props, and electronic breakdowns.[19] When actor Anthony Daniels wore the C-3PO outfit for the first time, the left leg piece shattered down through the plastic covering his left foot, stabbing him. After completing filming in Tunisia, production moved into the more controlled environment of Elstree Studios, near London.[19] However, significant problems, such as a crew that had little interest in the film, still arose.[5][19] Most of the crew considered the project a "children's film," rarely took their work seriously, and often found it unintentionally humorous.[20] Actor Kenny Baker later confessed that he thought the film would be a failure. Harrison Ford found the film "weird," in that there was a princess with buns for hair and what he called a "giant in a monkey suit" named Chewbacca.[source?] Ford also found the dialogue difficult, saying, "You can type this shit, George, but you sure can't say it."[21]

Lucas clashed with Director of Photography Gilbert Taylor, whom producer Gary Kurtz called "old-school" and "crotchety."[5] Moreover, with a background in independent filmmaking, Lucas was accustomed to creating most of the elements of the film himself. His camera suggestions were rejected by an offended Taylor, who felt that Lucas was over-stepping his boundaries by giving specific instructions. Lucas eventually became frustrated that the costumes, sets and other elements were not living up to his original vision of Star Wars. He rarely spoke to the actors, who felt that he expected too much of them while providing little direction. His directions to the actors usually consisted of the words "faster" and "more intense."[5]

Ladd offered Lucas some of the only support from the studio; he dealt with scrutiny from board members over the rising budget and complex screenplay drafts. After production fell two weeks behind schedule, Ladd told Lucas that he had to finish production within a week or he would be forced to shut down production. The crew split into three units, led by Lucas, Kurtz, and production supervisor Robert Watts, respectively. Under the new system, the project met the studio's deadline.[5][19] ILM concluded shooting on April 22, 1977 with shot 110P, that of a Star Destroyer.[22]

Star Wars was originally slated for release in Christmas 1976; however, delays pushed the film's release to summer 1977. Already anxious about meeting his deadline, Lucas was shocked when his editor's first cut of the film was a "complete disaster." After attempting to persuade the original editor to cut the film his way, Lucas replaced the editor with Paul Hirsch and Richard Chew. He also allowed his then-wife Marcia Lucas to aid the editing process while she was cutting the film New York, New York with Lucas' friend Martin Scorsese. Richard Chew found the film had an non-energetic pace; it had been cut in a by-the-book manner: scenes were played out in master shots that flowed into close-up coverage. He found that the pace was dictated by the actors instead of the cuts. Hirsch and Chew worked on two reels simultaneously; whoever finished first moved on to the next.[5]

During production, the cast attempted to make Lucas laugh or smile as he often appeared depressed. At one point, the project became so demanding that Lucas was diagnosed with hypertension and exhaustion and was warned to reduce his stress level.[5][19] Post-production was equally stressful due to increasing pressure from 20th Century Fox. Moreover, Mark Hamill's face was injured in a car accident, which made reshoots impossible.[19]

Meanwhile, ILM was struggling to achieve unprecedented special effects. The company had spent half of its budget on four shots that Lucas deemed unacceptable.[19] Moreover, theories surfaced that the workers at ILM lacked discipline, forcing Lucas to intervene frequently to ensure that they were on schedule.[5] With hundreds of uncompleted shots remaining, ILM was forced to finish a year's work in six months. Lucas inspired ILM by editing together aerial dogfights from old war films, which enhanced the pacing of the scenes.[5]

During the chaos of production and post-production, the team made decisions about character voicing and sound effects. Sound designer Ben Burtt had created a library of sounds that Lucas referred to as an "organic soundtrack." For Chewbacca's growls, Burtt recorded and combined sounds made by dogs, bears, lions, tigers, and walruses to create phrases and sentences. Burtt created the robotic voice of R2-D2 by filtering his voice through an electronic synthesizer. Darth Vader's breathing was achieved by Burtt breathing through the mask of a scuba tank implanted with a microphone.[23] Lucas never intended to use the voice of David Prowse, who portrayed Darth Vader in costume, because of Prowse's thick English West Country accent. He originally wanted Orson Welles to speak for Darth Vader. However, he felt that Welles' voice would be too recognizable, so he cast the lesser-known James Earl Jones.[24] Nor did Lucas intend to use Anthony Daniels' voice for C-3PO. Thirty well-established voice actors, such as Stan Freberg, read for the voice of the droid. According to Daniels, one of the major voice actors recommended Daniels' voice for the role.[5][11]

When Lucas screened an early cut of the film for his friends, among them directors Brian De Palma, John Milius and Steven Spielberg, their reactions were disappointing. Spielberg, who claimed to have been the only person in the audience to have enjoyed the film,[5] believed that the lack of enthusiasm was due to the absence of finished special effects. Lucas later said that the group was honest and seemed bemused by the film. In contrast, Alan Ladd, Jr. and the rest of 20th Century Fox loved the film; one of the executives, Gareth Wigan, told Lucas, "This is the greatest film I've ever seen," and cried during the screening. Lucas found the experience shocking and rewarding, having never gained any approval from studio executives before.[5] Although the delays increased the budget from $8 million to $11 million, the film was still the least expensive of the Star Wars saga.

Music

From the very beginning, Lucas' intention for "Star Wars" was that it would have very familiar sounding music, that despite the extraordinary visuals and events occurring onscreen, the music would be reminiscent of Earth and of the past. To that end, he originally wanted to fill the film with tracked classical music from various composers, in a similar fashion to 2001: A Space Odyssey.[25] Lucas' friend, Steven Spielberg, recommended composer John Williams to Lucas after their recent collaboration on Jaws (1975). Spielberg convinced Lucas that he should meet with the composer, who in turn convinced him of the need for original music.[26] They also decided in this early meeting that the score should have a romantic musical sound, with leitmotifs for different characters and events, similar to the operas of Richard Wagner.[27]

Rough cuts of "Star Wars" used something called a "temp score", referring to musical material that was there to find a rhythm while editing but would not be kept in the final cut as it would be replaced by the final score. These temp tracks would help to inspire the direction John Williams was to take with his score as he began writing it.[28] Most of the temp tracks are not public knowledge, but some information has been revealed over the years. In one interview, editor Paul Hirsch confirmed that a cue from Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score containing the famous "3-note motif" was used to temp the scene where the heroes exit the smuggling chambers of the Millennium Falcon.[29] In another interview, Hirsch revealed that the opening to "The Sacrifice" from Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" was used to temp the scene in the desert, the Jawa scenes were temped from other parts of the same piece, and the Main Title crawl was temped with the overture of Ivanhoe by Miklós Rózsa.[30] Later, in his own book, Hirsch would claim that the Main Title crawl was temped with Erich Korngold's theme to the 1938 Robin Hood. It is unknown which of these claims is correct. Also in his book, Hirsch mentions that the Cantina scene was tracked by Benny Goodman's "Avalon" from his Carnegie Hall performance, some of the early battle footage was tracked with "Dance of the Adolescents" from "The Rite of Spring", and the approach to the Death Star was temped with the music from the approach to Kong Island from Max Steiner's King Kong score.[31] In an interview, sound editor Ben Burtt said that Antonín Dvořák's New World Symphony was temped into the medal ceremony (Hirsch mentioned this in his book too), and parts of Anton Bruckner's Ninth Symphony were temped as Luke's theme.[30] Homages to many of these known temp tracks appear in the final score. For example, the cue [1m5-2m1] Desert Song from Star Wars is extremely similar to the opening of the Stravinsky piece it was temped with. Further, the music in [1m2] Main Title that plays when the underbelly of the Star Destroyer flies over the camera is very similar to the ending of "Mars - The Bringer of War" from Holsts' "The Planets". Even the 3-note motif from Psycho appears in the very opening of the Star Wars cue [7m1-7m2 New] The Hatch Opens, exactly where the temp track would have been.

On January 10th, 1977, Williams was invited to the spotting sessions, where he watched a rough cut of the film with Lucas, music supervisor Lionel Newman, music editor Ken Wannberg, producer Gary Kurtz, and film editor Paul Hirsch.[30][31][32] Over the next several weeks, he would get to work writing the score. The way Williams wrote his score, he began by creating all the various leitmotifs and character themes (such as "Luke's Theme", "Leia's theme", and "Ben's theme", the "Jawa theme", the "Rebel Fanfare", and the "Imperial motif"). He then went on to create the actual score by stringing all the themes he created together in a way that would match up with what was happening on screen.[33] It's unknown exactly how long John Williams spent writing the score, but it is certain that he would have had at the absolute most no more than 8 weeks, given that they started recording on March 5th. This is unrealistic because there needed to have been time for the orchestrators to write out all the various parts for the players, so it is more likely that the score was completed in 7 weeks or less.

As with any creative process, parts of the score went through multiple revisions. One well-known example is the cue "Lost R2", which scores the famous "binary sunset" scene. This scene was originally scored with a very different sounding piece that contained "Luke's theme". When Lucas heard the cue, he asked if it could be rescored with "Ben's theme" because he felt it fit the scene better.[28] It can be argued that this opened the door for "Ben's theme" to be recontextualized into what we think of today as the "Force theme". Another interesting example of the score changing was the cue "A Home Destroyed". When this cue was written, it was designed to score the end of Ben's house, Leia's torture, the discovery of the attacked sandcrawler, and Luke returning home to find his guardians dead and his home burned. While Williams was writing the score, the film was re-edited so that the board room scene would occur where the torture scene used to be. This caused the cue to be split in half. The first 14 bars were recorded by themselves with a newly written ending featuring the "Death Star theme" for the transition to the boardroom scene. Then a second cue was recorded, being made up of bars 31-71 (attacked sandcrawler and burned homestead scenes) and bars 17-30 (Leia torture scene), with some new transition material written to join them.[34] This isn't the only time editing of the film would require changes to the score, but it is one of the only examples where a re-edit resulted in the score being changed before it was recorded. The rest of the edits were done too late, and the remaining score changes were left to be made artificially by Ken Wannberg.[31] After the writing of the score was completed, the orchestrations were performed by lead orchestrator Herbert Spencer, who was assisted by Arthur Morton, Angela Morley, Al Woodbury, Alexander Courage and Williams himself.[33]

Note: Despite Williams claiming in an interview that Alexander Courage and he himself had both orchestrated cues, neither of their names appear in an orchestrator credit on any of the leaked manuscripts. There are however still four cues where the orchestrator credit is unknown because the sheets haven't leaked yet: [1m2] Main Title, [3m2 New] Lost R2, "Cantina Band", and "Cantina Band #2".

Complete cue list (as written) with orchestrator credits where known
Cue # Cue Title Orchestrator Notes
1m2 Main Title unknown
1m3 The War Herbert Spencer
1m4-2m1 The Escape Hatch Herbert Spencer
1m5-2m1 Desert Song Herbert Spencer
2m2 The Little People Herbert Spencer replaced by 2m3 New
2m3 New (old 2m2) The Little People Herbert Spencer replaces 2m2
2m3 More Little People Herbert Spencer replaced by 2m3 Rev.
2m3 Rev. More Little People Herbert Spencer replaces 2m3
2m4 R-2 Herbert Spencer
3m1 The Princess Appears Herbert Spencer replaced by 3m1 Rev.
3m1 Rev. The Princess Appears Herbert Spencer replaces 3m1
3m2 Lost R2 Herbert Spencer replaced by 3m2 Rev.
3m2 Rev. Lost R2 Herbert Spencer replaces 3m2; replaced by 3m2 New
3m2 New Lost R2 unknown replaces 3m2 Rev.
3m3 The Sand Speeder Herbert Spencer replaced by 3m3 Rev.
3m3 Rev. The Sand Speeder Herbert Spencer replaces 3m3
3m4-4m1 The Sandman Attacks Herbert Spencer replaced by 3m4-4m1 Rev.
3m4-4m1 Rev. The Sandman Attacks Herbert Spencer replaces 3m4-4m1
4m2 Obi-Wan Kenobi Arthur Morton
4m2A The Force Herbert Spencer
4m3 The Princess Reappears Herbert Spencer
4m4 A Home Destroyed Herbert Spencer replaced by 4m4 Rev.
4m4 Rev. A Home Destroyed Herbert Spencer replaced by *unknown* and 4m4A, as explained in the paragraph above
unknown A Home Destroyed Herbert Spencer replaces 4m4 Rev.; made of bars 1-14 of the orignal 4m4 Rev. + two new bars (14A and 14B)
4m4A A Home Destroyed Herbert Spencer replaces 4m4 Rev.; made of bars 31-71 of the orginal 4m4 Rev. + new bar 72 + new bars (15 and 16) + old bars 17-30
5m1 A Hive of Villainy Al Woodbury replaced by 5m1; wasn't in leaked sheets, but is known to exist due to mentions of it in manuscript
5m1 A Hive of Villainy Al Woodbury replaces 5m1
unknown unknown (referred to as "Cantina Band") unknown
unknown unknown (referred to as "Cantina Band #2") unknown
5m6 The Inner City Herbert Spencer replaced by 5m6 Rev.
5m6 Rev. The Inner City Herbert Spencer replaces 5m6
6m1 Blasting Away Herbert Spencer
6m5 New The Destruction of Alderaan Al Woodbury Mistakenly spelled Alderon in the original manuscript
7m1 New (old 6m3) Is It a Bird? Arthur Morton
7m1-7m2 The Hatch Opens Herbert Spencer replaced by 7m1-7m2 New
7m1-7m2 New The Hatch Opens Herbert Spencer replaces 7m1-7m2
7m2 The Mouse Robot Arthur Morton
8m2 New More Rescue Al Woodbury
8m2 The Rescue Herbert Spencer replaced by 8m2 Rev.
8m2 Rev. The Rescue Herbert Spencer replaces 8m2
8m3 The Water Snake Herbert Spencer replaced by 8m3 Rev.
8m3 Rev. The Water Snake Herbert Spencer replaces 8m3
8m4 The Walls Converge Herbert Spencer
9m1 Ben Creeps Around Herbert Spencer
9m2 The Swashbucklers Herbert Spencer
9m3-10m1 Ben's Death Herbert Spencer
10m2 Here They Come Herbert Spencer
10m3-11m1 Stand By Herbert Spencer
11m2 Approaching the Target Arthur Morton replaced by 11m2 Rev.
11m2 Rev. Approaching the Target Arthur Morton replaces 11m2
12m1 The Last Battle Angela Morley[35]
12m2 End Titles Herbert Spencer
12m2X End Titles Herbert Spencer Insert written to replace bars 52-72 of original cue. 12m2X is made of new bars 52-60 + old bars 61-72
N/A The Princess Theme Herbert Spencer concert suite

[36][37]

When it came time to record the score, Williams was given no choice but to record in London, presumably due to budget constraints and the fact that most of the film was shot in England (cite the making of star wars book). He did have the choice of which orchestra he wanted to work with, and he ended up choosing the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) due to its primary conductor being his friend André Previn. This was historically significant, as it was the first time Williams ever got to work with an organized symphony orchestra for a film.[28] Previous films of his usually recorded with freelance players. The score was recorded over the course of eight days between March 5th and March 16th of 1977 at Anvil Recording Studios in Denham, England.[27][28] People present at the sessions included John Williams himself, who was conducting, George Lucas, recording engineer Eric Tomlinson, his assistant Alan Snelling, and music editor Ken Wannberg. The orchestra itself was made up of 26 violins, 10 violas, 10 cellos, 6 basses, 11 woodwinds, 8 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 2 tubas, 2 harps, 3 percussion, 1 timpani, 1 piano, and 1 celeste.[38] The score was recorded with approximately 23 microphones, placed at strategic positions around the orchestra. The mixing console, a Rupert Neve, had 24 inputs and 16 outputs. Recording engineer Eric Tomlinson used the console to create a live LCR (Left, Center, Right) mix while the orchestra was playing. The live mixes were recorded straight to two 35mm magnetic film recorders (with healthy Dolby A noise reduction applied). The live mix was also routed to tracks 1-3 of a Struder A80 16-track 2 inch recorder, with sections of the orchestra isolated on tracks 4-15 and a 50 hz pilot tone on track 16. The pilot tone could later be used for synchronization with the film during editing.[39][40] After the recording was completed, the best takes were combined into performance edits by music editor Ken Wannberg. He created performance edits using one of the 35mm mag recordings, as well as with the 16 track tapes. (note: a performance edit is where sections of different takes are combined together to create the best possible recording of a given cue) The 16 track tapes were intended both for backup purposes, and to be sent off to be remixed by John Neal for the eventual soundtrack release on LP. The 35mm edits would of course be further edited by Wannberg into the final stems for use in the film.[39][28][41]

Complete cue list (as recorded) and recording session log:

March 5, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
9m2 The Swashbucklers 1-7 5,7
7m1 New (old 6m3) Is It a Bird? 8-10 10
9m3-10m1 Ben's Death 11-15 13,15
1m2 Main Title 16-20 18,19,20
3m1 Rev. The Princess Appears 21-23 22

[36][27]

March 8, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
8m2 Rev. The Rescue 24-27 26,27
N/A The Princess Theme 28-40 33,40
1m3 The War 41-50 44,50
9m1 Ben Creeps Around 51-53 53
3m2 Rev. Lost R2 54-55 N/A

[36][27]

March 9, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
unknown A Home Destroyed (bars 1-14B) 56-58 58
4m4A A Home Destroyed (bars 31-72 + 15-30) 59-63 62,63
7m2 The Mouse Robot 64-67 67
4m3 The Princess Reappears 68-72 72

[36][27]

March 10, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
unknown "Cantina Band" 73-80 76
unknown "Cantina Band #2" 81-82 81

[36][27]

March 11, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
11m2 Rev. Approaching the Target 83-86 85,86
3m3 Rev. The Sand Speeder 87-92 92
4m2A The Force 93-94 N/A
10m2 Here They Come 95-97 95,97
8m4 The Walls Converge 98-105 101,102
4m2A The Force 106-109 109
7m1-7m2 New The Hatch Opens 110-114 114
8m3 Rev. The Water Snake 115-116 116
4m2 Obi-Wan Kenobi 117-122 122
2m4 R-2 123-126 126

[36][27]

March 12, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
12m2 End Titles (bars 1-51) 127-133 132,133
12m2 End Titles (bars 52-end) 134-143 136,137,142,143
1m5-2m1 Desert Song 144-149 149
8m2 New More Rescue 150-154 153,154
10m3-11m1 Stand By 155-162 162
1m4-2m1 The Escape Hatch 163-167 165,167
6m5 New The Destruction of Alderaan 168-172 172
5m6 Rev. The Inner City 173-175 175

[36][27]

March 15, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
12m1 The Last Battle 176-180 178,180
5m1 A Hive of Villainy 181-185 184,185
2m3 New (old 2m2) The Little People 186-188 186,187,188
2m3 Rev. More Little People 189-197 194,197
3m2 New Lost R2 198-202 202

[36][27]

March 16, 1977
Cue # Cue Title Recorded Takes Takes used in Performance Edit
6m1 Blasting Away 203-209 205,206,209
3m4-4m1 Rev. The Sandman Attacks 210-214 213,214
12m2X End Titles 215-219 219

[36][27]

Score as it appears in the final film (all releases from 1977-1996):

Score breakdown (non-Special Edition)
Timestamp in film Cue # Cue Title Scene Description Notes
0:01-0:21 N/A 20th Century Fox Fanfare (with Cinemascope Extension) Fox logo and Lucasfilm logo Composed by Alfred Newman. Recorded by Alfred Newman and the 20th Century Fox Orchestra in 1954. Interestingly, for the film stem, the master tapes of a stereo version of this cue could not be located in time. The cue was instead sourced directly from the 4-track film stems to River of No Return. That is why this cue is noticeably much lower quality in the film vs on subsequent soundtrack releases.[39]
0:29-2:43 1m2 Main Title Title crawl, opening space battle, Tantive IV is shot
2:35-6:13 1m3 The War Tantive IV is boarded, R2 receives plans from Leia, Darth Vader demands plans three microedits: the second note before the drumroll is slowed down by 35% at 3:11, ends up playing about a tenth of a second longer, same thing at 3:39, one second snipped out at 4:48
6:11-9:12 1m4-2m1 The Escape Hatch Princess Leia is captured, the droids escape, Vader sends attachment to Tatooine one microedit: 3 seconds snipped out at 8:33
10:27-11:25 1m5-2m1 Desert Song C-3PO wanders around the Dune Sea of Tatooine
12:30-15:22 2m3 New (old 2m2) The Little People R2-D2 is captured by the Jawas, who take him to their Sandcrawler where they've already captured C-3PO six microedits: 1 second snipped at 12:36, 1 second snipped at 12:49, 15 seconds snipped at 12:51, 2 seconds snipped at 12:59, 67 seconds snipped at 13:05, a tenth second removed at 14:23
15:23-17:27 2m3 Rev. More Little People The droids are brought out for sale at the Lars Homestead, introduction of Luke two microedits: In the film the opening of the cue is prepended by 6 seconds of tracked material from 10 seconds later in the cue. There is also a quarter second of silence added at 17:04
18:55-19:20 2m4 R-2 C-3PO recommends purchasing R2-D2, both droids are taken inside by Luke
20:47-22:40 3m1 Rev. The Princess Appears While cleaning the droids Luke accidentally stumbles on Leia's message to Obi-Wan Kenobi
24:50-27:05 3m2 New Lost R2 Luke watches the sunset while dreaming of leaving Tatooine, returns to the garage to find R2 gone
27:25-28:01 3m3 Rev. The Sand Speeder Luke and C-3PO go out to look for R2-D2, some Tusken Raiders mobilize, the heroes find R2 three microedits: 23 seconds snipped out at 27:31, 8 seconds snipped at 27:44, 2 seconds snipped at 27:53
28:16-30:28 3m4-4m1 Rev. The Sandman Attacks A Tusken Raider attacks Luke, he is found by old Ben Kenobi three microedits: a quarter second removed at 28:19, a tenth second removed at 29:16, 1 second of tracked material from 7 seconds earlier used at 29:45 to artificially extend the cue
30:44-32:24 4m2 Obi-Wan Kenobi Ben wakes up Luke and takes him and the droids back to his house
33:47-34:47 4m2a The Force Ben tells Darth Vader's backstory, and explains the Force
34:45-34:46 4m3 The Princess Reappears R2-D2 plays Leia's full message for Ben and Luke
35:51-36:49 4m4 Rev. A Home Destroyed bars 1-14B Luke promises to take Ben to Anchorhead
38:46-41:36 4m4A A Home Destroyed bars 31-72 + bars 15-30 The heroes find a ransacked sandcrawler. Luke races home to find his house burned and his family dead.
41:20-43:21 5m1 A Hive of Villainy Jawa funeral, Luke decides to help Leia, Ben takes Luke and the droids to Mos Eisley
44:00-45:02 unknown "Cantina Band" The heroes enter a cantina in Mos Eisley two microedits: 87 seconds snipped out at 44:29, 17 seconds snipped out at end
45:02-43:21 unknown "Cantina Band" Luke goes up to the bar and is attacked one microedit: 98 seconds snipped out at 46:10, 4 seconds before this are artificially faded out
46:24-46:42 unknown "Cantina Band" Ben tells Luke about Chewie one microedit: 149 seconds snipped out at 46:42, the quarter second before this is artificially faded out
46:49-47:01 unknown "Cantina Band #2" The heroes go back in the cantina to speak with Chewie and Han Solo two microedits: 5 seconds snipped out at 46:49, 185 seconds snipped out at 46:59, 53 seconds snipped out at 47:01
47:01-47:48 unknown "Cantina Band #2" The heroes speak to Han Solo two microedits: 5 seconds snipped out at 47:01, 183 seconds snipped out at 47:48
47:48-49:00 unknown "Cantina Band #2" The heroes negotiate with Han Solo two microedits: 15 seconds snipped out at 47:48, 147 seconds snipped out at 49:00
49:06-50:22 unknown "Cantina Band #2" Greedo confronts Han Solo about his debt to Jabba, Solo kills Greedo two microedits: 94 seconds snipped out at 49:06, 65 seconds snipped out at 50:22
50:50-52:25 5m6 Rev. The Inner City Ben and Luke head to the Millennium Falcon
52:37-54:52 6m1 Blasting Away The heroes escape from Tatooine one microedit: 2 seconds snipped out at 53:12
55:39-57:12 6m5 New The Destruction of Alderaan Tarkin and Vader test the Death Star by blowing up Alderaan one microedit: 9 seconds from 56:41-56:50 are dialed out (replaced by silence)
61:59-63:42 7m1 New (old 6m3) Is It a Bird? The Millennium Falcon is pulled in by the Death Star's Tractor Beam one microedit: 4 second section from 63:22-63:26 is looped once to artificially extend the cue
64:45-66:40 7m1-7m2 New The Hatch Opens The heroes sneak out of the Falcon and take over a control room
70:02-72:04 7m2 The Mouse Robot Han and Luke in stormtrooper disguises take Chewbacca to the prison block
72:03-74:03 8m2 New More Rescue Shootout with stormtroopers as the heroes find Leia's cell
74:36-76:48 8m2 Rev The Rescue More stormtroopers arrive, the heroes escape down the garbage chute One microedit: half a second is snipped out at 74:44
79:26-82:13 8m4 The Walls Converge The droids evade stormtroopers and shut off all trash compactors on the detention level, saving the heroes One microedit: First 40 seconds are snipped out.
82:31-85:06 9m1 Ben Creeps Around The heroes head towards the Falcon, Ben disables the tractor beam
85:05-87:48 9m2 The Swashbucklers The heroes face off against stormtroopers on the way to the Falcon, Ben prepares to duel Vader Two microedits: 1 second snipped out at 87:13, 1 second snipped out at 87:15
89:51-92:05 9m3-10m1 Ben's Death Luke watches Vader kill Ben, the heroes escape on the Falcon Two microedits: The 8 seconds from 90:28 to 90:36 are looped once, the 2 seconds from 91:32-91:34 are looped once
92:05-93:52 10m2 Here They Come The Falcon fights off pursuing TIE fighters
102:07-103:25 10m3-11m1 Stand By The Rebel X-Wings approach the Death Star Five microedits: the first 5 seconds are slowed by 7%, the next 13 seconds are slowed by 2%, the 1 second from 103:07-103:08 is looped once, the 2.5 seconds from 103:08-103:11 is looped once, a quarter second is snipped at 103:22
103:22-106:45 11m2 Rev. Approaching the Target The Battle of Yavin begins
110:33-115:00 12m1 The Last Battle The Battle of Yavin ends, Luke blows up the Death Star Two microedits: half a second snipped at 110:46, quarter second silence added at 114:33
115:33-117:20 12m2 End Titles (bars 1-51) Award Ceremony
117:20-117:51 12m2X End Titles End Credits Sequence
117:51-121:07 12m2 End Titles End Credits Sequence

Sound

A New Hope was originally presented in monaural sound in many theaters, though the first-run 70mm prints were some of the earliest wide-release examples of surround sound—something not seen in the commercial cinema since the Cinerama and Cinemascope experiments of the early 1950s.

Sources and inspirations

The film drew inspiration from a number of sources. This was conscious and has been acknowledged by George Lucas in interviews. It is characteristic of much myth-building.

Lucas has stated that Akira Kurosawa's 1958 film The Hidden Fortress (USA release 1962) was a strong influence. The resemblance between the two buffoon farmers in The Hidden Fortress and the two talkative droids in A New Hope is apparent. Indeed, when the droids find themselves alone on Tatooine, even the music and the style of "wipe" cuts are a clear homage to Hidden Fortress. When Motti is criticizing Darth Vader, he is about to mention the Rebels' "hidden fortress" before Vader cuts him off in the middle of the last word.

The climactic scene in which the Death Star is assaulted was modeled after (including some of the same dialogue) the 1950s film The Dam Busters, in which RAF Lancaster bombers fly along heavily defended reservoirs and aim "bouncing bombs" at German man-made dams in a bid to cripple the heavy industry of the Ruhr. (A New Hope cinematographer Gilbert Taylor had previously worked on the special-effects sequences for that film.)

Lucas has made mention of the film 633 Squadron directed by Walter Grauman when citing movies that inspired themes or elements in A New Hope. The "trench run" in A New Hope wherein Luke flies his X-wing through a "trench" on the Death Star and destroys the ship was inspired, at least in small part, by the finale of 633 Squadron, which involves several Royal Air Force planes flying at low level up a fjord against heavy, ground-based anti-aircraft fire, to attack a factory located at the base of a cliff at the canyon's end.

Release

Wary that Star Wars would be beaten out by other summer films, such as Smokey and the Bandit, 20th Century Fox moved the release date to Wednesday before Memorial Day: May 25, 1977. However, few theaters ordered the film to be shown. In response, 20th Century Fox demanded that theaters order Star Wars if they wanted an eagerly anticipated film based on a best-selling novel titled The Other Side of Midnight.[5] The New York Times published the first advertisements for the film on May 15, only ten days before its premiere.[42]

Star Wars became an instant success upon release; within three weeks, 20th Century Fox's stock price doubled to a record high. Before 1977, 20th Century Fox's greatest annual profits were $37,000,000; in 1977, the company earned $79,000,000. Although the film's cultural neutrality helped it to gain international success, Ladd became anxious during the premiere in Japan. After the screening, the audience was silent, leading Ladd, Jr. to fear that the film would be unsuccessful. He was later told that, in Japan, silence was the greatest honor to a film. Meanwhile, thousands attended a ceremony at Grauman's Chinese Theater, where C-3PO, R2-D2 and Darth Vader placed their footprints in the theater's forecourt.[5]

During the film's original theatrical run, there were a number of now-iconic television promotions:

Merchandise

Charles Lippincott was hired by Lucas' production company, Lucasfilm Ltd., as marketing director for Star Wars. Because 20th Century Fox gave little support for marketing beyond licensing T-shirts and posters, Lippincott was forced to look elsewhere. He secured deals with Stan Lee, Roy Thomas and Marvel Comics for a comic book adaptation and with Del Rey Books for a novelization. Although Star Wars merchandise was available to enthusiastic children upon release, only Kenner Toys—who believed that the film would be unsuccessful—had accepted Lippincott's licensing offers. Kenner responded to the sudden demand for toys by selling boxed vouchers in its "empty box" Christmas campaign; these vouchers could be redeemed for the toys in March 1978.[5]

The novelization of the film was published in December 1976, six months before the film was released. The credited author was George Lucas, but the book was revealed to have been ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster, who later wrote the first Expanded Universe novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye. The book was first published as Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker; later editions were titled simply Star Wars and, later, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, to reflect the retitling of the film. Certain scenes deleted from the film (and later restored or archived in DVD bonus features) were present in the novel, such as Luke at Tosche Station with Biggs and the encounter between Han and Jabba in Docking Bay 94. Other deleted scenes from the movie, such as a close-up of a stormtrooper riding on a Dewback, were included in a photo insert added to later printings of the book. Smaller details were also changed; for example, in the Death Star assault, Luke's callsign is Blue Five instead of Red Five as in the film. Lippincott secured the deal with Del Rey Books to publish the novelization in November 1976. By February 1977, a half million copies had been sold.[5]

A radio drama adaptation of the film was written by Brian Daley, directed by John Madden, and produced for and broadcast on the American National Public Radio network in 1981. The adaptation received cooperation from George Lucas, who donated the rights to NPR. John Williams' music and Ben Burtt's sound design were retained for the show; Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) reprised their roles as well. The radio drama featured scenes not seen in the final cut of the film, such as Luke Skywalker's observation of the space battle above Tatooine through binoculars, a skyhopper race, and Darth Vader's interrogation of Princess Leia. In terms of Star Wars canon, the radio drama is given the highest designation, G-canon.[44]

Over the years, several comic adaptations of the film have been produced:

Re-releases

The film was originally released as—and consequently often called—Star Wars, without Episode IV or the subtitle A New Hope. The 1980 sequel, Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, featured the episode number and subtitle in the opening crawl. When the original film was re-released on April 10, 1981, Episode IV: A New Hope was added above the original opening crawl.[45] Although Lucas claims that only six films were ever planned, representatives of Lucasfilm discussed plans for nine or 12 possible films in early interviews.[46] The film was re-released theatrically in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1997.

Official poster for A New Hope Special Edition release

After ILM used computer generated effects for Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Lucas concluded that digital technology had caught up to his original vision for Star Wars.[5] As part of Star Wars' 20th anniversary celebration in 1997, A New Hope was digitally remastered and re-released to theaters, along with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, under the campaign title The Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. The Special Edition versions contained visual shots and scenes that were unachievable in the original release due to financial, technological, and time restraints; one such scene involved a meeting between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt.[5] Although most changes were minor or cosmetic in nature, some fans believe that Lucas degraded the movie with the additions.[47] For instance, a controversial change in which Greedo shoots first when confronting Han Solo has inspired T-shirts brandishing the phrase "Han shot first."[48]

Home video

A New Hope was released on DVD on September 21, 2004 in a box set with The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and a bonus disc of supplemental material. The movies were digitally restored and remastered, and more changes were made by George Lucas.

The DVD features a commentary track from George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher. The bonus disc contains the documentary Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, three featurettes, teaser and theatrical trailers, TV spots, still galleries, an exclusive preview of Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, a playable Xbox demo of the LucasArts game Star Wars: Battlefront, and a "Making Of" documentary on the Episode III video game. The set was reissued in December 2005 as part of a three-disc "limited edition" boxed set without the bonus disc.

The trilogy was re-released on separate two-disc Limited Edition DVD sets from September 12, 2006 to December 31, 2006; the original versions of the films were added as bonus material. Controversy surrounded the release (often referred to as "George's original unaltered trilogy", or "GOUT" for short) because the so-called "unaltered" versions were from the 1993 non-anamorphic laserdisc masters, and were not re-transferred to modern DVD standards.[49]

It was re-released in the Blu-ray format on September 16, 2011.[50]

On April 7, 2015, the Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital releases of the six released Star Wars films. Fox released A New Hope for digital download on April 10, 2015 (while Disney released the other five films).[51]

Despite The Walt Disney Company's 2012 purchase of Lucasfilm and the release rights to all future Star Wars films, Fox was to retain original distribution rights to A New Hope, which they co-produced and co-financed, in perpetuity in all media worldwide. Fox was also to retain theatrical, nontheatrical, and home video rights worldwide for the franchise's five subsequent films, which Lucasfilm produced and financed independently, through May 2020, at which time ownership was to transfer to Disney. This complex relationship between Fox and Disney, particularly in regards to Fox's perpetual rights to Episode IV, was to create an obstacle for any future boxed set comprising all nine films.[52] On December 14, 2017, The Walt Disney Company announced that it was acquiring most of Fox's parent company, 21st Century Fox, including the film studio and all distribution rights to A New Hope.[53] On March 20, 2019, the deal was officially completed.[54] On April 12, 2019, a Blu-ray box set containing the nine main installments of the Star Wars saga remastered in 4K was reportedly announced to be in development for a 2020 release.[55]

Reception

Star Wars debuted on May 25, 1977 in 32 theaters, and proceeded to break house records, effectively becoming one of the first blockbuster films.[56] It remains one of the most financially successful films of all time. Some of the cast and crew noted lines of people stretching around theaters as they drove by. Even technical crew members, such as model makers, were asked for autographs, and cast members became instant household names.[5] The film's original total U.S. gross came to $307,263,857, and it earned $6,806,951 during its first weekend in wide release. Lucas claimed that he had spent most of the release day in a sound studio in Los Angeles. When he went out for lunch with his then-wife Marcia, they encountered a long queue of people along the sidewalks leading to Mann's Chinese Theater, waiting to see Star Wars.[19] The film became the highest-grossing film of 1977 and the highest-grossing film of all time until E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial broke that record in 1982. (With subsequent re-releases, Star Wars reclaimed the title, but lost it again to James Cameron's 1997 blockbuster Titanic.) The film earned $797,900,000 worldwide, making it the first film to reach the $300 million mark.[57] Adjusted for inflation it is the second highest grossing movie of all time in the United States, behind Gone with the Wind.[58]

The New York Times described Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope as "the most beautiful movie serial ever made." Roger Ebert called the film "an out-of-body experience," compared its special effects to those of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and opined that the true strength of the film was its "pure narrative."[59] Vincent Canby called the film "the movie that's going to entertain a lot of contemporary folk who have a soft spot for the virtually ritualized manners of comic-book adventure."[60]

Pauline Kael of The New Yorker criticized the film, stating that "there's no breather in the picture, no lyricism," and that it had no "emotional grip."[61] Jonathon Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader stated, "None of these characters has any depth, and they're all treated like the fanciful props and settings!"[62] Peter Keough of the Boston Phoenix said, "Star Wars is a junkyard of cinematic gimcracks not unlike the Jawas' heap of purloined, discarded, barely functioning droids."[63] Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic also responded negatively, noting, "His work here seems less inventive than in THX 1138." According to rottentomatoes.com, of the 54 critical reviews of the film provided on that site, 51 responded favorably (95% of the reviewers), stating in consensus that "the action and special effects are first rate."[64]

In 1989, the U.S. National Film Registry of the Library of Congress selected the film as a "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important" film.[65] In 2006, Lucas' original screenplay was selected by the Writers Guild of America as the 68th greatest of all time.[66] The American Film Institute (or AFI) listed it 15th on a list of the top 100 films of the 20th century;[67] in the UK, a poll created by Channel Four named A New Hope (together with its successor, The Empire Strikes Back) the greatest film of all time.[68] The American Film Institute has named Star Wars and specific elements of it to several of its "top 100 lists" of American cinema, compiled as a part of the Institute's 100th anniversary celebration. These include the 27th most thrilling American film of all time;[69] the thirty-ninth most inspirational American film of all-time;[70] Han Solo as the fourteenth greatest American film hero of all time and Obi-Wan Kenobi thirty-seventh on the same list.[71] The often repeated line "May the Force be with you" was ranked as the eighth greatest quote in American film history.[72] John Williams' score was ranked as the greatest American film score of all time.[73]

Star Wars won multiple awards at the 1978 Academy Awards, including Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, which went to John Barry, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley and Roger Christian. Best Costume Design was awarded to John Mollo; Best Film Editing went to Paul Hirsch, Marcia Lucas and Richard Chew; John Stears, John Dykstra, Richard Edlund, Grant McCune and Robert Blalack all received awards for Best Effects, Visual Effects. John Williams was awarded his third Oscar for Best Music, Original Score; the Best Sound went to Don MacDougall, Ray West, Bob Minkler and Derek Ball; and a Special Achievement for sound effects went to Ben Burtt. Additional nominations included Alec Guinness for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, George Lucas for Best Screenplay and Best Director, and Gary Kurtz was nominated for his producing duties in Best Picture. At the Golden Globe awards, the film was nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness), and Best Score. It only won the award for Best Score. It received six BAFTA nominations: Best Film, Best Editing, Best Costume, Best Production/Art Design, Best Sound, and Best Score; the film won in the latter two categories. John Williams' soundtrack album won the Grammy award for Best Album of an original score for a motion picture or television program, and the film was awarded the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. In 1997, the MTV Movie Awards awarded Chewbacca the lifetime achievement award for his work in the Star Wars trilogy.[source?]

Originally, if the film did poorly at the box office, Lucas planned to turn the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye into a low-budget sequel to the movie. According to an interview with Alan Dean Foster in Empire magazine, the book was written to be filmed as a low-budget sequel if Star Wars was not a huge success. Harrison Ford was not signed for the sequel as of the writing of the book, which is why Han Solo does not appear in the novel. However, with the success of A New Hope, Lucas was free to make The Empire Strikes Back.[source?]

Deleted scenes

There are many short alternate takes throughout Star Wars where Luke appears in his poncho: Luke in the desert, in the Tusken Raiders' canyon, Luke finding the destroyed homestead, and in the hangar on Yavin 4. The only poncho scenes that made the final cut were in Docking Bay 94, on the Millennium Falcon flight from the Death Star, and on arrival on Yavin 4.

Aunt Beru's Blue Milk

Beru is in the homestead, pouring a blue liquid into a jug.

Luke in the Desert

Luke with his macrobinoculars

Luke Skywalker is in the Tatooine desert repairing a moisture vaporator, assisted by a Treadwell droid, when he notices shining objects in the sky. With his macrobinoculars Luke sees two ships engaged in combat beyond the atmosphere. He jumps into his landspeeder. The malfunctioning Treadwell blows a fuse and is unable to follow. Luke speeds off into the desert to find his friends. The scene originally occurred after the Tantive IV is boarded, just before Darth Vader's first appearance in the film. It is thought that there is no longer any clear footage of this scene available. Existing footage has been degraded by poor film storage conditions over the years. Before the film was cut, this was the audience's first sight of the young Luke Skywalker, much earlier than in the final cut. It was removed along with subsequent scenes of Luke and his friends in Anchorhead. George Lucas had originally written the scenes and shot them at the suggestion of his industry friends who thought that audiences wouldn't understand the story strictly being told from a droid's point of view. Upon realizing that the story was really about the droids' adventures and it was them leading things to Luke and Obi-Wan, etc. Lucas took the footage out.

Tosche Station

Luke's landspeeder races into the town of Anchorhead, nearly running over an old woman. Luke rushes into Tosche Station excitedly telling his friends about the battle above their planet. He is overjoyed to be reunited with his friend Biggs Darklighter who is on planet leave from the Academy. Deak, Windy, Camie, Fixer and Biggs all follow Luke outside to see the battle with Luke's macrobinoculars. The battle appears to have ended and Luke's friends ridicule him for making it all up. This scene was to come just after R2-D2 and C-3PO eject from the Tantive IV in an escape pod, and before the scene where Princess Leia is led captive before Darth Vader. This scene establishes Luke's difficult relationships with his peers, and gives a picture of life on Tatooine. Storyline pacing may have been the deciding factor, but it should also be borne in mind that after Lucas's first screening of the rough cut of Star Wars in 1977, a fellow filmmaker jokingly accused him of producing "American Graffiti in space." This jibe probably influenced Lucas to cut the scenes set in Anchorhead. The sequence where Luke nearly runs down an old woman was an effects shot that was never completed.

Luke and Biggs

Luke says farewell to Biggs

This scene is a conversation between Luke and his oldest friend, Biggs Darklighter. Biggs has left Tatooine and is on planet leave from the Imperial Academy where he is training to be a space pilot. Luke's envy of Biggs's success conflicts with his duty to his uncle and his reasons for remaining on Tatooine. Biggs quietly tells Luke that he has decided to join the Rebellion against the Empire. In a tense and emotional conversation, the two young men say their final farewells. This scene was to come in between the scene where C-3PO spots a distant Jawa sandcrawler in the desert, and the capture of R2-D2 by the Jawas in the canyon. The Luke and Biggs sequence was part of the whole Anchorhead backstory on Tatooine, and was cut along with the other early scenes on Tatooine, probably for reasons of story pacing.

Vader and Chief Bast

In this short scene, Darth Vader and Chief Bast walk along a corridor on the Death Star. Bast reports that the search for the missing droids has extended to Mos Eisley spaceport. Vader observes that Princess Leia is resisting interrogation, and Bast boldly criticizes Tarkin's plan to break her as "foolish." The scene would have appeared between the scene where Han Solo encounters Jabba the Hutt in Docking Bay 94 (also cut), and the scene where Luke and Ben find the Millennium Falcon in Docking Bay 94.

The Search for R2

C-3PO pilots the landspeeder

R2-D2 has absconded from his new master, Luke Skywalker. Early in the morning, Luke and Threepio rush off in the landspeeder to search for R2, with Threepio driving the landspeeder. They talk about Artoo, Ben Kenobi, and how angry Uncle Owen is going to be. The scene belongs at the start of the sequence where Luke and 3PO search for R2, before the attack of the Tusken Raiders. The moment was scored with a light version of Luke's theme; the music can be heard at the beginning of the cue "Land of the Sand People" on the original LP and CD configurations, or "Landspeeder Search" in the Special Edition album. Before the days of CGI, scenes like this landspeeder cockpit sequence had to be filmed against a rear-projection screen. The scene was dropped due to poor quality.

Stormtrooper Search

Various alien creatures are seen walking around a narrow street in Mos Eisley, and some Stormtroopers walk past.

Darth Vader widens the Search

This is a scene with Darth Vader and another Imperial officer on the Death Star.

Credits

By type
Cast Crew Uncredited

Cast

Crew

MINIATURE AND OPTICAL EFFECTS UNIT:

SPECIAL EDITION

INDUSTRIAL LIGHT AND MAGIC

  • Visual Effects Producers — Tom Kennedy, Ned Gorman
  • Visual Effects Supervisors — Alex Seiden, John Knoll, Dave Carson, Stephen Williams, Dennis Muren, Joseph Letteri, Bruce Nicholson
  • Second Unit Director & Cameraman — Joe Murray
  • Additional Footage Photographer and Additional Material Editing — Brian Q. Kelley (uncredited)
  • Visual Effects Art Directors — Ty Ruben Ellingson, Mark Moore
  • Computer Graphics Supervisor — John Berton
  • Visual Effects Editor — David Tanaka
  • Digital Compositor — Olivier Sarda (uncredited)
  • Digital Color Timing Supervisor — Bruce Vecchitto
  • Sabre Group Supervisor — Daniel McNamara
  • Digital Scanning Supervisor — Joshua Pines
  • Visual Effects Coordinators — Margaret Lynch, Lisa Todd
  • Computer Graphics Artists — Karen Ansel, Mark Austin, Amelia Chenoweth, Terry Chostner, David Deuber, Natasha Devaud, Selwyn Eddy III, Howard Gersh, Paul Giacoppo, Joanne Hafner, James Hagedorn, Carol Hayden, Matt Hendershot, Guy Hudson, Stewart Lew, Jodie Maier, Greg Maloney, Stuart Maschwitz, Julie Neary, Kerry Nordquist, Scott Pasko, Damian Steel, Danny Taylor, Paul Theren, James Tooley, Chris Townsend, Timothy Waddy
  • Digital Matte Artists — Paul Huston, William Mather, Yusei Uesugi, Ronn Brown (uncredited)
  • Senior Digital Effects Artist (ILM) — Tom Martinek (uncredited)
  • Digital Effects Artists (Pacific Title Digital) — Jennifer Law-Stump, Jeff Wells (both uncredited)
  • Digital Paint and Roto Lead (ILM) — Beth D'Amato (uncredited)
  • Sabre Artists — Rita Zimmerman, Chad Taylor, Grant Guenin
  • Inferno Artist (ILM) — Sheena Duggal (uncredited)
  • Digital Effects Resource Assistant (ILM) — Daniel Brimer (uncredited)
  • Software Development — Christian Rouet, Rod Bogart, Brian Knep
  • Production Engineering — Fred Meyers, Gary Meyer, Marty Miramontez
  • Digital Plate Restoration Artists — Alan Bailey, Scott Bonnenfant, Corey Rosen
  • Negative Supervisor — Doug Jones
  • Assistant Visual Effects Editors — Angela Leaper, Forest Key, Scott Balcerek
  • Digital Production Assistants — Kela Hicks, Ronn Brown
  • Animatics Artist — David Dozoretz
  • CG Resource Managers — Nancy Jill Luckoff, Lam Van To
  • CG Production Manager — Suzie Vissitzky Tooley
  • Senior Staff (ILM) — Jim Morris (uncredited)


Prints by — Panavision®, Technicolor®, Deluxe®

Making Films Sound Better
Dolby-logo2.png ®
Noise Reduction — High Fidelity

Photographed in Tunisia, Tikal National Park, Guatemala, Death Valley National Monument, California and at EMI Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, England

Music Recorded at Anvil Recording Studios, Denham, England

Post Production Completed at American Zoetrope, San Francisco, California

Rerecording at Samuel Goldwyn Studios, Los Angeles, California

The producers wish to thank the government of Tunisia, the Institute of Anthropology and History of Guatemala, and the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior for their cooperation.

A LUCASFILM LTD. PRODUCTION

Uncredited

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Organizations and titles Sentient species Vehicles and vessels Weapons and technology Miscellanea

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Legends droids

Events

Canon events

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Locations

Canon locations

Legends locations

Organizations and titles

Canon organizations and titles

Legends organizations and titles

Sentient species

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Vehicles and vessels

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Weapons and technology

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Canon miscellanea

Legends miscellanea



Sources

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Notes and references

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