The Star Wars Films - In the Order You Should Watch Them...
Who are we to tell you what films to watch when? You’re a free spirit, able to make your own decisions and watch whatever you want, whenever you want. But, in the days of cinematic universes, re-boots, sequels, prequels, spin-offs and TV tie-ins, it can be bewildering to work out how things actually fit together.
So, in our “In the Order You Should Watch Them…” series of blog posts, we like to paint a simple picture and provide a bit of background. The rest, well, that’s up to you. Perhaps you’ll watch them backwards, maybe that’s just how you roll…
This week, in anticipation of the final part of the Skywalker Saga, it is Star Wars!
The Star Wars universe and its characters are now so ingrained in our culture, it can feel as if the whole thing was kind of inevitable. It was always going to happen, right?
Were it not for the cards of chance falling the right way, those 13 films over 40 plus years (with more to come) and a current combined box office of around $9B, might never have happened.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, George Lucas produced the short film “Electronic Labyrinth: THX 1138 4EB”. Set in a dystopian world, it pessimistically portrayed a future where emotions and sex are banned and the drug-fed public policed by androids. Post graduation, it formed the basis for his first feature film, “THX 1138”.
Produced by Francis Ford Coppola and released in 1971, “THX 1138” was not a financial success. It covered its $0.8M budget but, overall, left the studio (Warner Brothers) out of pocket.
In contrast with the downcast nature of his first film, Lucas wanted to make a swash-buckling, optimistic science fiction feature, in the mould of the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers series he had watched as a child. However, the lack of success for “THX 1138” did not give studios much confidence in this young director’s flights of fantasy.
As a result, for his second film, Lucas had to look to more familiar territory and a coming of age story set in his home town, Modesto, California.
The resultant “American Graffiti” (1973) became a major critical and box office success. Produced on a budget of $0.8M, its initial run returned over $50M. The 1974 Academy Awards saw the film nominated for 5 Oscars, including ‘Best Film’ and ‘Best Director’.
The astonishing success of “American Graffiti” gave Lucas the opportunity to push his idea of a fun-packed science fiction film, aimed at entertaining and inspiring teenagers to look towards the stars.
Having tried (but failed) to secure the film rights to Flash Gordon, Lucas turned to his own story. At one time called “Journal of the Whills”, the initial script was turned down by United Artists and Universal, before 20th Century Fox agreed to provide seed money for further development .
The final draft was completed in January 1976 and filming commenced two months later, in Tunisia. Principal filming took place at Elstree Studios in England, using nine large sound stages simultaneously. (One of which is now named "The George Lucas Stage".)
Beset by problems (including that 20th Century Fox no longer had a special effects department, which led to the birth of Industrial Light and Magic) and $2M over budget, the film missed its Christmas 1976 release date.
Eventually hitting a small number of cinemas in May of the following year, the film was an instant success. It would remain on release for over a year and would dominate the 1976 Academy Awards, being nominated for ten Oscars and winning six.
“The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) would follow three years later, before “Return of the Jedi” (1983) brought this epic trilogy to an end.
Lucas produced two further films based on the adventures of the Ewoks, “Caravan of Courage” (1984) and “Ewoks: The Battle for Endor” (1985). Set between 'Strikes Back' and 'Jedi', the Ewok films are no longer considered ‘Star Wars canon’, but should be watched by the completist.
As the 20th Century also came to a close, Lucas returned to the story of the Skywalker family with “The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Attack of the Clones” (2002) and “Revenge of the Sith” (2005). A prequel trilogy, set before the first three films, they tell the story of Anakin Skywalker.
These were followed by an animated spin-off film, “The Clone Wars” (2008), set between 'Clones' and 'Revenge'.
Lucas had apparently always envisaged a Star Wars ‘trilogy of trilogies’, with a total of nine films. It was Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm that would provide the catalyst for the development of the final three, sequel, films.
Set some years after "Return of the Jedi", “The Force Awakens” (2015) introduces us to a new set of characters, together with the main stars of the original three films. Directed by J.J. Abrams (fast becoming a master of the ‘reboot’), the film has now earned a box office of over £2B and firmly re-established the Star Wars universe in cinemas world-wide.
Disney also announced a series of ‘spin-off’ Star Wars films. Before the second of the sequels, “The Last Jedi” (2017), arrived, the first spin-off film, “Rogue One” (2016) hit the screens. Set in the weeks immediately before the original "Star Wars", this superb film dovetails beautifully in to the film that started it all.
The second spin-off, “Solo” (2018), recounts the back-story of Han Solo, Chewbacca and the Millennium Falcon and also sits between the prequels and the original trilogy..
The final sequel film, "The Rise of Skywalker" brings the Skywalker saga to its close. Having received it's naming ceremony (and the first teaser trailer) at Star Wars celebration 2019, it is due for release in December 2019.
In November 2017, Disney announced that a new trilogy would also begin development, with “new characters, from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored”.
This fan has been hooked since the first Imperial star ship thundered across the screen in 1977. Thankfully, there is a lot more still to come from 'the galaxy, far, far away'.
If you would like to download a copy of our Star Wars time-line, just click below.
We are massive Star Wars fans and the posters are both extremely collectable and great pieces of art. We always have a fantastic collection available. To see them, just click here.
We hope you find something that you love.
Adam and the Art of the Movies team.