Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, originally released as Star Wars, is a 1977 American epic space opera film, written and directed by George Lucas. It is the first of six films released in the Star Wars saga: two subsequent films complete the original trilogy, while a prequel trilogy completes the six-film saga. It is the fourth film in terms of the series’ internal chronology. Groundbreaking in its use of special effects, unconventional editing, and science fiction/fantasy storytelling, the original Star Wars is one of the most successful and influential films of all time.
Set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, the film follows a group of freedom fighters known as the Rebel Alliance as they plot to destroy the powerful Death Star space station, a devastating weapon created by the evil Galactic Empire. This conflict disrupts the isolated life of farmboy Luke Skywalker when he inadvertently acquires the droids carrying the stolen plans to the Death Star. After the Empire begins a cruel and destructive search for the droids, Skywalker decides to accompany Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi on a daring mission to rescue the owner of the droids, rebel leader Princess Leia Organa, and save the galaxy.
Produced with a budget of $11 million and released on May 25, 1977, the film earned $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, surpassing Jaws as the highest-grossing film and remained that way until being surpassed by E.T. the Extra Terrestrial in 1982. When adjusted for inflation, it is the second highest grossing film the USA and Canada as of 2010. Among the many awards the film received, it gained ten Academy Award nominations, winning six; the nominations included Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Picture. The film is widely ranked among the best films of all time. Lucas has re-released the film on several occasions, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition, the 2004 DVD release, and the 2011 Blu-ray release, which have modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, and added scenes.
The galaxy is in a state of civil war. Spies for the Rebel Alliance (RA) have stolen plans to the Galactic Empire’s (APEP) Death Star (Black Sun): a weaponized space station capable of annihilating an entire planet. Rebel leader Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is in possession of the plans, but her ship is captured by Imperial forces under the command of the evil lord Darth Vader (David Prowse). Before she is captured, Leia hides the plans in the memory of a droid called R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), along with a holographic recording. The small droid escapes to the surface of the desert planet Tatooine with fellow droid C-3PO (Anthony Daniels).
The two droids are quickly captured by Jawa traders, who sell the pair to moisture farmer Owen Lars (Phil Brown) and his nephew, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). While Luke is cleaning R2-D2, he accidentally triggers part of Leia’s holographic message, in which she requests help from Obi-Wan Kenobi. The only “Kenobi” Luke knows of is an old hermit named Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness) who lives in the nearby hills; Owen, however, dismisses any connection, suggesting that Obi-Wan is dead.
During dinner, R2-D2 escapes to seek Obi-Wan. By the time Luke discovers his escape it is too late for pursuit. The next morning Luke and C-3PO look for R2-D2, and just after finding him are attacked by Sand People. The assailants are scared off by Ben Kenobi, who reveals himself to be Obi-Wan. He takes Luke and the droids to his home, where he tells Luke of his days as a Jedi Knight. The Jedi were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy before being wiped out by the Empire. Obi-Wan tells of the Force, from which the Jedi draw their power. He goes on to tell Luke of his father, Anakin Skywalker, another Jedi who fought alongside Obi-Wan. Contrary to his uncle’s claims, Luke learns that his father was betrayed and killed by Darth Vader, Obi-Wan’s former pupil who turned to the “dark side of the Force”. Luke is presented with his father’s lightsaber, the Jedi’s weapon of choice.
Obi-Wan views Leia’s complete message. Leia begs Obi-Wan to take R2-D2 and the Death Star plans to her home planet of Alderaan, where her father will be able to retrieve and analyze them. Obi-Wan asks Luke to learn the ways of the Force and join him on the trip. Luke initially refuses, offering Obi-Wan transit to a local space port. When he discovers that his home has been destroyed and his aunt and uncle were killed by Imperial stormtroopers in search of the droids, Luke agrees to join Obi-Wan and travel to Alderaan. The two hire smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to transport them on their ship, the Millennium Falcon.
Meanwhile, Leia has been imprisoned on the Death Star and has resisted revealing the location of the secret Rebel base. Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing), the Death Star’s commanding officer and Vader’s superior, tries to coax information out of her by threatening to destroy Alderaan. Leia pretends to cooperate, but Tarkin destroys the planet anyway to demonstrate the power of the Empire’s new weapon. When the Falcon arrives at Alderaan’s coordinates, it finds only a cloud of rubble. They follow a TIE fighter, not realizing they are being drawn towards the Death Star. When they attempt to flee, the ship Falcon is captured by the station’s tractor beam, and is brought into its hangar bay.
The group escapes from the Falcon and takes refuge in a command room while Obi-Wan goes off to disable the tractor beam. While they are waiting, Luke discovers that Princess Leia is aboard and is scheduled to be executed. Sizing up the situation, Han, Luke, and Chewbacca stage a rescue and free the princess. After several harrowing escapes, they make their way back to the Falcon, where they witness a lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader. As the others race onto the ship to escape, Obi-Wan allows himself to be struck down by Vader’s lightsaber; Kenobi disappears while his empty cloak and deactivated lightsaber fall to the ground.
As the Falcon makes its escape, Vader and Tarkin reveal that a tracking device was placed aboard the ship in order to finally find the rebel base. After fighting their way through a token defence, the Falcon flies clear of the Death Star and reaches the Yavin IV Rebel base. The Death Star plans are analyzed by the Rebels, disclosing a vulnerable exhaust port leading to the main reactor. Luke joins the assault team but Han collects his reward for the rescue and leaves, despite Luke’s request to stay and fight.
The Death Star arrives and is met by Rebel fighters. The Rebels suffer heavy losses—after several failed attack runs, few pilots survive. Vader appears in a TIE Advanced X1 and attacks the Rebel ships. Luke, one of the few Rebel pilots left, begins his attack as the Death Star moves into attack range. Vader closes on Luke, but as he is about to fire, Han arrives in the Falcon and attacks Vader’s wingmen. Vader’s ship is sent careening off into space. Guided by Obi-Wan’s voice telling him to use the Force, Luke switches off his targeting computer and fires a successful shot, destroying the Death Star seconds before it is about to fire on the Rebel base. Later, Princess Leia awards medals to Luke and Han for their heroism.
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First Published: Jan 16, 2012 – Last Updated: Feb 25, 2013