AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Star Wars
Director: George Lucas (Dir)
Release Date:   25 May 1977
Duration (in mins):  119, 121 or 123
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Cast: Mark Hamill  (Luke Skywalker)
  Harrison Ford  (Han Solo)
  Carrie Fisher  (Princess Leia Organa)

Summary: During an interstellar civil war, rebels battle against an evil empire, led by Darth Vader and a villainous governor named Grand Moff Tarkin. The imperial stronghold is a planet-sized, armored space station called the Death Star, and insurgent Princess Leia Organa leads a mission to seize the battleship’s blueprints, hoping to reveal its vulnerability. During the ensuing battle, Darth Vader and his military force of stormtroopers capture Leia’s spaceship, but she secretly hides the Death Star plans in a robot “droid” named R2-D2, who flees the spaceship with his companion, C-3PO. Unable to recover the plans, Darth Vader discovers that an escape pod was launched during the attack, and orders the droids detained. Meanwhile, R2-D2 and C-3PO crash land on the desert planet Tatooine. Ornery C-3PO is displeased by his companion’s claim that they are on an important mission, and the two droids part ways. However, they are captured by cloaked scavengers called Jawas and sold to young Luke Skywalker and his Uncle Owen. As the boy refurbishes the droids, he complains that Uncle Owen has thwarted his dream of becoming a pilot and following in the footsteps of his deceased father. Fiddling with R2-D2, Luke unwittingly activates a three dimensional projection of Princess Leia, uttering the plea: “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Smitten and intrigued, Luke wonders if the message is addressed to a hermit known as “Ben” Kenobi. At dinner, Luke tells Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru about Leia’s message, but Owen orders the boy to erase R2-D2’s memory, and insists that Obi-Wan died alongside Luke’s father. Storming away, Luke discovers that R2-D2 has escaped. The next morning, Luke and C-3PO recover the wayward droid, but are attacked by the hostile, nomadic Sand People. However, “Ben” Kenobi comes to the rescue, and admits that “Obi-Wan” is his real name. Seeking shelter at Obi-Wan’s home, Luke learns that his father was a Jedi knight during the Clone Wars, and was known as the galaxy’s best starfighter. Obi-Wan explains that he mentored Luke’s father and makes good on an old promise, giving Luke his father’s lightsaber. Since Jedis were guided by “the Force,” a mystical energy that unites all living creatures in peace, the neon light sword once upheld universal justice. However, Luke’s father was killed by a colleague, Darth Vader, who used his knowledge of “the Force” to betray the Jedis. As Obi-Wan activates R2-D2’s message from Leia, she explains that she was on a mission to bring Obi-Wan back to her home planet of Alderaan, and adds that vital information has been hidden in R2-D2’s memory system. The only person equipped to retrieve the data is her Jedi father, so the droid must be escorted to Alderaan immediately. Obi-Wan announces he will teach Luke to use “the Force,” so he can be of service on the mission, but Luke insists on returning home. Meanwhile, on the Death Star, Grand Moff Tarkin announces that the galaxy’s government council has been dissolved, and the Empire is one step closer to ultimate power. Back on Tatooine, Luke discovers his family murdered by stormtroopers and vows to become a Jedi. He joins Obi-Wan and the droids in their search for a pilot at the spaceport town of Mos Eisley. In a seamy tavern, they hire rugged outlaw smuggler Han Solo and his first mate, a tall, hairy Wookie named Chewbacca. The men narrowly escape a stormtrooper attack in Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon. Meanwhile, Vader tortures Leia to discover the whereabouts of the rebel base, but she remains resolute. Tarkin navigates the Death Star toward Alderaan, then orders Leia’s execution and threatens to destroy her home planet unless she confesses. Although Leia claims the rebel base is on planet Dantoonine, Tarkin incinerates Alderaan. At the same moment, on the Millennium Falcon, Obi-Wan feels pain in his heart. He acknowledges a terrible tragedy, but continues Luke’s lightsaber training, teaching the boy to trust his instincts and to use “the Force.” When the Millennium Falcon reaches Alderaan, the planet is gone and the ship is forcibly sucked into the Death Star by its “tractor beam.” Darth Vader learns that the Millennium Falcon began its journey in Tatooine and realizes it is transporting the coveted Death Star plans. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan uses “the Force” to ensure that no humans or droids are detected aboard the spaceship, but Darth Vader perceives the presence of his former Jedi master. Upon their arrival aboard the Death Star, Han Solo and Luke kill several stormtroopers, don their armor, and capture a nearby outpost. There, R2-D2 plugs into the Death Star’s computer network and discovers seven locations that secure the battleship’s “tractor beam.” Once the locks are disabled, the Millennium Falcon can escape. Obi-Wan declares that he alone must immobilize the locks and leaves after promising Luke, “the Force will be with you… always.” Just then, R2-D2 locates Princess Leia and reports that her execution is pending. Luke convinces Han Solo to join him on a rescue mission with assurances of a bountiful reward. As they release the princess, a gunfight ensues, and Leia orders her rescuers into a garbage chute to escape. There, Luke is pulled underwater by a tentacled monster, but the creature suddenly disappears when the dump walls begin to compact. Radioing C-3PO for help, Luke orders R2-D2 to shut down the “garbage mashers,” and the comrades are saved. As they return to the Millennium Falcon and battle stormtroopers, Obi-Wan disables the “tractor beam” and reunites with Darth Vader, who is intent on killing his former Jedi master. However, Obi-Wan warns that the prospect for peace will become infinitely more powerful if Darth Vader succeeds. When Obi-Wan is confident that Luke can see him, and that Leia has safely boarded the Millennium Falcon, he permits Darth Vader to strike him dead, but his voice remains fixed in Luke’s consciousness. The friends escape a firefight, and Leia warns that the Millennium Falcon has been fitted with a tracking device. The Death Star follows as they proceed to the rebel base on the planet Yavin. There, R2-D2’s data is analyzed and soldiers are briefed that the Death Star’s weak point can only be accessed by a one-man fighter jet. The pilots must navigate down a narrow trench and fire into a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port, causing a chain reaction. As Luke mans his ship, with R2-D2 as his navigator, Han Solo ducks away with his reward money, claiming the battle is a suicide mission. Meanwhile, the Death Star comes within firing range of Yavin and the Imperial leaders anticipate their decisive victory. Rebels race toward the battleship and attempt to dodge their pursuers, including Darth Vader, who pilots a deadly imperial fighter. With many of Luke’s senior comrades defeated, the boy is ordered to the front, but his rear guard is killed. The Death Star takes aim at Yavin just as Luke speeds toward its vulnerable portal. Although he uses a device to guide him, he subconsciously hears Obi-Wan’s refrain, “use the Force,” and turns off the computer to follow his instinct. Just then, Darth Vader directs his guns on Luke’s starfighter and prepares to fire, but Han Solo suddenly appears in the Millenium Falcon and interferes, sending the villain spiraling into space. Luke’s missiles successfully destroy the Death Star an instant before the battle station fires at Yavin, and peace is finally restored to the universe. 

Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Production Company: Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Director: George Lucas (Dir)
  Bruce Sharman (Prod mgr)
  David Lester (2d unit prod mgr)
  Peter Herald (2d unit prod mgr)
  Pepi Lenzi (2d unit prod mgr)
  Tony Waye (Asst dir)
  Gerry Gavigan (Asst dir)
  Terry Madden (Asst dir)
Producer: Gary Kurtz (Prod)
  George Lucas (Exec prod)
Writer: George Lucas (Wrt)

Subject Major: Civil war
  Search and rescue operations
  Space warfare
Subject Minor: Adolescents
  Air pilots
  Aliens, Extraterrestrial
  Government agents
  Government officials
  Military bases
  Military government
  Military occupation
  Political corruption
  Secret plans
  Space travel
  Sword fights

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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