Star Wars is the name of a movie (now called A New Hope), based on the ideas of writer/director George Lucas, which has had numerous prequels, sequels, and literary adapatations. The movies revolve around a Galactic civil war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire in an epic struggle between good and evil. The story is set A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
The story has been presented in a series of American movies, which have spawned dozens of books. The Star Wars mythos is also the basis of many toys and games. Though the films and books are set in outer space and employ common science fiction motifs, the plots are humanistic in nature. Star Wars is an outstanding example of the space opera sub-genre of science fiction.
It has been noted that it is almost impossible in the United States to go for a full day without hearing some reference to Star Wars. This is a testament to the extraordinary popularity that the Star Wars films have enjoyed. (Only Star Trek has a comparable popularity in American popular culture.) The strong human appeal of the Star Wars story probably accounts for its enduring popularity; it has also been postulated that this popularity is based on nostalgia. Many Star Wars fans first saw the films as children, and their (for the time) revolutionary special effects and simple, Manichean story made a profound impact.
The Star Wars films show considerable similarity to Asian Wu Xia "Kung Fu" films, as well as Greek mythology. Lucas has stated that his intention was to create in Star Wars a modern mythology, based on the studies of his friend Joseph Campbell. Lucas has also 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 Star Wars is striking. 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.
A notable feature of the Star Wars films is that they portray a world full of grime and hokey technology, not the sleek, futuristic world typical of earlier science fiction films. In one of his many interviews on the making of Star Wars, Lucas told of rubbing the new props with dirt to make them look weatherworn. It is tempting to speculate that this break from traditional science fiction film influenced the cyberpunk genre that emerged around 1984.
The film is not universally admired. Since its release, there has been a clear trend towards special-effects-driven movies geared towards a teenage audience. Many critics deplore this trend, and hold Star Wars responsible. It may be that the trend was a natural consequence of economic and technological forces in the film industry, but Star Wars, for better or for worse, is an emblem to many of that sea change.
The Star Wars franchise goes beyond the five already released films. Bantam Books has for quite some time been publishing officially-sanctioned Star Wars novels. The novels are officially part of the Star Wars universe and they feature characters from the films, as well as others that are not from the films. The legacy of Star Wars is continued in this manner in between the releases of the films. Some fans consider the novels to have better stories than the films themselves.
The original Star Wars (A New Hope) has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.