Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) is a 1977 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. The first release in the Star Wars saga, it stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness. David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker and Peter Mayhew co-star in supporting roles.
The plot focuses on the Rebel Alliance, led by Princess Leia (Fisher), and its attempt to destroy the Galactic Empire's space station, the Death Star. This conflict disrupts the isolated life of ambitious farmhand Luke Skywalker (Hamill) when he inadvertently acquires a pair of droids that possess stolen architectural plans for the Death Star. After the Empire begins a destructive search for the missing droids, Skywalker agrees to accompany Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guinness) on a mission to return the Death Star plans to the Rebel Alliance and save the galaxy from the tyranny of the Galactic Empire.
Lucas began writing the script to Star Wars after completing his 1973 comedy-drama American Graffiti. He based the plot outline on the 1936 Flash Gordon serials and the 1958 Akira Kurosawa film The Hidden Fortress. After United Artists and Universal Pictures rejected Lucas' script, Alan Ladd, Jr. of 20th Century Fox accepted it and agreed to finance and distribute the film. Shot mostly in Tunisia, England, and Guatemala, the film was met with numerous problems during production, including bad weather conditions, malfunctioning equipment, and financial difficulties. The script underwent numerous changes, and Lucas founded Industrial Light & Magic specifically to create the groundbreaking visual effects needed for the film.
Star Wars was released theatrically in the United States on May 25, 1977. It earned $461 million in the United States and $314 million overseas, totaling $775 million. It surpassed Jaws (1975) to become the highest-grossing film of all time until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. When adjusted for inflation as of 2013, Star Wars was the second-highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada, and the third-highest-grossing film in the world. It received 10 Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture), winning seven. It was selected to become part of the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in its first year of opening as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant"; at the time, it was the newest film to be selected, and it was the only film from the 1970s to be chosen. The film's soundtrack was added to the United States National Recording Registry 15 years later. Today, it is often regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, and is also, alongside The Birth of a Nation and Citizen Kane, considered by many to be one of the most important films in the history of motion pictures.
Lucas has re-released Star Wars a number of times, incorporating many changes including modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, re-edited shots, remixed soundtracks, and added scenes. The film's massive success led to the production of two sequels: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), both of which became critically and commercially successful. A prequel trilogy was later released between 1999 and 2005; all three films were again commercially successful, but did not match the level of critical and fanatical acclaim of the original trilogy. In early 2014 a sequel trilogy began production with a majority of the cast members from the original trilogy returning for the seventh installment, The Force Awakens, which is scheduled for release on December 18, 2015.
The galaxy is in a civil war, and spies for the Rebel Alliance have stolen plans to the Galactic Empire's Death Star, a heavily armed and armored space station capable of destroying entire planets. Rebel leader Princess Leia is in possession of the plans, but her ship is captured by Imperial forces under the command of the evil Lord Darth Vader. Before she is captured Leia hides the plans in the memory of an astromech droid called R2-D2, along with a holographic recording. The droid, accompanied by fellow protocol droid C-3PO, escape from the captured ship to the desert planet Tatooine.