The Star Wars franchise has spawned multiple live-action and animated films. The franchise started with a film trilogy set in medias res (i.e. beginning in the middle of the story) which was later expanded to a trilogy of trilogies, better known as the “Skywalker saga”.
The original eponymous film (1977), later subtitled Episode IV – A New Hope, was followed by the sequels Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), forming what is collectively referred to as the original trilogy.
The combined box office revenue of the films equates to over US$10 billion, and it is currently the second-highest-grossing film franchise.
All the major theatrical live-action films were nominated for Academy Awards. The original film was nominated for most of the major categories, including best picture, director, original script, and supporting actor, while all sequels have been nominated for technical categories.
The first spin-off film produced was the Star Wars Holiday Special (1978). In 1984 and 1985, two live-action films featuring the Ewoks were televised in the United States and released theatrically in Europe. Several Star Wars television series have also been released.
The Star Wars film series, which developed into a trilogy of trilogies and which has been rebranded as the “Skywalker saga”, was released:
- Beginning with the original trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI, 1977–1983);
- Followed by the prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II and III, 1999–2005); and
- Finally the sequel trilogy (Episodes VII, VIII and IX, 2015–2019).
The three trilogies each focus on the Force-sensitive Skywalker family. The prequel trilogy focuses on Anakin Skywalker and his training as a Jedi and eventual fall to the dark side as Darth Vader. The original trilogy follows his children, Luke and Leia, as they join the Rebel Alliance and battle Vader and the Galactic Empire. The sequel trilogy features Kylo Ren (Ben Solo), a major antagonist and eventual Supreme Leader of the First Order, and son of Leia, nephew of Luke, and grandson of Anakin.
Each episodic film begins with an opening crawl, accompanied by the main Star Wars theme by John Williams, who composes the scores for each film.
The first six films have had retroactive changes made after their initial theatrical releases, most notably the original trilogy.
Produced for CBS in 1978, the Star Wars Holiday Special was a two-hour television special, in the format of a variety show. It was the first spin-off film, and the first sequel to be released.
Stars of the original film and archive footage from the original Star Wars film appeared alongside celebrity guest stars in plot-related skits, musical numbers, and an animated segment, all loosely tied together by the premise of Chewbacca’s family waiting for his arrival for the “Life Day” celebration on his home planet, Kashyyyk.
George Lucas loathed the special and forbade it to be re-aired or released on home video, with the sole exception of the 11-minute animated sequence that featured the first appearance of bounty hunter Boba Fett, which was eventually included as a bonus feature in some of the films’ Blu-ray releases.
Standalone and Anthology Films
As Lucas was outlining a trilogy of trilogies, he also imagined making additional movies unrelated to the Skywalker saga. The first theatrical films set outside the main episodic series were the Ewok spin-off films Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984) and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985), which were screened internationally after being produced for television.
After the conclusion of his then six-episode saga in 2005, Lucas returned to spin-offs in the form of television series (2003). An animated film, The Clone Wars (2008), was released as a pilot to a TV series of the same name (2008).
An anthology series set between the main episodes entered development in parallel to the production of the sequel trilogy, described by Disney CFO Jay Rasulo as origin stories. The first entry, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), tells the story of the rebels who steal the Death Star plans directly before Episode IV – A New Hope. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) focuses on Han’s backstory, also featuring Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.
Over the years there have been a number Star Wars fan films, with a few examples below:
- Star Wars: Revelations (2005).
- Star Wars: Threads of Destiny (2014).
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter (2015).
- Star Wars: Destroyer (2017).
- Star Wars: Vader Episode I: Shards of the Past (2018).
Rian Johnson, the writer/director of The Last Jedi, is confirmed to write and direct the first film of a new trilogy he is currently outlining and will start working on after completing his 2019 film Knives Out and possibly another film. The trilogy will differ from the Skywalker-focused films in favour of focusing on new characters and possibly a different era in the main film franchise.
In mid-2018, Lucasfilm confirmed that multiple anthology films were in development, with their release following a hiatus after 2019’s The Rise of Skywalker.
On 25 September 2019, it was announced that Marvel Cinematic Universe producer Kevin Feige was developing a Star Wars film with Kathleen Kennedy.
On 21 February 2020, Variety reported that a Star Wars film from Sleight director J. D. Dillard and Luke Cage writer Matt Owens was in the early stages of development.
On 04 May 2020, it was announced that Taika Waititi (who directed the season finale of The Mandalorian), will direct a Star Wars film from a screenplay he is co-writing with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.
Unproduced and Rumoured Films
In early 2013, Bob Iger announced the development of a spin-off film written by Simon Kinberg, reported by Entertainment Weekly to focus on bounty hunter Boba Fett during the original trilogy. In mid-2014, Josh Trank was officially announced as the director of an undisclosed spin-off film, but had left the project a year later due to creative differences, causing a teaser for the film to be scrapped from Star Wars Celebration. In May 2018, it was reported that James Mangold had signed on to write and direct a Fett film, with Kinberg attached as producer and co-writer. By October, the Fett film was reportedly no longer in production, with the studio instead focusing on the (then) upcoming The Mandalorian series, which utilises a similar character design.
In August 2017, it was rumoured that films focused on Jabba the Hutt, and Jedi Masters Obi-Wan and Yoda were being considered or were in development. Stephen Daldry was reportedly in early negotiations to co-write and direct the Obi-Wan movie. At D23 Expo in August 2019, it was announced that a streaming series about the character would be produced instead.
Felicity Jones, who played Jyn Erso in Rogue One, has the option of another Star Wars film in her contract; notwithstanding her character’s fate in Rogue One, it has been speculated that she could return in other anthology films. In 2018, critics noted that Solo was intentionally left open for sequels. Alden Ehrenreich and Emilia Clarke confirmed that their contracts to play Han Solo and Q’ira extended for additional films, if required. Kathleen Kennedy expressed being open to making a spin-off about the younger Lando Calrissian as seen in Solo, but confirmed that none was currently in development.
An unannounced film centred around the Mos Eisley Spaceport was reportedly put on hold or cancelled in mid-2018, leading to rumours of the cancellation or postponement of the anthology series. Lucasfilm swiftly denied the rumours as “inaccurate”, confirming that multiple unannounced films were in development.
Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss were to write and produce a trilogy of Star Wars films scheduled to be released in December 2022, 2024, and 2026, which were first announced to be in development in February 2018. However, citing their commitment to a Netflix deal, the duo stepped away from the project in October 2019. Kennedy stated her openness to their returning when their schedules allow.
Additionally, though unconfirmed by Lucasfilm, BuzzFeed reported in May 2019 that Laeta Kalogridis was writing the script for the first film in a potential Knights of the Old Republic trilogy. In January 2020, a film set in the era of The High Republic was rumoured to be in development.
Lucas hired ‘the Dean of Special Effects’ John Stears, who created R2-D2, Luke Skywalker’s Landspeeder, the Jedi Knights’ lightsabers, and the Death Star.
The technical lightsaber choreography for the original trilogy was developed by leading film-making sword-master Bob Anderson. Anderson trained actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and performed all the sword stunts as Darth Vader during the lightsaber duels in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, wearing Vader’s costume.
Anderson’s role in the original trilogy was highlighted in the film Reclaiming the Blade (2009), where he shares his experiences as the fight choreographer developing the lightsaber techniques for the movies.
The eleven (1977 to 2018) live-action films together have been nominated for 37 Academy Awards, of which they have won seven.
- The films were also awarded a total of three Special Achievement Awards.
- The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi received Special Achievement Awards for their visual effects, and Star Wars received a Special Achievement Award for its alien, creature and robot voices.
The franchise has also received a total of fourteen Grammy Award nominations, winning six.
At the 38th Primetime Emmy Awards, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor and the CBS documentary Dinosaur! were both juried-awarded Emmys for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The film additionally received two nominations for Outstanding Children’s Programme and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Special.
Library of Congress
- In 1989, the Library of Congress selected the original Star Wars film for preservation in the US National Film Registry, as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
- The Empire Strikes Back was selected in 2010.
- 35 mm reels of the 1997 Special Editions were the versions initially presented for preservation because of the difficulty of transferring from the original prints, but it was later revealed that the Library possessed a copyright deposit print of the original theatrical releases.
- By 2015, Star Wars had been transferred to a 2K scan which can be viewed by appointment.
Star Wars Series
- Overview of the Star Wars Franchise.
- Overview of Star Wars Films.
- Prequel Trilogy Overview (1999-2005).
- Original Trilogy Overview (1977-1983).
- Sequel Trilogy Overview (2015-2019).
- Star Wars Holiday Special (1978).
- Overview of Star Wars Parodies.
- Overview of Star Wars TV Series.
- Overview of Star Wars Documentary Series.
- Overview of LEGO Star Wars.
Production & Filming Details
- Creator(s): George Lucas.
- Release Date: 1977 to Present.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.