Star Wars is an American epic space-opera media franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the eponymous 1977 film and quickly became a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon.
The franchise has been expanded into various films and other media, including television series, video games, novels, comic books, theme park attractions, and themed areas, comprising an all-encompassing fictional universe.
The franchise holds a Guinness World Records title for the “Most successful film merchandising franchise.”
In 2020, the Star Wars franchise’s total value was estimated at US$70 billion and, as of 2020, is the fifth-highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
In 2012, Lucas sold his production company to Disney, relinquishing his ownership of the franchise.
The Star Wars franchise depicts the adventures of characters “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, in which humans and many species of aliens (often humanoid) co-exist with robots, or ‘droids’, who may assist them in their daily routines; space travel between planets is common due to lightspeed hyperspace technology. Spacecraft range from small starfighters, to huge capital ships such as the Star Destroyers, to space stations such as the moon-sized Death Stars. Communication is conducted via two-way audiovisual screens and holographic projections.
A mystical power known as the Force is described in the original film as “an energy field created by all living things … [that] binds the galaxy together”. Through training and meditation, those whom “the Force is strong with” are able to perform various superpowers (such as telekinesis, precognition, telepathy, and manipulation of physical energy). The Force is wielded by two major knighthood orders at conflict with each other: the Jedi, peacekeepers of the Galactic Republic who act on the light side of the Force through non-attachment and arbitration, and the Sith, who use the dark side by manipulating fear and aggression. While Jedi Knights can be numerous, the Dark Lords of the Sith (or ‘Darths’) are intended to be limited to two: a master and their apprentice.
Force-wielders are very limited in numbers in comparison to the average population. The Jedi and Sith prefer the use of a weapon called a lightsaber, a blade of energy that can cut through virtually any surface and deflect energy bolts. The rest of the population, as well as renegades and soldiers, use laser-powered blaster firearms. In the outer reaches of the galaxy, crime syndicates such as the Hutt cartel are dominant. Bounty hunters are often employed by both gangsters and governments. Illicit activities include smuggling and slavery.
The Star Wars canon fictional universe spans multiple eras, including three focused around each of the film trilogies:
- The Age of Republic:
- The era of the prequel trilogy, in which the democratic Galactic Republic is corrupted by its ruler, Palpatine – secretly the Sith lord Darth Sidious.
- After orchestrating the Clone Wars between the Republic and a Separatist confederation, Palpatine overthrows the Republic and establishes the totalitarian Galactic Empire.
- The Age of Rebellion:
- The era of the original trilogy, in which the Empire is fought by the Rebel Alliance in a Galactic Civil War that spans several years, climaxing with the death of the Emperor and eventually resulting in the fall of the Empire.
- The Age of Resistance:
- The era of the sequel trilogy, in which the remnants of the Empire reform as the First Order.
- Heroes of the former Rebellion, aided by the New Republic, lead the Resistance against the oppressive regime and its rulers, the mysterious being known as Snoke and his puppet master, the revived Palpatine.
The Expanded Universe of spin-off media depicts different levels of continuity, which were deemed non-canonical and rebranded as ‘Legends’ on 25 April 2014, to make most subsequent works align to the episodic films and The Clone Wars film and television series.
The Star Wars film series centres around three sets of trilogies, which are collectively referred to as the “Skywalker saga”. They were produced non-chronologically, with:
- Episodes IV–VI (the original trilogy) being released between 1977 and 1983;
- Episodes I–III (the prequel trilogy) being released between 1999 and 2005; and
- Episodes VII–IX (the sequel trilogy) being released between 2015 and 2019.
Each trilogy focuses on a generation of the Force-sensitive Skywalker family. The original trilogy depicts the heroic development of Luke Skywalker, the prequels tell the backstory of his father Anakin, while the sequels star Luke’s nephew, Kylo Ren.
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:
Both 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. An animated film, The Clone Wars (2008), was released as a pilot to a TV series of the same name.
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 (2016), tells the story of the rebels who steal the Death Star plans directly before Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) focuses on Han Solo’s backstory, also featuring original trilogy co-protagonists Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian and involving prequel trilogy villain Darth Maul.
As of 2020, Lucasfilm has a number of Star Wars movies in development, including:
- A trilogy which will be written by The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson and be independent from the Skywalker saga.
- A film based on the Knights of the Old Republic video games was reported to be in development with Laeta Kalogridis writing the script.
- In September 2019, it was announced that Kennedy and Kevin Feige will collaborate to develop a Star Wars film.
- In January 2020, a film set in the era of The High Republic was announced to be in development.
- In February 2020, a film was announced to be in development from director J. D. Dillard, and writer Matt Owens.
- In May 2020, Lucasfilm announced that Taika Waititi had been hired to direct a Star Wars film from a script he is co-writing with Krysty Wilson-Cairns.
The Star Wars franchise has been spun off to various television productions, including two animated series released in the mid-1980’s.
After Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm, only the later one remained canon. Three live-action Star Wars series will be released on Disney+. The first, The Mandalorian, premiered on 12 November 2019.
Star Wars Parodies
There have a been a number of Star Wars Parodies:
- Hardware Wars (1978).
- Spaceballs (1987).
- Thumb Wars (1999).
- Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy (2010).
LEGO Star Wars
There have been a number of LEGO Star Wars animated short films and TV series:
- LEGO Star Wars: The Han Solo Affair (2002):
- Also known as Episode V1/2.
- A Short stop-motion film.
- LEGO Star Wars: Revenge of the Brick (2005):
- LEGO-brick mini movie spoof.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Quest for R2-D2 (2009):
- A 5-minute ‘Short’ film to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of LEGO’s Star Wars license.
- LEGO Star Wars: Bombad Bounty (2010):
- A 5 minute short film.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace (2011):
- Non-canon 30 minute TV special.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (2012):
- TV special.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles (2013-2014):
- 7-part TV series; and
- 11-part ‘Mini Movie’ web TV series.
- LEGO Star Wars: Microfighters (2014):
- 4 episode series of web videos.
- LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015):
- 5-part non-canon miniseries.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Resistance Rises (2016):
- 5-part TV series.
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures (2016-2017):
- A 2 season (13 episodes each) TV series.
- LEGO Star Wars: All-Stars (2018):
- A series composed of 8 parts and 5 episodes.
From 1976 to 2014, the term Expanded Universe (EU) was an umbrella term for all officially licensed Star Wars storytelling material set outside the events depicted within the theatrical films, including novels, comics, and video games.
Lucasfilm maintained internal continuity between the films and television content and the EU material until 25 April 2014, when the company announced all of the EU works would cease production. Existing works would no longer be considered canon to the franchise and subsequent reprints would be rebranded under the Star Wars Legends label, with downloadable content for the massively multiplayer online game The Old Republic the only Legends material to still be produced.
The Star Wars canon was subsequently restructured to only include the existing six feature films, the animated film The Clone Wars (2008), and its companion animated series.
All future projects and creative developments across all types of media would be overseen and coordinated by the story group, announced as a division of Lucasfilm created to maintain continuity and a cohesive vision on the storytelling of the franchise.
Multiple comics series from Marvel and novels published by Del Rey were produced after the announcement.
Star Wars stories have been released in a wide variety of format, with book, comic, soundtrack, singles, audio novels, radio and video game adaptations.
Theme Park Attractions
In addition to the Disneyland ride Star Tours (1987) and its successor, Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (2011), many live attractions have been held at Disney parks, including the travelling exhibition Where Science Meets Imagination, the Space Mountain spin-off Hyperspace Mountain, a walkthrough Launch Bay, and the night-time A Galactic Spectacular.
An immersive themed area called Galaxy’s Edge (2019) opened at Disneyland and Walt Disney World in mid-2019.
A themed hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, is currently (as of 2020) under construction at Walt Disney World.
The success of the Star Wars films led the franchise to become one of the most merchandised franchises in the world.
While filming the original 1977 film, George Lucas decided to take a $500,000 pay cut to his salary as director in exchange for full ownership of the franchise’s merchandising rights.
By 1987, the first three films had made US$2.6 billion in merchandising revenue. By 2012, the first six films produced approximately US$20 billion in merchandising revenue.
The Star Wars saga has inspired many fans to create their own non-canon material set in the Star Wars galaxy. In recent years, this has ranged from writing fan fiction to creating fan films.
In 2002, Lucasfilm sponsored the first annual Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards, officially recognising filmmakers and the genre. Because of concerns over potential copyright and trademark issues, however, the contest was initially open only to parodies, mockumentaries, and documentaries.
Fan fiction films set in the Star Wars universe were originally ineligible, but in 2007, Lucasfilm changed the submission standards to allow in-universe fiction entries.
Lucasfilm has allowed but not endorsed the creation of fan fiction, as long as it does not attempt to make a profit.
As the characters and the storyline of the original trilogy are so well known, educators have used the films in the classroom as a learning resource. For example:
- A project in Western Australia honed elementary school students storytelling skills by role-playing action scenes from the movies and later creating props and audio/visual scenery to enhance their performance.
- Others have used the films to encourage second-level students to integrate technology in the science classroom by making prototype lightsabers.
- Similarly, psychiatrists in New Zealand and the US have advocated their use in the university classroom to explain different types of psychopathology.
- Star Wars in print predates the release of the first film, with the December 1976 novelisation of Star Wars, initially subtitled “From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker”.
- Credited to Lucas, it was ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster.
- The first “Expanded Universe” story appeared in Marvel Comics’ Star Wars #7 in January 1978 (the first six issues being an adaptation of the film), followed by Foster’s sequel novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye the following month.
- The widespread impact made it a prime target for parody works and homages, with popular examples including Hardware Wars, Spaceballs, The Family Guy Trilogy and Robot Chicken: Star Wars.
- 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 possesses a copyright deposit print of the original theatrical releases.
Star Wars Series
- Overview of Star Wars Films.
- 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.