This page is about the first movie made in the franchise. For the franchise itself, see Star Wars (franchise).

Star Wars (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) was the first film released in the popular Star Wars science-fiction series of films by George Lucas. It is the fourth story in the chronology of the six-part series, and tells the story of Luke Skywalker's adventures and transformation from a restless farm boy to the hero of a covert Rebellion seeking to overthrow the Galactic Empire.

It was released on May 25, 1977, and was re-released, sometimes with significant changes, in 1979, 1981, 1982, 1997 (all cinema), 2000 (VHS), and 2004 (DVD). Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was originally presented in monaural sound in many theatres, though the first-run 70mm prints were some of the earliest wide-release examples of surround sound—something not seen in the commercial cinema since the Cinerama and Cinemascope experiments of the early 50's.

Plot summary

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Darth Vader boards the Tantive IV.

The opening crawl reveals that the galaxy is in a state of civil war. The Rebel Alliance has stolen secret plans to the Galactic Empire's secret weapon, the Death Star, an extremely powerful space station capable of annihilating entire planets. In a series of transmissions, the plans were beamed to the rebel blockade runner Tantive IV, a Corellian corvette in the service of Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan. Imperial forces under the command of Darth Vader have captured the rebel ship in a space battle above Tatooine (Attack on Tantive IV), where Leia had been hoping to enlist the help of Obi-Wan Kenobi, a fugitive Jedi in exile on the planet. Stormtroopers take control of the ship, and Darth Vader arrives to assess the damage. Vader is outraged by the resistance and questions Captain Antilles in a fatal interrogation. Hiding on the ship, Leia is spotted by a squad of troops and is shot with a stun blast. Before taking her prisoner, Vader questions her as well. However, before being transferred to Vader's Star Destroyer, Princess Leia is able to record a holographic message and give it to R2-D2 to take to Kenobi. Vader orders a command be sent to the Imperial Senate that the ship was destroyed, with everyone on board killed. The droids R2-D2 and C-3PO use an escape pod which brings them to the planet Tatooine.

On Tatooine, the droids are captured by Jawas while wandering the desert. They come into the possession of Owen Lars and his nephew, Luke Skywalker. Luke accidentally triggers part of the holographic message, causing him to suspect that the R2-D2 may have been stolen, and that it really belongs to an "Obi-Wan Kenobi."

Luke watches the twin sunset from Tatooine.

Returning to his garage before nightfall, Luke discovers that R2-D2 has escaped. The next day, Luke and C-3PO set out to find R2-D2. After finding him, they are attacked by Sandpeople, but rescued by the arrival of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke and the droids are brought to Obi-Wan's hut, where Obi-Wan tells of his days as a Jedi Knight and reveals to Luke that his father was a Jedi as well. When Luke asks how his father died, Obi-Wan says he was "betrayed and murdered" by Darth Vader. He then talks about the mysterious energy field called the Force. Finally, Obi-Wan and Luke see the holographic message from Princess Leia, who asks for Obi-Wan's assistance to take the droid and the plans to the planet Alderaan. Obi-Wan invites Luke to come with him to Alderaan, but Luke refuses, citing his responsibilities at home. On Tatooine, Obi-Wan, Luke and the droids discover dead Jawas and scattered Bantha tracks. Obi-Wan suspects that Imperial Stormtroopers ambushed the Jawas in an attempt to find the droids. Realizing that the troopers likely learned who the droids were sold to, Luke races back to the Lars homestead, only to find his family murdered and his home destroyed. He returns to Obi-Wan and decides to come to Alderaan and become a Jedi. The group goes to Mos Eisley Spaceport, where they encounter a smuggler named Han Solo who agrees to transport them on his ship, the Millennium Falcon. (Shortly before, Luke witnesses Obi-Wan's skill with a lightsaber as the old man subdues two fugitives that harass Luke in the cantina where they find Solo.) As the old Jedi and his companions make their way to the ship, they are attacked by Stormtroopers. They hastily board the Millennium Falcon and make a speedy launch. After leaving the planet's surface and dodging attacks, the ship and its crew escape.

On the Death Star, Leia remains imprisoned and has resisted interrogation. However, when threatened with the destruction of her home planet of Alderaan, she discloses that the Rebel Base is on Dantooine. Grand Moff Tarkin destroys Alderaan anyway, as a display of the Death Star's power. Later, when it is discovered that the Rebel Base on Dantooine is deserted, Tarkin orders the Princess executed. En route to Alderaan, Obi-Wan instructs Luke in the ways of the Force. When they arrive at where Alderaan should be, the crew discovers only a hail of debris and a moon-sized space station - the Death Star. A tractor beam takes hold of the Falcon and pulls it into the Death Star. Inside, Obi-Wan attempts to disable the tractor beam holding them there. The rest of the group learns that Leia is being held in a nearby cell awaiting execution. They make their way through the station and rescue the Princess. After switching off the tractor beam, Kenobi encounters Vader, and a lightsaber duel ensues. The duel distracts the guards long enough to allow Luke and his companions to board the Falcon. Once he sees that they are safely near the ship, Obi-Wan allows himself to be struck down by Vader, which causes Kenobi's body to vanish, and allows him to become one with the Force. Luke screams in horror, gaining the attention of the Stormtroopers, who attack Luke and his companions. Obi-Wan advises Luke through telepathy to run into the Falcon.

Luke Skywalker in the Millennium Falcon.

The Millennium Falcon escapes, fighting off Imperial starfighters along the way. Unknown to them, the Empire allowed the escape in order to track their ship to the Rebel Base. They finally reach the Rebel hideout, on Yavin IV where they pass the plans on to the Rebel leadership. The Rebels retrieve the Death Star plans from R2D2 and make preparations to assault it. The tactic involves flying along a canyon-sized groove in the station's surface, then firing a torpedo down a narrow ventilation shaft. The torpedo will travel to the main reactor and start a chain reaction that will destroy the entire station. Luke and a group of Rebel fighters begin their assault on the approaching Death Star. Several squadrons of Rebel ships are destroyed by Imperial fighters and Luke's "Red" group begin their run down the canyon towards the ventilation port. As Luke makes his run down the canyon, he hears the voice of Kenobi, instructing him to use the Force and Luke turns off his tracking computer. Vader closes in on Luke. Just as he is about to deliver a fatal blow on Luke's X-Wing, Han Solo and Chewbacca fly in, shooting and destroying one of Vader's wingmen. Panicked, the second wingman attempts to take evasive action, but his fighter hits Vader's and sends it flying out of control into deep space, while the wingmen's own fighter crashes into the Death Star. Luke, hearing Obi-Wan's voice, turns off his targeting computer of the Rebel fighter, and successfully launches torpedoes down the shaft, destroying the Death Star and scoring a huge victory for the Rebellion against the Empire.

In a civil ceremony at the Massassi Temple rebel base on Yavin IV, Luke and Han are awarded medals by Leia for their valor in the battle.

All spoilers have been stated and have ended here.


Mark Hamill .... Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher .... Princess Leia Organa
Harrison Ford .... Han Solo
James Earl Jones/David Prowse .... Darth Vader
Alec Guinness .... Obi-Wan Kenobi
Anthony Daniels .... C-3PO
Kenny Baker .... R2-D2
Peter Mayhew .... Chewbacca
Peter Cushing .... Grand Moff Tarkin
Denis Lawson .... Wedge Antilles (as Dennis Lawson)
Alex Mccrindle .... General Dodonna
Phil Brown .... Uncle Owen
Shelagh Fraser .... Aunt Beru


Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope remains one of the most financially successful films of all time. Adjusted for inflation, its US gross profit is second only to Gone With the Wind. Considering the distributor, and to some degree the producers, had little confidence in the film's potential, it was a word-of-mouth hit, having opened only on 37 screens that were persuaded to show it. However, there was immediate impressive business upon release that wildly surpassed the highest hopes of the producers. Furthermore, that business increased dramatically as 20th Century Fox realized what a spectacular success it had on its hands and moved to make the most of it. The film was shown continually at some theaters for over one year.

The American Film Institute listed it 15th on a list of the top 100 films of the 20th century; in the UK, a poll created by Channel Four named Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (together with its successor, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) the greatest film of all time. However, the film is not universally admired. Some blame it for accelerating a trend towards special-effects-driven movies targeting teenagers. Others claim that the trend is a natural consequence of economic and technological forces in the film industry.

When originally released in 1977, it was released simply as "Star Wars", both on promotional material and during the opening crawl of the film itself. For this reason, this film, more than its sequels, is often referred to as "Star Wars", instead of by episode number or subtitle. In 1980, the sequel, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, was released. A year later, this film was re-released, with "Episode IV: A New Hope" above the opening crawl.

In 1997, the movie was digitally remastered as the so-called Special Edition for a 20th anniversary re-release. The controversial (amongst fans) Special Edition contains scenes not in the original release, most notably a conversation between Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt, as well as numerous other small changes and visual additions. Some of the added scenes were intended for the original version of the movie, but were not feasible without newer advances in special effects technology, particularly in the area of computer generated imagery. The Special Edition also had several scenes in which the events depicted were changed from those depicted in the original version; these changes are controversial as well, with many dedicated fans feeling the changes weaken the movie. One of the more notorious changes involves a scene in which Han Solo defeats a bounty hunter named Greedo. Greedo was holding Solo at gunpoint in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Their conversation reveals that Greedo is after the bounty Jabba the Hutt put on Solo. During the conversation, Solo is discretely removing his blaster from its holster under the table. Toward the end of the conversation, Greedo suggests that Jabba might be content to take only Solo's ship (the Millenium Falcon) to cover Solo's debt. Han then says "Over my dead body," to which Greedo replies, "That's the idea. I've been looking forward to this for a long time." In the original version, Solo says "Yes, I bet you have," and then shoots and kills Greedo, who never takes a shot. In the Special Edition, the scene is altered so that Greedo shoots first, somehow missing Solo at point-blank range as Solo fires. This change has been criticized/ridiculed in popular culture, most notably in the films of Kevin Smith. Lucas was apparently concerned that having Solo shoot first portrayed him as an aggressor who takes life in cold blood, which is inconsistent with the heroic persona that Solo is supposed to exemplify. The counterargument is that Greedo clearly intended to kill Solo, and had the capability of doing so. Thus, Solo's shot in the original release was an act of self-defense. Greedo still shoots first in the revised DVD release in 2004, but the effect has been redone to be more convincing.

Further changes have been made in 2004 for the film's debut on the DVD format. With a few exceptions, most of these are minor or cosmetic in nature.

A radio adaptation was produced for National Public Radio in 1981. It was also novelized by Alan Dean Foster, though the book was credited to George Lucas.

The film became the first of a series of six released to date. While producer Lucas claims that only 6 films were ever planned, many fans disagree, asserting that they had heard of plans for three trilogies for a total of 9 films.

Sources and inspirations

See also: Star Wars sources and analogues in Wikipedia

The film drew inspiration from a number of sources. This was conscious and has been acknowledged by George Lucas in interviews. It is characteristic of much myth-building.

The Hidden Fortress

Lucas has 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 Episode IV: A New Hope is apparent. 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.

The Dam Busters

The climactic scene in which the Death Star is assaulted was modeled after the 1950s movie The Dam Busters, in which RAF Lancaster bombers fly along heavily defended reservoirs and aim "bouncing bombs" at their manmade dams in a bid to cripple the heavy industry of the Ruhr. Some of the dialogue in The Dam Busters is repeated in the Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope climax and in fact the cinematographer for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Gilbert Taylor, also filmed the Special Effects sequences in The Dam Busters.

Battle of Britain

Scenes from the Death Star assault are also reminiscent of the film Battle of Britain, particularly in showing the face of the pilot in the cockpit, and the radio dialogue between teams named after colours. Another inspiration comes from Battle of Britain's long combat scene near the end of the movie which is presented without dialogue or sound effects, but with a classical movie background. The parallel between the use of classical-style music, rather than popular orchestral or even more recent rock, blues, swing, or jazz soundtracks, is notable.

The real-life battle provided inspiration also, with World War II providing a heavy influence on the look and feel of the films. While the dogfighting between the "Allied" X-wings and "Axis" TIE Fighters, the ships were based more on the Pacific Theatre, with the larger sturdier Rebel fighters based on the United States Navy carrier-borne aircraft, and the smaller but faster and more manuoverable enemy TIEs based on the famous Japanese Zero.

The costumes of the pilots reflect this, with the characteristic orange flight suits of the rebels, which are very similar to the flight suits worn by American fighter pilots in the Pacific War. The cockpit design of the Millennium Falcon is also heavily based on the design used in the famous B-29 Superfortress, such as the Enola Gay.

The helmets worn by the TIE Fighter pilots are reminiscent to those of the Japanese during the Pacific campaign, though this is not as blatant as the "Samurai style" helmet of Darth Vader. Lastly, the uniforms of the Imperial officers are quite similar to those worn by the Germans in World War II.

The battles were copied from film of WWII dogfights, replacing the British and German aircraft by Star Wars spacecraft.

633 Squadron

Lucas has made mention of the film "633 Squadron" directed by Walter Grauman when citing movies that inspired themes or elements in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The "trench run" in A New Hope wherein Luke flies his X-wing through a "trench" on the Death Star and destroys the ship was inspired, at least in small part, by the finale of 633 Squadron, which involves several Royal Air Force planes flying at low level up a fjord aganist heavy, ground-based anti-aircraft fire, to attack a factory located at the base of a cliff at the canyon's end.


The planet Tatooine is similar to Arrakis from Frank Herbert's book Dune, although desert worlds were not original to Herbert. The planet Mongo from the Flash Gordon comics was also a desert world. In general, the Star Wars movies have followed the convention, common in space opera, in which planets stand in for regions of the Earth, so that there would be a desert planet, a jungle planet, and so on.

In addition, the planet Arrakis is the only known source of a hallucinatory drug called the Spice Melange. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Han Solo is a spice smuggler.

Also, the original treatment submitted by Lucas early on dealt heavily with the transport of spice, though the nature of the material remained unexplored.

Triumph of the Will

The scene where Princess Leia gives Han and Luke medals is very reminiscent of a long scene in Leni Riefenstahl's 1934 film Triumph of the Will. Both scenes have large and enthusiastic crowds seated in a shallow amphitheatre bounded by columns, with a low dais where the leader stands. (Of course, in Triumph Of The Will, Adolf Hitler was the leader in question.)

The music

Lucas wanted a grand musical sound, with leitmotifs for different characters and important objects, an approach used to great effect, for instance, in the operas of Richard Wagner. He put together a collection of classical pieces to give composer John Williams an idea of what he was looking for, and the music Williams composed often was distinctly reminiscent of the original classical pieces. In particular:

  • The music associated to the opening capture of the blockade runner is very similar to Mars, from Holst's The Planets. In the liner notes to the original sound track recording, Williams implicitly acknowledged the connection by explaining why he didn't simply use Holst's The Planets. He said that he felt he could give the music a more unified feel if he wrote it all himself.
  • The "Force Theme" (or "Ben's Theme") has been compared to parts of the ballet Swan Lake.
  • The music for the awards ceremony at the end of the movie begins with the Force/Ben's Theme, and then transitions into a theme that, in the liner notes, Williams says is reminiscent of "the Coronation", which probably refers to Elgar's, or even more William Walton's Coronation March.
  • The opening title (the "theme from Star Wars", or "Luke's Theme") has been said to resemble the theme from Born Free, but is almost certainly taken from the opening strains of the 1942 film, King's Row, scored by Eric Wolfgang Korngold. Later themes, such as from Chariots of Fire and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (also by Williams) have been said to bear a resemblance to it. Listening to them together, one observes that none is identical to any of the others, but they use many of the same musical intervals to achieve similar, or at least related, emotional effects.
  • The music for C-3PO's and R2-D2's arrival on Tatooine is very similar to the beginning of the second part titled The Sacrifice of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.


  • Shooting began on March 22, 1976 and ended on July 16, 1976.
  • James Earl Jones's name did not originally appear in the ending credits. At the time, Jones felt he hadn't done enough for the film to deserve one. His name was added for the film's 1997 re-release.
  • Darth Vader's breathing is a recording of sound designer Ben Burtt breathing into a scuba tank.
  • A New Hope has the most profanity of any type uttered in the Star Wars movies. Obi-Wan and Han Solo had both used the term "damn fool" once, and Han in response to Leia's shooting an escape route in the detention block floor, "What the hell are you doing?". Only two other installments featured use of profanity in the series, with Han's "Then I'll see you in Hell!" in The Empire Strikes Back, and Dexter Jettster referring to the cloners of Kamino as "damn good ones" in Attack of the Clones.


  • Red Leader's helmet microphone switches sides several times before he is shot down.
  • Red 6 (Porkins) is the first Rebel pilot killed in the Battle of Yavin. Yet when Red Leader asks, "Red 6, can you see Red 5?" a voice answers, leading to the impression that he (Red 6) "returned from the dead."
  • In the first cockpit view of the Millenium Falcon, a pair of gold dice can be seen hanging from the ceiling. After the jump to hyperspace, the dice are missing.
  • As Princess Leia is shown the interrogation droid, the needle used to inject drugs bears the words "Made in England".
  • When leaving Yavin base, many of the Rebel pilots are wearing brand-new helmets. However, in later scenes, the helmets are old and battered.
  • Stormtroopers invade the room where Luke and Han were when they first came to the Death Star. The door doesn't open all the way, and the Stormtrooper on the right hits his head on the door. A few scenes later, the trooper shrinks and his head is no longer in the way of the door.
  • Luke sounds like he accidentally yells out "Carrie!" (Carrie Fisher is the actress that plays Princess Leia in the films) instead of "Leia!" after he get's out his X-wing on Yavin after destroying the Death Star. Other sources report he's just yelling "Hey!", but the scene is noisy and the sound can be interpreted either way.
  • Originally, if the film did poorly at the box office, Lucas planned to turn the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye into a low-budget sequel to the movie. According to an interview with Alan Dean Foster in Empire magazine, the book was written to be filmed as a low budget sequel if Star Wars was not a huge success. That's why it takes place almost entirely on a fog shrouded planet. Additionally, Harrison Ford was not signed for the sequel as of the writing of the book, which is why Han Solo does not appear in it.
  • In the ending credits, Denis Lawson's first name is misspelled "Dennis." The same mistake is made in the credits of The Empire Strikes Back.

DVD release

A New Hope was released on DVD in September 2004. It was bundled with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi along with a bonus disc in a boxed set. It was digitally restored and remastered, with more changes made by George Lucas, detailed in List of changes in Star Wars re-releases.

On May 4, 2006, Fox announced the release of 2-Disc editions of the original Star Wars films. These editions will contain the original versions of the films. However they will be presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, a decision that has caused much derision among fan groups.

Critical reception

The film received universal acclaim. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a rating of 93% "Certified Fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes. The site's consensus states "A legendarily expansive and ambitious start to the sci-fi saga, George Lucas opened our eyes to the possiblites of blockbuster filmmaking and things have never been the same."

External links