In 1971, George Lucas wanted to film an adaptation of the Flash Gordon serial, but could not obtain the rights, so he began developing his own space opera. After directing American Graffiti (1973), he wrote a two-page synopsis, which 20th Century Fox decided to invest in. By 1974, he had expanded the story into the first draft of a screenplay. The 1977 movie's success led Lucas to make it the basis of an elaborate film serial. With the backstory he created for the sequel, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy of trilogies. Most of the main cast would return for the two additional installments of the original trilogy, which were self-financed by Lucasfilm.
Star Wars in print predates the release of the first film, with the November 1976 novelization 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.
In 1977, the board game Star Wars: Escape from the Death Star was released. A Star Wars Monopoly and themed versions of Trivial Pursuit and Battleship were released in 1997, with updated versions released in subsequent years. The board game Risk has been adapted in two editions by Hasbro: The Clone Wars Edition (2005) and the Original Trilogy Edition (2006). Three Star Wars tabletop role-playing games have been developed: a version by West End Games in the 1980s and 1990s, one by Wizards of the Coast in the 2000s, and one by Fantasy Flight Games in the 2010s.
Marvel Comics published a Star Wars comic book series from 1977 to 1986. Original Star Wars comics were serialized in the Marvel magazine Pizzazz between 1977 and 1979. The 1977 installments were the first original Star Wars stories not directly adapted from the films to appear in print form, as they preceded those of the Star Wars comic series. From 1985 to 1987, the animated children's series Ewoks and Droids inspired comic series from Marvel's Star Comics line. According to Marvel comics former Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, the strong sales of Star Wars comics saved Marvel financially in 1977 and 1978. Marvel's Star Wars series was one of the industry's top selling titles in 1979 and 1980. The only downside for Marvel was that the 100,000 copy sales quota was surpassed quickly, allowing Lippincott to renegotiate the royalty arrangements from a position of strength.
Political science has been an important element of Star Wars since the franchise launched in 1977, focusing on a struggle between democracy and dictatorship. Battles featuring the Ewoks and Gungans against the Empire and Trade Federation, respectively, represent the clash between a primitive society and a more advanced one, similar to the Vietnam-American War. Darth Vader's design was initially inspired by Samurai armor, and also incorporated a German military helmet. Originally, Lucas conceived of the Sith as a group that served the Emperor in the same way that the Schutzstaffel served Adolf Hitler; this was condensed into one character in the form of Vader. Stormtroopers borrow the name of World War I German "shock" troopers. Imperial officers wear uniforms resembling those of German forces during World War II, and political and security officers resemble the black-clad SS down to the stylized silver death's head on their caps. World War II terms were used for names in the films; e.g. the planets Kessel (a term that refers to a group of encircled forces) and Hoth (after a German general who served on the snow-laden Eastern Front). Shots of the commanders looking through AT-AT walker viewscreens in The Empire Strikes Back resemble tank interiors, and space battles in the original film were based on World War I and World War II dogfights.
Star Wars Trading Cards have been published since the first "blue" series, by Topps, in 1977. Dozens of series have been produced, with Topps being the licensed creator in the United States. Each card series are of film stills or original art. Many of the cards have become highly collectible with some very rare "promos", such as the 1993 Galaxy Series II "floating Yoda" P3 card often commanding US$1,000 or more. While most "base" or "common card" sets are plentiful, many "insert" or "chase cards" are very rare. From 1995 until 2001, Decipher, Inc. had the license for, created, and produced the Star Wars Customizable Card Game.
The Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on popular culture, with references to its fictional universe deeply embedded in everyday life. Phrases like "evil empire" and "May the Force be with you" have become part of the popular lexicon. The first Star Wars film in 1977 was a cultural unifier, enjoyed by a wide spectrum of people. The film can be said to have helped launch the science-fiction boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, making science-fiction films a mainstream genre. 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.
The first Star Wars audio work is The Story of Star Wars, an LP using audio samples from the original film and a new narration to retell the story, released in 1977. Most later printed novels were adapted into audio novels, usually released on cassette tape and re-released on CD. As of 2019, audio-only novels have been released not directly based on printed media.
The original Star Wars film was a huge success for 20th Century Fox, and was credited for reinvigorating the company. Within three weeks of the film's release, the studio's stock price doubled to a record high. Prior to 1977, 20th Century Fox's greatest annual profits were $37 million, while in 1977, the company broke that record by posting a profit of $79 million. The franchise helped Fox to change from an almost bankrupt production company to a thriving media conglomerate.
Star Wars was released on May 25, 1977, and first subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope in the 1979 book The Art of Star Wars. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980, also achieving wide financial and critical success. The final film in the trilogy, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was released on May 25, 1983. The story of the original trilogy focuses on Luke Skywalker's quest to become a Jedi, his struggle with the evil Imperial agent Darth Vader, and the struggle of the Rebel Alliance to free the galaxy from the clutches of the Galactic Empire.
Prior to releasing the original film, and made possible by its success, Lucas planned "three trilogies of nine films." He announced this to Time in 1978, and confirmed that he had outlined them in 1981. At various stages of development, the sequel trilogy was to focus on the rebuilding of the Republic, the return of Luke in a role similar to that of Obi-Wan in the original trilogy, Luke's sister (not yet determined to be Leia), Han, Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO. However, after beginning work on the prequel trilogy, Lucas insisted that Star Wars was meant to be a six-part series and that there would be no sequel trilogy.
According to producer Gary Kurtz, loose plans for a prequel trilogy were developed during the outlining of the original two films. In 1980, Lucas confirmed that he had the nine-film series plotted, but due to the stress of producing the original trilogy, he had decided to cancel further sequels by 1981. In 1983, Lucas explained that "There was never a script completed that had the entire story as it exists now ... As the stories unfolded, I would take certain ideas and save them ... I kept taking out all the good parts, and I just kept telling myself I would make other movies someday."
The first was written by science-fiction author Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. It was broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981, adapting the original 1977 film into 13 episodes. Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels reprised their film roles.
Lucasfilm founded its own video game company in 1982, becoming best known for adventure games and World War II flight combat games, but as George Lucas took more interest in the increasing success of the video game market, he wanted to have more creative control over the games and founded his own development company, LucasArts. Improved graphics allowed games to tell complex narratives, which allowed for the retelling of the films, and eventually original narratives set in the same continuity, with voice-overs and CGI cutscenes. In 1993, LucasArts released Star Wars: X-Wing, the first self-published Star Wars video game and the first space flight simulator based on the franchise. It was one of the best-selling video games of 1993 and established its own series of games. The Rogue Squadron series was released between 1998 and 2003, also focusing on space battles set during the films.
The first officially licensed electronic Star Wars game was Kenner's 1979 table-top Star Wars Electronic Battle Command. In 1982, Parker Brothers published the first Star Wars video game for the Atari 2600, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, followed soon the year later by Star Wars: Jedi Arena, the first video game to depict lightsaber combat. They were followed in 1983 by Atari's rail shooter arcade game Star Wars, with vector graphics to replicate the Death Star trench run scene from the 1977 film. The next game, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1984), has more traditional raster graphics, while the following Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1985) has vector graphics.
In 1983, Buena Vista Records released an original, 30-minute Star Wars audio drama titled Rebel Mission to Ord Mantell, written by Daley. In the 1990s, Time Warner Audio Publishing adapted several Star Wars series from Dark Horse Comics into audio dramas: the three-part Dark Empire saga, Tales of the Jedi, Dark Lords of the Sith, the Dark Forces trilogy, and Crimson Empire (1998). Return of the Jedi was adapted into 6-episodes in 1996, featuring Daniels.
The overwhelming success, led to a 10-episode adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back debuted in 1983. Billy Dee Williams joined the other two stars, reprising his role as Lando Calrissian.
In 1989, the Library of Congress selected the original Star Wars film for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry, as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The Empire Strikes Back, was selected in 2010. 35mm 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.
Technical advances in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the ability to create computer-generated imagery (CGI), inspired Lucas to consider that it might be possible to revisit his saga. In 1989, Lucas stated that the prequels would be "unbelievably expensive." In 1992, he acknowledged that he had plans to create the prequel trilogy. A theatrical rerelease of the original trilogy in 1997 "updated" the 20-year-old films with the style of CGI envisioned for the new trilogy.
Kenner made the first Star Wars action figures to coincide with the release of the original film, and today the original figures are highly valuable. Since the 1990s, Hasbro holds the rights to create action figures based on the saga. Pez dispensers began to be produced in 1997. Star Wars was the first intellectual property to be licensed in Lego history. Lego has produced animated parody short films and mini-series to promote their Star Wars sets. The Lego Star Wars video games are critically acclaimed bestsellers.
Del Rey took over Star Wars book publishing in 1999, releasing what would become a 19-installment novel series called The New Jedi Order (1999–2003). Written by multiple authors, the series was set 25 to 30 years after the original films and introduced the Yuuzhan Vong, a powerful alien race attempting to invade and conquer the entire galaxy. The bestselling multi-author series Legacy of the Force (2006–2008) chronicles the crossover of Han and Leia's son Jacen Solo to the dark side of the Force; among his evil deeds, he kills Luke's wife Mara Jade as a sacrifice to join the Sith. Although no longer canon, the story is paralleled in The Force Awakens with Han and Leia's son Ben Solo, who has become the dark Kylo Ren.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released on May 19, 1999, and Episode II: Attack of the Clones on May 16, 2002. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the first PG-13 film in the franchise, was released on May 19, 2005. The first two movies were met with mixed reviews, with the third being received somewhat more positively. The trilogy begins 32 years before Episode IV and follows the Jedi training of Anakin Skywalker, Luke's father, and his eventual fall from grace and transformation into the Sith lord Darth Vader, as well as the corruption of the Galactic Republic and rise of the Empire led by Darth Sidious. Together with the original trilogy, Lucas has collectively referred to the first six episodic films of the franchise as "the tragedy of Darth Vader".
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 recognizing 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.
After Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, it was announced in January 2014 that in 2015 the Star Wars comics license would return to Marvel Comics, whose parent company, Marvel Entertainment, Disney had purchased in 2009. Launched in 2015, the first three publications were titled Star Wars, Darth Vader, and the limited series Princess Leia.
The original film (Star Wars), retroactively subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), was followed by the sequels Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), forming the original Star Wars trilogy. Lucas later returned to filmmaking to direct a prequel trilogy, consisting of Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). In 2012, Lucas sold his production company to Disney, relinquishing his ownership of the franchise. The subsequently produced sequel trilogy consists of Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015), Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017), and Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019).
Lucas decided to leave the franchise in the hands of other filmmakers, announcing in January 2012 that he would make no more Star Wars films. In October of that year, the Walt Disney Company agreed to buy Lucasfilm and announced that Episode VII would be released in 2015. The co-chairman of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, became president of the company and served as executive producer of new Star Wars feature films. Lucas provided Kennedy his story treatments for the sequels during the 2012 sale, but in 2015 it was revealed Lucas's sequel outline had been discarded. The sequel trilogy also meant the end of the existing Star Wars Expanded Universe, which was discarded from canon to give "maximum creative freedom to the filmmakers and also preserve an element of surprise and discovery for the audience."
Dark Forces (1995), a hybrid adventure game incorporating puzzles and strategy, was the first Star Wars first-person shooter. It featured gameplay and graphical features not then common in other games, made possible by LucasArts' custom-designed game engine, the Jedi. The game was well received, and it was followed by four sequels. The series introduced Kyle Katarn, who would appear in multiple games, novels, and comics. Katarn is a former stormtrooper who joins the Rebellion and becomes a Jedi, a plot arc similar to that of Finn in the sequel trilogy films. A massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Star Wars Galaxies, was in operation from 2003 until 2011. After Disney bought Lucasfilm, LucasArts ceased its role as a developer in 2013, although it still operates as a licensor.
Although Thrawn had been designated a Legends character in 2014, he was reintroduced into the canon in the 2016 third season of Rebels, with Zahn returning to write more novels based in the character, and set in the new canon.
The Star Wars franchise has spawned over one hundred computer, video, and board games, dating back to some of the earliest home consoles. Some are based directly on the movie material, while others rely heavily on the non-canonical Expanded Universe (rebranded as Star Wars Legends and removed from the canon in 2014). Star Wars games have gone through three significant development eras, marked by a change in leadership among the developers: the early licensed games, those developed after the creation of LucasArts, and those created after the closure of the Lucasfilm division by Disney and the transfer of the license to Electronic Arts.
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 April 25, 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.
The Expanded Universe of spin-off media depicts different levels of continuity, which were deemed non-canonical and rebranded as Legends on April 25, 2014, to make most subsequent works align to the episodic films, The Clone Wars film, and television series.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released on December 16, 2015, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi on December 13, 2017, and Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker on December 18, 2019, in many countries. The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi were both critical and box office successes. Episode IX received a mixed reception from critics and audiences. The sequel trilogy starts 30 years after Episode VI and focuses on the journey of the Force-sensitive orphan Rey, guided by Luke Skywalker. Along with ex-stormtrooper Finn and ace X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron, Rey helps the Resistance, led by Leia, fight the First Order, commanded by Han and Leia's son (and Luke's nephew), Kylo Ren.
Lucasfilm and Kennedy have stated that the standalone films would be referred to as the Star Wars anthology series (though the word anthology has not been used in any of the titles, instead carrying the promotional "A Star Wars Story" subtitle). Focused on how the Rebels obtained the Death Star plans introduced in the 1977 film, the first anthology film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, was released on December 16, 2016, to favorable reviews and box office success. The second, Solo: A Star Wars Story, centered on a young Han Solo with Chewbacca and Lando as supporting characters, was released on May 25, 2018, to generally favorable reviews and underperformance at the box office. Despite this, more anthology films are expected to be released, following a hiatus after 2019's The Rise of Skywalker.
Following its acquisition of the franchise, Disney reassigned video game rights to Electronic Arts. Games made during this era are considered canonical, and feature more influence from the Star Wars filmmakers. Disney partnered with Lenovo to create the augmented reality video game Jedi Challenges, released in November 2017. In August 2018, it was announced that Zynga would publish free-to-play Star Wars mobile games. The Battlefront games received a canonical reboot in 2017. Jedi: Fallen Order was released in November 2019 and Star Wars: Squadrons was released in October 2020.
First announced as Project Luminous at Star Wars Celebration in April 2019, full details of a publishing initiative called Star Wars: The High Republic were revealed in a press conference in February 2020. Involving the majority of the current officially licensed publishers, a new era set 200 years before the Skywalker Saga will be explored in various books and comics. These include ongoing titles by Marvel and IDW Publishing, written by Cavan Scott and Daniel José Older respectively, that will both premiere in August 2020.
Lucasfilm has a number of Star Wars films in development, two of which were confirmed during Disney Investor Day 2020. The first will be a film titled Rogue Squadron, which is being directed by Patty Jenkins, and is scheduled for release on December 25, 2023. The second is an unspecified film from Taika Waititi, who in May 2020 was announced to be directing a Star Wars film he was co-writing with Krysty Wilson-Cairns. Additionally, a trilogy independent from the Skywalker saga is being written by The Last Jedi writer/director Rian Johnson. In September 2019, it was announced that Kathleen Kennedy and Kevin Feige would collaborate to develop a Star Wars film. In February 2020, a film was announced to be in development from director J. D. Dillard and writer Matt Owens.
The Star Wars franchise has been spun off to various television productions, including two animated series released in the mid-1980s. Further animated series began to be released in the 2000s, the first two of which focused on the Clone Wars. After Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, only the later one remained canon. Eight live-action Star Wars series will be released on Disney+. The first, The Mandalorian, premiered on November 12, 2019. Star Wars won the 2020 Webby Award for Television & Film in the category Social. Disney+ later released the Ewoks movies and animated series, along the animated first appearance of Boba Fett, and the Clone Wars animated micro-series in a section called Star Wars Vintage, that section will also include the Droids animated series in the future. Certain aspects of the original Clone Wars micro-series are considered to not contradict the canon, while others do.
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. In 2020, its total value was estimated at US$70 billion, and it is currently the fifth-highest-grossing media franchise of all time.
The Star Wars canon fictional universe spans multiple eras, of which three are focused around each of the film trilogies. The following eras were defined in January 2021: