The reviewers thought it had no chance of becoming a hit. Even writer-director George Lucas wasn’t sure about it. Sure, he’d had a hit with “American Graffiti”—a film deeply rooted in nostalgia and American popular culture. But this was different. Maybe a little too wacky for the general public, he thought.
But moviegoers thought differently. They turned out in record numbers to see “Star Wars” over the summer of 1977. Lines stretched for miles outside movie theaters. Tickets sold out as soon as their box offices opened. This first “Star Wars” movie (later subtitled “Episode IV - A New Hope”) went on to not only win six Oscars but to become one of the most popular and highest-grossing films of all time.
It’s an old museum-related joke: You don’t feel old until you see your toys exhibited as historic artifacts. Okay, so I felt a bit aged the first time I saw that Star Wars lunchbox in Your Place in Time, but I never questioned its right to be there. For us Gen X types, few things are so much of our time as Star Wars.
While I was around when all three of the original films were in theaters, most of my viewings came via videotapes recorded from HBO airings. (Heh, a Star Wars viewing still doesn’t feel quite right to me unless it starts with this.) Not until Return of the Jedi arrived in 1983 was I old enough to see one of the movies on the big screen. I still remember being thrilled by the sarlacc pit battle and the speeder bike chase, being saddened at Yoda’s death, and being generally grossed out by Jabba the Hutt. Disgusting or not, it was satisfying to finally see that vile gangster after hearing his name dropped ominously in the first two movies. All in all, it was a magical experience, and the reason that I don’t personally rate Jedi as a lesser work than its predecessors.