Director: George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Year: 1977

The first episode might be the greatest one of all, as the series to end all series kicks off with a bang.  It’s hard to judge it perfectly, it’s hard to compare it to others in the franchise, even harder to compare it to other films, but that’s no big deal; A New Hope is special and that’s all we really need to know.  Ranking it may be an effort in futility, so let’s not go too far down that path, let’s just enjoy, and boy is there a lot to enjoy.  This opening is a rare feat, providing pure entertainment while setting the table for more, while also dropping in on a timeline we know nothing about and making audiences feel like we’ve been a part of this universe all along.  Basically this movie is magic, and that’s why we still celebrate it 40-some-odd years later, and why we’ll always love it.

As a war rages in space, an evil Empire attempts to crush a futile Rebellion, ending any resistance to its galactic rule.  Princess Leia has secret plans that might spell the end to the Empire’s secret weapon, a giant space station called the Death Star.  These plans are hidden with loyal droids and sent toward an old friend, Obi Wan Kenobi, a Jedi who once fought alongside Leia’s father.  But Leia is captured and the droids run into trouble, though they eventually find themselves in the care of young Luke Skywalker, a wannabe pilot who has a connection to the history that Kenobi represents.  Together with the droids, they leave the desert planet of Tatooine aboard the Millennium Falcon, helmed by the smuggler Han Solo and the Wookiee Chewbacca, to face their destiny in the cold vastness of war-torn space.

It’s such a simple trick, but it’s also genius to throw us right into the middle of the theatrics by introducing us to the series with Episode 4.  We know there’s more, we don’t know what it is, but we’re already dying to find out, and there’s still so much to happen coming up we don’t have time to look back, but we still kinda do anyway.  It’s maddening and awesome, and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to see it in theatres, to be introduced to it in that way; my family just owned the box set VHS, I’d just watch all three in a row, and with the knowledge that the prequel trilogy wasn’t that far away.  But regardless how you watch, this film is a spectacular gem from every angle, and has the power to stand alone as a sci-fi epic that forever deserves its spot at the top of the charts.  Luke, Han, Leia, Chewy, Obi Wan, C-3PO, R2-D2, Darth Vader, the Rebels; there are so many characters to root for, such a broad story to enjoy, all you have to do it sit back and let it wash over you.  This time around I watched it with my kids for the first time, and man did they have fun; my son instantly claimed it as his all-time favorite movie.  It’s a good choice really; the music, the scale, the action, the lines, the past and the future; this film is unstoppable.  Once known simply as Star Wars, the first in the original trilogy starts us out perfectly down a path of pure entertainment, and for that we will always be grateful.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆