Star Wars is an American epic space opera franchise centered on a film series created by George Lucas.
The film series, consisting of two trilogies (and an upcoming third), has spawned an extensive media franchise called the Expanded Universe including books, television series, computer and video games, and comic books. These supplements to the franchise resulted in significant development of the series’ fictional universe, keeping the franchise active in the 16-year interim between the two film trilogies. The franchise depicts a galaxy described as “far, far away” in the distant past, and commonly portrays Jedi as a representation of good, in conflict with the Sith, their evil counterpart. Their weapon of choice, the lightsaber, is commonly recognized in popular culture. The franchise’s storylines contain many themes, with strong influences from philosophy and religion.
The first film in the series was released under the title Star Wars on May 25, 1977, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon followed by two sequels, released at three-year intervals. Sixteen years after the release of the trilogy’s final film, the first in a new prequel trilogy of films was released. The three prequel films were also released at three-year intervals, with the final film of the trilogy released on May 19, 2005. In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion and announced that it would produce three new films, with the first film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, planned for release in 2015. 20th Century Fox still retains the physical distribution rights to the first two Star Wars trilogies, owning permanent rights for the original film Episode IV: A New Hope, while holding the rights to Episodes I–III, V and VI until May 2020. The Walt Disney Studios has owned the digital distribution rights to all the Star Wars films—excluding A New Hope—since April 2015.
Reactions to the original trilogy were positive, with the last film being considered the weakest, while the prequel trilogy received a more mixed reaction, with most of the praise being for the final film, according to most review aggregator websites. All six of the main films in the series were nominated for or won Academy Awards. All of the main films have been box office successes, with the overall box office revenue generated by the Star Wars films (including the theatrical Star Wars: The Clone Wars) totalling $4.38 billion, making it the fifth-highest-grossing film series. The success has also led to multiple re-releases in theaters for the series.
In 1971, Universal Studios agreed to make American Graffiti and Star Wars in a two-picture contract, although Star Wars was later rejected in its early concept stages. American Graffiti was completed in 1973 and, a few months later, Lucas wrote a short summary called “The Journal of the Whills”, which told the tale of the training of apprentice CJ Thorpe as a “Jedi-Bendu” space commando by the legendary Mace Windy. Frustrated that his story was too difficult to understand, Lucas then began writing a 13-page treatment called The Star Wars on April 17, 1973, which had thematic parallels with Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. By 1974, he had expanded the treatment into a rough draft screenplay, adding elements such as the Sith, the Death Star, and a protagonist named Annikin Starkiller.
For the second draft, Lucas made heavy simplifications, and introduced the young hero on a farm as Luke Starkiller. Annikin became Luke’s father, a wise Jedi knight. “The Force” was also introduced as a mystical energy field. The next draft removed the father character and replaced him with a substitute named Ben Kenobi, and in 1976 a fourth draft had been prepared for principal photography. The film was titled Adventures of Luke Starkiller, as taken from the Journal of the Whills, Saga I: The Star Wars. During production, Lucas changed Luke’s name to Skywalker and altered the title to simply The Star Wars and finally Star Wars.