Star Wars is an epic space opera franchise conceived by George Lucas. The first film in the franchise was originally released on May 25, 1977, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, spawning two immediate 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, again released at three-year intervals, with the final film released on May 19, 2005.
As of 2008, the overall box office revenue generated by the six Star Wars films has totalled approximately $4.3 billion, making it the third-highest-grossing film series, behind only the James Bond and Harry Potter films.
The Star Wars film series has spawned other media including books, television series, video games, and comic books. These supplements to the film trilogies comprise the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and have resulted in significant development of the series' fictional universe. These media kept the franchise going in the interim between the film trilogies. In 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released to theaters as the first ever worldwide theatrical Star Wars film outside of the main trilogies. It was the franchise's first animated film, and was intended as an introduction to the Expanded Universe series of the same name, a 3D CGI animated series based on a previous 2D animated series of a similar name.
The events depicted in Star Wars media take place in a fictional galaxy. Many species of alien creatures (often humanoid) are depicted. Robotic droids are also commonplace and are generally built to serve their owners. Space travel is common, and many planets in the galaxy are members of a Galactic Republic, later reorganized as the Galactic Empire.
One of the prominent elements of Star Wars is the "Force", which is an omnipresent form of energy which can be harnessed by those with that ability. It is described in the first produced film as "an energy field created by all living things [that] surrounds us, penetrates us, [and] binds the galaxy together." The Force allows users to perform a variety of supernatural feats (such as telekinesis, clairvoyance, precognition, and mind control) and also can amplify certain physical traits, such as speed and reflexes; these abilities can vary from user to user and can be improved through training. While the Force can be used for good, it has a dark side that, when pursued, imbues users with hatred, aggression, and malevolence. The six films feature the Jedi, who use the Force for good, and the Sith, who use the dark side for evil in an attempt to take over the galaxy. In the Expanded Universe many dark side users are Dark Jedi rather than Sith, mainly because of the Rule of Two (see Sith Origin).
The film series began with Star Wars, released on May 25, 1977. This was followed by two sequels; The Empire Strikes Back, released on May 21, 1980, and Return of the Jedi, released on May 25, 1983. The opening crawl of the sequels disclosed that they were numbered as "Episode V" and "Episode VI" respectively, though the films were generally advertised solely under their subtitles. Though the first film in the series was simply titled Star Wars, it later had the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope added to distinguish it from its sequels and prequels.
In 1997, to correspond with the twentieth anniversary of the release of Star Wars, Lucas released "Special Editions" of the three films to theaters. The re-releases featured alterations to the original films, primarily motivated by the improvement of CGI and other special effects technologies, which allowed visuals that were not possible to achieve at the time of the original filmmaking. Lucas continued to make changes to the original trilogy for subsequent releases, such as the first ever DVD release of the trilogy on September 21, 2004.
More than two decades after the release of the original Star Wars, the film series continued with the long-awaited prequel trilogy; consisting of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, released on May 19, 1999, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, released on May 16, 2002, and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, released on May 19, 2005.
The prequel trilogy follows the upbringing of Anakin Skywalker, who is discovered by the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn. He is believed to be the "Chosen One" foretold by Jedi prophecy to bring balance to the Force. The Jedi Council, led by Yoda, sense that his future is clouded with fear, but reluctantly allows Qui-Gon's apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi to train Anakin after Qui-Gon is killed by the Sith Lord Darth Maul. At the same time, the planet Naboo is under attack, and its ruler, Queen Padmé Amidala, seeks the assistance of the Jedi to repel the attack. The Sith Lord Darth Sidious secretly planned the attack to give his alias, Senator Palpatine, a pretense to overthrow the Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic. The remainder of the prequel trilogy chronicles Anakin's fall to the dark side, as Sidious attempts to create an army to defeat the Jedi and lure Anakin to be his apprentice. Anakin and Padmé fall in love and secretly wed, and eventually Padme becomes pregnant. Anakin soon succumbs to his anger, becoming the Sith Lord Darth Vader. While Sidious re-organizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire, Vader participates in the extermination of the Jedi Order, culminating in a lightsaber battle between him and Obi-Wan. After defeating his former apprentice, Obi-Wan leaves Vader for dead. However, Sidious arrives shortly after to save him and put him into a suit of black armor that keeps him alive. At the same time, Padmé dies while giving birth to twins. The twins are hidden from Vader and are not told who their true parents are.
The original trilogy begins 19 years later as Vader nears completion of the massive Death Star space station which will allow him and Sidious, now the Emperor, to crush the rebellion which has formed against the evil empire. He captures Princess Leia Organa who has stolen the plans to the Death Star and hidden them in droid R2-D2. R2-D2, along with his counterpart C-3PO, escape to the planet Tatooine. There, the droids are purchased by Luke Skywalker, son of Anakin, and his step-uncle and aunt. While Luke is cleaning R2-D2, he accidentally triggers a message put into the robot by Leia, who asks for assistance from Obi-Wan. Luke later assists the droids in finding the Jedi Knight, who is now passing as an old hermit under the alias Ben Kenobi. Obi-Wan tells Luke of his father's greatness, but says that he was killed by Vader. Obi-Wan and Luke hire the Corellian space pilot and smuggler Han Solo and his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca to take them to the rebels. Obi-Wan begins to teach Luke about the Force, but allows himself to be killed in a showdown with Vader during the rescue of Leia. His sacrifice allows the group to escape with the plans that allow the rebels to destroy the Death Star.
Vader continues to hunt down the rebels, and begins building a second Death Star. Luke travels to find Yoda to become trained as a Jedi, but is interrupted when Vader lures him into a trap by capturing Han and the others. Vader reveals that he is Luke's father and attempts to turn him to the dark side. Luke escapes, and returns to his training with Yoda. He learns that he must face his father before he can become a Jedi, and that Leia is his twin sister. As the rebels attack the second Death Star, Luke confronts Vader under the watch of the Emperor. Instead of convincing Luke to join the dark side, the young Jedi defeats Vader in a lightsaber duel and is able to convince him that there is still some good in him. Vader kills the Emperor before succumbing to his own injuries, and the second Death Star is destroyed, restoring freedom to the galaxy.
Star Wars features elements such as (Jedi) knights, witches, and princesses that are related to archetypes of the fantasy genre. The Star Wars world, unlike science-fiction and fantasy films that featured sleek and futuristic settings, was portrayed as dirty and grimy. Lucas' vision of a "used universe" was further popularized in the science fiction-horror films Alien, which was set on a dirty space freighter; Mad Max 2, which is set in a post-apocalyptic desert; and Blade Runner, which is set in a crumbling, dirty city of the future. Lucas made a conscious effort to parallel scenes and dialogue between films, and especially to parallel the journeys of Luke Skywalker with that of his father Anakin when making the prequels.
All six films of the Star Wars series were shot in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The original trilogy was shot with anamorphic lenses. Episodes IV and V were shot in Panavision, while Episode VI was shot in Joe Dunton Camera (JDC) scope. Episode I was shot with Hawk anamorphic lenses on Arriflex cameras, and Episodes II and III were shot with Sony's CineAlta high-definition digital cameras. Lucas hired Ben Burtt to oversee the sound effects on A New Hope.
Burtt's accomplishment was such that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented him with a Special Achievement Award because it had no award at the time for the work he had done. Lucasfilm developed the THX sound reproduction standard for Return of the Jedi. The scores for the six Star Wars films were composed by John Williams. Lucas' design for Star Wars involved a grand musical sound, with leitmotifs for different characters and important concepts. Williams' Star Wars title theme has become one of the most famous and well-known musical compositions in modern music history.
The technical lightsaber choreography for the original trilogy was developed by Hollywood sword-master Bob Anderson. Anderson trained actor Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and performed all the sword stunts as Darth Vader during the lightsaber duels in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, wearing Vader's costume. Anderson's role in the original Star Wars trilogy was highlighted in the film Reclaiming The Blade where he shares his experiences as the fight choreographer developing the lightsaber techniques for the movies.
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 C.J. Thorpe as a "Jedi-Bendu" space commando by the legendary Mace Windy. Frustrated that his story was too difficult to understand, Lucas then wrote a 13-page treatment called The Star Wars, which was a loose remake of 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 young boy as the protagonist named Annikin Starkiller. For the second draft, Lucas made heavy simplifications, and also introduced the young hero on a farm as Luke. Anakin became Luke's father, a wise Jedi knight. The "Force" was also introduced as a supernatural power. 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.
At that point, Lucas was not expecting the film to become part of a series. The fourth draft of the script underwent subtle changes that made it more satisfying as a self-contained film, ending with the destruction of the Empire itself by way of destroying the Death Star. However, Lucas had previously conceived of the film as the first in a series of adventures. Later, he realised the film would not in fact be the first in the sequence, but a film in the second trilogy in the saga. This is stated explicitly in George Lucas' preface to the 1994 reissue of Splinter of the Mind's Eye:
It wasn't long after I began writing Star Wars that I realized the story was more than a single film could hold. As the saga of the Skywalkers and Jedi Knights unfolded, I began to see it as a tale that could take at least nine films to tell—three trilogies—and I realized, in making my way through the back story and after story, that I was really setting out to write the middle story.
The second draft contained a teaser for a never-made sequel about "The Princess of Ondos," and by the time of the third draft some months later Lucas had negotiated a contract that gave him rights to make two sequels. Not long after, Lucas met with author Alan Dean Foster, and hired him to write these two sequels as novels. The intention was that if Star Wars were successful, Lucas could adapt the novels into screenplays. He had also by that point developed a fairly elaborate backstory to aid his writing process.
When Star Wars proved successful, Lucas decided to use the film as the basis for an elaborate serial, although at one point he considered walking away from the series altogether. However, Lucas wanted to create an independent filmmaking center—what would become Skywalker Ranch—and saw an opportunity to use the series as a financing agent. Alan Dean Foster had already begun writing the first sequel novel, but Lucas decided to abandon his plan to adapt Foster's work; the book was released as Splinter of the Mind's Eye the next year. At first Lucas envisioned a series of films with no set number of entries, like the James Bond series. In an interview with Rolling Stone in August 1977, he said that he wanted his friends to each take a turn at directing the films and giving unique interpretations on the series. He also said that the backstory where Darth Vader turns to the dark side, kills Luke's father and fights Ben Kenobi on a volcano as the Galactic Republic falls would make an excellent sequel.
Later that year, Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II with him. They held story conferences and by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment is very similar to the final film except that Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke.
Brackett finished her first draft in early 1978; Lucas has said he was disappointed with it, but before he could discuss it with her, she died from cancer. With no writer available, Lucas had to write his next draft himself. It was this draft in which Lucas first made use of the "Episode" numbering for the films; Empire Strikes Back was listed as Episode II. As Michael Kaminski argues in The Secret History of Star Wars, the disappointment with the first draft probably made Lucas consider different directions in which to take the story. He made use of a new plot twist: Darth Vader claims to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the year-long struggles writing the first film, and quickly wrote two more drafts, both in April 1978. He also took the script to a darker extreme by having Han Solo become imprisoned in carbonite and left in limbo.
This new story point of Darth Vader being Luke's father had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was separate from Luke's father; there is not a single reference to this plot point before 1978. After writing the second and third drafts of Empire Strikes Back in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin Skywalker was Ben Kenobi's brilliant student; he had a child called Luke but was swayed to the dark side by Emperor Palpatine (who became a Sith and not simply a politician). Anakin battled Ben Kenobi on the site of a volcano and was wounded, but then resurrected as Darth Vader. Meanwhile Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Republic became the Empire and Vader hunted down the Jedi knights.
With this new backstory in place, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy, changing Empire Strikes Back from Episode II to Episode V in the next draft. Lawrence Kasdan, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was then hired to write the next drafts, and was given additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner, and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult film, which was helped by the new, darker storyline, and developed the series from the light adventure roots of the first film.
By the time he began writing Episode VI in 1981 (then titled Revenge of the Jedi), much had changed. Making Empire Strikes Back was stressful and costly, and Lucas' personal life was disintegrating. Burnt out, and not wanting to make any more Star Wars films, he vowed that he was done with the series in a May 1983 interview with Time magazine. Lucas' 1981 rough drafts had Darth Vader competing with the Emperor for possession of Luke—and in the second script, the "revised rough draft," Vader became a sympathetic character. Lawrence Kasdan was hired to take over once again and, in these final drafts, Vader was explicitly redeemed and finally unmasked. This change in character would provide a springboard to the "Tragedy of Darth Vader" storyline that underlies the prequels.
After losing much of his fortune in a divorce settlement in 1987, Lucas had no desire to return to Star Wars, and had unofficially canceled his sequel trilogy by the time of Return of the Jedi. However the prequels, which were quite developed, continued to fascinate him. After Star Wars became popular once again, in the wake of Dark Horse's comic line and Timothy Zahn's trilogy of novels, Lucas saw that there was still a large audience. His children had begun to grow older, and with the explosion of CGI technology he was now considering returning to directing. By 1993 it was announced, in Variety among other sources, that he would be making the prequels. He began outlining the story, now indicating the series would be a tragic one examining Anakin Skywalker's transformation to evil. Lucas also began to change how the prequels would exist relative to the originals; at first they were supposed to be a "filling-in" of history, backstory, existing parallel or tangential to the originals, but now he saw that they could form the beginning of one long story that started with Anakin's childhood and ended with his death. This was the final step towards turning the film series into a "Saga".
In 1994, Lucas began writing the first screenplay titled Episode I: The Beginning. Following the release of that film, Lucas announced that he would also be directing the next two, and began working on Episode II at that time. The first draft of Episode II was completed just weeks before principal photography, and Lucas hired Jonathan Hales, a writer from The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to polish it up. Unsure of a title, Lucas had jokingly called the film "Jar Jar's Great Adventure." In writing The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas initially decided that Lando Calrissian was a clone and came from a planet of clones which caused the "Clone Wars" mentioned by Kenobi in A New Hope; he later came up with an alternate concept of an army of clone shocktroopers from a remote planet which attacked the Republic and were repelled by the Jedi knights. The basic elements of that backstory became the plot basis for Episode II, with the new wrinkle added that the entire event was personal manipulation of Palpatine's.
Lucas began working on Episode III even before Attack of the Clones was released, offering concept artists that the film would open with a montage of seven Clone War battles. As he reviewed the storyline that summer, however, he says he radically re-organized the plot. Michael Kaminski, in The Secret History of Star Wars, offers evidence that issues in Anakin's fall to the dark side prompted Lucas to make massive story changes, first revising the opening sequence to have Palpatine kidnapped and Dooku killed by Anakin as the first act in the latter's turn towards the dark side. After principal photography was complete in 2003, Lucas made even more massive changes in Anakin's character, re-writing his entire turn to the dark side; he would now turn primarily in a quest to save Padme from death, rather than the previous version in which that reason was one of several, including that he genuinely believed that the Jedi were evil and plotting to take over the Republic. This fundamental re-write was accomplished both through editing the principal footage, and new and revised scenes filmed during pick-ups in 2004.
Lucas often exaggerated the amount of material he wrote for the series; much of it stemmed from the post–1978 period when the series grew into a phenomenon. Michael Kaminski explained that these exaggerations were both a publicity and security measure. Kaminski rationalized that since the series' story radically changed throughout the years, it was always Lucas' intention to change the original story retroactively because audiences would only view the material from his perspective.
The sequel trilogy was a reportedly planned trilogy of films (Episodes VII, VIII and IX) by Lucasfilm as a sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) released between 1977 and 1983. While the similarly discussed Star Wars prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II and III) was ultimately released between 1999 and 2005, Lucasfilm and George Lucas have for many years denied plans of making a sequel trilogy, insisting that Star Wars is meant to be a six-part series.
At a ShoWest convention in 2005, Lucas demonstrated new technology and stated that he planned to release the six films in a new 3-D film format, beginning with A New Hope in 2007. However, by January 2007, Lucasfilm stated on StarWars.com that "there are no definitive plans or dates for releasing the Star Wars saga in 3-D." At Celebration Europe in July 2007, Rick McCallum confirmed that Lucasfilm is "planning to take all six films and turn them into 3-D," but they are "waiting for the companies out there that are developing this technology to bring it down to a cost level that makes it worthwhile for everybody". In July 2008 Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of Dreamworks Animations, let it slip that George Lucas is to redo all six of the movies in 3D.
Lucas has hinted in the past that he will release future, more definitive editions of the six Star Wars films on a next-generation home-video format. There have been discussions that he will take this opportunity to make any final adjustments, changes, additions, and/or subtractions to his films for this final release. An altered clip from The Phantom Menace included in a featurette on the DVD release of Revenge of the Sith features a computer generated Yoda replacing the original puppet; animation director Rob Coleman stated that the clip had been created as test footage of Yoda prior to work on Revenge of the Sith. Lucasfilm Vice President of Marketing Jim Ward announced that Lucasfilm is likely to do more work on the films, stating "As the technology evolves and we get into a high-definition platform that is easily consumable by our customers, the situation is much better, but there will always be work to be done."
|Film||Release date||Box office revenue||Box office revenue adjusted for inflation||Box office ranking|
|United States||Foreign||Worldwide||United States||Foreign||Worldwide||All-time domestic||All-time worldwide|
|Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope||May 25, 1977||$460,998,007||$314,400,000||$775,398,007||$1,613,284,808||$1,100,257,997||$2,713,542,805||#4||#30|
|Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back||May 21, 1980||$290,475,067||$247,900,000||$538,375,067||$746,513,828||$637,096,945||$1,383,610,773||#38||#62|
|Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi||May 25, 1983||$309,306,177||$165,800,000||$475,106,177||$657,563,749||$352,479,445||$1,010,043,194||#29||#80|
|Original Star Wars trilogy||$1,060,779,251||$728,100,000||$1,788,879,251||$3,017,362,385||$2,089,834,387||$5,107,196,772|
|Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace||May 19, 1999||$431,088,301||$493,229,257||$924,317,558||$549,856,238||$629,117,476||$1,178,973,714||#7||#11|
|Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones||May 16, 2002||$310,676,740||$338,721,588||$649,398,328||$368,364,234||$401,616,543||$769,980,777||#27||#42|
|Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith||May 19, 2005||$380,270,577||$468,728,238||$848,998,815||$414,253,700||$510,616,436||$924,870,136||#11||#20|
|Prequel Star Wars trilogy||$1,122,035,618||$1,300,679,083||$2,422,714,701||$1,332,474,172||$1,541,350,455||$2,873,824,627|
|Star Wars: The Clone Wars||August 15, 2008||$35,161,554||$33,121,290||$68,282,844||$35,020,908||$32,988,805||$68,009,713||#1,557||—|
|Complete Star Wars film series||$2,217,976,423||$2,061,900,373||$4,279,876,796||$4,384,857,465||$3,664,173,647||$8,049,031,112|
|Overall||Cream of the Crop|
|Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope||94% (63 reviews)||88% (17 reviews)||91 (13 reviews)|
|Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back||97% (66 reviews)||88% (16 reviews)||78 (15 reviews)|
|Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi||75% (60 reviews)||71% (17 reviews)||52 (14 reviews)|
|Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace||62% (158 reviews)||39% (46 reviews)||52 (35 reviews)|
|Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones||66% (213 reviews)||38% (39 reviews)||53 (39 reviews)|
|Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith||80% (250 reviews)||68% (41 reviews)||68 (40 reviews)|
|Star Wars: The Clone Wars||19% (149 reviews)||8% (24 reviews)||35 (30 reviews)|
|IV: A New Hope||V: The Empire Strikes Back||VI: Return of the Jedi||I: The Phantom Menace||II: Attack of the Clones||III: Revenge of the Sith|
|Actor in a Supporting Role||Nomination
|Art Direction-Set Decoration||Win||Nomination||Nomination|
|Music (Original Score)||Win||Nomination||Nomination|
|Screenplay – Original||Nomination|
|Special Achievement Award||Win
(Alien, Creature and Robot Voices)
The term Expanded Universe (EU) is an umbrella term for officially licensed Star Wars material outside of the six feature films. The material expands the stories told in the films, taking place anywhere from 25,000 years before The Phantom Menace to 140 years after Return of the Jedi. The first Expanded Universe story appeared in Marvel Comics' Star Wars #7 in January 1978 (the first six issues of the series having been an adaptation of the film), followed quickly by Alan Dean Foster's novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye the following month.
George Lucas retains artistic control over the Star Wars universe. For example, the death of central characters and similar changes in the status quo must first pass his screening before authors are given the go-ahead. In addition, Lucasfilm Licensing devotes efforts to ensure continuity between the works of various authors across companies. Elements of the Expanded Universe have been adopted by Lucas for use in the films, such as the name of capital planet Coruscant, which first appeared in Timothy Zahn's novel Heir to the Empire before being used in The Phantom Menace. A character introduced in Dark Horse Comics' Star Wars series, a blue Twi'lek Jedi Knight named Aayla Secura, was liked enough by Lucas to be included as a character in Attack of the Clones.
Lucas has played a large role in the production of various television projects, usually serving as storywriter or executive producer. Star Wars has had numerous radio adaptations. A radio adaptation of A New Hope was first broadcast on National Public Radio in 1981. The adaptation was written by science fiction author Brian Daley and directed by John Madden. It was followed by adaptations of The Empire Strikes Back in 1983 and Return of the Jedi in 1996. The adaptations included background material created by Lucas but not used in the films. Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, and Billy Dee Williams reprised their roles as Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, and Lando Calrissian, respectively, except in Return of the Jedi in which Luke was played by Joshua Fardon and Lando by Arye Gross. The series also used John Williams' original score from the films and Ben Burtt's original sound designs.
In addition to the two trilogies, several authorized films have been produced:
Following the success of the Star Wars films and their subsequent merchandising, several animated television series have been created for the younger fan base:
Star Wars-based fiction predates the release of the first film, with the 1976 novelization of Star Wars (ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster and credited to Lucas). Foster's 1978 novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, was the first Expanded Universe work to be released. In addition to filling in the time between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this additional content greatly expanded the Star Wars timeline before and after the film series. Star Wars fiction flourished during the time of the original trilogy (1977–1983) but slowed to a trickle afterwards. In 1992, however, Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy debuted, sparking a new interest in the Star Wars universe. Since then, several hundred tie-in novels have been published by Bantam and Del Rey. A similar resurgence in the Expanded Universe occurred in 1996 with the Steve Perry novel Shadows of the Empire, set in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, and accompanying video game and comic book series.
LucasBooks radically changed the face of the Star Wars universe with the introduction of the New Jedi Order series, which takes place some 20 years after Return of the Jedi and stars a host of new characters alongside series originals. For younger audiences, three series have been introduced. The Jedi Apprentice series follows the adventures of Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi prior to The Phantom Menace. The Jedi Quest series follows the adventures of Obi-Wan and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker in between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The Last of the Jedi series follows the adventures of Obi-Wan and another surviving Jedi almost immediately following Revenge of the Sith.
Marvel Comics published Star Wars comic book series and adaptations from 1977 to 1986. A wide variety of creators worked on this series, including Roy Thomas, Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Gene Day, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Portacio, Jo Duffy, and Ron Frenz. They also published a Star Wars newspaper strip by Russ Manning, Steve Gerber, and Archie Goodwin, the latter under a pseudonym. In the late 1980s, Marvel announced it would publish a new Star Wars comic by Tom Veitch and Cam Kennedy. However, in December 1991, Dark Horse Comics acquired the Star Wars license and used it to launch a number of ambitious sequels to the original trilogy instead, including the very popular Dark Empire stories. They have since gone on to publish a large number of original adventures set in the Star Wars universe. There have also been parody comics, including Tag and Bink.
Since 1982, dozens of video games have been published bearing the Star Wars name, beginning with Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back published for the Atari 2600 by Parker Brothers. Since then, Star Wars has opened the way to a myriad of space-flight simulation games, first-person shooter games, roleplaying games, RTS games, and others. Two different official tabletop role-playing games have been developed for the Star Wars universe: a version by West End Games in the 1980s and 1990s, and one by Wizards of the Coast in the 2000s. The best-selling games so far are the Lego Star Wars and the Battlefront series, with 12 million and 10 million units respectively. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is also an extremely well-known game.
The latest games released are Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, for the PS3, PSP, PS2, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and Wii. While The Complete Saga focuses on all six episodes of the series, The Force Unleashed, of the same name of the multimedia project which it is a part of, takes place in the largely unexplored time period between Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and casts players as Darth Vader's "secret apprentice" hunting down the remaining Jedi. The game features a new game engine, and was released on September 16, 2008 in the United States. There are two more titles based around the Clone Wars which were released in November 2008 for the Nintendo DS (Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Jedi Alliance and Wii (Star Wars: The Clone Wars - Lightsaber Duels).
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. Some of the card series are of film stills, while others are 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$1000 or more. While most 'base' or 'common card' sets are plentiful, many 'insert' or 'chase cards' are very rare.
The Star Wars saga has inspired many fans to create their own apocrypha 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.
While many fan films have used elements from the licensed Expanded Universe to tell their story, they are not considered an official part of the Star Wars canon. However, the lead character from the Pink Five series was incorporated into Timothy Zahn's 2007 novel Allegiance, marking the first time a fan-created Star Wars character has ever crossed into the official canon. Lucasfilm, for the most part, has allowed but not endorsed the creation of these derivative fan-fiction works, so long as no such work attempts to make a profit from or tarnish the Star Wars franchise in any way. Lucasfilm's open support and sanction of fan creations is a marked contrast to the attitudes of many other copyright holders.
The Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern American pop culture. Both the films and characters have been parodied in numerous films and television. Notable film parodies of Star Wars include Hardware Wars, a 13 minute 1977 spoof which Lucas has called his favorite Star Wars parody, and Spaceballs, a feature film by Mel Brooks which featured effects done by Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic. Lucasfilm itself made two mockumentaries, Return of the Ewok (1982), about Wicket W. Warrick's actor Warwick Davis, and R2-D2: Beneath the Dome (2002), which depicts R2-D2's "life story". There have also been many songs based on, and in, the Star Wars universe. "Weird Al" Yankovic recorded two parodies: "Yoda", a parody of "Lola" by The Kinks; and "The Saga Begins", a parody of Don McLean's song "American Pie" that retells of The Phantom Menace from Obi-Wan Kenobi's perspective.
When Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a system of lasers and missiles meant to intercept incoming ICBMs, the plan was quickly labeled "Star Wars," implying that it was science fiction and linking it to Ronald Reagan's acting career. According to Frances FitzGerald, Ronald Reagan was annoyed by this, but Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle told colleagues that he "thought the name was not so bad."; "'Why not?' he said. 'It's a good movie. Besides, the good guys won.'" This gained further resonance when Reagan described the Soviet Union as an Evil Empire, which was taken from the opening crawl to A New Hope.