There are few film franchises that can claim to have affected pop culture as profoundly as "Star Wars," the brainchild of George Lucas. A new "Star Wars" trilogy is destined for theaters, but here's a look back at the franchise's big-screen offerings over the years. Click through the gallery. (Chris Pizzello / Associated Press)Link
"Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope" (1977)
On the day "Star Wars" thundered into theaters on May 25, 1977, the film's producer Gary Kurtz appeared on a radio call-in show. Kurtz recalled: "This guy, this caller, was really enthusiastic and talking about the movie in really deep detail. ... I said, 'You know a lot abut the film.' He said, 'Yeah, yeah, I've seen it four times already.' And that was opening day. I knew something was happening." (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
The second "Star Wars" film, the most critically revered film in the franchise, was directed by Irvin Kershner. "I really knocked myself out," Kershner said. "I was able to go deeper into the characterization. I was doing the second act of a three-act play, or the second movement of a symphony. That's always the slower movement. I could not have a grand climax, I had to leave things ambiguous. My big climax came at the beginning of the film, with the battle in the snow, then I told the story of the people." (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi" (1983)
The original series came to a close with "Return of the Jedi" -- a welcome ending for Lucas, who said at the time, "There hasn't really been one day in the last 10 years that I haven't had to wake up in the morning and say, 'God, I've got to worry about this movie. ... If I had to do it all over again, I'd have to think about it, especially if I knew what I was going to have to give up in order to get it."
"Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace" (1999)
Sixteen years after the original trilogy wrapped up, "The Phantom Menace" began a new prequel trilogy based on Darth Vader's origin story. "Phantom Menace," which introduced new characters like Darth Maul (above right) and the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks, marked the first time a fully digital movie was shown to the public. It was the only "Star Wars" film to earn more than $1 billion at the box office. (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" (2002)
Anakin Skywalker's transformation from a precocious, pod-racing kid to the ultimate villain Darth Vader continued in "Attack of the Clones," in which Hayden Christensen portrayed the sullen young Jedi, and Natalie Portman played his lady-love, Padme. (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" (2005)
"Revenge of the Sith" opened 28 years after the original "Star Wars" and was the first to receive a PG-13 rating, due to several violent scenes as Anakin turns to the Dark Side. "I had to turn him into a monster," Lucas said at the time. "It's a tough story. You can't make a guy evil without having him do evil things." (Lucasfilm)
"Star Wars: The Clone Wars" (2008)
The Star Wars universe found its way to the big screen again in 2008, albeit in animated form. "The Clone Wars" centered on the wartime tales of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi and featured Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Count Dooku and other characters from the prequel trilogy. The film paved the way for the award-winning cartoon series of the same name. "I am amazed at how it continues," Lucas said at the time. "It’s not something I expected to happen, and not something we spend a lot of time thinking about trying to expand. This was created because I wanted to stimulate kids' imaginations, inspire them to be creative and to think outside the box." (Lucasfilm)
The Force is strong with Alan Horn.
At CinemaCon on Wednesday, the Walt Disney Studios chairman said the company plans to release three “Star Wars” films by the end of the decade — one in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
In between those movies, “we expect to have pictures derived from that universe,” Horn said, indicating that spinoff movies should be expected in 2016 and 2018 as well.
The news comes six months after Disney acquired Lucasfilm in a surprise deal for $4.05 billion.
At the time of that deal in October, the company said it planned to release a seventh live-action “Star Wars” movie in 2015.
It has since been announced that J.J. Abrams will direct that film, while Oscar winner Michael Arndt (“Little Miss Sunshine,” “Toy Story 3″) has been tapped to write the screenplay.
“Star Wars: Episode VII” will be released in summer 2015, Horn said, and will be followed by the next two films alternating every other year.
Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote “The Empire Strikes Back” and with George Lucas penned the script for “Return of the Jedi,” and Simon Kinberg have been announced as the screenwriters of the spinoff films.
“I’m trying to start fresh,” Kasdan told Hero Complex in an interview earlier this year. “There are certain pleasures that we think the saga can bring to people that they’ve been missing, and we’re hoping to bring them that, and at the same time, have them feel that it’s all new.”
At CinemaCon, Horn said Lucasfilm is “consistent with the family imprimatur” of Disney, describing a recent visit to Lucasfilm’s Northern California campus as idyllic.
“There’s an 8-foot statue of Yoda, and you walk down the hall and they say ‘May the force be with you,’ ” Horn said, evoking laughter from the crowd of movie theater owners. “And I said, ‘And with you, my brother.’ Because what do you say?”
– Amy Kaufman reporting from Las Vegas
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