It's been a whopping 40 years since the release of "Star Wars" (in the years since, its been popularized with its official chapter title, "A New Hope"), a film that forever changed cinema and whose effects can still be felt today, both in the endless sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations it inspired, and for the more-is-more approach Hollywood has taken to cinema. "Star Wars" was released at the tail end of the 1970s, when the more traditional model of filmmaking had broken down, replaced with esoteric, personal work by talented, movie-mad youngsters. "Star Wars" writer/director George Lucas was one of those youngsters but he, like best friend Steven Spielberg, dreamed big: he wanted audiences to visit a galaxy far, far away.
And they did.
Looking back on that first, game-changing film we wanted to pick out our 40 favorite things about "Star Wars." (For those who didn't see the film theatrically in 1977 then they probably caught the "Special Edition" exhibits in 1997.) These are everything from esoteric moments to giant, seismic contributions to cinema. What makes "Star Wars" so charming, all these years later, is that you get the sense that the people behind the movie (led by Lucas) never thought they were doing anything special. They were just having fun and we've been having the same amount of fun for the past 40 years.
1. That opening crawl.
2. John Williams's unforgettable score.
3. The super-long opening shot, with the Star Destroyer towering overhead. (Sure, we can do that with computers now but would it look even fractionally as cool?)
4. Two words: Darth Vader.
5. Carrie Fisher, our dearly departed Princess.
6. Fisher's oddly inflected pseudo-British accent.
7. Luke's whine.
8. R2-D2 and C-3PO, the greatest robotic life-mates in the history of cinema.9. Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru (they seem so nice).
10. The "used future" aesthetic.
11. Luke Skywalker's whine.
12. The unknowable mystery of Tosche Station and the power converters therein.
13. Jawas and their light-up eyes (I had a plush Jawa with light-up eyes as a kid).
14. C-3PO's silver leg, paving the way for his red arm in "The Force Awakens."
15. Blue milk.16. Binary sunsets.
17. The deeply disturbing Sandpeople.
18. Ben's yell (pre-Special Edition).
19. Alec Guinness reading clunky expositional dialogue like it was Shakespearean verse.
20. Han Solo and the peerless performance of Harrison Ford.
21. The costumes.
22. The cantina sequence.
23. Han shooting first (FACT).
24. Chewbacca, who is the most loyal copilot in the galaxy.
25. The design of the Millennium Falcon.
26. The unseen threat of Jabba the Hutt (please forget that dumb scene from the Special Edition).
27. Stormtroopers and their strangely stationary Dewback.
28. Grand Moff Tarkin, the scariest middle manager in the galaxy.
29. The Death Star. So cool that it keeps showing up in the movies. (Fun fact: "The Phantom Menace" is the only entry that doesn't feature the Death Star, or a Death Star-like planetoid, in its narrative.)30. "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?"
31. The beautifully banal lightsaber fight between Vader and Obi-Wan.
32. All of the effects, which were so cutting edge at the time and still look gorgeous.
33. The movie's gentle mysticism.
34. How unstoppably cool and ramshackle the Rebels are.
35. The "trench run" at the end.
36. Darth Vader flies his own spaceship at the end. That's a boss move.
37. "You're all clear kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!" (HAN CAME BACK.)
38. Death Star destruction 1.0.
39. The medallion-awarding ceremony at the end (even though it's messed up Chewbacca didn't get one).
40. Everything it inspired, from toys to video games to novels to sequels to theme park attractions that we still obsess over, in equal measure, to this day.