The original Star Wars movie is called Star Wars.

by MATT STOKES | MAY 12, 2017

The discussion of Star Wars starts at 04:22.

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What do you think of when you hear “Star Wars”? Most people think of a franchise, but I think first and foremost of a single movie—a movie from 1977 directed by George Lucas. I am biased because my first exposure to Star Wars was the 1997 Special Edition, which had a very successful theatrical re-release. So, the first time I ever saw a Star Wars movie, it was the original Star Wars film, in a movie theater in 1997. The movie was marketed not as “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” or any similar variations, but as “Star Wars.” 

1997 poster

This mirrors the original release of the film. In 1977, when the film hit theaters, the words “A New Hope” did not appear on any of the marketing, nor did they appear in the film itself.

1977 poster

The Empire Strikes Back, of course, opens with the large Star Wars logo to kick off the crawl, followed by the subtitles, “Episode V” and “The Empire Strikes Back.” I imagine this would have been confusing to people seeing Empire, because when Star Wars had not had the subtitles—it had merely opened with the giant Star Wars logo and then went immediately into the crawl. This was most moviegoers’ first exposure to the idea that these movies were considered “episodes,” and that the new movie was not “episode two” but “episode five.” When I first saw The Empire Strikes Back in theaters in 1997, I was confused that the Star Wars logo is the first thing to appear onscreen—I expected to see a comparable Empire Strikes Back logo, and worried for a few seconds that we were seeing the wrong movie. I imagine audiences in 1980 felt the same way.

1977 opening crawl (no “Episode IV A New Hope”)

To makes things less confusing for every re-release of the film, Lucasfilm retconned Star Wars, adding a subtitle. The history of “A New Hope” dates back to the first time Star Wars was re-released into theaters in 1981, one year after The Empire Strikes Back premiered. In fact, if you watch any re-release of the original film, you’ll notice the Star Wars logo speeds by much more quickly than in any of the other movies. That’s because the logo had to be sped up to accommodate the addition of “Episode IV” and “A New Hope” and still keep the opening crawl in time with the music.

Of course, Lucasfilm considers the official title of the original film to be Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Since the DVD release in 2004, all marketing materials associated with the film have marketed it that way. Star Wars now refers to the entire series, and fans largely refer to the movie as “A New Hope” or “Four.” But I reject that. There is only one title for that movie, and it’s Star Wars.

My reasoning is that the film was not released as A New Hope in 1977… and for good reason—that’s a bad movie title! “Hey guys, wanna go see the awesome new movie out this weekend? It’s called A New Hope!” No, when people said “Star Wars,” they were talking specifically about a movie. This means I sound less than elegant when I talk about this movie (See how often I’ve referred to “the original Star Wars film” instead of being much clearer and calling it A New Hope.). But so be it. This is a principled stand I have long taken, and I shan’t be swayed from it. It’s more important than “Han Shot First,” and fans should rally to my side.

Star Wars

Director: George Lucas

Luke Skywalker: Mark Hamill
Han Solo: Harrison Ford
Princess Leia: Carrie Fisher
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Alec Guiness
Tarkin: Peter Cushing
C-3PO: Anthony Daniels
R2-D2: Kenny Baker
Chewbacca: Peter Mayhew

Released: May 25, 1977

Domestic Box Office: $307.3 million (original run)




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