Austria     Belgium     Brazil     Canada     Denmark     Finland     France     Germany     Hungary     Iceland     Ireland     Italy     Luxembourg     The Netherlands     Norway     Poland     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     UK     USA     

In a galaxy far, far away: the George Lucas blockbusters

George Lucas will receive the Palme d’Or for his career on 25 May at the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival. While he has not been bombarded with major awards throughout his career, it is worth noting that Lucas’ box office record is unparalleled in many ways – most notably for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. They are among the best summer blockbusters of all time, and each of the originals in these franchises has gone down in film history as a phenomenon that has become an integral part of the cultural zeitgeist. There are not many franchises that have managed to drive cinemas crazy again decades after the original films premiered.

“The Cannes Film Festival has always held a special place in my heart,” said Lucas, “I was surprised and thrilled when my first film, THX-1138, was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight for first-time directors. Since then I have returned to the festival several times in different capacities, as writer, director and producer. I am truly honoured by this special recognition, which means a lot to me.” THX 1138 is a much more experimental science fiction film than 1977’s Star Wars, set in a far future. The population is controlled by drugs that prevent people from falling in love. A man named THX 1138 then stops taking the drugs and begins a secret relationship with a woman. The film touches on themes present in iconic sci-fi stories such as 1984 and Brave New World, and although the relatively slow pace and sometimes vague storytelling make it not the director’s best, it is still a very interesting film and definitely worth watching at least once. And of course, no one could have imagined what a huge craze the genre would achieve six years later. Let’s just look at the greats!

5. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

At just $18 million, the film proved to be a huge success, easily becoming the highest-grossing film of the year ($384 million worldwide) and one of the highest-grossing productions of the film industry to date. Nominated for eight Academy Awards in 1982, including Best Picture, it won four (Best Sound, Best Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Set Design) and a special mention for Sound Editing, which has since become a separate category. The film was also well received by critics, who called it one of the most humorous, witty and stylish American adventure films ever made.

By the time of its release in 1981, Harrison Ford had already achieved huge success with Star Wars, which had not yet been completed, but the actor was able to distinguish between the two characters in a way that was definitely one of the key ingredients for its success. Although Lucas came up with the idea for the film, he handed over the directing duties to his friend Steven Spielberg. The rest is history…

4. Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

With a budget of $115 million, there were of course huge expectations for the film, and those who loved the original trilogy were eager to immerse themselves in the story of long ago, and of course, in a galaxy far, far away. The release was followed by widespread media coverage, and despite mixed reviews from critics, it grossed $924.3 million worldwide. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor star as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi. The two Jedi guard Queen Amidala on the desert planet Tatooine, where they meet a young boy named Anakin Skywalker.

3. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

This is arguably the first episode in the Star Wars franchise to feel for the first time that the film was more interested in money than proper storytelling, with the second Death Star battle already looking like a poor copy of the original. As the Hollywood Reporter wrote of the film, “there’s a desperation about it, a sense that Lucas and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan were more concerned with what they could do next to entertain the kids”. And entertaining the kids was not lost, as the film unsurprisingly became a huge box office hit, grossing $475 million worldwide and spawning endless amounts of toys.

2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke and the rebels go to the rebel base on the planet Hoth after the destruction of the Death Star, but not for long as the Empire’s attack forces them to flee. The Empire Strikes Back improved on pretty much everything that made its predecessor great: groundbreaking special effects, John Williams’ greatest music, more iconic characters and more stunning planets. It’s also widely regarded as one of the best and darkest sequels of all time, and this film was clearly a huge success, instantly becoming one of the highest-grossing sequels with $401 million in grosses.

1. Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Star Wars is nothing less than the sci-fi space adventure that launched one of the biggest grossing franchises in film history. Written and directed by George Lucas, the film is about a young man named Luke Skywalker who is forced to leave his family farm to learn the so-called Force and help his neighbour Ben Kenobi retrieve important files. With the help of Han Solo and his companions, they infiltrate a space station called the Death Star and join a group of rebels fighting against the authoritarian Empire that rules the galaxy. One of cinema’s first blockbusters, Star Wars made Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer and Harrison Ford superstars in a flash, and over the decades it has spawned so many myths, controversies and of course… money ($775.8 million!) that it’s hard for any one person to keep track of any of these categories.