Famous Films That Influenced Star Wars: A Comprehensive Exploration

28 September 2022
At a cursory glance, George Lucas's "Star Wars: A New Hope" appears to be an original cinematic masterpiece full of wondrous monsters and menacing men in black space suits. 

However, Lucas himself has openly acknowledged that his groundbreaking space opera drew inspiration from a myriad of sources, ranging from classic films to literature and even historical events. This article delves into the intricate web of influences that shaped the Star Wars universe.

The Dambusters and The Guns of Navarone: War Epics Reimagined

The iconic trench run scene in "A New Hope," where Rebel pilots target the Death Star's exhaust port, is a direct homage to the 1955 British war film "The Dambusters." In this film, British pilots must drop bouncing bombs on a Nazi dam, requiring precise timing and aim—much like the Rebels' mission. Lucas even borrowed the line "Get set for your attack run!" verbatim.

The urgency of the Death Star attack also mirrors the plot of "The Guns of Navarone," where a team of commandos must destroy Nazi super-cannons to save British troops. The film's tension and pacing influenced how the Rebels' mission was framed in "Star Wars," adding layers of suspense and stakes to the narrative.

Casablanca: A Galactic Rick's Café

The Mos Eisley Cantina in "A New Hope" is a spacefaring version of Rick's Café from "Casablanca." Both serve as hubs for shady deals and feature a cast of morally ambiguous characters. Han Solo's character is a nod to Humphrey Bogart's Rick, sharing a similar world-weary cynicism and even some lines. The price of 15,000 credits for passage to Alderaan also curiously mirrors the 15,000 francs for a ticket out of Casablanca.

thx 1130 influence in star wars

THX 1138: Dystopian Echoes

Lucas's own film, "THX 1138," explores themes of population control and dystopian governance. These themes subtly resurface in the Star Wars saga, particularly in the portrayal of the Galactic Empire's totalitarian rule. The film even includes a line about running over a Wookiee, possibly inspiring the creation of Chewbacca's species.

Akira Kurosawa's Influence: The Hidden Fortress and Seven Samurai

The narrative structure of "Star Wars" owes much to Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress," which tells its story through the eyes of two lowly characters, much like R2-D2 and C-3PO. The film also inspired the iconic scene transitions in "Star Wars." Additionally, visual references to Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" can be found in "Revenge of the Sith."

Nazi Imagery: The Triumph of the Will

The medal ceremony in "A New Hope" and the design of the Stormtroopers borrow heavily from Nazi imagery, particularly Leni Riefenstahl's propaganda film "The Triumph of the Will." This serves to underline the authoritarian nature of the Empire.

The Searchers and John Wayne: A Western in Space

The scene where Luke discovers his murdered aunt and uncle is a direct lift from John Ford's "The Searchers," another film that explores the relationship between a young man and a morally complex father figure.

Ben Hur and Lawrence of Arabia: Epic Inspirations

The pod race in "The Phantom Menace" is a grander version of the chariot race in "Ben Hur," complete with similar camera angles and narrative tension. The desert landscapes of Tatooine also draw visual inspiration from "Lawrence of Arabia," a film that also featured Sir Alec Guinness.

Flash Gordon: The Serial That Started It All

Lucas initially wanted to adapt "Flash Gordon" but couldn't secure the rights. However, the influence remains, from the opening crawl to the concept of a spacefaring fairy tale. The idea of futuristic technology substituting for magic is a core element borrowed from Flash Gordon.

Edgar Rice Burroughs: John Carter of Mars

The John Carter series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, which predates even Flash Gordon, had a profound impact on "Star Wars." From the concept of a human falling in love with an alien princess to the very term "Jedi," the fingerprints of Burroughs' work are evident throughout the Star Wars saga.

Other Notable Influences

  • J.R.R. Tolkien: Elements of Gandalf can be seen in Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • Metropolis: The design of C-3PO was inspired by the Maschinenmensch robot.
  • Forbidden Planet: Influenced the concept of protocol droids and features a direct homage in "The Phantom Menace."
  • Star Trek: The concept of a collective disturbance in the Force mirrors Spock's empathic abilities.

The Star Wars universe is a rich tapestry woven from a multitude of influences, each contributing to its enduring appeal. By examining these influences, we gain a deeper understanding of how this iconic series came to define modern mythology.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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