Furious battles between hundreds of starfighters against a backdrop of alien worlds, a society of mystical knights wielding energy swords and able to turn aside laser beams by invoking a mysterious Force, wisecracking robots, bizarre alien monsters, entire planets covered by cities or ice or festering swamp, weapons able to destroy whole worlds, an evil Empire ruled by a mad emperor wielding dark powers, who is brought down by a farm-boy who is secretly the son of the emperor’s most feared and trusted lieutenant — this is the action-filled panoply of Star Wars, one of the most popular science fiction film series on Earth.
The three original Star Wars movies — A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi — chronicle the desperate fight of a band of plucky rebels to overcome the galactic Empire, ruled over by Emperor Palpatine, which has oppressed the galaxy for decades. The cause of the rebellion is aided greatly when it is joined by Luke Skywalker, a young farm boy who has been trained in the mystical Jedi ways by a mysterious exile, Obi Wan Kenobi. Joining forces with a smuggler named Han Solo and his shaggy alien sidekick, Chewbacca, Luke takes on the Empire after he rescues Princess Leia Organa from Imperial captivity and sees his mentor, Obi Wan, killed by the Emperor’s black-armored lieutenant, Darth Vader, a menacing warrior who is equally deadly with a lightsaber and with the unseen energies of the Force.
As the films develop, Luke discovers that Leia is his sister, and that Darth Vader is his father. Darth Vader attempts to turn Luke to the dark side after defeating him and cutting off his hand in a lightsaber duel high on the catwalks of a floating metropolis called Cloud City. Luke resists the call of the Dark Side, however, and goes on to rescue his friend Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, a repulsive slug-like alien, and continues in his crusade to bring the Empire to an end.
Proving that a small stature doesn’t imply a stunted soul, the powerful mystic Yoda, a green alien living on a swamp world, trains Luke further in the powers of the force. After destroying the Death Star, a huge weapons system that can eradicate a planet with a single shot, Luke confronts the Emperor — only to be defeated by the powerful tyrant. However, Darth Vader cannot bear to see his son die, and kills the Emperor, although he himself is mortally wounded in the struggle. Thus, it is Darth Vader — or Anakin Skywalker, as he is actually named — who saves the rebellion and ushers in a new period of freedom in the galaxy.
The “prequel” movies — A Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith — are set twenty years before and trace Anakin Skywalker’s recruitment into the Jedi order and his fall to the Dark Side. Struggling between his dedication to the Jedi way and his love for a woman named Padme Amidala, Anakin helps the Jedi in their struggle against an unseen menace that is stirring up war in the galaxy. Aided by an army of genetically-engineered Clone Troopers, Yoda and Anakin kill the nefarious Count Dooku and several other villains in their quest to root out the evil. Check out the Cad Bane Costume pictured to the right.
Eventually, though, Anakin is turned to the Dark Side with the promise of power to save his wife from some unspecified doom, aiding the Emperor in destroying the Jedi and the galactic Republic. Hideously maimed in his battle with Obi Wan, the fallen Jedi is encased in high-tech armor to keep him alive, becoming Darth Vader. His infant children, Luke and Leia, and hidden on remote worlds to keep them safe — and keep the hope of eventual freedom alive.
Painted with epic strokes, vivid scenes, brilliantly memorable or brooding locations, and non-stop action, the Star Wars saga is a modern legend that brings swashbuckling color, heroes, and villains to a futuristic setting — the very stuff of adventure.