A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a magical movie called Star Wars hit the big screen.
Actually, it was 35 years ago this month, in a theater pretty near you, but whatever. In 1977, the entire world thrilled to the story of young farmboy Luke Skywalker, destined to become a Jedi knight and redeem his crazy, black-garbed father from the dark side of the Force. And to hit on his sister, but let’s not dwell on that.
When Star Wars came out, igniting a six-movie saga that spanned generations, it pretty much rewrote the book on blockbusters. It changed everything. It remains one of the greatest movie stories of all time. (Don’t agree? Let’s just say we find your lack of faith… disturbing.)
Today is May 4, known to fans around the world as Star Wars Day. (May the 4th be with you… get it?) To celebrate, we thought we’d share our memories of Star Wars – the original movies, the new prequels, and what they’ve meant to us, and to our kids, the next generation of fans.
Read on, or read on not. There is no try.
Shannon Antinori, Romeoville Patch
My earliest memory of Star Wars is probably playing with my brother's action figures. He's eight years older than I am and was a huge fan of the franchise since the original movie came out in '77. If he'd known then how much those figures would be worth today, he probably never would have opened the packages.
I remember that it was a huge deal for us when we got our first VCR (we were super cool because we skipped Beta and went right to VHS), and we would have movie "campout" nights where we'd all snuggle up in our sleeping bags in the living room to watch a movie as a family. I'm pretty sure we ended up watching A New Hope at least 10 times, due to my brother's insistence.
I was never a huge fan, but I do remember going to see The Phantom Menace with a Star Wars-loving boyfriend on opening night. The theater was packed, and people were in costume. I'd never seen anything like that before. I remember having to help some woman, obviously a super fan, because she couldn't get her plastic light saber to work. I was her hero when I figured out she had the batteries in backwards.
Dawn Aulet, Channahon-Minooka Patch
I have a very vivid memory of going to see Star Wars in theaters. It was probably 1978 because I was in kindergarten. It was an organized field trip and my mom was one of the chaperones. She thought ahead and packed her bag full of popcorn and candy.
When we got to the theaters, apparently the officials noticed her bag full of goodies and they told her she could not bring outside food into the theaters. I cried. A lot. More than a kindergartener should cry regarding popcorn and candy. But, like any good mom, she still had gum and hard candy tucked away in a purse pocket somewhere, so neither I nor my classmates went into hypoglycemic shock during the film.
I don’t remember a lot about the film itself except being rather enamored by the opening narration scrolling across the screen as though you were flying a ship into the movie. I also could not really differentiate between what is now Star Wars: A New Hope and any other of the three original films that were released first but were chronologically last.
Today, all of the movies live on DVD at my house. My kids, who are 10 and 7, are big fans. They own lightsabers and have chosen to decorate at least one room in Lego Star Wars—two of their favorite things. My 10-year-old also does an impressive Wookie impression.
I probably like it best when they are quoting Yoda, who is probably the most brilliant movie creature that ever lived. But then he was hundreds of years old, so he had lots of time to absorb knowledge.
Mary Ann Lopez, Naperville Patch
No movie up until its release created the amount of buzz and fan frenzy that Star Wars did.
I was in the fourth grade and definitely not a sci-fi fan, but that was the beauty of Star Wars, it had universal appeal that other movies didn’t. It had romance, drama, comic moments and a quirkiness that attracted a huge audience. I don’t think we (my mom and I) had ever waited in line to see a movie until Star Wars.
Even though he was a lot older, I had a crush on Luke Skywalker. Who didn’t? He was young, cute and had a hovercraft! His robotic friends R2D2 and C-3P0 were an odd couple that added a sense of levity to every situation. I couldn’t help feel bad for poor C-3P0 when he was torn to bits.
Hidden somewhere in my parents home is a R2D2 toy I got in a McDonald’s Happy Meal. I even had a light blue T-shirt with Luke’s photo on it.
I totally bought into the fan frenzy, though I must be honest, my age is showing and it’s hard to remember much about that time. But, I’ll always be a fan of the originals. I think Return of the Jedi is my favorite of the films (I’ve never watched the new additions), and one of the best quotes ever is from Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Andre Salles, Montgomery Patch
I was all of three years old when Star Wars hit theaters. But the first movie I remember seeing on the big screen—I mean vividly, viscerally remember—is The Empire Strikes Back. I’d seen the original Star Wars on television a few times, but nothing prepared me for Empire.
I was six years old, and Star Wars changed my life.
I’ve really never looked back. I remember dressing up as Yoda one year for Halloween, and Boba Fett another year. I had just about every Star Wars action figure. The toaster-shaped robots on screen for half a second in Episode IV? Yeah, I had those. The carrying case for the action figures, the one shaped like Darth Vader’s head? Had it.
In 1999, when the prequels came out, I was a poor 25-year-old journalist living in Maine. I skipped out of work for a day to wait in line for tickets. I was there for about 26 hours, and man, that was fun. I got to meet an entirely new class of geeky fan, the kind that re-enacted the original trilogy line for line in the theater parking lot. Twice.
To this day, I still watch the Star Wars movies at least once a year. And I still remember how inspiring they were to that nerdy kid I was a long time ago, the one who loved to travel to a galaxy far, far away. I’m still pretty geeky now, but you know what? The geeks kind of rule the world now. And a lot of that is due to Star Wars. I’ll never not be grateful for these movies, and what they’ve meant to me.
Karen Sorensen, Plainfield Patch
I was still in grade school when Star Wars was released. The memory of seeing it is very clear for a few reasons: 1) Both of my parents saw it with us, making it a rare family outing to the movies and telegraphing to us kids that this was a "big deal"; 2) We went to see it at a second-run movie theater called the Patio in Chicago and there was a line waiting to get in—that was certainly a first; 3) It was totally unlike anything I'd seen before.
Imagine growing up with a steady diet of Disney fare and kids movies —Bambi, Mary Poppins, Dr. Dolittle and the like—and then seeing something like this. It ingrained itself in my memory. I haven't seen it for many years now, yet the memories are crystallized: those plastic white storm trooper outfits, the projection of Princess Leia's "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi" plea, the crazy alien bar, the sarcastic humor, the climactic starship fight.
Geez, we'd never seen anything like it. No one had. Today, we're so inundated with action movies featuring aliens, alien worlds and robots that it all seems old hat. We forget this was the movie that started it all.
Erin Sauder, Bolingbrook Patch
While I don't remember much about my first time seeing the Star Wars movies, I do remember wanting to wear my fabulous Underoos Ewok t-shirt all the time. (See photo.) My mom held onto it for me until I got my own house, at which point she then decided it should make it's new home there.
Lauren Williamson, Darien Patch
There were two little boys and one other little girl in my neighborhood growing up. I would play with the little boys, brothers, as a pair and with the little girl as an individual, but we never formed a four-kid team. While the other girl was by no means girly, she didn't play in mixed company.
The little boys were mean, and if neighborhood playmates hadn't been such slim pickings I would have avoided them altogether. They pushed me off my bike, flung a penny in my eye and introduced me to how boys pee by casually urinating in front of me whenever they pleased.
Playing with them was chaos.
Unless we played Star Wars. The brothers had an outstanding collection of Star Wars figurines, dozens of fully articulated Han Solos, Luke Skywalkers and Boba Fetts. The characters congregated on a scale Millennium Falcon that, standing on end, reached my tiny shoulders.
In Star Wars, the brothers found a fantasy world enthralling enough to distract them from their primary m.o. of raising hell. In Star Wars, I found a fantasy world where I had playmates my own age with whom I shared some common ground.