(20th Cent. Fox, 1977)
First premiering today 37 years ago, this little $11M sci-fi flick became the biggest film ever (for six years, until E.T. knocked it off the pedestal) and adjusted for inflation is the number three-grossing film of all time. Back when a multiplex had two or at most three screens, I stood in a line twice around the theatre to get into this one opening weekend. Based purely on word-of-mouth from being out for a day.
The soundtrack blew me away in the first 30 seconds. The villain was pure distilled evil before his third line. And by the time we got to see the twin sunset on Tatooine, everyone in that theatre knew this was not going to be like any movie we'd seen before: it was like every movie we'd seen before. Turned up to 11.
Nominated for ten Oscars, and winning six (including none for George Lucas) this wasn't a bad effort for a guy directing only his third studio pic. Not least of which by showcasing a guy Lucas had used in one of the numerous small parts in American Grafitti, talking him out of putting down his hammer and saw building custom studios for record producers and songwriters, and coming back to acting full-time. Our introduction to Han Solo (before the later monkeyization of the original) had him shooting Greedo first under the table, and it endeared Harrison Ford to audiences in a career that has become a force of nature.
Not bad for a few notebooks of scribbling done while Lucas was attending film school, which he got funded by working for scale, asking only for the rights to the ancillary merchandise.
Fox execs figured they were getting a deal, thinking that t-shirts and posters were no big loss. Lucas paid for Skywalker Ranch and starting ILM on royalty checks paid from Kenner Toys. And somewhere around the second hundred million dollars of box office, the idea of maybe making a sequel came up...