Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) review: The ground-breaking original

Star Wars is that rare thing, a film that changed movies forever.

Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope.
(Image: © LucasFilm)

What to Watch Verdict

Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) review: The ground-breaking original


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    Changed boundaries of cinema.

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    Gave us Harrison Ford.


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    nothing stands out!

A long, long time ago, back in the decade that fashion forgot, a new film burst on the scene like a supernova and expanded the known boundaries of movie science fiction.

The impact of Star Wars on both the film industry and the viewing public over the years has been phenomenal. Just look at all the movies and spin-off TV series that have followed, including more recently The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Many have argued that The Empire Strikes Back surpassed Star Wars, but without Star Wars we wouldn't have had Empire. Indeed, it's hard to imagine what cinema would have been like had Star Wars not happened.

It's been well documented how many of the crew and even some of the cast couldn't imagine the film being a success. Indeed, there were all kinds of production problems and it seemed at one point that the film might never make it to the cinema.

But audiences were dazzled when they saw it at last. For the first time, comic-book-style sci-fi heroics were matched to imagery, music and special effects that were comprehensively exhilarating.

The movie is like a well-oiled space machine: everything is geared towards entertainment and even the silly dialogue ("I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you") is exactly right. And the film also launched the career of struggling actor Harrison Ford as Han Solo.

In 1997 director George Lucas gave his favorite big baby a subtle make-over for its re-release as a Special Edition: some of the special effects were made just that little bit better and around five minutes of footage was added — including a meeting between Han Solo and Jabba the Hut. In either version, the movie still stands as one of the greatest Hollywood crowd-pleasers of all time.

And it gave birth to one of the greatest villains ever in Darth Vader (check out our Darth Vader timeline). We must also mention the incredible musical score for which composer John Williams won an Oscar. The opening theme tune is just iconic.

It remains one of the best movies ever and if you've not seen it — where have you been?! — you're in for a treat.

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.