Country: USA
Director: George Lucas
Screenwriter: George Lucas
Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones

The staunchest of George Lucas' haters could write volumes of books on how Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is one of the most overrated movies ever, a cheesy space opera that's aged poorly after being poorly made in the first place. The real reason for such vitriol: Lucas' 1977 game-changer has become such a cultural juggernaut that its initial wonderment has been forgotten. Allow us to joggle skeptics' brains for a second; addressing the franchise's ardent fans would simply be preaching to the Boba-Fett-helmet-owning choir.

Tossing a variety of influences into his typewriter, from Akira Kurosawa's samurai epics to old-school westerns and 1950s spaceship visuals, Lucas set out to create an epic completely set above the clouds, with the advanced special effects possible. Fortunately, he didn't rely solely upon artificial trickery; Lucas birthed an endless stream of colorful, memorable flesh-and-blood characters, charming robots, and imaginative creatures to carry out his elaborate rescue mission of a narrative.

The thesis here: The first Star Wars film does have its flaws, but its sporadic bumps are ultimately smoothed out by Lucas' unbridled ambition, playful imagination, and desire to push cinema in a forward direction. —MB