Director George Lucas had an idea in mind for what he called The Star Wars, a modern space opera like the Flash Gordon films of his youth. About the time he finished his first movie, THX 1138, he began working on storylines. The first movie produced was Star Wars (which later got retitled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), filmed on a budget of $11 million. It earned $797 million worldwide, so I guess you could consider it, you know, a moderate success.
United Artists and Universal both passed on Star Wars, and one can only wonder whether the heads of those two studios survived when their boards found out. 20th Century Fox made the picture, and reaped the rewards not only of the three original blockbusters, but much of the licensing that became so incredibly profitable.
Lucas created Industrial Light & Magic to produce the special effects, after learning how weak were Fox’s capabilities. What seemed so futuristic then seems so primitive now, and Lucas recreated some of the effects for theater re-release and the DVD.
America (and the world) was fascinated by the characters, the special effects, and the story. Han Solo, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, C3PO and Chewbacca all became film icons. “May the force be with you” was an ubiquitous catchphrase.
It dethroned Jaws as the highest-grossing film, before being bumped by E.T. Star Wars won six Academy Awards, all in the technical categories. But its influence on popular culture rivals that of any movie ever made. I mean, this was Star Wars.