Cultural impact of Star Wars

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Cosplayers dressed as Darth Vader, an Imperial officer and two Imperial stormroopers at Riverbend Music Center (Cincinnati, Ohio).
Masks from Star Wars in the National Museum of Cinema of Turin, Italy.

George Lucas' science fiction multi-film Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern popular culture. Star Wars references are deeply embedded in popular culture;[1] references to the main characters and themes of Star Wars are casually made in many English-speaking countries with the assumption that others will understand the reference. Darth Vader has become an iconic villain, while characters such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO have all become widely recognised characters around the world. Phrases like "evil empire", "May the Force be with you", and most famously "I am your father" have become part of the popular lexicon.[2] The first Star Wars film in 1977 was a cultural unifier,[3] enjoyed by a wide spectrum of people.[4]

Many efforts produced in the science fiction genre (particularly in film) can now be seen to draw heavy influence and inspiration from the original Star Wars trilogy as well as the magnitude of sequels, spin-offs, series, games and texts that it spawned. Sounds, visuals, and even the iconic score of the films have become integral components in the tapestry of American society. The film can be said to have helped launch the science fiction boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s, making science fiction films a blockbuster genre.[5][page needed] This very impact also made it a prime target for parody works and homages, with popular examples including Spaceballs, Family Guy's "Blue Harvest" special, Seth Green's "Robot Chicken: Star Wars", and Lucas' self-proclaimed favorite parody, "Hardware Wars" by Ernie Fosselius.

Filmmaking History[edit]

National Film Registry[edit]

In 1989, the Library of Congress selected the original Star Wars film for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry, as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."[6] Its sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, was selected in 2010.[7][8] Despite these callings for archival, it is unclear whether copies of the 1977 and 1980 theatrical sequences of Star Wars and Empire—or copies of the 1997 Special Edition versions—have been archived by the NFR, or indeed if any copy has been provided by Lucasfilm and accepted by the Registry.[9][10]

Financial Impact on Fox[edit]

20th Century Fox optioned Star Wars. When it unexpectedly became the decade's blockbuster, grossing $100 million in three months, Fox's stock soared from $6 to $25 per share and generated revenues of $1.2 million a day for the studio. Fox purchased the Aspen skiing and Pebble Beach golf corporations with the increased cash flow and still declared excess profits in 1977. Income from Star Wars re-releases, sequels, and merchandising enriched the studio in the following decades. Star Wars helped Fox to change from an almost bankrupt production company to a thriving media conglomerate.[5]

Impact on filmmaking[edit]

Star Wars fundamentally changed the aesthetics and narratives of Hollywood films,[11] switching the focus of Hollywood-made films from deep, meaningful stories based on dramatic conflict, themes and irony to sprawling special-effects-laden blockbusters, as well as changing the Hollywood film industry in fundamental ways. Before Star Wars, special effects in films had not appreciably advanced since the 1950s.[11] Star Wars was also important in the movement towards the use of computer initiated imagery in films.[2] The commercial success of Star Wars created a boom in state-of-the-art special effects in the late 1970s. There was increased investment in special effects. Companies like Industrial Light & Magic and Digital Productions were created to provide them. The 1977 Star Wars pioneered the genre pastiche, where several classic film genres are combined in one film. In Star Wars, the genres were science fiction, the Western, the war film, and the quasi-mystical epic.[5] Along with Jaws, Star Wars started the tradition of the summer blockbuster film in the entertainment industry, where films open on many screens at the same time and profitable franchises are important.[2][4] It created the model for the major film trilogy and showed that merchandising rights on a film could generate more money than the film itself did.[3]

The holographic video effect associated with Star Wars served as a technological tool for CNN during its 2008 Election Night coverage. CNN reporter Jessica Yellin and musician looked as though they were in the network's New York City studios talking face-to-face with hosts Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer, when in reality, they were in Chicago at Barack Obama's rally. The process involved Yellin and standing in front of a blue screen in a special tent, while being shot by 35 HD cameras.[12]

Furthermore, whole films have now been dedicated to the legends, such as Family Guy's tribute-spoof season premiere episode called "Blue Harvest", in dedication of the saga's 30th anniversary. A sequel to the episode as a parody to The Empire Strikes Back titled "Something, Something, Something, Dark Side" aired in the eighth season and another parody, "It's a Trap!", aired in the ninth season. In the film Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) decide to make a pornographic film called Star Whores to get them out of debt.


The Star Wars saga has had a significant impact on modern American pop culture. Both the films and characters have been parodied in numerous films and television.

Film parodies:

  • Hardware Wars, a 13-minute 1978 spoof which Lucas has called his favorite Star Wars parody.[13]
  • Spaceballs, a feature film by Mel Brooks which featured effects done by Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic.[14]
  • WarGames (1983), David Lightman hacks into the computer company called Protovision, A deep voice in a line says "Protovision, I have you now!", A reference of Darth Vader's line from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Lucasfilm itself made two Mockumentaries:




Fan films[edit]

Main article: Star Wars fan films

The Star Wars saga has inspired many fans to create their own non-canon material set in the Star Wars galaxy. In recent years, this has ranged from writing fan-fiction to creating fan films. In 2002, Lucasfilm sponsored the first annual Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards, officially recognizing filmmakers and the genre. Because of concerns over potential copyright and trademark issues, however, the contest was initially open only to parodies, mockumentaries, and documentaries. Fan-fiction films set in the Star Wars universe were originally ineligible, but in 2007 Lucasfilm changed the submission standards to allow in-universe fiction entries.[23] Lucasfilm, for the most part, has allowed but not endorsed the creation of these derivative fan-fiction works, so long as no such work attempts to make a profit from or tarnish the Star Wars franchise in any way.[24]

While many fan films have used elements from the licensed Expanded Universe to tell their story, they are not considered an official part of the Star Wars canon. However, the lead character from the Pink Five series was incorporated into Timothy Zahn's 2007 novel Allegiance, marking the first time a fan-created Star Wars character has ever crossed into the official canon.[25] Although since 2014, the novel became re-branded as Legends, the character has yet to reappear into the revised canon.


Impact on aeronautics[edit]

Expedition 45 'Return of the Jedi' crew poster

The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum had an exhibition called "Star Wars: The Magic of Myth". It was an exhibition of original production models, props, costumes, and characters from the first three Star Wars films.[26][page needed][27] In October 2007, NASA launched a space shuttle carrying an original lightsaber into orbit. The prop handle had been used as Luke Skywalker's lightsaber in Return of the Jedi. After spending two weeks in orbit, it was brought back to Earth on November 7, 2007, to be returned to its owner George Lucas.[28]

Organisms named after Star Wars characters[edit]

Characters and other fictional elements from Star Wars have inspired several scientific names of organisms.

Examples include:

Politics and Religion[edit]

Political Impact[edit]

When Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), a system of lasers and missiles meant to intercept incoming ICBMs, the plan was quickly labeled "Star Wars", implying that it was science fiction and linking it to Reagan's acting career. According to Frances FitzGerald, Reagan was annoyed by this, but Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle told colleagues that he "thought the name was not so bad."; "'Why not?' he said. 'It's a good movie. Besides, the good guys won.'"[32] This gained further resonance when Reagan described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire".

In television commercials, public interest group critics of the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative program deridingly referred to the orbital missile defense project as "Star Wars". Lucasfilm originally sued to try to enjoin this usage of its trademark, and lost.[33] Explaining its decision, the court said,

When politicians, newspapers, and the public generally use the phrase star wars for their convenience, in parody or descriptively to further a communication of their views on SDI, plaintiff has no rights as owner of the mark to prevent this use of STAR WARS. ... Since Jonathan Swift's time, creators of fictional worlds have seen their vocabulary for fantasy appropriated to describe reality. Trademark laws regulate unfair competition, not the parallel development of new dictionary meanings in the everyday give and take of human discourse.[33]

On May 4, 1995 during a defence debate[34] in the UK parliament, MP Harry Cohen related the Star Wars Day joke: "May the 4th be with you". Star Wars also made its mark in the 2001 census, when over 390,000 UK respondents entered their religion as Jedi.[citation needed]

On March 1, 2013, President Barack Obama spoke on the sequestration debate. He said that some people expect him to do a "Jedi mind meld" on the Republicans who refuse to deal.[35]

In the 2014 Ukrainian presidential elections the Internet Party of Ukraine tried to nominate a man named Darth Vader;[36][37] but his registration was refused because his real identity could not be verified.[38] A man named Darth Vader was a candidate at the 25 May 2014 Kiev mayoral election and the Odessa mayoral election of the same day for the same party.[39][40] In the 2014 Ukrainian parliamentary election the Internet Party let Darth Vader along other Star Wars characters such as Chewbacca, Padmé Amidala, and Yoda run for seats in the Ukrainian parliament.[41] In the election the party failed to clear the 5% election threshold (it got 0.36% of the votes) and also did not win a constituency seat and thus no parliamentary seats.[42][43][44]

In 2015, as a part of the decommunization process in Ukraine, a statue of a Vladimir Lenin was modified into a monument to Darth Vader at the territory of Pressmash plant in Odessa.[45][46]

Religion (Jediism)[edit]

Main articles: Jediism and Jedi census phenomenon

There is a real religion based on Star Wars. Their followers follow a modified version of the Jedi Code, and they believe in the concept of The Force as an energy field of all living things, which "surrounds us... penetrates us" and "binds the galaxy together", as is depicted within Star Wars movies, although without the fictional elements such as telekinesis.[47][48] Many citizens around the world answer list their religion as Jedi during their countries respective Census, among them Australia and New Zealand getting high percentages.[49][50] A petition in Turkey to build a Jedi Temple within a University, also got international media attention.[51]

Celebrity fans[edit]

Actors and comedians[edit]



Between 2002 and 2004, museums in Japan, Singapore, Scotland and England showcased the Art of Star Wars, an exhibit describing the process of making the Star Wars trilogy.[63]

In 2013, Star Wars became the first major motion picture translated into the Navajo language.[64][65]

In the Honorverse novel The Shadow of Saganami, Talbot Sector Governor Estelle Matsuko, Baroness Medusa, states that she does not want the Manticoran Marines to start looking like Imperial stormtroopers to the local systems.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]