The Star Wars franchise, one of the most beloved and enduring in pop culture, has built a complex universe since it first captured the world’s imagination in 1977. However, due to the unique structure of its film releases, a question often arises among both newcomers and long-time fans alike: What is the first Star Wars movie? In this article, we will discuss two perspectives on what can be considered the “first” Star Wars movie – looking at it from both the release order and the chronological order within the Star Wars universe.
‘A New Hope’: The First Star Wars Movie by Release Order
In terms of release order, the first Star Wars film was Episode IV – A New Hope. Originally released simply as Star Wars by 20th Century Fox on May 25, 1977, this science fantasy epic was written and directed by George Lucas. A New Hope follows the adventures of a young farm boy, Luke Skywalker, as he gets embroiled in a galaxy-wide conflict between the evil Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
A New Hope was a groundbreaking film for its time, with revolutionary visual effects and a compelling storyline that captivated audiences. Its critical and commercial success led to two sequels, creating what is now known as the original trilogy. However, in the context of the internal chronology of the Star Wars universe, A New Hope is not the first chapter of the story.
The Phantom Menace: The First Star Wars Movie Chronologically
If we consider the chronological sequence of events within the Star Wars universe, Episode I – The Phantom Menace is the first film. Released more than two decades after “A New Hope,” on May 19, 1999, The Phantom Menace kicks off the prequel trilogy, which delves into the history leading up to the original films.
The Phantom Menace, also written and directed by George Lucas, takes place roughly three decades before the events of A New Hope. It provides the backstory of key characters like Anakin Skywalker (who would later become Darth Vader) and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and sets up the political and social conditions that lead to the rise of the Galactic Empire.
Navigating the Star Wars Universe
The way the Star Wars saga was released — with the original trilogy coming before the prequel trilogy and followed by the sequel trilogy — might confuse those new to the franchise. Yet, this unique storytelling approach is part of what makes Star Wars so captivating and enduring. Whether you choose to watch the films in release order or chronologically, each journey offers a unique perspective on this iconic universe.
Image: Star Wars