The first Star Wars film was released on May 25, 1977. Some who were around back then remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday. Lucasfilm is throwing a five-day party for the anniversary in Los Angeles, where fans are awaiting the rumored announcement of a new film. Wanna celebrate? For starters, you can bake an anniversary cake. Or catch up with the original cast members. Or just remember the first time you saw Star Wars. Those of you who were not yet born in 1977 have no idea what an experience it was to see this movie, without knowing what to expect. But I asked around and found some folks who were willing to share their memories of that first viewing.
First off, my own recollection, as it were.
In 1977, most theaters didn’t have multiple screens, and new movies didn’t go to every small town on opening weekend. So it was later in the summer when Star Wars became available in my area. I was working at a tourist trap near a state park for the summer. The guy I was seeing and his roommate wanted to see this new science fiction film I had never heard of. We had a few daiquiris before driving about 40 miles to the nearest theater, where it was opening night locally. I believe the guy driving was a bit more sober than I was, but he drove like a maniac to get there in time. Its all a bit fuzzy now, but I fell asleep in the theater and missed most of the film. I awoke as the medal ceremony was showing. All the way back, the two guys were raving about how great the movie was, and I felt a bit cheated. But it didn’t take much to talk them into seeing it again a few days later, when I was properly impressed. Each time I’ve seen a new Star Wars movie since then, I get a little flashback of that summer when I see the opening crawl. Maybe that’s why I seem a little obsessed for a woman my age.
Chris Garlington of Death by Children wrote about it a couple of years ago:
In 1977 I was roaming the unfinished apartments near my own, racing my bike through lake-sized parking lot puddles and drawing tits on the walls. I was grumbly and glum, besieged by some haunting guilt, living in a part of the world ill defined and gripped by a sadness and horror from a war that had overstayed its welcome and killed the children to boot. People were alcoholic, poor as fuck, pissed off, unemployed, and waiting for some kind of leadership. Nixon had let us down, fucked up no matter whom you asked. Gerald Ford was a Marx brother stand in for a president and when Carter stepped up, his fucking economic example-setting pissed off everybody. White House fundraisers with a cash bar and peanuts? Was he insane?You can read Chris' entire post here.
Then Star Wars came out. Fucking hell. You want to know why that thing exploded? Besides the fact that it blew our minds on an eye candy level never seen before, besides being an act of technological magick so brilliant and so perfectly executed that no one was unaffected by it . . . the reason people stood up and cheered is because the Death Star was blown up--by one guy.
Admin at JTRForums remembers it well:
Actually, my most vivid memory of Star Wars is that of the previews, not the film itself. You should have heard the cheers in the theater when the first Imperial Cruiser appeared onscreen in that preview, signifying, for the first time ever, that dazzling special effects had finally arrived in a science-fiction film. (Never mind the fact that you should not have been able to hear all those sounds in the vacuum of space.) Talk about anticipation! My next-vivid memory is how crowded the theater was when I did finally see the film that summer of 1977 - there was not an empty seat in the house - and how noisy the crowd was. I missed a good deal of dialogue and had to see it several more times to catch everything. Hmmm - maybe that was their plan all along. Today, however, I find the film painful to watch. Dialogue is corny, acting is hammy, scripting is, well, Lucasesque at best, and one is left wondering why hordes of Imperial Stormtroopers are such bad shots relative to a princess who should have never even held a blaster before using one the first time. And don't even get me started on Episode I......
From Actor212 at Simply Left Behind:
The first time I saw Star Wars was the week after it opened, at the Loew's 86th Street Theatre, which was one of the last grand movie houses in New York City, with newly-installed Dolby stereo, and a wide-screen. For months afterwards, I styled my hair like Luke Skywalker-- yes, I even had hair, and it was blonde, dammit!-- I was so blown away by the movie. The scenes I remember best are when Luke is standing on top of a mound at sunset, pondering his fate of being stuck on a desert planet, the first hyperspace scene (boy, weren't we all blown away by that!), and practically crying when Artoo Detoo comes out all shiny and fixed in the medal awards ceremony.
Wendell Wit wrote up his memories a couple of years ago for MSNBC:
...I was working part-time at a Los Angeles radio station as a Second-String Sidekick, where a strange turn of telephone-based events had almost earned me a Guinness World Record for the Longest Wait on Hold. After that adventure in endless waiting, I was understandably hesitant to stand in long lines for a mere movie, but it only took about three weeks for my radio personality boss to christen me The Only Human Being Who Hasn't Seen “Star Wars.”
Read Wendell's entire story at MSNBC.
Anita from Say No To Crack wasn't even born in 1977, but well remembers her first Star Wars experience:
When I was 4, my hometown was struck by over 36 inches of snow overnight. Since I was only a little over 3 feet tall at the time, my parents wouldn't let me go outside until the walk was shoveled. Instead, my Dad suggested we watch "Star Wars" which was debuting that morning on HBO. To a 4 year old, this sounded like a horrible alternative to cartoons or a day in the snow. Not surprisingly, from the opening sequence we were glued to the set. By the end of the movie, my brother and I were jumping off of furniture, fighting with broomstick light sabers, and causing so much trouble that our parents threw us out of the house and let us take our chances in the snow. All day was Star Wars day in the snow - we tried to build a Snow Darth Vader (who looked like a tiny snowman carrying a red broomstick handle and wearing a black coat, I think my Mom still has a picture somewhere), and built tunnels in the snow to pretend like we were from Luke's home planet (we both wanted to be the little guys with glowing eyes). It is one of my earliest, and fondest, memories.
Mike Ashley of It Occurred to Me remembers:
It's really been 30 years? I was only .....? I first saw Star Wars from the "stiff-neck" seats - you know, the ones where you get whiplash and crossed-eyes from trying to follow the action on a screen that feels as if it were an appendage surgically attached to the tip of your nose! I was stunned, mystified and delighted at the incredible special effects and that stirring score by John Williams. (The only other movie even close to giving me that kind of reaction was "Raiders of the Lost Ark.") Two thumbs and two big toes up!!! A science fiction fan since my youth, I had found and seen the Holy Grail! Bar none, it was the best and most exhilarating movie experience ever!
PAgent was really impressed:
By the time I was 12 years old, I was already a science fiction fanatic, busily working my way through the oeuvre of Robert A. Heinlein, with side excursions into the works of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov. So you might imagine that, when a movie called "Star Wars" came out, I would find a way to see it, and I managed to wrangle a trip to the movies with my neighbor, Mike. We sat together in the darkened theatre as the music swelled, and words started scrolling up the screen: "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." Mike couldn't read fast enough to keep up with the text crawl, and hissed "What's it say?" So I started reading it out loud to him: "Episode IV, A NEW HOPE. It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire..."
Can you imagine the effect those words had on a 12-year-old sci-fi fan? It was like finding the Golden Ticket in a Wonka bar. This movie had everything; spaceships, robots, laser pistols, aliens, a farmboy destined for greatness, and best of all, a villain that was genuinely frightening. You youngsters that have seen Star Wars on the small screen, and that have suffered through the three prequels, you have no idea what a bad-ass Darth Vader was in the original film. He was jet-black evil incarnate. Even the sound of his breathing was malevolent. And that voice! It sent shivers down your spine.
I'm not going to say Star Wars changed my life, but it absolutely set the standard for the kind of experience that I wanted from a film. And even though Mike and I had drifted apart by the time we hit high school, I remained loyal to the franchise. Even now, when I can see the flaws in the films clearly, the sight of those blue letters slowly scrolling up the screen and into infinity still makes my heart beat a little faster: "During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy...."
Gary of Wulfweard the White remembers:
I saw Star Wars with a group of friends at the Odeon Cinema Leicester Square London when it was first released. I was surprised by the length of the queue, something I had never seen before.
I had heard the special effects were something to behold but was gobsmacked when I witnessed it for myself. I was brought up on SciFi movies of the 60's with wobbly sets and flying saucers on strings. Feeling the rumble of the Imperial Star Destroyer in the first scene set the scene for what was to come.
Oh this one is easy. I was 17 and visiting my cousin in Boston for a few days while he was a student at Harvard. He took me to a big theatre to see it. I really had no idea what we were going to see but I’ll never forget it. I still remember standing outside to get tickets and I was wondering what all the fuss was about.
One Useless Man from Useless Advice from Useless Men was another very young one:
My Dad took me to see Star Wars for my 5th birthday. The opening space battle! The droids! The movie was awesome to a kid. I was locked into the screen. Nothing could distract me. A few minutes later, Darth Vader entered. I was so scared, I hid under my chair.
I don't remember much after that... But I think it was good.
But I still wet my pants a little when James Earl Jones says "This... is CNN."
Jules at Theater of the Absurd had a simple but fond memory:
I didn't see much of the movie cuz I was making out in the back of the theater with someone who OBVIOUSLY wasn't a science fiction geek! ;)
You are also welcome to leave memories of your first time in the comments. Enjoy the 30th anniversary of Star Wars with some YesButNoButYes posts: