As a video production agency and sci-fi boffins to boot, we love a bit of Star Wars. Star Wars Day is celebrated every May 4th (because, well, May the 4th be with you), which serves up a good excuse to reminisce about the franchise. Add to this the sad news that the actor who played Chewbacca, Peter Mayhew, passed away this week.

In honour of Star Wars and Mayhew, the Definition team has taken a look at how Star Wars changed the film industry. 

It created the iconic opening crawl

Name a more iconic film opening…we’ll wait. The opening credits, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”, followed by the Star Wars logo and the crawl text, has to be the most recognisable opening credits to any film ever made. It’s been used at the beginning of every Star Wars film, and has been parodied a thousand times over, serving up video inspiration decades after its conception.

Special effects

You can’t talk about how Star Wars changed the film industry without mentioning special effects. Star Wars was launched, somewhat ironically, in a time before computers and SFX (the 70s haircuts give the game away). CGI hadn’t yet been invented, so George Lucas and his team at Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) fashioned incredibly-detailed models of spaceships and used clever camera tricks and backdrops to bring the film to life. ILM made all of the robots and big set pieces themselves, and characters such as Chewbacca and C-3PO were played by real actors rather than being computer-generated.

Star Wars also pioneered sound effects – the eternal lightsaber swoosh being just one  example. Industrial Life and Magic would go on to pioneer CGI, which later featured in films such as Jurassic Park.

It started the whole movie-franchise thing

Movie tie-ins weren’t really a thing before Star Wars, and neither were cross promotional items like toys. Star Wars was the first film to prove that merchandising rights on a film can be just as valuable as the film itself. In 1978, Star Wars toys generated more than $100m in sales. Fast forward to 2011, and Star Wars toys generated more than $3bn, despite no new film being launched that year. Anyone born after the launch of Star Wars will remember playing with an action figure of their favourite movie character, whether that’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, Spiderman, Batman or the Ninja Turtles. If you’re interested in learning more about this, watch Netflix’s series The Toys That Made Us – there’s a great Star Wars episode featured.

New camera tech

The first Star Wars film was so revolutionary in the way it was shot, that a new piece of camera tech had to be created. Named after its creator, the Dykstraflex was a motion-controlled camera system which allowed the ILM team to create the illusion of stationary models moving quickly; handy for those starship battle scenes. The invention championed a new era of innovation in filmmaking, an inspiration for all of us in the video production industry to this day.

It redefined blockbusters

Star Wars changed the film industry forever by defining what makes a blockbuster film. Star Wars A New Hope is, according to Box Office Mojo, America’s second highest-grossing film (adjusted for inflation) after Gone With The Wind. Ever since Star Wars, we’ve come to expect a summer blockbuster…

It launched the science fiction boom

Star Wars was the first major science fiction blockbuster, and it launched the science fiction boom that still reigns supreme at the box office.

Star Wars changed the film industry and our culture in so many ways. And it’s still huge today – millions flock to the nearest cinema at midnight to watch the latest in the franchise. It’s up for debate whether there will ever be another franchise as big as Star Wars, but it will always be the first of its kind.

The underdog 

Before Star Wars launched, many thought the film would be a failure. In an underdog story for the ages, Star Wars went on to become a major box office hit and has influenced culture and filmmakers for decades. Just like Star Wars, businesses can win big if they try new things and produce high-quality content – in fact, it’s essential to success.

Contact Definition, you must… if you’re looking to create a film of your own. Just give our head of production, Jamie, a shout whenever you’re ready.