Star Wars has inspired countless filmmakers and storytellers. Its innovations to story and technology have changed how films are conceived and made, and its influence on popular culture is massive even if it is difficult to quantify in its entirety. Many filmmakers who make movies today, including Spike Jonze (Her) and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Interstellar) have credited Star Wars as a major reason behind why they chose to become directors.
For this list, films were selected because the director or another person involved in the film-making production credited Star Wars directly. Additionally, the influence that Star Wars has on each film can be seen in the finished product, whether in the cinematography, characters, story, or technology used. While some films, like The Fifth Element, bare a lot of similarities to Star Wars, the director credits these similarities to an overlapping source material. Other films, which are direct parodies, homages, or tributes to Star Wars, have not been listed here. The films on this list have both been confirmed as inspirations and the influence from Star Wars is visible in the film.
Before you see Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week, be sure to watch these 10 Great Movies Inspired by Star Wars:
10. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott has repeatedly noted how Star Wars affected his film-making. Scott was shocked by how George Lucas utilized visual and audio affects, and the effect that he had on theater-goers. The success of Star Wars also helped to convince 20th Century Fox to greenlight the project, as the demand for science-fiction films suddenly made Alien a priority. Scott has also said that Star Wars made him consider the idea of a dark, grungy, and broken future within the world of science fiction – Scott took this idea to an extreme, describing the people in Alien as “truckers in space.”
Scott has also noted that the Star Wars formula for sequels pushed him to create Prometheus (2012) and the upcoming Alien: Covenant (2017). Like Star Wars, the Alien franchise has continued to produce films over the decades, and intends to continue into the decades to come.
9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Christopher Nolan has noted that Star Wars had a profound effect on him as a director and a storyteller. His film Interstellar (2014) pulls from many science fiction stories and influences, and illustrates his love for the genre. However, his Star Wars interest can also be seen in The Dark Knight trilogy, both in terms of structure – an origin story, a dark middle chapter, and a final battle of epic proportion – and in some of the characterization.
Nolan confessed in an interview that Bane, the main antagonist in the third installment, The Dark Knight Rises (2012), was “a little bit of Darth Vader.” Both characters are physically imposing, wear a mask, have a rasping breath and little patience for failure of their insubordinates. While Bane may not have had the fan-success of Darth Vader, he surely shares a number of characteristics with his inspirational predecessor.
8. Toy Story (1995)
Toy Story was Pixar Animation Studios first film – Pixar began as a division of Lucasfilm, which created a number of special effects divisions to create the Star Wars films. Pixar has continued to feature Star Wars references in its films, including The Incredibles, which has a speeder bike chase like the one in Return of the Jedi, and Wall-E, which used R2-D2’s creator and Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt to develop robot noises for Wall-E and Eve.
Toy Story‘s Buzz Lightyear comes from another galaxy far, far away, but the storyline of his fictional persona mimics the Star Wars universe. In addition to fighting Emperor Zurg, who has built a weapon that can destroy an entire planet, Buzz Lightyear’s sounds come directly from Star Wars, from the breathing that is heard in his helmet to the laser that he shoots (which Star Wars fans might recognize as a TIE fighter blaster). Buzz isn’t the only Star Wars fan. Sid, the bully who steals Buzz and Woody, interrogates Woody by asking him where the “Rebel base” is and where his “Rebel friends” are – a tactic that Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader employ on Princess Leia.
7. Akira (1988)
Katsuhiro Otomo’s post-apocalyptic story set in cyber-punk Neo-Tokyo is considered by many to be one of the greatest animated films of all time. Otomo has repeatedly said that Star Wars was an important influence for the development of Akira (1988). The espers from Akira could be compared to the Jedi, and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the revolutionaries who fight against them are in some ways is reminiscent of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
6. Independence Day (1996)
Dean Devlin, the producer and co-writer of Independence Day (1996), has said that Star Wars inspired him to make movies. Director Roland Emmerich, too, enrolled in film school after seeing Star Wars. Star Wars not only motivated them to create films; it also affected the kinds of films that they would go onto make, including the special-effects heavy blockbuster Independence Day.
While the aerial battles that occur in Independence Day are within earth’s atmosphere, they are clearly influenced by Star Wars, pulling from the visual shots, audio effects, and even dialogue from Star Wars airships and pilots. The impending pressure of a spacecraft able to wipe out all life on a planet, too, creates the same high-stakes scenario as A New Hope.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was seen as many fans and critics as Marvel’s attempt (and success) at a space opera. Director James Gunn has said that Star Wars was an influence for the film – and that seeing Star Wars changed his life. The immense influence that Star Wars had on Guardians of the Galaxy was not lost on moviegoers.
Peter Quill becomes the successor of both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, the fatherless chosen one who also happens to be a lovable outlaw. Quinn ends up leading a ragtag group of rebels against an evil force that looks to control the galaxy using the ability to destroy planets. Even the master and apprentice relationship of the villainous Ronan and the mysterious Thanos seems to mirror the Sith rule of two. The aerial dogfights, the larger-than-life stakes, and the journey of self-discovery – the list goes on and on – all pull from types and tropes that Star Wars perfected.
4. Moon (2009)
When Duncan Jones directed Moon (2009), starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey, he mimicked the visual effects technology of science fiction movies of the 1970s and 80s in order to emulate the “feel”. This meant that the production team, led by Alien visual effects and model maker Bill Pearson, created models of the rover and space station for sequences that happened outside of the space station.
The interior station shots were also filmed on a comprehensive set. In contrast to the many movies that relied on CGI in the 21st century, Moon relies on earlier effects that were practiced in Star Wars and the science fiction films that followed.
3. Serenity (2005)
Serenity (2005) along with Joss Whedon’s short-lived television show Firefly (2002-2003), both pull from Star Wars as an inspiration. Whedon has said that the Millennium Falcon inspired the titular ship Serenity, and the captain Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) has some similarities to Star Wars‘s stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder Han Solo. The props department of Firefly even repeatedly hid an action figure of Han Solo frozen in carbonite in the backgrounds of scenes of the television show.
Mal Reynolds acts as a Han Solo archetype, the dashing rogue who pretends that he only cares about his own self-interests, who ultimately goes from protecting himself to protecting his friends to protecting others. In Serenity, Mal fully makes the transition to hero, facing the Alliance, an evil government force that justifies its brutality by promoting order. The crew of Serenity, which for much of Firefly just strove to keep the ship flying, now becomes a group of rebellious heroes.
2. Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t the only Marvel movie that was inspired by Star Wars. The Russo brothers, who directed the second Captain America movie and are also set to direct Civil War (2016), told Kevin Feige that they saw a similarity between Winter Soldier (2014) and Star Wars, telling him, “You know this is Star Wars,“ because it is a dramatic epic where the people on opposing sides have strong ties – the Russo brothers described Bucky Barnes as like a brother to Steve Rogers, and the conflict between them is dynamic and emotional because of that bond.
Additionally, the Captain America trilogy splits a story over three movies, which was popularized by Star Wars. If the Russo brothers continue to take inspiration from Star Wars, then viewers can expect an emotionally-driven conclusion to the trilogy in Civil War.
1. Star Trek (2009)
The 2009 Star Trek was, perhaps unsurprisingly in hindsight, inspired by Star Wars – J. J. Abrams directed the franchise reboot of Star Trek and is now the director of the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which is a reboot in its own way. Abrams has stated that Star Wars had a major influence on his Star Trek, affecting the rhythm and comedy that appeared in the action flick. The writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, of the film also noted that Star Wars influenced how they approached the development of characters (the rocky start to Spock and Kirk’s friendship likened to Luke and Han’s) and the pacing and action sequences of the movie.
Star Wars was also, arguably, an influence on the original Star Trek films as well, which came out with the surge of science fiction movies that followed the initial release of Star Wars in the 1970s and 1980s.
Star Wars has inspired countless characters, plots, and universes – it’s also created new generations of film-makers and storytellers who want to make dynamic and complex movies. What other great films were influenced by Star Wars? Let us know in the comments.