Gareth Edwards has always been effusive in his praise for Star Wars and its creator, George Lucas. In Edward’s mind, Lucas had mastered bringing together a pastiche of his favorite films and genres, and with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the British director would get the opportunity to do the same. Edwards has spoken heavily about his influences for the story about the grand heist of the Death Star plans.
The director himself explained the need for genre-marriage. In a recent interview, Edwards said, “Star Wars is a melting pot of different genres. It’s funny because we’re the first spin-off, people ask the equivalent movie comparison in the real world? I always felt like there isn’t just one. For it to be Star Wars there has to be lots of different ones and blend them together, which is what George did so well. Star Wars is a bit of a Western, a bit of science fiction and a Biblical epic. We didn’t want to pick just one.”
They definitely picked more than one movie to emulate, so we’ve compiled Gareth Edward’s 18 Films That Inspired Rogue One.
18. Zero Dark Thirty
When Gareth went looking for a Director of Photography for the film, he didn’t look for someone who only knew how to shoot a grand vista, he wanted an eye that could understand how to shoot a scene embedded in the realities of war. Gareth Edward brought in the man who helped Kathryn Bigelow capture the cinematic hunt for Osama Bin Laden on film, Greig Fraser.
The director discussed some of the nuance with Complex, “Greig [Fraser], our DP, shot Zero Dark Thirty. It’s funny, I love that end sequence in that movie, but Greg would be frustrated because he’d say, ‘Oh, I couldn’t move any of the walls out the way. I couldn’t get the shots I wanted, because we were in a real helicopter.’ So when we came to build our U-Wing, originally there was this idea that we were gonna remove the walls so we could shoot, and we said no. So the whole thing was built like a real helicopter, and he was stuck, only being able to film what he could as if this thing was really flying. It’s potentially frustrating, but the reality is that subconsciously when you’re watching it as an audience, even if you can’t explain why, it feels more real. The limitations add to the realism.”
17. Seven Samurai
Akira Kurosawa’s films are an influence for the entire Star Wars saga, but the first one to become synonymous with Rogue One was Seven Samurai. The two films are being compared by a swath of critics from Vulture to the Christian Science Monitor. Before them all, Slashfilm broke the story in 2014. At the time Germain Lussier wrote, “As rumor has it, the story follows a group of bounty hunters who were hired for the job — think the Seven Samurai or Suicide Squad meets Ocean’s Eleven in the world of Star Wars.”
While it would turn out the bounty hunters were part of their own ill-fated Josh Trank film, audiences would receive a film closer in tone to the Wild Bunch than Ocean’s Eleven, though Ocean’s Eleven has been specifically cited by ILM’s John Knoll. Kurosawa’s effect on film is certainly not limited to the Star Wars franchise, inspiring directors like John Sturges, who would make The Magnificent Seven.
16. Thin Red Line
Terrence Malick’s Thin Red Line was revered in its depiction of the Guadal Canal Campaign of World War II. It was Malick’s return to filmmaking after a 20 year hiatus. The film expertly weaves the narrative of multiple soldiers on the front without losing sight of the atrocities of war. Edwards acknowledged the film when discussing influences with Fandango, “Films that I used in there that got high score were… a little of Thin Red Line”.
Bridging six distinct interweaving arcs into the storyline of a larger Star Wars universe while also staying on target to remind audiences the price of war, Gareth Edwards has clearly picked up the torch Malick ignited. Though hesitant to put himself on an equal footing with the master filmmaker, Edwards surmised his Malick-ian aspirations thusly: “I don’t think in any way we achieved the level of those movies, but we tried to set a really high bar for ourselves.”
15. Blue Velvet
When searching for the next hot director to take over the Star Wars franchise after Irvin Kirshner pretty much killed it on Empire Strikes Back, one name that came up seems surprising. David Lynch is one of our most unique storytellers. Though some fans have ideas on what Lynch would have done with the Star Wars, Lynch says he had next to zero interest interest in directing the next movie. He met with George Lucas and claims to have gotten a headache during the Star Wars creator’s presentation introduction of wookiees.
While Saw Gerrera is clearly an interpretation of the extremism of the heroes, sacrificing much of himself in his crusade, compared to the villains’ extremism in Darth Vader, he is also a bit of a nod to Dennis Hopper’s NSFW performance as Frank in Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Both act mildly, if not totally, crazy as they huff away at their breathing masks. This isn’t the only Dennis Hopper performance referenced in the film as the director told us about the late actor’s influence on Riz Ahmed’s Imperial defector: “You’re more like Bodhi. So I wanted to put someone in there that reflected that. He started off like a Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now-type character and it just evolved because Riz is so fantastic.”
Ridley Scott has been name-checked a number of times throughout Gareth Edwards’ recent promotional tour. The director has always counted Ridley Scott as a cinematic god, worshipped and discussed whenever someone asks his influences. During press for his debut movie, Monsters, he set the bar for success at finding out Ridley Scott had liked the movie. Ridley’s contributions to the world of science fiction get a nod in Rogue One as Edwards acknowledged to Fandango, “there’s a planet in our film that’s very much inspired by Alien.”
LV426, the future xenomorph infested colony of Ripley’s nightmares, gets an homage in the planet Eadu, home to the Imperial kyber refinery that Galyn Erso operates. The rain and unique stalagmite-laden surface mimic the conditions the Nostromo crew faced in Alien as they landed to investigate the “Space Jockey’s” crashed ship. How many movies was Prometheus supposed to be a prequel for again?
13. Guns of Navarone
You may not know the name John Knoll, but the Chief Creative Officer at special effects powerhouse Industrial Light and Magic is the reason Rogue One exists. In addition to creating Photoshop, the wunderkind ILM fanboy was the tech supervisor on the prequels and originally conceived of the mission to steal the Death Star plans as an idea for a failed Star Wars TV series. Knoll told Vanity Fair, “Imagine a Mission: Impossible-style spy or infiltration mission into the core, the very heart of the Empire’s military industrial complex, the most secure facility in the Empire. You have a small band of experts with complementary skills who, together, are able to do these amazing things.”
After Disney purchased the company and word got around about the standalone movies, Knoll put his pitch together and passed it along. Kathleen Kennedy loved it. Knoll explained the inspiration for the tale at Celebration 2016’s Rogue One panel, “I’ve always loved these films where you have a small group of people with complementary skills who come together to do something amazing, like you see in commando films, films like Guns of Navarone, caper films like Ocean’s Eleven, things like that… the original Mission: Impossible TV show.”
12. Reservoir Dogs
While you see hints of it peppered throughout his Star Wars Story, several scenes in a galaxy far, far away are a not to one of Edwards’ favorite movies. Beyond just using the structure of six criminals coming together for a mystery heist, Edwards was motivated to give Saw Gerrera a streak of Blonde from the film Reservoir Dogs. In much the same way that Mr. Blonde is unmoved by a police officer’s protestations of innocence before being tortured, Saw Gerrera tested the truth behind Bodhi Rook’s word while maliciously enjoying the infliction of a telepathic alien.
Edwards has gone on at length about his devotion to Reservoir Dogs. Telling audiences in while promoting WB’s Godzilla , Tarantino’s first feature “knocked me for six when I was sixteen.” He continued, “I guess I’d seen a few foreign films and stuff, but it really had that spirit, like the rebellious sort of story telling in that movie. I thought it was just perfection, the structure of it and everything and how brave and different it was.”
11. Black Hawk Down
Veteran effects supervisor Neil Corbould got drafted into service on Rogue One. The Black Hawk Down prosthetics specialist would help bring a hefty dose of practical reality to the Star Wars effort. Corbould also worked on Saving Private Ryan, helping to create the cinematic storming of Normandy on D-Day. Look to the beach scenes on Scarif, which combine the intensity of Black Hawk Down and Apocalypse Now.
At Star Wars Celebration in 2015, Lucasfilm story team member Pablo Hildago said some of the movie’s inspirations were Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. “It’s called Star… Wars,” Edwards added. Black Hawk Down was the dramatic retelling of the pitched Battle of Mogadishu in 1993. The film was directed by Edwards’ favorite, Ridley Scott. Considering his devotion to Scott and his coopting of his effects team, Edwards most certainly had some Black Hawk Down inspired notes for a galaxy far, far away.
From before he even got the job, Baraka had already influenced how Gareth Edwards would visualize Rogue One. In 2012, Edwards ranked Baraka as the 3rd greatest movie of all time. Gareth discussed his process with Complex, “One of the first things I do is grab imagery and put together a document, a PDF, that is just full of thousands of images. For me, the films that I got a lot of images from were Apocalypse Now, Thin Red Line, Alien, Blade Runner, and a film called Baraka.”
When talking to Playlist, the director pointed toward the movie as being an influence specifically for Jedha. “A film called Baraka. It’s one of my favorite movies, that was a big reference,” Edwards shared. “Obviously, stylistically, we went handheld, but with Jedha you feel it a little bit more.”
9. Wizard of Oz
When about the film’s parallels, Gareth Edwards pointed to a movie few would have guessed. While the reporter was trying to get an impression of whether or not The Dirty Dozen was a major influence, Edwards demurred from the comparison and revealed another film that influenced him: The Wizard of Oz.
Gareth said in regards to The Dirty Dozen, “It was in terms of it was a mission movie and it was a group of people,” Edwards told our Kevin Polowy. “But it’s not like a list where you go, ‘Here, we’re going to go get these people.’ I personally found films like The Wizard of Oz a parallel as well. You have this woman who’s on this journey and along the way, people end up joining or coming together.”
“We started off with the basis of a military movie, like a mission movie,” Edwards further elaborated. “But if you just have that one genre and stick Star Wars on it, it’s not Star Wars. You need this other mix of things. You need the fairy tale. You need the biblical epicness. You need the sci-fi.”
8. Blade Runner
Gareth Edwards hasn’t been shy about his praise of Ridley Scott’s movies. As we mentioned when discussing Alien’s influence above, Scott’s work inspired the entire look of a planet. In much the same way, Blade Runner inspired the look of the man-made sets. While we don’t get Blade Runner’s sleek cityscapes, the influence is still readily apparent.
“Blade Runner was a useful tool as well because of the interiors,” he said. “We’re all very familiar with the original Star Wars movies, but when you’re going to branch out and try and do something different without copying Star Wars, there are very few films that got it right, in terms of visually looking really good and haven’t dated, but were from that early ‘80s time. And Blade Runner really stood the test of time and I love the design in it. So it was really good for ways of doing interior rooms and ships.”
7. Saving Private Ryan
No director working today can ignore Steven Spielberg’s influence on their career. Spielberg’s mastery of the craft has made him a presence in every genre imaginable. When discussing his top three filmmaking heroes to promote Godzilla, Edwards apologetically named Spielberg second, “Steven Spielberg, I’m sorry this is a really obvious answer to this question, but Close Encounters, Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET… He’s kind of achieved the holy grail of filmmakers.”
The Rogue One director would acknowledge the Revenge of the Sith contributor’s WWII visuals in the Star Wars Story. In an interview with The Playlist, Edwards said, “Obviously, it goes without saying that Saving Private Ryan was an influence. Spielberg from a directing point of view is my hero who I grew up with and Saving Private Ryan is a phenomenal piece of work, and so yes, there’s a fair bit of it in the film. It’s a mixture of stuff and these movies are all my kind of heroes.”
6. Band of Brothers
When Edwards first spoke about Rogue One, he mentioned they would be delving into “the nature of war.” Picking up the factually-based story of Easy Company as it journeyed through World War II, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers elaborated on the details of what US service men went through in preparation for and during the invasion of Europe. The mini-series didn’t just inspire elements of Rogue One– the executive producer would oversee the movie as well.
In 2003, Tartokovsky tried to make a Star Wars animated movie “with a Band of Brothers-feel to it.” The Clone Wars aired to promote Revenge of the Sith, with many of the ideas it introduced being revisited later in the CG Clone Wars series. When reintroducing the style now however, Gareth Edwards would have the benefit of Tony To, EP on Band of Brothers and The Pacific, as co-exec producer on the film and president of production at Lucasfilm overall. It would seem the replacement of George Lucas’ “Dirty Dozen” of the past will make way for a “Band of Brothers.”
Eagle-eyed fans noticed the real world location of London tube station Canary Wharf in trailers leading up to Rogue One. Subbing for areas of the Imperial installation on Scarif, the inclusion of Canary Wharf is also a reference to THX-1138, George Lucas first feature film. Lucas used the BART in San Francisco futuristic background for the film. Canary Wharf was also a location used by Edwards in his short Collabor8te: “Factory Farmed”, which got him the attention to make Monsters, just as THX-1138 was the short that got George Lucas the attention to get funding for a feature version.
Another THX-sized Easter egg left in Rogue One are the data vault operational controls being similar in design to the controllers in the android factory THX-1138 works in. Gareth Edwards mentioned the movie several times in lists of films that influenced him, though he has yet to go into heavy details about particulars. In the same interview with Fandango where he revealed Eadu was based on Scott’s LV426, he mentioned Lucas’ similarly dystopic vision, “Films that I used in there that got high score were… Blade Runner, THX-1138 and of course the original Star Wars.”
4. Hidden Fortress
When looking for reference to create Rogue One, Edwards would not only look at modern masters, but also back to films that inspired Lucas directly. The director cited classic Hollywood sci-fi as an inspiration for his desired career. When discussing inspirations for his breakout indie film Monsters the director said, “The obvious ones, first stop is Star Wars… But the non-obvious ones would be B-movies, like…actually, they’re really not B-movies, they were A-movies back then. But War of the Worlds, and Forbidden Planet, and A Thing from Another World, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Anything around from that era I love.”
When discussing further influence this year, he added the importance of what is the backbone of Star Wars, “Asian cinema. When Lucas started developing Star Wars he had inspirations and it grew into this thing we now know. He went back to his inspirations like Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress. Parallel with that, we were trying to create these spiritual characters in our film who ended up being Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen). Chris Weitz came up with those two characters who could represent war and peace. I had just been watching Fortress and I loved that C3-P0 and R2-D2 grew out of these two bickering Asian characters. So we went back to the roots and cast two of the best Asian actors in the world. Baze and Chirrut are like the yin and yang of war and peace.”
3. Battle for Algiers
Fans of Star Wars’ historical allegory needn’t worry that corporate parent Disney would set aside the trilogy’s real world analogies. Edwards was very aware of Rogue One‘s need to develop a deeper, realistic connection to the material. The film the Battle for Algiers was held as an example for keeping the film rooted in the reality of an occupational force.
Thanks to an interview with Slashfilm, Edwards himself can explain , “Yeah, things like The Battle of Algiers. World War II was a massive influence on the movie in general and in that particular area. The visual parallel between the Imperial officers and the Nazis is quite clear in the original films. Jedha became a mixture of different things and it was, to some extent, occupied Paris as well, with people just trying to go about their lives with this force that’s taken over it. I think, to get the story right…you can get easily distracted by spaceships and robots. So what we would do was we would take all of the science fiction out of it and we would try to tell the story to one another as if it was World War II. Who would this person be? What are they trying to do? We did it as an experiment and it worked really well. Obviously, the Death Star becomes like the nuclear bomb, the race to be the first to have a super-weapon.”
2. Apocalypse Now
From its Huey-inspired U-Wing to a point of reference for Bodhi Rook, Apocalypse Now is just as much a part of Rogue One’s DNA as A New Hope. “When we started doing a war film,” the filmmaker told Blastr, “It was one everyone felt very passionate about.”
That everyone may as well include George Lucas. For years he attempted to get the war film made before abandoning it to focus on the Force. In the book The Making of Star Wars, Lucas recalled, “I wanted to do it, but I could not get it off the ground… Everywhere had that script at least once, and the main studios had it twice… So I figured what the heck, I’ve got to do something, I’ll start developing Star Wars.”
As far back as the promotional tour for Monsters, Edwards has lauded Francis Ford Coppola’s work as a standard bearer. When asked for his take on Avatar, his response may as well have been about the notorious prequels, “I don’t think I’d have done it all in CG. The forests…I would have tried to have done that with real trees and stuff. You know, technically it’s amazing what they’ve done on that film, but stylistically, it feels constrained by the fact that it was CG, that it has the cameras floating perfectly everywhere. I mean, put it this way: forget they’re aliens, right? Stylistically it’s not exactly Apocalypse Now, is it? And I think stylistically Apocalypse Now is one of the greatest films ever made—that’s from a directing point of view. ”
1. Star Wars
The most obvious inspiration for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is right there in its title. Including it in his list of greatest movies of all-time, Edwards has been vocal about his love for the galaxy far, far away since he was a toddler. While promoting Godzilla t.he director said, “I don’t really remember before Star Wars, I was kind of 2 when it came out. Life always had Star Wars in it, either the toys or the movies. So, he plays a big part in why I got into filmmaking.”
Getting into more specifics, during his press tour for his debut film Monsters, Edwards stated some real changes he would make if he were in control of the saga. Keeping the action away from the well-trodden planets, and perhaps explaining why we never see inside Jedha’s Temple.
Gareth explains, “In the original Star Wars films, I thought Tatooine, Endor and Coruscant, I thought in our world, they were like Newcastle, some town in Morocco, and some obscure city in New Zealand. But when they re-did the special edition, and they had all those celebration shots at the end of Jedi, and they went to Tatooine, Endor and Coruscant, or whatever they did. I thought: ‘Oh, right. So, they went to Paris, New York, and London.’ It reduced the world to me. I felt like it was a bigger world when these characters occupied a tiny part of a city we never saw. So, the more you show off, the more the world gets smaller if that makes sense.”
Did you notice any other movie references in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? Let us know in the comments!