18 Classic Films Greatly Influencing The Star Wars Franchise

George Lucas has admitted in various interviews that he drew inspiration for Star Wars from dozens of Japanese samurai movies and classic western movies. You can see the samurai influence in lightsaber dueling scenes.

In addition, several pieces of literature, including Shakespeare, J.R. Tolkiens Lord of the Rings, and Flash comic books, helped inspire Lucas's vision for his legendary Star Wars franchise. Here are fifteen classics he admitted referencing for his vision. 

1. The Hidden Fortress (1958)

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Image Credit: Albex/Toho Co., Ltd.

One of the most discussed film influences on George Lucas' Star Wars: A New Hope is Akira Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress. Lucas himself has admitted his affinity for the film, as well as the parallels it draws. For example, The Hidden Fortress begins with two quarreling peasants wandering through desert terrain.

George Lucas admits that he was intrigued by the film telling the story from the lowest character's point of view versus the heroes in the story. Also, they inspired his droid duo, R2-D2, and C-3PO. 

Additionally, the plot follows an old general and a princess fighting to escape a war between provinces with the help of the two peasants. Sound familiar? Ultimately, the general and princess evolve into Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia.

However, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace bears a more striking resemblance. A wise general and a princess working together to ensure her and her people's safety are reminiscent of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Padme Amidala‘s (Natalie Portman) storyline. Especially with the use of handmaidens as doubles.

Phantom Menace echoes The Hidden Fortress in that aspect. Sabé is one of Queen Amidala's handmaidens used as a decoy. Much like Yuki's sister is her decoy in The Hidden Fortress. The similarities are showcased in this comparison video. 

Lucas was also inspired by other Akira Kurosawa films, including Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Dersu Uzala, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro.

2. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

You can draw many parallels between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and Lawrence of Arabia. First, there's the sand. Both films have beautiful shots of desert terrain as the backdrop to the story. Next, Lucas filmed Attack of the Clones at the Plaza de España in Seville, Spain, which in Lawrence of Arabia is the site of the British Army headquarters in Cairo.

Attack of The Clones Mirroring Lawrence of Arabia

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Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

However, the scene in Lawrence of Arabia where Allenby and Dryden discuss whether to give artillery to Lawrence's Arab troops directly pays homage to when Padme and Anakin walk and talk around the Theed palace on planet Naboo.

3. The Dam Busters (1955)

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Image Credit: Associated British Pathé

The Dam Busters is a World War II British film based on the true story of a Royal Air Force (RAF) raid whose mission is to destroy three dams deep in German territory. To succeed, they need to make an impossible shot at precisely the right speed at just the right angle to create an explosion severe enough to blow the dam.

For the mission to succeed, every bomber must deploy their bomb in the exact spot with unprecedented precision, so they will skip over the water to hit the target. Are you having Death Star mission flashbacks? The equally impossible shot of only three meters.

Also, the proton torpedo in A New Hope mirrors the necessity of hitting the precise spot on the water to destroy the dam in The Dam Busters. Everything from the debriefing to the mission's completion is similar, if not exact, as demonstrated in this awesome video.

3. Ben-Hur

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Image Credit: Loew's, Inc.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace draws inspiration from Ben-Hur in several ways. First, both Ben-Hur and Anakin Skywalker were slaves. Second, the depiction of the historical Roman-Jewish conflict with a Roman Empire ascendant, threatening to annihilate the Jewish rebels on an extinction level shadows the strife between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire.

Anakin Skywalker Mimicking Ben-Hurs Chariot Race

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Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

The chariot race in Ben-Hur inspired the race in Phantom Menace. For example, the pivotal moment when Sebulba's Pod attaches itself to Anakin's Pod mimics, nearly shot for shot, when Messala (Stephen Boyd) accidentally locks wheels with Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston).

Ben-Hur‘s Chariot scene also inspired parts of the Endor speeder chase in Return of the Jedi, including a sequence where two speeders accidentally interlock. Lastly, the victory parade at the end of Menace also makes many visual references to Ben-Hur, notably the grand procession through the streets of Rome to honor Ben-Hur’s adoptive father, the Roman consul Quint Arrius.

 

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4. Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe (1940)

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Image Credit: Universal Pictures

It's no secret that George Lucas drew inspiration from The Flash comic books. However, similarities are also noticeable in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe. For example, the enemies in both films wore helmets as part of their attire, creating a faceless enemy the audience doesn't mourn. 

The sequence of events occurring after they board the Death Star mimics the scenes in Flash when he disguises himself to rescue Dale from Ming's Palace. Finally, in A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi teaches Luke about the force and how to shut off the Death Star's tractor beam. Similarly, Flash looks to Dr. Zarkov as a wise teacher.

Every Star Wars film begins with the introduction of text running across the screen, informing the story's plot. While that concept wasn't new to the Golden Age of Hollywood, it is a famous intro to the Flash film, initially released in weekly chapters.

Ray guns, dogfighting spaceships, and the beastly animal ally Chewbacca are additional elements similar to the circumstances in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe.

5. The Guns of Navarone (1961)

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

Lucas then did an extremely clever coupling with the premise of Gregory Peck's headline, The Guns of Navarone, to add some real urgency to the proceedings of attacking a Death Star. 

The film takes place on a fictional Greek island called Navarone in the Aegean Sea, where the Nazis have built a pair of radar-controlled super cannons. The guns threaten the evacuation of British troops on nearby Keros Island. This scene mirrors when the rebels left on the Yavin IV base are at risk of annihilation by the Death Star. 

In Guns of Navarone, Peck's squad of commandos race to destroy the Navarone super guns before the British transports reach their range. This scene, too, mimics the fleet's race to destroy the Death Star before it can fire on Yavin IV. These two concepts worked quite well in tandem.

A final point about inspiration from The Guns of Navarone, the Death Star's laser-firing sequence follows quite closely the firing sequence for the super guns on Navarone shot for shot.

6. The Godfather (1972)

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

Did you know that George Lucas based Luke Skywalker and Han Solo's friendship on his real-life friendship with Francis Ford Coppola? Likewise, Anakin's massacre on Mustafar, the Separatist Council's slaughter, and the Galactic Empire's declaration in Revenge of the Sith are similar to the montage of killings during the christening scene of Copolla's The Godfather.

While one is christened (Connie's baby in The Godfather/The Empire in Star Wars), the others are slaughtered simultaneously (Corleone's rival Dons in The Godfather/the Separatists in Star Wars).

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Image Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Post-Lucas director Rian Johnson admitted the final shots of The Last Jedi, where the Millennium Falcon door closes, are inspired by the final scene in The Godfather where a door closes on Michael Carleone. Additionally, George Lucas wanted Luke Skywalker from the sequel trilogy to draw inspiration from the cynic Colonel Kurtz from Coppola's Apocalypse Now.

Additionally, Jabba the Hutt‘s death scene in Return of the Jedi was inspired by the death of mafia henchman Luca Brasi. Leia strangles Jabba the Hut with her chains from behind, much like how Luca Brasi went out in The Godfather

 

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7. The Searchers (1956)

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The Searchers reference occurs in Star Wars when Luke Skywalker discovers the burning moisture farm. Also, the Tusken Raiders sequence in Attack of the Clones recalls the climactic ending in The Searchers.

However, The Searchers is not the only John Ford film from which Lucas drew inspiration. For example, Han's showdown with Greedo in Star Wars resembles a scene in another John Ford movie, Cheyenne Autumn. Incidentally, John Wayne was the voice of Imperial spy Garindan in A New Hope via stock audio. It was his last role in a film before his death. 

 

 

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Nonetheless, The Searchers proved to be the more influential Western. The Star Wars environmental iconography with depictions of sandy desolation mirror Ford's film beautifully. Especially the Tusken Raiders in Star Wars, mimicking the moment the Comanches murdered many characters in a raid during Ford's film. 

8. Casablanca (1942)

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

A New Hope resembles Casablanca in many regards, including desert cities, quarantine-like conditions make leaving difficult, and both films are anti-empire. The Empire in Casablanca, another Nazi film from Lucas, drew inspiration. 

Lucas swapped out the central focus of that movie, Rick's Café, for the Cantina, officially known as Chalmun's Cantina. The beginning scene, when the Gestapo officer steps off the plane, is nearly a shot-by-shot scene mirroring when Sidious walks off his shuttle to walk and talk with Darth Vader while walking the ranks of Stormtroopers. 

Chalmun's Cantina

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Image Credit: Wookieepedia

In the conversation between Ilsa and Laszlo near Casablanca's ending, Laszlo says, ‘I love you very much, my dear,' to which she replies, ‘Yes. Yes, I know.” Incidentally, in the famous carbonite-freezing scene in The Empire Strikes Back, Leia and Han kiss, and she says, “I love you,” and he replies, “I know.”

Han Solo resembles Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) and his world-weary cynicism. Similarly, Jabba the Hutt is depicted with a fez (hat) as an homage to the overweight character Signor Ferrari in Casablanca. Lucasfilm creative manager, Phil Szostak, confirmed this juicy tidbit of Star Wars trivia for the fandom.


Also, both seem fond of using the word “Kid.” The famous line “Here's looking at you kid” gets spun as “Great kid, don't get cocky.” Rick Blaine and Rick's Cafe on Han Solo and the Cantina. Lastly, the Mos Eisley spaceport sequence 45 minutes into A New Hope is a giant riff on the whole of Casablanca

9. Lost Horizon (1937)

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Image credit: Columbia Pictures

In another epic western, Lost Horizon, there is an emotional scene where the High Lama (Sam Jaffe) imparts his wisdom and secrets to the lead (Ronald Colman) before passing away peacefully. It is also almost shot-for-shot with the scene where Yoda dies in Return of the Jedi

Star Wars Holocron confirmed this with an awesome side-by-side image, “Did you know? Yoda's death in Return of the Jedi mimics, almost shot-for-shot, the death scene of the similarly mystical High Lama in Frank Capra's film Lost Horizon?”

10. THX1138 (1971)

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Another heavy influence is demonstrated by the George Lucas film THX 1138. Again, Lucas built a world where humanity appears to be controlled by a dystopian bureaucracy where robots serve as ‘friendly' faceless policemen. They are going off Terminator 2 vibes to me, but that film came much later.

Nonetheless, the human populace controlled by this bureaucracy lacks family ties and freedoms; indeed, they are ‘managed' by mandatory drug control. Moreover, it causes obedience and reduces the sex drive of the population (humans are raised by farming methods).

George Lucas has always been fascinated by population control. His short films before this covered such subjects. If we relate this to power, we can see how the Emperor demands complete control over the entire galaxy. Lucas riffed on these themes again in Attack of the Clones. Look at the clones being developed and this scene from THX1138.

Attack of The Clones and Thx 1138 Comparison

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Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The plot follows the title character THX 1138 as he and his female ‘mate' try to escape the rat race of the future. We discover how society functions as he rushes around discovering his true identity—like Luke Skywalker eventually does with his own.

While the Nazis primarily inspire the Storm Troopers, the Policemen in this movie are faceless, emotionless beings with the same characteristics.

Also, during the big chase where a background voice says, I think over some radio system, “I think I ran over a Wookiee back there on the expressway.” This comment suggests it may have influenced the naming of Chewbacca's species

11. The Triumph of The Will (1935)

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Image Credit: UFA

Not all of Lucas's inspiration came from samurai and western films. The Triumph of the Will was a German propaganda film commissioned by Adolf Hitler and the most controversial influence on Star Wars

It chronicles the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, which more than 700,000 Nazi supporters attended – a pivotal moment is Hitler entering the rally and walking up through the crowd of Nazis. Does that long walk seem familiar?

A New Hope Medal Ceremony

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It resembles the Star Wars medal ceremony where Chewie, Luke, and Han walk up to receive their medals from Princess Leia in A New Hope. Also, the Empire's troops are called Stormtroopers, the same as the German Shock Troopers in both World Wars. The Imperial Officers are dressed similarly to the clothing worn by Nazi officers. 

Additionally, Lucas dressed Darth Vader like a leather-clad Nazi, and there's no contesting that Star Wars match's the symmetrical formation of the Nazis in this disturbing rally imagery. 

Finally, The Force Awakens scene where Admiral Hux addresses his troops on Star Killer base also harkens back to this era and the imagery associated with Nazi propaganda. Side note: Harrison Ford also plays Indiana Jones and delivers this famous line in The Last Crusade, “Nazis. I hate these guys.”

12. 633 Squadron (1964)

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Image Credit: United Artists

The movie 633 Squadron features a heavy squadron sent to Norway to bomb a V-2 rocket fuel plant as the primary mission. However, a crucial side plot involves Norwegian resistance fighters seeking to disable the anti-aircraft guns protecting the fuel plant. Does that sound familiar? Think of Han Solo's mission to disarm the shield generator on the small moon of Endor in Return of the Jedi

 13. Forbidden Planet (1956)

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Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Forbidden Planet inspired Lucas, primarily with Robby the Robot being the key takeaway. When he first meets the spacemen from Earth, he volunteers, “I am at your disposal with 187 other languages along with their various dialects and sub-tongues.” He was a protocol droid, the same as golden rod C-3PO.

In Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn stabs the blast door with his lightsaber. The door melts, a nod to the invisible monster from the Id, which dissolves through the metal doors. 

 

 

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Legendary Star Wars supervisor John Knoll stated in the commentary for The Phantom Menace DVD that “The melting door scene is a direct homage to Forbidden Planet. So we looked at the melting Krell door in Forbidden Planet as inspiration.”

There's a further reference or ‘inspired moment' from Robby in A New Hope. At a point in Forbidden Planet, Alta tries several times to summon Robby with her remote control. He excuses his absence by having been busy taking an ‘oil bath.'

What does C-3PO do when he gets to Luke's moisture farm? He has an oil bath and exclaims, “Thank the maker! This oil bath is going to feel so good.” And as we know from the reveal in The Phantom Menace, Darth Vader is C-3PO's maker. So the line is doubly clever.

14. Metropolis (1927)

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Image Credit: Parufamet

However, the peasants from The Hidden Fortress and Robby the Robot were not the only inspiration for C-3PO. Fritz Lang's silent movie Metropolis is a German expressionist epic science-fiction drama. The glaring takeaway from this film is the inspiration for C3PO. 

C-3PO and R2-D2 Early Concepts

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Metropolis features a robot called Maria, a Maschinenmensch robot. Concept Designer Ralph McQuarrie used the look of this robot as part of his initial design work for C-3PO; the rest is history. 

15. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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Image Credit: Loew's, Inc

Many comparisons are drawn between Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz. For example, Dorothy and Luke live on a farm with their aunt and uncle. Also, they both are looking for something more. Each has complementary farmhands: Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory for Oz and C–3PO and R2-D2, respectively.

Each has their world turned upside down. Dorothy's world is thrown around by a tornado, and Luke's by the Vader's stormtroopers murdering his family.

Lastly, Roger Ebert's 1977 review of the film stated, “Star Wars is a fairy tale, a fantasy, a legend, finding its roots in some of our most popular fiction. The golden robot, lion-faced space pilot, and insecure little computer on wheels must have been suggested by the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz.”

16. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

George Lucas expressed in 1972, “2001: A Space Oddessey ultimate sci-fi film and Star Wars could never hope to come close to being as good.” Nevertheless, there are visual similarities. However, the most significant influence is the musical score. 

While Sci-fi films typically employed a synth-heavy electronic soundtrack. Stanley Kubrick used classical stock music during his editing and came to enjoy it and leave it in the final cut, making 2001 the first major science fiction film in years to use a musical score. John Williams' Star Wars score is notably one of the best and most recognizable pieces of music ever created. 

17. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

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Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

The special effects in the picture were The 7th Voyage of Sinbad‘s most significant influence on Star Wars. They were unlike anything prior. In particular, the level of stop-motion animation, color, and how it interacted with the environment.

Another noteworthy mirroring is when Sinbad and Princess, Parisa, are forced to swing across a chasm. The shot is almost identical to A New Hope‘s infamous rope swing with Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

18. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

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Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

It's easy to recognize Luke Skywalker resembling Errol Flynn's Robin Hood swag. For example, he marches into Jabba the Hutt's Palace and makes threats despite the closing trap with the same composure as Robin Hood when he delivers a royal deer to Prince John's feast.

Olivia DeHavilland's Maid Marion and Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia characters can draw a correlation. Not only is Olivia DeHavilland a strong-willed woman with her plan, but she also shares some of the same banter with Eroll Flynn that Carrie Fisher did with Harrison Ford.

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