A long time ago, in a galaxy far ... okay, actually it was 20 years ago in 322 theaters. That's when "Star Wars" made its debut and stepped into movie history. The three movies made about $810 million in the United States alone before any re-release.
Creator and director George Lucas is re-releasing the three films with new sound and other computerized improvements and additions. Below we have summarized the trilogy, which tells the story of Luke Skywalker, his friends and the Force.
'Star Wars' (1977)
A Rebel force led by Princess Leia opposes the Empire, which rules the galaxy. The Empire's leaders are Grand Moff Tarkin, Lord Darth Vader, a former Jedi knight, and Emperor Palpatine. The Jedis once were the guardians of peace and justice.
The Empire is building Death Star, a planet-sized space station that can destroy planets in seconds. Leia is taken prisoner, but she has obtained the blueprints for the battleship and enters them into a robot R2-D2. She sends R2-D2 and another robot, C-3PO, in a small escape craft.
The droids land on the planet Tatooine, where R2-D2 searches for Obi-Wan Kenobi, also a former Jedi. However, they are captured by junk collectors (Jawas) and sold at auction. The highest bidder is Owen Lars, a farmer, who gets help from his nephew, Luke Skywalker, an orphan.
Luke discovers a hologram of Leia pleading for Obi-Wan's help. R2-D2 takes off to find Obi-Wan, and Luke and C-3PO go after him. They are attacked by Sand People, but Ben Kenobi rescues them.
R2-D2 plays Kenobi the message from Leia. Luke discovers that Ben is Obi-Wan, a former Jedi who knew his father. He finds out his father was also a Jedi and was killed by Vader, who went over to the "Dark Side." Obi-Wan tells Luke about the "Force," a cosmic energy of great strength that a chosen few can call forth.
He gives Luke his father's light saber, a Jedi weapon, and asks him to join the Rebellion. Luke returns home to find the burnt bodies of his aunt and uncle. Imperial Stormtroopers killed them while searching for the robots. Luke has no choice but to join Obi-Wan.
They go to a seedy intergalactic cantina at Mos Eisley Spaceport to find a pilot and ship to take them to Alderaan, Leia's home planet. Obi-Wan strikes a deal with Han Solo and his co-pilot, a Wookiee named Chewbacca.
But Alderaan is no more Tarkin has used the Death Star to destroy Alderaan after Leia refused to reveal the location of the Rebel base.
Solo's ship, the Millennium Falcon, is pulled into the Death Star by a magnetic tractor beam. Han, a smuggler, has secret hiding places in the ship, and they aren't detected. Han and Luke then knock out Stormtroopers and take their uniforms as disguises. Obi-Wan makes his way to the control room to sabotage the tractor beam; the robots find Leia's cell; Luke, Han and Chewbacca rescue her.
Vader senses Obi-Wan's presence and tracks him down. The two fight with their light sabers as the others dash to the Falcon. Obi-Wan then allows Vader to strike him down, which makes the Force even stronger. The Falcon escapes and heads to the Rebel base, where the Death Star plans can be examined. Han leaves to pay off his debts.
But the Empire planted a tracing device on the Falcon they are followed to the base. Meanwhile, the Rebels find the weakness of the Death Star and plan their attack. A fighter ship must maneuver down a narrow shaft and fire into a small target. This will start a chain reaction and demolish the space station.
The attack begins and a number of pilots fail as Imperial fighters shoot them down. As the Death Star gets into position to destroy the Rebel base, Luke makes a final run down the shaft with Vader on his tail. Han shows up and fires at Vader's ship, sending it out of control.
Luke turns off his computerized targeting system as the voice of Obi-Wan tells him to "Use the Force." Luke fires a perfect shot, and the Death Star explodes.
Box-office: $322.7 million, a record in 1977, which put it at No. 4 all-time and No. 2 when adjusted for inflation before its re-release. It added $138.2 million in 1997 and went to No. 1 on the all-time list at $460.9 million before "Titanic" took over at $600 million.
'The Empire Strikes Back' (1980)
The Rebel forces move to the ice planet Hoth. Darth Vader still wants to rule the universe and tracks down the Rebels. Imperical walkers destroy the power generators on Hoth.
Luke goes to Dagobah to find Yoda, the master of the Jedi knights. Yoda, a small, strange-looking creature, teaches Luke about the Force. Han and Leia flee to the Cloud City, which is run by Lando Calrissian. Lando betrays them, and Vader is waiting for them.
Luke senses that his friends are in trouble and leaves Dagobah to rescue them despite Yoda's warning that he is not yet powerful enough to meet Vader. Vader has Han encased in carbonite and handed over to bounty hunter Boba Fett, who will deliver him to Jabba the Hutt.
Lando doesn't like the way things are going and escapes with Leia in the Millennium Falcon.
Luke arrives in the Cloud City. Luke faces Vader for a laser sword battle and loses a hand in the duel. Vader tells Luke that he is his father and asks Luke to join him on the Dark Side.
Luke throws himself off a platform and is sucked into an exhaust pipe. He ends up at the undermost part of Cloud City and grabs onto on electronic weather vane. Luke uses the Force to call Leia, and she tells Lando to go back. Leia sees Luke and they pick him up in the Falcon. With Vader in pursuit, they go into hyperspace and escape.
Box office: $222.6 million. It's $67.6 in re-release has pushed it to No. 9 at $290.2 million.
'Return of the Jedi' (1983)
Leia, masquerading as a bounty hunter, C-3PO and R2-D2 attempt to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine. Lando is also at the palace, disguised as a guard. Leia unfreezes Han, but they are captured. Luke arrives next and is also captured after battling and killing a huge monster, a Rancor.
With Leia at his side, Jabba watches from his barge as Han and Luke are to be fed to the Sarlac. Luke uses the Force and to get free, recapture his light saber, and free his friends. Leia, who is chained to Jabba, uses the chain to strangle him. They all escape.
Meanwhile, the Empire has secretly begun construction on a new armored space station even more powerful than the first Death Star. The Emperor, the Supreme Ruler of the Galaxy, makes a visit to the station.
Luke returns to Dagobah for training by Yoda, who is ill. Yoda confirms that Vader is Luke's father. Just before he dies, Yoda tells Luke that there is another Skywalker.
A ghostly Obi-Wan Kenobi then appears to Luke and lays out his destiny to face and destroy Vader. He tells him he has a twin sister; Luke realizes it's Leia.
At the same time, hundreds of Rebel commanders of all races and forms are assembled. They know the weapon systems on the Death Star are not operational, but it is protected by an energy shield generated from the nearby forest Moon of Endor. If the shield is deactivated, fighters can knock out the Death Star's main reactor.
Han, Leia and Luke use a stolen Imperial shuttle to land on Endor. They meet and recruit the help of the Ewoks, small, furry creatures who live there. Luke and Vader sense each other's presence. Luke tells Leia that she is his sister and that he must face their father. Vader lands on Endor; Luke surrenders to him. Vader takes Luke to the Emperor.
Han and Leia are cornered by Stormtroopers in their attempt to deactivate the shield. On the battle station, the Emperor tells Luke his destiny is to join the Dark Side. From a window, Luke watches as the Death Star, which works after all, starts blowing up Rebel cruisers.
Luke then begins his battle with Vader. Luke is stronger now and takes Vader to his knees. The Emperor tells Luke to take his father's place at his side. Luke refuses. The Emperor, in a rage, and tells Luke he must be destroyed.
The Emperor shoots Luke with blinding bolts of energy from his hands. Vader, with his last ounce of strength, picks up the Emperor and throws him into the abyss at the center of the throne room.
On Endor, Ewoks attack the Stormtroopers. With their help, Han and Leia blow up the shield generator. With the shield gone, the Rebel forces blow up a Star Destroyer and attack the Death Star.
Vader, near death, asks Luke to take off his mask so he can look at his son with his own eyes. Anakin Skywalker smiles, then dies. Luke escapes in an Imperial shuttle just before the Death Star explodes.
Later on Endor, Rebels and Ewoks join together in dancing and celebration. Luke notices three shimmering, smiling figures at the edge of the shadows: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker.
Box office: $263.7 million. Re-release has added $45.4 million, moving it to No. 7 at $309.1 million
Matt Slovick first saw "Star Wars" during the summer of 1977 at the drive-in.
© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company