This December saw the release of the eleventh “Star Wars” film “The Rise of Skywalker.”

It is supposedly the end of the saga of the Skywalker family, who were the central characters of nine of the films. The series began in 1977 with the release of what is now known as “A New Hope”. The movie was a phenomenon that revolutionized cinema and merchandising. George Lucas was a not so known director at the time, having only directed two small movies before. Many of those who worked on the movie thought it would fail or be forgotten because of the unique script, unusual sets and George’s aloof directing.

Harrison Ford as Han Solo, with his Wookiee co-pilot Chewbacca, in the 1977 Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope

However, when the film was released, critics praised its original combination of genres and innovative special effects. Audiences too were captivated by the movie’s epic story and visuals. Some critiqued its shallow characterizations and simplistic morality. When properly adjusted for inflation, the original film is still the fourth highest-grossing in world history and it won six Academy Awards. It is preserved in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, which archives culturally important and technically innovative films. Quotes and characters from the movie assimilated into our culture: even people who have never seen the film know them.

Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in Star Wars acting as Princess Leila and Han Solo

It is seen as a major turning point in the history of cinema. In the 1970’s most films were targeted at adults and focused on character-driven, small scale stories. Films before that time were released slowly, moving from theater to theater and region to region. They would make their money back over the months. After “Star Wars” success, studios started releasing bigger, all-age appropriate stories all at once.  These movies also had built-in lines of highly profitable merchandise.

The IMS Vintage Photos archive includes unique original photos of the stars of the original films, including Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Mark Hamill, and James Earl Jones.

You can easily browse through this category here.