Star Wars has a big birthday today. I just celebrated my 48th. Guess what my favorite film was when I was 8 years old?
I lived in a tiny town in New Mexico. I knew Star Wars (there was none of this Episode IV: A New Hope nonsense then) was a big deal, because it was scheduled to play at our tiny movie theater for an entire week. I begged my mom to take me, and she did. My 8-year-old mind was officially blown.
My parents didn’t make enough money to buy me Star Wars action figures, so I made my own out of cardboard. (Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, Luke Skywalker’s ill-fated guardians, were two-sided — one depicting them alive and healthy, the other showing them as charred skeletons.) I’d find suitable sticks to wave around as lightsabers. I’d replay the entire movie in my head every night.
Star Wars changed my life. And frankly, it changed the world, too.
I was hardly the only kid who asked for a lightsaber that Christmas. The film made a staggering $1.6 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars — the second-highest domestic gross ever. (Gone With the Wind leads the pack at $1.8 billion, according to Box Office Mojo.) Along with Jaws, it created the template for the modern blockbuster. It ushered in our age of effects-heavy adventure yarns — films largely dismissed as B-movies before — paving the way for everything from Avatar to The Avengers. And when its sequel The Empire Strikes Back was released and made Lucas another mint, the Star Wars series ushered in the age of the blockbuster serial franchise.