George Lucas - A Super-Producer's History

The force is strong in this one.

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Uber-producer George Lucas has always been synonymous with big-budget blockbusters (you might remember the first film he produced -- a modest little space opera called Star Wars) and this month sees the long-awaited turn of one of his most iconic creations, Indiana Jones. The four-time Oscar nominee has also directed and written films, rode the American New Wave with buddies Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg, and created landmark production companies Lucasfilm, Skywalker Sound, Industrial Light & Magic, and Pixar, all of which would have been enough to earn Lucas a place movie history.

Although Lucas also involved himself in smaller projects, like the gloriously 3-dimensional Captain EO short and idol Akira Kurosawa's Oscar-nominated Kagemusha, the legacy of Modesto's prodigal son remains strongest in his history producing some of the most successful -- or at least, memorable -- blockbusters of the past three decades.

Read on for RT's chronological highlights of the producing career of George Lucas outside of the Indiana Jones franchise.

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Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
Tomatometer: 95%, dir. George Lucas

Gross: $775 million

George Lucas the Producer hit the ground running when, at the age of 33, he introduced Star Wars to the world. His long-gestating "space opera" about a youngster named Luke Skywalker who gets involved in an intergalactic battle was also his third directorial effort (after debuting with the dystopian tale THX 1138 and the semi- autobiographical American Graffiti).

With $11 million from 20th Century Fox --- the only studio to give Lucas' vision a chance --- Lucas shot and produced what would later be known as Episode IV: A New Hope, which IMDB currently names as the #2 domestic grossing release of all time (behind 1997's Titanic). Star Wars subsequently became a billion dollar film, TV and merchandising franchise -- and inspired Lucas to form the digital effects company Industrial Light & Magic. Star Wars Kid thanks you, George.


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Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Tomatometer: 97%, dir. Irvin Kershner

Gross: $538 million

After the overwhelming success of Star Wars, Lucas was able to declare his independence from the studio system by self-financing his sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Popularly celebrated as a superior film to its predecessor, Empire took Lucas (and the fledgling ILM) to new levels of production, continuing the saga with elaborate space fights, composite landscape effects, and strange new locations like the ice planet Hoth and Cloud City, home of Lando Calrissian. Empire also featured the franchise debut of Master Jedi Yoda and more than tripled the opening weekend returns of Episode IV. Coincidence not, think we.


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Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi (1983)
Tomatometer: 75%, dir. Richard Marquand

Gross: $475 million

By the third installment of the Star Wars series (Episode VI, the final chronological chapter in the Star Wars mythology) Lucas was in full-steam producer mode, organizing his schedule, budget, and concept art well before handing scripting duty to Empire Strikes Back writer Lawrence Kasdan. Directing duties were handed to Richard Marquand, who was handpicked by Lucas after his previous choices -- Steven Spielberg and David Lynch -- were not available. Despite receiving a cooler critical and commercial reception than its predecessors, Return of the Jedi raked in more than $475 million worldwide -- and, more importantly, gave us the gift of Ewoks.