I enjoy Return of the Jedi, I respect the Empire Strikes Back, but I love A New Hope. It is my very favorite of the Star Wars films and a movie that I can watch a million times without getting sick of it.
I’ll be upfront about one reason I love it so much. When I was younger, it was the only Star Wars movie we owned, so it was the one I saw the most, and it felt the most familiar and comfortable of the movies to me.
But there are so many other reasons I love it best.
1. The script– George Lucas justifiably gets a lot of crap for his dialogue, but Episode 4 takes itself the least seriously of all the movies, which means Lucas doesn’t really get the opportunity to be overwrought and annoying. Meanwhile, he wrote one of the most quotable movies ever. Think about all the great, classic lines that came out of this movie: “I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you,” “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” “I find your lack of faith disturbing,””the Force is strong with this one,” etc, etc.
2. It’s funny– this is the characteristic the prequels lacked in spades, and that Episode IV did best. From the opening old-married-couple bickering of C3pO and R2D2, to the Cantina, to one of my very favorite scenes in any movie, Han’s ridiculously bad attempts at stalling on the detention level. The entire tone of Episode IV is lighter than the others, which makes this an incredibly fun film. The prequels sucked because they drowned in their own self-importance (and bad acting. Yes, Natalie, even you), but when you watch “A New Hope,” you remember that what made Star Wars great was that it was, well, fun.
And speaking of Han…
3. Han Solo: anti-hero. While all three movies feature Han Solo as anti-hero in some way, the truth is that this is the movie that really features the most growth and change for him. Watching his relationship with Leia develop is, of course, a lot of fun, but what I really love is watching his affection for Luke grow. Luke is definitely an annoying little brother type in this movie, and Han takes over the role of put-upon older brother, which is why when Han leaves, there’s no big good-bye scene with Leia; it’s with Luke. Luke’s feeling of betrayal obviously gets to Han. No matter how many times I see it, Han’s final rescue of Luke–“wooo-hoo! You’re all clear kid! Let’s blow this thing and go home!”– is still one of the most satisfying moments in all three movies for me.
4. Beginnings–There’s a reason origin stories are popular. Discovering a new world along with a bunch of new characters is thrilling. A New Hope is all about beginnings, about watching characters negotiate relationships with people they don’t know and forces (and the Force) they don’t understand. Getting to share in the wonder and excitement of these characters is half the fun.
5. Narrative structure– By their nature, Empire and Return of the Jedi have less clear-cut self-contained stories. They were designed to work together to help form a larger narrative over all three movies. Still, what I love about a New Hope is that, while it serves its purpose as the exposition for the larger story, it has a clear narrative purpose, a self-contained story, and a satisfying resolution.
6. Obi-Wan– he kicks ass. You know he’s got to be kind of bad-ass from the beginning, but when he pulls out his lightsaber in the Cantina and dispatches of the two thugs with a swoosh of his wrist? Win.
I really love the entire original trilogy, but Episode IV will always hold a special place in my heart, and that’s why I consider it the best of any of the Star Wars films.