(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho.)

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense and one of the masterpieces of his oeuvre was the 1960 film Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. From the beginning, it tells the story of a woman named Marion Crane as played by Janet Leigh. She’s stolen a sum of money from her boss and finds herself on the run. She checks into an out of the way hotel in Arizona and meets a man named Norman Bates. This is the last man she’d ever meet. She’s murdered by Norman’s mother and then the story shifts almost completely to Norman’s perspective. Will he be able to help his mother get away with the murder?

It doesn’t sound like the sort of film that would have had a meaningful impact on Star Wars, but you’d be surprised where George Lucas and the teams making Star Wars films could draw influence and put it to good use.

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21-87 Short Film

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: the experimental short film 21-87.)

When George Lucas was off at film school at the University of Southern California, he was exposed to all manner of film, from the mainstream to the experimental. One of the films that made the most profound impact on him was a short film from Canadian filmmaker Arthur Lipsett called 21-87. Clocking in at just over nine-minutes, the film might superficially seem to be a random collage of images and sounds, but these juxtapositions chosen by the filmmaker add up to create an overwhelming sense of emotion that is sure to cause deep, existential questions in viewers.

Walter Murch, a fellow student and future collaborator of Lucas’, said that when Lucas saw 21-87 for the first time, “a light bulb went off.”

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the last jedi rashomon

(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films that inspired George Lucas’ iconic universe. In this edition: Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon.)

1950’s Rashomon was the first international breakout hit for legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. He’d made wonderful films prior to that, from the tense post-war poverty of Drunken Angel to the noir classic Stray Dog, but Rashomon put him on the international map, winning the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Like Citizen Kane before it, the film revealed what was possible within the medium.

Starring Toshiro Mifune (who turned down the roles of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader in the original Star Wars) and Takashi Shimura, among others, Rashomon tells the story of a rape and murder over and over again from the perspective of several witnesses. The conceit is that the story changes every time it is told – everyone is convinced that they themselves are the guilty party.

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