(Welcome to The Movies That Made Star Wars, a series where we explore the films and television properties that inspired George Lucas’s iconic universe. In this edition: Buster Keaton’s The Navigator.)

Buster Keaton’s 1924 film The Navigator isn’t spoken of as often or as lovingly as the much more known The General from 1926, but it was the biggest hit of his career. It tells the story of a foppish young aristocrat accustomed to having servants tend to his every whim suddenly find himself (and the equally well-to-do love of his life) on a cruise ship adrift at sea. The two elites have to learn to fend for themselves through a series of hilarious antics. On the surface, one could watch this film and Star Wars may well never cross your mind, but it feels apparent that this Buster Keaton classic had a significant influence on The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars creator George Lucas went back to the well of silent film for inspiration when working on the prequels, which makes sense. If the classic trilogy was patterned after the cheap serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s, why wouldn’t one go back to the silent films of the ‘10s and ‘20s? It’s the same reason The Phantom Menace is dripping in art deco design that precedes the industrial war look of World War II that was common to the classic trilogy. He set the clock back a generation to create films that fit in the timeline of Star Wars while still being cohesive in design.

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