Lucas. You have to isolate Lucas the director from the rest— he only directed six total films. Three films in the 1970’s (all below and in the archives) and the Star Wars prequels in 1999, 2002 and 2005. I owe the prequels another watch (I actually enjoy watching them) and a proper evaluation – but for now, it’s really just the three films in the 1970’s (featuring principally the blockbuster masterpiece of narrative – 1977’s Star Wars) in the archives. That’s a weakness—only 3 archiveable films. But those three films are extremely impressive and both Star Wars and American Graffiti land in the top 100 of the 1970’s. Star Wars is his zenith- and it’s the reason he’s here on this list.
Best film: Star Wars. Those making an argument for another film are trying to be contrary. The world-building in Star Wars radiates– its palpable. It takes parts of Kurosawa (tons of The Hidden Fortress) and John Ford (the tragic scene with the death of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru) with a lot of help from John Williams to combine for one of the great tales of 1970’s cinema.
total archiveable films: 3
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (Star Wars)
top 100 films of the decade: 2 (Star Wars, American Graffiti)
most overrated: I don’t have one for Lucas. Lucas has two films ranked in the TSPDT top 1000. The consensus critics have Star Wars at #115 (I’m at #159)- slightly overrated but 40-45 slots isn’t much. And then American Graffiti at #846 which is right where I am I’d guess.
most underrated: Ditto above here on the overrated section. Lucas has only 3 films in the archives and I’m good with all of their spots.
gem I want to spotlight: American Graffiti. A coming of age film paired with an ensemble day in the life—it clearly influenced Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused amongst others. Lucas’ love for the time and place is palpable—from his memory—and honestly in 2019 I can see similarities with Cuaron’s Roma and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Lucas had good sense to keep it largely plotless and load it wall to wall with rock and roll nostalgia. The film is immensely rewatchable— we should all revisit it every summer.
stylistic innovations/traits: In all three archiveable films from Lucas he creates a world immaculately detailed. Even the high school comedy set in 1962 smells, sounds and feels like a specific time and place- that’s skillful world-building. You also have to give it to Lucas for knowing what he’s doing when choosing the music and/or soundtrack for his films. Both Graffiti and Star Wars are two of the 5 films I’d most like to just listen to from 1970’s (which is saying a lot). Star Wars is narrative bliss- it’s hard to match and ranks up there with the greatest all time—but Lucas didn’t lack for visuals either. Strong compositions abound in his work- like of the dueling moons dusk shot in Star Wars – and Mel’s Drive-In in Graffiti. The establishing shot could be in a museum of contemporary arts.
- Star Wars
- American Graffiti
- THX 1138
By year and grades
|1971- THX 1138||R|
|1973- American Graffiti||HR|
|1977- Star Wars||MP|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives
in my opinion star wars is like lord of the rings where they are all a collective masterpiece, even if some aren’t as strong. also individually I find the sequels as masterpieces and some of the best films of the past 25 years. the editing, worldbuilding, and expressionistic acting is spectacular. also lucas is a genius director. in particular, revenge of the sith is an absolute masterpiece which touches on the themes of jealousy love betrayal and morality. it is truly art.
@m . Thanks for sharing. That’s an Interesting perspective- one I hadn’t considered until now. I think I make a bit of a distinction between LOTR and Kill Bill and the Star Wars trilogy because with LOTR and KIll Bill (which I count as one film) they were shot at one time and just broken up in post production.
Also all LOTR and kill bill movies were directed by same directors unlike star wars. So they have the same voice and rhythm to them.
I’d love to hear your review for THX-1138, I’ve always found it underrated and in the shadow of American Graffiti and Star Wars, it is one of my ten favorite sci-fi films. I know it’s in the archives but I’d like to hear what you think. BTW, I also posted this question in the 1971 year archives, I meant to post it here because there are less comments, sorry
@James Robbins- thanks for the comment. So I’ve seen it- but only once, and before I started the blog so I don’t have a post for it yet. What strikes you so much about it and makes it a top 10 sci-film? It’s me who would like to hear more here.
I don’t know as much about movies as you, but I think visually it is incredible, it is one of those movies that you can just mute the TV and watch. There are a couple shots that are up there with the best of the 70s. This was when Lucas was hungry and motivated like the other movie brats and so it really explores genres that you wouldn’t think of George Lucas doing, there is a number of sex and drugs involved. Another thing that sticks out is the use of black people in this movie, all black people believe they are holograms because that is what the whites have told them and they have just been used for White People’s entertainment. They are the only people on tv as well. Also the music really paints a picture of despair and pure hopelessness, it is a phenomenal soundtrack, and just like Taxi Driver, it’s not too complicated music but it is brilliant for how it is used in the movie. Lastly, the ending with the car chase is phenomenal and shows how talented Lucas really was (he wanted to be a racecar driver when he was younger and it shows in that scene), the ending scene where he escapes the underground building they live in to go outside and escape in the sunset is an absolutely haunting and beautiful shot.
@James Robbins– this is great– thanks for sharing.
I know Lucas didn’t direct Empire Strikes Back, but I noticed in the list of 500 films you rank it ever so slightly underneath Star Wars. I don’t really mind one way or the other, but what do you think Star Wars does better then Empire other than just being the first of its kind?
@Declan- I don’t have much at all separating the two and if someone wants to argue Empire is superior they won’t get a long argument for me. I do think the world-building and originality of the narrative is one of the great elements of episode 4 or the original. I adore the double moon landscape shot and Alec Guinness’ performance.
@Declan. I know this comment is old, but critics also think that episode 4 is better than 5, it’s not just Drake.
Episode 4 is at # 120 and Episode 5 at # 283.
Literally the only ones who think episode 5 is the best are the Star Wars fans.
That is not an appropriate usage of the word “literally”.
With Matt here. This is a pretty egregious use of “literally,” and it’s not like just because something is the consensus means it is a universal view. I’m sure there’s many critics who think ESB is superior.
I haven’t really seen either of them since I started to understand film style, so I can’t say from memory which is the better one myself.
@Matt Harris and @Zane. Sure there are some fans who think episode 4 is better and some critics think episode 5 is better, but that’s the consensus.
If you are looking for a fan poll of episode 4 vs episode 5, episode 5 is the one that almost always wins the polls.
What i am mentioning is that the narrative that episode 5 is superior, is commented on by its fans.
I’m aware that you’re planning studies of both Charlie Kaufman and George Lucas. Do you also intend to watch the other two movies of the original Star Wars trilogy (not directed by Lucas, but he was certainly one of the driving forces) or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry’s kinetic direction is brilliant, but I believe Kaufman’s script is the greater artistic achievement in this film specifically)? I am curious.
@Graham- good question– I’m not sure yet- I think I’ll for sure do Empire and Return of the Jedi. Not sure if I’ll do the Rian Johnson and the JJ Star Wars films, the entire universe, or include Kaufman’s screenplays (which at that point you might as well do a spike jonze study)— TBD I guess.