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