When Star Wars: A New Hope first released in 1977 it introduced a generation of fans not only to a world of unparalleled special and visual effects but to just how interesting and diverse and fun the science fiction genre could be.
Even casual moviegoers became super fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres after seeing the first Star Wars movie. Although it is a simple tale, it was one that we have never seen before on such a grand scale, with some many memorable and iconic moments.
In addition, the trope of the unassuming young hero that becomes some kind of chosen one in order save the world/universe has been seen in video games (especially the RPG genre), books, comics, and —of course— film/TV. Although it can be argued that Lucas didn't invent this concept he certainly popularised it.
Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable films and television shows that have either been directly influenced or downright ripped off Star Wars to some degree. They say that imitation is the purest form of flattery we’ll let you be the judge.
24 Battlestar Galactica (1979)
Between the original 1979 series and the rebooted masterpiece, Battlestar Galactica is one of greatest and most iconic science fiction franchises of all time. After Star Wars: A New Hope arrived in 1977 to conquer the box office.
Universal hired lead Star Wars special effects artist John Dykstra to work on the show’s visuals.
As a result, the shows overall aesthetic resembled Star Wars even the iconic Vipers can be easily mistaken for X-Wings. As a consequence, Twentieth Century Fox filed for copyright infringement against Universal and the two settled out of court.
Its original title of Empires of the Stars was dropped in favor of Starcrash and the film found investors because of how successful the space opera genre had become during this time. However, the budget was far too small to compete on anywhere near the same level as George Lucas’ epic saga. As a result, Cozzi wanted to make Starcrash as weird and as crazy as possible – he succeeded.
The film featured wobbly sets, scantily clad women, and a young David Hasselhoff wielding a “laser sword” need we say more?
22 The Last Starfighter
Cult favorite The Last Starfighter was another attempt by Universal to capitalize on the ever-increasing popularity of George Lucas’ box office smash. This time, however, they brought the space opera to earth and tried to cash in on the increasing popularity of arcade video games, and the rise of home consoles in the 1980s.
The film was groundbreaking at the time because it was one of the first films that used computer-generated imagery (CGI) next to Disney’s Tron. Yet despite the more grounded feel, the Star Wars influences are many, with Grig taking on the role of a Han Solo type and Centauri positioned as the film’s very Obi-Wan Kenobi.
21 Conan The Destroyer
Conan the Destroyer was the sequel to the critically acclaimed epic Conan The Barbarian starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Alongside The Terminator, the original Conan movie directed by John Milius helped Schwarzenegger become the world’s biggest action hero.
Ironically, Conan The Barbarian which also starred the voice of Darth Vader himself James Earl Jones was unfairly dubbed by critics “Star Wars for psychos” before even watching the film.
While the film still has its fans, the shift in focus and dropping Milius from the director’s seat resulted in a film that bombed in the box office and was panned critically.
20 Guardians Of Galaxy
One of the best examples of work based on the original Star Wars trilogy has to be Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The first two films managed to recapture the magic of the original Star Wars trilogy whilst being very much its own thing.
The films pay tribute to a lot of 1980s nostalgia and in the original script, there was going to be a direct reference to the original Star Wars movies. Before the script was changed, an early draft featured Star-Lord keeping his Star Wars action figures from when he was a child. However, the film’s director James Gunn felt it didn’t quite work and removed the scene altogether.
19 The Black Hole
In 1979 Disney’s answer to the Star Wars phenomena was the catastrophically awful The Black Hole with special effects that didn’t match the iconic saga or the huge budget. Additionally, it was a critical failure, and despite being the 21st high-grossing film of that year it was disastrous for Disney due to being their most expensive picture to date.
The film was accused of being too wordy for its initial target audience with the payoff and ending being anticlimactic. Stuck between being too dark for children and too silly and comical to be considered mature, The Black Hole struggled to find an audience and was permanently shelved, as was any potential ideas for a sequel.
18 Spacehunter: Adventures In The Forbidden Zone
Released in 1983, Spacehunter: Adventures in The Forbidden Zone featured an all-star cast of upcoming and veteran actors, actresses, an Emmy Award-winning director in Lamont Johnson, and executive was produced by The Ghostbusters Ivan Reitman.
Spacehunter was a western inspired tale of a space bounty hunter named Wolff played by Peter Straus tasked with rescuing three women from a brutal planet. Along the way, he meets a plucky teenage sidekick named Niki portrayed by 80s teen angst favorite Molly Ringwald.
17 Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan
This is a choice that will no doubt upset and anger just about every Star Trek fan and even some Star Wars fans too. So let’s get this out of the way, The Wrath of Khan is absolutely nothing like a Star Wars movie. Kahn is a militaristic tale with more in common to Moby Dick and the Napoleonic naval seafaring adventures of Hornblower than Star Wars.
The Wrath of Khan was the franchise's answer to the success of Star Wars, but the result was one of the greatest science fiction films ever made.
Although Khan was a long way from being a Star Wars clone, after the disappointing and slow Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan went bigger and brought more excitement to the table.
16 Star Odyssey
Made in 1979, Star Odyssey was set to be directed by Luigi Cozzi of Starcrash fame but was later replaced with fellow Italian director Alfonso Brescia. Where Luigi Cozzi gained a cult following for his weird and strange directing style and storytelling regardless of how bad the film is, Star Odyssey is just plain bad with no flair, style or substance. It’s not even unintentionally entertaining.
To say the Italian-made Star Odyssey lacked a budget is putting it mildly. There’s a robot that literally looks like a dustbin painted white in hopes that it would like R2-D2. It featured lightsaber-style swords that looked like toy wooden swords that were painted fluorescent. There’s even an Emperor-like overlord bent on dominating the universe.
15 Space Raiders
The 1983 space opera Space Raiders which is also known as Star Child in some regions outside the United States was another Roger Corman and was his final film for New World Pictures before selling it and setting up a new studio now known as Millennium.
Space Raiders is looked at as an unofficial follow-up to Battle Beyond the Stars, and just like its predecessor it does very little to hide the fact that it’s low-rent Star Wars clone complete with its very own conflicted Han Solo-type in Captain Hawk. In addition, Space Raiders recycled many of the same of special effects that featured in Battle Beyond the Stars over and over again.
14 The Man Who Saved The World
While other films and shows on this list were heavily influenced by the Star Wars saga, the term ripped off doesn’t apply in such a brazen way quite as much as this Turkish science fiction monstrosity.
The Man Who Saved The World literally ripped off and stole footage from the Star Wars films.
The Man Who Saved The World stole Star Wars footage that fans will instantly recognize. They used images of the Death Star, The Millennium Falcon, and the Mos Eisley Cantina was used for a random bar brawl. Additionally, they used footage taken from the Battlestar Galactica TV series and Star Trek.
The plagiarism didn’t end there though because also recycled John William’s score from Indiana Jones as well as music from Flash Gordon, Moonraker, and Planet of the Apes.
13 Hawk The Slayer
Hawk The Slayer was released in 1980 and was a fantasy adventure film with more than a few resemblances to the Star Wars saga. Yet despite this, Hawk The Slayer, like many others on this list has become a cult hit and is even referenced in Simon Pegg’s sitcom dedicated to all things “geek culture” Spaced.
The titular hero Hawk looks like he robbed Han Solo’s clothes locker, he also received a sword (the Mind Sword) that once belonged to his father in a similar manner to Luke Skywalker in A New Hope. Jack Palance’s villain Voltan— who was related to the hero —wears a helmet that looks like it may have been an early concept for Darth Vader and even has a liking for dramatically choking the life out of all those who oppose him. Additionally, a there's a lady in white that needs to be rescued and a hero even loses a limb.
Eragon was a fantasy film based on the books by Christopher Paolini who was a teenager when he wrote the novel of the same. It’s an incredible achievement but the similarities to Star Wars are obvious, replace Eragon with Luke, the wise man with Obi-Wan, the Dragon Riders with the Jedi, and the evil ruler Galbatorix with the Emperor and a bit Vader too and you have a very similar synopsis.
Willow is a wonderful fantasy adventure film that George Lucas - the creator of Star Wars - conceived in the early 1970s. He wrote the screenplay for the movie while Ron Howard directed it for a release in 1988. Lucas selected a young Warwick Davis who played Wicket the Ewok from Return of the Jedi to play the title character.
On the surface, Willow can be looked at as a more fun take on Lord of the Rings but Lucas’ take on the fantasy genre has some of that Star Wars magic too.
The titular Willow can be seen as another Luke Skywalker learning to get a grasp of his developing powers as a sorcerer. Then the scoundrel with a heart Madmartigan played by Val Kilmer could easily be Han Solo with sword proclaiming himself to be the “greatest swordsman who ever lived” as opposed to the "greatest pilot in the galaxy."
10 The Masters Of The Universe
The Masters of the Universe is another film on this list that was panned critically and commercially upon its release. The film enjoys something of cult status now but the Cannon produced – a studio with a reputation for making awful films on the cheap – adaptation of He-Man and The Masters of the Universe had too much working against it.
Not only did they drop He-Man from the title to sound more in line with Star Wars, but they deviated so far away from the source material to keep the budget down that it was barely recognizable. An admittedly great Frank Langella in the role of Skeletor did his best Emperor impression.
9 Jason Of Star Command
A children’s live-action space opera TV show Jason of Star Command was produced by Filmation of Masters of the Universe fame and ran for three years. Despite being a spin-off from Filmation’s other show Space Academy the creators of the show definitely put this series together in a hurry to capitalize on the Star Wars hype train.
The series featured James Doohan Scottie of Star Trek fame and Sid Haig better known today for role in The Devil’s Rejects franchise. Doohan left after the first series to rejoin the Star Trek cast to work on the movie and it was probably the best decision he made in his life. The series was terrible, it featured wonky special effects and it’s very own Han Solo knock-off and uniforms that resembled the Rebel Alliance orange pilot suits.
8 The Legend Of The Seeker
The Legend of the Seeker is a fantasy adventure television series produced by Sam Raimi that ran for two seasons before it was canceled on the Disney-ABC network.
Some Criticized the show, saying it was too derivative of Star Wars and strayed too far away from the source material the Sword of Truth novels. The lead character is your typical Luke Skywalker type raised in hiding whose simple life is changed forever when he realizes his destiny as a Seeker of Truth.
7 The Masters Of The Universe Cartoon Series
It’s no secret that Mattel made the regrettable decision to turn down the upfront fee of $750,000 to create an action figure line for Star Wars. Since its release in 1977 Star Wars and it’s merchandise starting selling in their millions in the first year alone.
Mattel wanted to have a profitable toy line and franchise of their own...enter He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
He-Man’s original concept was far more steeped in fantasy like that of Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan. However, Mattel changed this idea and combined fantasy and science so the heroes and villains could wield magic and science-based weapons technology. Additionally, the idea that Skeletor was later revealed to be He-Man’s uncle Keldor was an idea inspired by the relationship between Luke and Vader.
A commercial flop on release in 1983 part fantasy adventure part science fiction film Krull has since become a cult favorite amongst sword and sorcery fans around the world.
Perhaps most telling was the inclusion of The Slayers, which were Storm Trooper-like soldiers that worked for The Monster only far more terrifying. Additionally, there are wizards and magic instead of Jedi masters and The Force.
5 Message From Space
George Lucas himself has admitted that he borrowed heavily from Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 Japanese film The Hidden Fortress for Star Wars. At the recommendation of fellow director John Milius, Lucas discovered Kurosawa’s Samurai films and fell in love with them. According to The Secret History of Star Wars, the original script for A New Hope was very similar to The Hidden Fortress from 1978 and much of it was reused in The Phantom Menace.
So other directors can be forgiven then for using Star Wars as an inspiration for a sci-fi epic of their own. Unfortunately, A Message From Space lacked any kind of style seen in the Kurosawa films and was devoid of any of the magic from the Star Wars franchise that inspired it.
4 Battle Beyond The Stars
Battle Beyond The Stars low budget drew heavy criticism for – like other films here – riding off the success of Star Wars. However, despite this, the film has gained cult status amongst its fans. In addition, with a budget of just $2 million the film earned 11 million at the box office plus the extra earnings from foreign distribution and televised airing on HBO.
3 Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin
Starchaser: The Legend of Orrin was released three years after Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi. It was recognized as was the world’s first full length animated 3D movie. In fairness to Starchaser, it was a fun sword and sorcery adventure film with some surprisingly mature undertones. The film put its own unique spin on what was seen in Star Wars and is definitely worth a look if you love the sci-fi and fantasy genre.
However, as good as the film is on its own merits the Star Wars influence is undeniable. You have a Han Solo-type character with Dagg a space smuggler, Princess Avianna who looks just like Princess Leia, a hero that looks just like Mark Hamill who comes equipped with a laser-type sword and special psychic powers.
2 H.G. Wells’ The Shape Of Things To Come
Canadian science fiction movie H.G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come is very loosely based on the 1933 novel of the same name by...you guessed it, H.G. Wells. However, aside from the title and the character names taken from the book they don’t share very much in common at all.
In fact, the film was created as a direct result of the Star Wars phenomena in 1979. Unfortunately none of the book’s underlying message about war, the dangers of technology, the enforcement of the English language, and the Wells’ prediction of war transferred on to the screen at all. Instead, we got a terribly made low-rent sci-fi flick that capitalized on both the Star Wars hype train and H.G. Wells’ legendary name.
1 The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the most successful shared universe franchise ever created.
While they are more nods, tributes, and influences, it is still worth noting how much Star Wars is in the MCU.
Some examples are the Spider-Man vs. Antman scene in Civil War, there was a direct reference to the Battle of Hoth where the snow speeder tripped the AT-AT. Perhaps more important Kevin Feige admits to the heroes loss of limbs as a tribute to the Star Wars universe. In addition, the richness and lore of the sci-fi saga are what inspired him to make the MCU so deep and fun to watch over and over again.