With his borrowings from sf, fantasy and Hollywood's past—not to mention his conspicuous espousal of the mythical ideas of Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces—George Lucas undoubtedly opened up the cinema for a wave of big-budget science fiction movies in the 1980s. Behind the scenes, he spearheaded innovations in sound, special effects, and digital filmmaking that revolutionized the industry.
As a graduate student at the University of Southern California Film School, Lucas made a short film entitled THX 1138:4EB (1967), which won film festival awards. In 1969, he began a feature-length version, THX 1138 (1971). It was well received by critics but not a popular success. His second feature, American Graffiti (1973), established him as a commercial film-maker. Nonetheless, Lucas had difficulty setting up his next film—a project he had been planning for several years. His hardships were amply recompensed when it was released as Star Wars (1977) (later retitled Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope) and had the highest box-office takings of any film to date.
Lucas swiftly announced his intention to retire from directing and focus on producing, although the films produced under his aegis bear his obvious personal stamp. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980), directed by Irvin Kershner (and scripted, notably, by Lawrence Kasdan and sf author Leigh Brackett), and Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi (1983), directed by Richard Marquand (also scripted by Kasdan), conclude the trilogy. In 1999 Lucas returned to directing to helm a prequel trilogy: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999), Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005).
His production company Lucasfilm has spun off a number of divisions that have become cornerstones of the film industry. Industrial Light & Magic sets the standard for visual effects, while Skywalker Sound is devoted to film soundtrack production and editing. Lucasfilm also includes LucasArts, a developer of home computer and console-based entertainment.
Films directed and produced by George Lucas have won numerous Academy Awards. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences also honored Lucas with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1992.
THX 1138 (1971)
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (producer)
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi (1983)
Labyrinth (1986) (producer)
Willow (1988) (producer)
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)