More than 40 years after its debut, it's difficult to quantify just how big of an impact Star Wars made on all corners of pop culture, especially given the well-documented struggles that writer/director George Lucas faced while attempting to bring the project to life. There were so many doubts about it that it didn't initially earn the "A New Hope" subtitle until well after its release, as getting continued adventures might have been planned, but were far from a certainty. While the project was hailed for his ambitions and the ways in which the production pushed the boundaries of special effects, what truly made the project such a success was how it blended together classic storytelling structures and tropes to make for an experience that felt wholly unique.
From a narrative perspective, Lucas grappled with philosophy and the battles between good and evil, as chronicled in the works of Joseph Campbell, while he tonally drew inspiration from serials like Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon. A major visual influence was Akira Kurosawa, thanks to films like The Hidden Fortress, Dersu Uzala, and Yojimbo, as the filmmaker even drew inspiration from the real world, with now-iconic dogfights between X-wings and TIE fighters being modeled after footage of aerial combat from World War II.
Star Wars was such an ambitious effort that Lucas knew a script and a pitch meeting wouldn't be effective enough at convincing a studio to fund the endeavor, with the filmmaker enlisting the help of artist Ralph McQuarrie to craft images that conveyed the scope and scale of the sci-fi epic. McQuarrie's imagery was so evocative, a number of these works were adapted directly into the film, earning the film some of its most impactful sequences. Paintings were such an integral component of the production, many of its most impressive scenes were even staged and shot with carefully crafted matte paintings, extending environments to a staggering scale.
From oppressive figures to dramatic duels, scroll down to see our picks for the 15 best shots from Star Wars: A New Hope!