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9 reasons 'Star Wars' is the best film franchise

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Posted at 12:00 PM, Dec 17, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-17 14:35:18-05

"Star Wars" stands alone as a cultural phenomenon.

When the original film appeared in 1977, it was a huge hit. Yet even then, nobody really had a clue what an enduring global influence it would have on pop culture tastes, technology and commerce. With the latest of a renewed series now at hand, let's consider nine of the many reasons "Star Wars" is the greatest movie franchise of all time.

1. Respectable science fiction: Adult fans of outer-space adventures had been a small but passionate clique for decades. “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope” gave grownups permission to get excited about stories of imaginary worlds and the creatures that inhabit them. Speaking of which …

2. Mos Eisley Cantina: It's rough around the edges. Sure, it's possible to get killed or maimed there, but that place is a tavern for the ages.

3. Leia: She's a princess, she's a warrior, she's a leader, she's a romantic heroine. She simultaneously rocks a metal bikini and chain-chokes Jabba the Hutt.

4. An enormous crop of board games, video games, role-playing games, cartoons, TV shows, books, comics, plays, radio shows and, of course, toys: Devoted fans were not happy when Disney labeled the so-called Expanded Universe from the Lucasfilm era as “Legends” and started its own new world of offshoots. Detailed information about the Expanded University is collected at the fan-driven Wookiepedia.com.

5. Creative fans: Non-commercial fiction created by fans has been not only tolerated but embraced in the Star Wars Universe. One outstanding example: Timothy Edward Smith and Hunter Nolen wrote “Star Wars The Musical” in 1999. They never staged it, but give away the music for free to any nonprofit group that wants to put it on stage.

6. Fan cons: WorldCon, the original science-fiction fan convention, began in the 1930s and drew a few hundred people each year for decades. (http://worldcon.org) In the '70s, that began to change. After “Star Wars,” it changed more. WorldCon now draws thousands, and hundreds of other fan cons have sprung up around all manner of movie and TV sci-fi, fantasy, horror and more. Speaking of which ...

7. Cos play: That's fan-speak for dressing up as favorite characters from movies for conventions or other events. "Star Wars" fans led this trend, now a common worldwide phenomenon. The best example: The 501st Legion (aka Vader's Fist), some 7,000 fans who dress in highly detailed copies of the costumes worn by Storm Troopers and other imperial bad guys in the "Star Wars" movies. They raise money for charities by appearing at public events and often serve as escorts for celebrities at "Star Wars"-themed affairs. 

8. Lightsabers: The greatest imaginary hand-to-hand combat weapons ever invented. Sure, the real-life versions are just plastic toys. But pick one up and try, just try, to keep yourself from swinging it like Obi-Wan on a mission.

9. Famous minor characters: When the original trilogy started to come out on video, fans dove deep. Many obsessed about every person on screen. The result: A character who was on screen for moments in the film becomes the object of fascination. Thus, Admiral Ackbar has his own fan club.