That Time the First Star Wars Blew Our Minds

As George Lucas' space saga turns 40, CNET staff around the globe share memories of getting sucked into a galaxy far, far away, sometimes never to return.

CNET staff
9 min read

There's no one true type of Star Wars fan. Here at CNET, we range from people who saw the first film when it came out in 1977 to one patient reporter who was forced to see A New Hope years ago for work! As part of our monthlong special series from 2017 celebrating four decades of Star Wars, we share our most enduring memories of seeing the movie that kicked off the global phenomenon.

I watched the first three movies back home in Barcelona when I was a little girl. I actually watched them when they aired on TV, dubbed in Catalan. Whenever I think about Han Solo I still can hear his Catalan voice and not Harrison Ford's. I was already a big fan of the original trilogy when I moved to Los Angeles. In 2007, a friend of mine was visiting and we got tickets to see Episode IV: A New Hope at the ArcLight Cinemas. George Lucas was presenting it.

I can't remember a single thing Lucas said, just the excitement we felt. We were kids from Barcelona, in Hollywood, at an event with one of our favorite filmmakers. And we were about to see -- on the big screen and not dubbed in Catalan -- one of our favorite childhood movies.
— Patricia Puentes, San Francisco

I was in the first grade in 1977 when about 40 of us went to see Star Wars for my friend Jason Stern's birthday party. We'd heard about how great Star Wars was from the older kids and how there was this bad guy who wore shiny black (Vader) and a big life-size Muppet (Chewy). We were blown away by the music, the sabers and the Stormtroopers. I went from collecting DC and Marvel comics action figures to gathering those tiny Kenner figures that I could stuff in my coat pocket. I lost a lot of those little sabers.
— Terry Collins, San Francisco

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Claire Reilly and her dad Graham attend the premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Claire Reilly/CNET

I don't remember a lot about the film itself (or, at least, details of that 1997 Special Edition screening that haven't blurred into every other viewing since then). But what made the experience so great was seeing it with my dad. I knew Star Wars was important to him, and being asked to go along was a Big Deal. Even as a young Padawan, that opening fanfare felt momentous -- like I was being let in on a major cultural moment.

When I got invited to the premiere of "The Force Awakens" 18 years later, Dad flew up to Sydney to see it with me. I was a professional nerd for CNET now, so the new film was a big deal for me. But when that overture blared out through the IMAX theater, I still grabbed his hand!
— Claire Reilly, Sydney

I grew up watching action adventure films with my dad, who loved epics like "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (with Errol Flynn) and "The Thief of Bagdad" (the 1940 version). So when I watched Star Wars for the first time, it was just like my favorite movies, only set in space! Good guys, bad buys, an evil emperor, a scary henchman with a scary voice, a wise-cracking pilot, a Wookiee, robots, a fearless princess. What's not to love?

The movie also inspired one of my first maker projects. I know I should say it was a homemade lightsaber, but I admit I spent a lot of time with earmuffs and pink foam rollers, trying to replicate Princess Leia's hair for Halloween. I ended up co-opting one of my mom's best white tablecloths so I could dress up and repeat Carrie Fisher's best lines, including my favorite: "Someone has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, fly boy."
— Connie Guglielmo, San Francisco

In the summer of 1977, my mom asked me if I wanted to see a movie. "It's like Star Trek," she said. I told her I didn't want to. I was 7 years old and enjoyed Star Trek reruns. Maybe I was just being contrary. I went anyway with her, my grandma and a friend. I remember almost nothing else about that day except the movie itself. Was this like it was for a much earlier generation seeing a "talkie" for the first time? It was that earthshaking. It attached itself to me. Over the years, it became like a family member whose flaws are apparent, but you love them deeply anyway. That may sound completely silly to say about a movie. But you've seen it, right? I never said "no" to another Star Wars movie again.
— Anne Dujmovic, Portland, Oregon

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CNET editor Anne Dujmovic's mom wrote this letter in 1977 describing taking her daughter to see "Star Wars." She sent it to Anne's father, who was abroad at the time.

Anne Dujmovic/CNET

The origins of my deep love for Star Wars are a little hazy, and I can't even recall whether I watched it in a theater, a drive-in (yes, that was a thing back then) or on VHS. I do remember being freaked out by the trash compactor scene and the weird one-eyed monster (which I only later learned was called a dianoga) floating around our heroes. Was this a sci-fi adventure or horror film? I scared easily back then.

I have stronger memories of reading Star Wars picture books at my local library (that too was a thing back then) and my older cousin's model X-Wing. The massive Star Wars marketing machine sunk its claws in me at an early age -- I didn't stand a chance.
— Roger Cheng, New York

It was 1997 and my brother and I were given the Star Wars Trilogy Special Edition VHS box set as a joint Christmas present. We'd never even heard of Star Wars before, but the shiny gold box intrigued us, and on Dec. 26 we begged and pleaded with our parents to crack it open. That evening we sat down as a family to watch "A New Hope" in our pajamas (and only "A New Hope" -- my mum was very firm on this -- after that it was bedtime). Over six hours later we finally trundled off to bed. For me it was the beginning of a lifelong passion for both Star Wars and binge-watching things late into the night even when I'm doolally and need to sleep.
— Katie Collins, London


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I was only 3 when A New Hope first premiered, so I didn't see it until the rerelease. The scenes on Tatooine were my favorite. I thought the Jawas were funny and the shots of the Sandcrawler and of C-3PO and R2-D2 fleeing in the escape pod fascinated me. That's why my first Star Wars toy was Kenner's "Land of the Jawas playset."

It probably took me until Return of the Jedi to get hooked on the series (my family had just gone to the Redwoods on vacation so I loved the speeder bike chase on Endor), but my husband was captivated right away.

He tells a great story about what it was like to see "A New Hope" in 1977 while growing up in a small town in northern Wisconsin where there wasn't much around. From the very first scene when the massive underside of the Imperial Star Destroyer passed overhead, he immediately got the chills -- this was like nothing he had ever seen before. He went back to see it 12 times.
— Kent German, London

I started working at CNET in 2012 with a dirty secret -- even though I worked for a tech publication with plenty of "geeky" co-workers, I'd never seen a Star Wars film. In fact, one of my first assignments was writing about Star Wars and I had to tell my editors I couldn't include film references because I'd never seen it.

Fast-forward to early 2014, when I was relocating to CNET's San Francisco bureau. My colleagues in New York surprised me with a screening of Star Wars on one of my last days in the office. We all crowded into CNET's TV review lab, with its comfy couches and optimal viewing environment, to watch the film displayed by a fancy 4K projector.

All I could say at the end was, "Where was Yoda?" When I arrived at my new desk in San Francisco, I was greeted with a sign that said, "Welcome to the Dark Side."
— Shara Tibken, San Francisco

Watch this: Signs you're a Star Wars megafan

I was still quite young in 1979, not yet 5 years old, but I remember going to a drive-in to see a rerelease while visiting family down in Southern California. I recall being excited as soon as it started. My memory is mostly seeing the title on the big screen and the opening crawl (before the Episode IV bit was added) and leaning in toward the speaker on the car window to hear the music.
— Jeff Sparkman, San Francisco

I'm guessing it was about 1979, definitely before "Empire" arrived, when a babysitter's movie-nut brother busted out an actual projector and showed us "Star Wars." An actual projector, pointed at a wall in their house in suburban Sydney, showing me Star Wars for the first time. My mind was blown. My most vivid memory was the opening scene of Stormtroopers storming the Corvette before Vader marches in. I don't remember much after that. Maybe my babysitter's brother only had the first reel of film? It was enough. My 3-year-old brain had already melted with delight.
— Seamus Byrne, Sydney

We saw it on its rerelease in 1979 when my brother and I were very small. I remember big crowds, my parents deciding whether to take us to this Star Wars instead of The Muppet Movie. The trash compactor scene terrified me! Along with the more obvious stuff like the Jawas' sandcrawler, I vividly remember the medal ceremony at the end. I think I thought Leia, Han and Luke were getting married.
— Kelsey Adams, San Francisco

When Star Wars came out in 1977, it garnered buzz very quickly, even though the internet wasn't around. My parents took me to see the movie in San Jose, California, and the theater was packed. People were sitting in the aisles. Despite the crowds, I was engrossed from the very beginning. Star Wars portrayed a kind of adventure I'd never seen on film before, although I was reading plenty of science fiction at the time. And it all rose to a perfect ending when Luke, with the assistance of Han and a ghostly Obi-Wan, dropped his torpedoes down the exhaust port in the Death Star. I, and the entire theater, gave a collective gasp of relief when he made it.
— Wayne Cunningham, San Francisco

I don't remember seeing Star Wars for the first time. Isn't that weird? It's something that's pervaded my life as a child and as an adult, and I don't know how it started. I was too young to see the original movies at the cinema, and we weren't big on videos -- the television is free, as my dad pointed out -- so I guess the first time I saw it must have been on TV. I do remember the TV series "Droids." Thirteen animated episodes of R2-D2 and C-3PO getting into scrapes, broadcast in the UK in 1986. The main character had the brilliantly fun-to-say name "Mungo Baobab" -- when's he going to get a spinoff movie, that's what I want to know.

Growing up a sci-fi geek in the '80s was a strange experience, when the subject of my obsessions -- the actual Star Wars movies, Star Trek episodes, Doctor Who -- were largely absent. I devoured novelizations, comics, episode guides, making-of books, but the actual films and TV episodes were out of reach. Today, I can watch any one of them inside 10 seconds, on a phone in my pocket. Honestly, geeks these days don't know they're born.
— Richard Knightwell, London

I was 9 in 1996 when I first saw any Star Wars film, and it was actually Return of the Jedi! At summer camp, my counselor picked it for us to watch on a rainy day ... maybe because the cute appearance of Ewoks was a good way to break us in before showing us the slightly more murderous events in the earlier two films. We eventually watched all three films on VHS that summer, and a year later I was happy to get to experience the trilogy in theaters for its "Special Edition" release. While I always enjoy the films, it's the parodies I appreciate most of all ... I mean check out Animal Vader from the Muppet Babies!
— Mike Sorrentino, New York

I wasn't even born when Star Wars first came out, and honestly I don't remember when I first watched it, but I recall bits and pieces from television growing up. Over the years, I found myself watching Star Wars on the PC -- illegally, of course -- along with the rest of the trilogy. I've since read most of the now Legends novels, rewatched the movies countless times after, and shed a tear or two when Chewbacca died (in the novels). It's only when I watched the remastered Special Edition in the theaters that I fully appreciated the cinematic experience -- though I must point out that Han Solo still did shoot first and no amount of retconning is going to change that for me.
— Aloysius Low, Singapore

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