What are the confirmed influences on the Star Wars universe? I recall reading that Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand faces was a significant influence on the story from the first 3 Star Wars movies? I've also heard the argument made that E.E. Smith's Lensman series were also a significant influence on the idea of the Jedi Knights?
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This seems a fairly thorough step into the subject. No hard evidence or quotes from Lucas or anything though..
- Saturday morning serials (scrolling narrative)
- Japanese anime (droids)
- Paperback adventure clichés (coming of age, save the princess)
- Rafael Sabatini's swashbuckling adventures (lightsabers! Vader is Luke's father)
- Alan Foster's recurring "primitive natives overpowering high-tech invaders" theme (Ewoks)
In the end though: "Just don't try to find deep insight in it." :)
There was a fantastic writeup over at Slate a few weeks ago that goes into great detail, showing Star Wars to be just as much or more a pastiche of classic genre films as the work of later directors like Tarantino.
Most notably, Star Wars, and especially A New Hope, borrow narrative and structural elements from Japanese samurai movies1, especially those of Akira Kurosawa; setting and visual style from old Flash Gordon serials and the pulp paperbacks that spawned those; and a cinematic language from old westerns and war movies such as The Searchers2.
On top of all of these elements, he overlaid a fairly strict reading of the Campbellian monomyth - he was reading Campbell's Hero With A Thouasnd Faces while rewriting the script, and it heavily altered the direction of the rewrite. Throw in a dash of Casablanca and a sprinkle of Metropolis, and you've got yourself a masterpiece of modern collage.
1: In particular, you'll want to look to The Hidden Fortress, from which the basic model of 3P0 And R2 was clearly drawn (with a dash of Laurel and Hardy mixed in), and which the earliest drafts of the plot were essentially taken beat for beat.
2: There's a lot of visual language borrowed from films like Once Upon a Time In The West, and The Searchers, but the most wholesale plunder is definitely yanking the entire dogfight sequence from The Dam Busters for the final raid on the Death Star.
(And I really, really, recommend heading over to read the piece on Slate. It's got side by side gif's and youtube mashups and primary source quotes and everything you could ever need to learn just how much Lucas buys into that old mantra - 'Great Artists Steal')