Success is always followed by imitators. When Star Wars was released in 1977, it didn't just create a legacy of wonder and excitement that lasts to this day, it created a rubric for how to meld science fiction and fantasy in a way that made big bucks. After 1977, there were enough Star Wars rip-offs to fill the gaps between actual Star Wars movies.
Some of the movies that copied Star Wars take from Episode IV wholesale - the look, the effects, the sounds, and the story were picked over like a plate of nachos at a bachelor party. But some of the film's imitators took a few pieces of George Lucas's masterpiece and tried to make them their own, just like he did with the sci-fi sagas of his childhood.
The following movies that ripped off Star Wars aren't all bad (though some of them definitely are), but they're not exactly original. Remember to vote up the worst offenders.
- Photo: LU.MA.FIN.
Italy has a long history of releasing quickie genre films that mimic huge American hits. Within its library are the likes of Secret Agent Super Dragon, a James Bond copy, and City of the Living Dead (Night of the Living Dead AND The Last Man on Earth). Star Odyssey, however, takes the cake. The film takes place on a universe where aliens auction off planets they deem insignificant, and yeah, one of those planets is Earth. Actually it's called "Sol 3," but it's clear we're on the third rock from the sun.
So where does Star Wars come into play? Everything on Sol 3 may look like it was filmed in a regular ol' city, but when we check in with the evil despot Kress, it's clear someone has been watching A New Hope. Kress's face is disfigured; he's in a large, Darth Vader-aping outfit; and he's doing a classic evil guy voice.
- Actors: Nino Castelnuovo, Ennio Balbo, Gianni Garko, Chris Avram, Roberto Dell'Acqua
- Released: 1979
- Directed by: Alfonso Brescia
- Photo: New World Pictures
If there's one Star Wars copycat you must see before a moon-shaped star base blows up your planet, it's Starcrash. Starring David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer, and Caroline Munro, Starcrash is absolutely wild. Plummer plays a galactic emperor who needs a couple of space heroes to stop a killer weapon on a secret planet.
There are key differences between the two films that distinguish them. At every turn, Starcrash manages to be 100% more complicated that Star Wars. There are interstellar police, a weapon that drives people insane, a giant robot, and evil cavemen. Yeah.
The most Star Wars-ian touch in the whole film isn't its faux magic storyline or all the jumping to hyperspace, it's the lightsaber wielded by the film's mop-top hero throughout the film. Starcrash makes it easy to see the enduring qualities of Lucas's vision.
- Actors: David Hasselhoff, Christopher Plummer, Caroline Munro, Hamilton Camp, Candy Clark
- Released: 1978
- Directed by: Luigi Cozzi
- Photo: Toei Company
Message from Space is a classic example of small studios attempting to cash in on the success of Star Wars. From the font, to the score, to the feudal Japanese undertones, this space opera isn't just indebted to Lucas's vision of a galaxy far, far away - it lives there rent-free.
The film follows two "roughriders," Shiro and Aaron, as they help the haughty Meia defeat evil, metal-skinned baddies from the Gavanas Empire. As if that weren't samey enough, the visuals of the film features angular ships flying through trenches and shooting lasers at other angular ships. Not to mention the small, beepy robots.
Plotlines and characters aside, the visuals of the film are cribbed directly from Star Wars, specifically the octagonal designs beloved by the film's villains.
- Actors: Vic Morrow, Sonny Chiba, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hideyo Amamoto, Philip Casnoff
- Released: 1978
- Directed by: Kinji Fukasaku
- Photo: New World Pictures
Aside from the super dark lighting, Space Raiders straight up looks and sounds like Star Wars. This isn't just because it's about a young boy who ends up on a ship with a bunch of ne'er-do-wells who are on the run from an evil warlord, it's mostly because this movie cribs hard from Lucas's first two Star Wars movies.
Released in 1983, Space Raiders benefited from a small bump in technology and the visual rubric created by Lucas. This movie has the Star Destroyer flyover that these movies love, but it's also filled with alien designs and space battles crafted to look exactly like they exist in the Star Wars universe.
One of the reasons the effects look so Star Wars-esque is because they're taken directly from Battle Beyond the Stars, another Roger Corman sci-fi effort that rips off Lucas. One of the bright spots in the film is the creature design. All of the aliens look like they were shipped in from Mos Eisley, but they're still pretty cool-looking if you're into that sort of thing.
- Actors: Vince Edwards, David Mendenhall, Luca Bercovici, Drew Snyder, Thom Christopher
- Released: 1983
- Directed by: Howard R. Cohen