Watch the Very First Trailers for Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back & Return of the Jedi (1976–83)

What with all that has, over the past 36 years, grown out of it — sequels, pre­quels, toys, nov­els, radio pro­duc­tions, video games, LEGO sets, LEGO set-themed video games, con­ven­tions, PhD the­ses, and an entire uni­verse of con­tent besides — we can only with dif­fi­cul­ty remem­ber how Star Wars began. The whole thing came pre­ced­ed by the promise of noth­ing grander, more pro­found, or minu­tia-packed than a rol­lick­ing myth­ic space opera, and above, we have a reminder of that fact in the form of the first film’s orig­i­nal teas­er trail­er. “Some­where in space, this may all be hap­pen­ing right now,” intones its faint­ly haunt­ing nar­ra­tor. “The sto­ry of a boy, a girl, and a uni­verse. It’s a big, sprawl­ing saga of rebel­lion and romance. It’s a spec­ta­cle light-years ahead of its time. It’s an epic of heroes and vil­lains and aliens from a thou­sand worlds. Star Wars: a bil­lion years in the mak­ing… and it’s com­ing to your galaxy this sum­mer.”

Since noth­ing suits Star Wars quite like com­pletism, we’ve also includ­ed the teasers for the rest of the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy: The Empire Strikes Back, just above, and Return of the Jedi, below. “In the con­tin­u­a­tion of the Star Wars saga,” booms the more tra­di­tion­al voice-over about the sec­ond film over hand-drawn imagery of its scenes, “the Empire strikes back, and Luke, Han, and Leia must con­front its awe­some might. In the course of the odyssey, they trav­el with their faith­ful friends, droids and wook­iees, to exot­ic worlds where they meet new alien crea­tures and evil machines, cul­mi­nat­ing in an awe­some con­fronta­tion between Luke Sky­walk­er and the mas­ter of the dark side of the Force, Darth Vad­er.” By 1983, the time of the third pic­ture, then titled Revenge of the Jedi, the series had amassed such a fol­low­ing that the nar­ra­tor need­ed only rat­tle off the famil­iar heroes, vil­lains, and var­i­ous space crit­ters we’d encounter once again.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Revis­its Aban­doned Movie Sets for Star Wars and Oth­er Clas­sic Films in North Africa

Star Wars Uncut: The Epic Fan Film

Star Wars as Silent Film

Star Wars Gets Dubbed into Nava­jo: a Fun Way to Pre­serve and Teach a Fad­ing Lan­guage

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • JEC says:

    the nar­ra­tor of the first trail­er sounds like Malachi Throne to me.

  • dan1101 says:

    The first Star Wars trail­er was a lot dark­er and less pol­ished than the final film. That bold blue Star Wars logo was­n’t near­ly as strik­ing as the yel­low one. Still, it’s amaz­ing how well the spe­cial effects hold up, hard­ly any­thing in the movie feels like the 1970’s.

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