Top Space Movies, Part 1

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) / Director: George Lucas / Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

George Lucas resurrected classic adventure serials and Westerns with this landmark film, the first made in the series (even though it’s number four in his vision). In this installment, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) leaves the farm to join the rebels against the evil Empire and save Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the Darth Vader. The tale offers everything a fan of space movies, sci-fi, and Westerns could hope for: humble heroes pulled into larger worlds, roguish scoundrels, damsels in distress, a menagerie of beguiling aliens, and epic battles with the highest stakes.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) / Director: Irvin Kershner / Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

In this episode, widely considered the best of the six made, Darth Vader hunts Luke Skywalker, who undergoes Jedi Knight training with Master Yoda. It’s the darkest and most stylish the series as Lord Vader has Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia and the droid C-3PO and Luke rushes to save them, only to discover a terrible truth about his paternity. Things look grim as rebels lose a key battle and a trusted friend betrays.

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) / Director: Richard Marquand / Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

This last of the original trilogy softens the tone of second movie and introduces cutesy-poo Ewoks and grotesque Jabba the Hutt. The rebel forces try to destroy the Empire’s second Death Star and retrieve Han Solo and Princess Leia, while Luke tries to rescue his father from darkness.

Alien (1979) / Director: Ridley Scott / Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

A mining ship investigating a distress signal discovers a nest of strange eggs, and more, on a distant planet. Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the crew try to survive an ensuing terror that’s nothing like the fun and games of Star Wars and Star Trek. The movie’s fantastic tagline set the tone: “in space no one can hear you scream.”

Aliens (1986) / Director: James Cameron / Stars: Sigourney Weaver

Maybe no one can hear you scream in space, but Hollywood heard enough delighted squeals back on Earth to develop a sequel to Alien, helmed this time by Cameron, who introduces the Alien Queen, one of cinema’s great monsters/villains. At the emotional core of the story is childless Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Newt, a little orphan who survived the decimation of her colony on planet LV-426.