Many people can agree that the Star Wars movies are some of the best Sci-Fi films ever made, but several re-releases have had fans angry at George Lucas and the movie studios.
The original trilogy, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, released in 1977, 1980, and 1983, respectively, sent millions to the movies at the time of their release. At the time, the main way the films were released to home video were VHS and LaserDisc. When George Lucas released the “Special Edition” of the films in 1997, many fans were upset due to the large number of things that were changed from the original versions of the films. (For a full list, see here.) George Lucas however, says he considered the original versions to be unfinished, and the 1997 re-release was what he had in mind for his final vision.
“I’m not going to spend the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn’t really exist anymore. It’s like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I’m sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it.” –
George Lucas on the Today Show, 2004
The original, unmodified films weren’t released on DVD until 2006, and when they were, fans were disappointed to find that the films were simply a poor quality copy of the 1993 LaserDiscs, and lacked surround sound. Lucasfilm responded to the large negative response with a statement shortly after:
“As you may know, an enormous amount of effort was put into digitally restoring the negatives for the Special Editions…The negatives of the movies were permanently altered for the creation of the Special Editions, and existing prints of the first versions are in poor condition. So many fans have requested the original movies, we wanted to find a way to bring them to you. But since these movies do not represent George’s artistic vision, we could not put the extraordinary time and resources into this project as we did with the Special Editions. The 1993 Laserdisc masters represented the best source for providing the original versions as DVD bonus material.”
Before 2006, the only copies that existed of the original, unaltered trilogy were VHS and LaserDiscs, and since 2006, the only available copies have been the poor quality DVDs released in 2006. Rumors have started circulating that Disney (who will soon own the rights to the Star Wars films) and 20th Century Fox (the current owner) are teaming up to release the original, unaltered trilogy on Blu-Ray. This contradicts statements from George Lucas and Lucasfilm, however, who have repeatedly said they’re not going to waste the time or money to restore the old film negatives. Some speculate that the films will be released shortly before Episode VII: The Force Awakens hits theaters in December 2015. Others speculate that Lucasfilm/Disney/Fox is waiting until the first film’s 40th anniversary, in 2017, to release the trilogy on Blu-Ray.
Until then, however, the best quality version of the original, unaltered films are only available on the DVDs released in 2006.