Star Wars: A New Hope is just one movie. Or is it? There have been multiple versions since its initial release in 1977. Let’s take a look at which one is the best one to watch.
Since Star Wars: A New Hope originally came out in 1977, there have been several different versions of the movie released. Some included CGI work, sounds changes, and other small differences.
Let’s take a look at the different versions and and which Star Wars: A New Hope was best.
Original Edition with Scroll Changes
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As most Star Wars fans know, George Lucas started tinkering with the first film just a year after it came out. When it was re-released in theaters, he added Episode IV and A New Hope”to the opening scroll.
A small change on screen, but a major alteration going forward. Basically, telling the audience, this was not the beginning and only the middle of the story. It also essentially paved the way for the prequels decades later.
You will be hard-pressed to find this version, but the closest thing you will find is the 1993 laser disc edition. That does not include Episode IV: A New Hope at the start of the scroll. This version was also available during a special 2006 DVD two-pack.
For all intents and purposes, this is what people saw on the big screen back in 1977. I loved it when I was a kid and still love it today.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
The bigger changes came in 1997, when Lucas completely revamped his first film to make it more compatible with the digital age. This version is slightly longer than the original and includes new scenes, new effects and in some respects new story material.
In what is likely the most controversial change, Greedo shoots at Han Solo first in the Mos Eisley Cantina confrontation. In the original, Han shot first before Greedo could pull the trigger. Meaning, Han Solo was the aggressor and willing to do whatever was necessary to safe his life.
Minutes later in the film, Lucas added a scene he wanted in the original cut, but did not have the effects or budget to make it happen back in 1977. Before Han can board the Millennium Falcon, he is confronted by gangster Jabba the Hutt. A character everyone of a certain age knew appeared later on in the trilogy. When the special edition originally came out, it was kind of cool to see Jabba and Boba Fett break the third wall with a nod to the audience. However, since that time, this scene has aged poorly. The CGI Jabba, which looked off to begin with, looks downright cartoonish. Plus, much of the dialogue just exchanged with Greedo in the previous scene, is repeated here. The whole thing feels repetitive and unnecessary.
The second added scene is Luke’s exchange with his friend, Biggs Darklighter before the pair head out to try and blow up the Death Star. The friends are excited to see each other again having grown up on Tatooine together. I don’t have an issue with the scene itself, however, it’s inclusion here makes little sense. If the special editions restored Biggs deleted scenes with Luke on Tatooine, sure. But, Lucas didn’t. Instead, this comes off as a late character introduction after Luke mentioned him briefly to his Aunt and Uncle.
So, while I do like the updated effects, such as trimming out matte lines and improving the look of the x-wings and falcon, the inclusion of the previously mentioned three scenes is too much to overcome. The special edition may have been what many grew up with, but this cannot be considered the best version.
HOLLYWOOD – OCTOBER 03: ***EXCLUSIVE ACCESS*** Director George Lucas presents the film “Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope” at AFI’s 40th Anniversary celebration presented by Target held at Arclight Cinemas on October 3, 2007 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images for AFI)
2004 DVD Release Edition
In 2004, the trilogy was released on DVD for the first time with a new high-definition edition. Some of the changes made in the special edition had been removed, but even more alterations were done.
Here, the Han versus Greedo scene is retooled again. This time, the pair fire their blasters at nearly the same moment.
The CGI on Jabba the Hutt was also slightly improved, but not enough to make this scene any more believable.
Most of the other changes are either audio, effects-related or cosmetic. Some work, some do not. So, while I do think this version is technically better than the previous iteration, it cannot be called the best.
Photo Credit: Lucasfilm
2011 Blu-Ray Release Edition
Visually speaking, this is probably the best version we have to watch. It’s crisp and clear and stunning to watch in high definition on your big screen TV whether it’s HD or 4K. However, there are again a few small, yet extremely annoying changes.
After Luke has been attacked by the Tusken Raiders, R2-D2 is hiding in a small cave. In the original, he’s clearly visible. To “fix” that, CGI rocks were added to cover him up. However, the CGI is clearly fake looking and there’s so much of that fake rock, I’m not quite sure how R2-D2 got in there.
Even worse, moments later, Obi-Wan Kenobi comes to the rescue. In the original, Kenobi uses the force to create a howl. I never really knew what the noise was, but it sounded like an animal. Turns out it’s a Krayt Dragon. Instead of sounding like a growl or a roar, it’s now sounds like Goofy’s scream as he heads down the mountain on skis.
Everything else, for the most part remains the same.
While not as egregious as Greedo shooting first, the two changes feel unnecessary at best and dramatically jarring at worst. Despite the visual clarity, this still doesn’t match the original.
What will the future hold for this film? I’m not quite sure. Disney and Lucasfilm seem content to have the film stay as is for the moment. Maybe they’ll CGI Ewan McGregor’s face onto Sir Alec Guinness at some point, who knows. (Just kidding.)
I know a lot of fans would like to see the original cut in all its high definition glory. I like seeing it as I saw it the first time. So, I deal with the grainy version on my big screen TV with the effects that almost, but don’t quite hold up. For me, it’s better than seeing Greedo shoot first and a Jabba that looks like he was copy and pasted from The Clone Wars.
But, that’s just my opinion. I’d love to hear yours. What’s your favorite version of A New Hope and why?