Looking at every Star Wars release on VHS over the decades

Let's look at every time Star Wars has been released on VHS over the decades.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker lightsaber duels Darth Vader. Image Credit: StarWars.com
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker lightsaber duels Darth Vader. Image Credit: StarWars.com /

For many Star Wars fans, their first time experiencing a Star Wars movie wasn't sitting in the movie theater. It was watching a VHS tape on a small TV in a living room somewhere. While there have been many ways to watch the Star Wars movies over the years, most of them featuring better audio and video quality than a VHS could ever hope to, the Star Wars VHS still holds a nostalgic place in the hearts of many fans. Star Wars has been released on VHS several times over the years, bringing in new fans who would discover the series for the first time. 

Let's look at every time Star Wars has been released on VHS over the decades.

(Note: While there have been some VHS releases of the animated Star Wars TV shows over the years, this list only focuses on the Star Wars movies.)

1979 - The Making of Star Wars

The first Star Wars VHS to be sold wasn't actually a Star Wars movie but a documentary that aired in 1977 and showed some behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the original movie. The documentary proved to be popular enough that it was released on VHS (and Betamax) in 1979, an early indication that the idea of behind-the-scenes videos would thrive in home media, something that was proven with the rise of DVD special features years later. 

1982 - Star Wars IV - A New Hope

The first Star Wars movie to be released on VHS was A New Hope in 1982. This release was originally intended to be rented instead of bought. The rental version of Star Wars from this release is considered one of the rarer Star Wars VHS today since it was never officially sold to consumers. The tape for this release was also in a plastic clamshell case as opposed to a cardboard sleeve, which almost every other Star Wars VHS release would come in. 

1984 - The Empire Strikes Back/ 1986 Return of the Jedi

The trilogy on VHS was completed over the next several years, with The Empire Strikes Back being released in 1984 (four years after its theatrical release) and Return of the Jedi being released in 1986 (three years after its theatrical release). These releases are known by the red corner on the VHS box. In 1984, the original Star Wars film was also re-released with a red corner box along with The Empire Strikes Back, making this the first time someone could own the entire Star Wars trilogy. 

1990 - The Star Wars trilogy

In 1990, the entire Star Wars trilogy could be purchased as a box set for the first time. The boxes featured the same artwork as the previous VHS releases of Star Wars, though the red corners were removed, and the titles for each image were changed from white to yellow and were moved from the bottom of the picture to the top. In 1992, the tapes were re-released, but the only change was the CBS FOX video logo was changed to a Fox Home Entertainment logo. Other than that, the two releases are identical. 

1992 - Special Letterboxed Edition

A special boxed set was released in 1992 that featured the movies in their widescreen format on VHS for the first time. These transfers were taken from the LaserDisc releases that had come out a few years earlier. The art on the front of the boxes is the same as the previous release, but the images taken from the film that are put on the back of each box were changed. The boxed set also came with a fourth VHS titled From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga

1995 - The Faces Boxed Set

This is the release that many people think of when they imagine Star Wars on VHS. Once again, the trilogy was released as a box set, with each cover being mostly taken up by the face of a character, Darth Vader for A New Hope, a stormtrooper for The Empire Strikes Back, and Yoda for Return of the Jedi, thus people referring to this collection as the "Faces" editions or sometimes the "big head" editions.

This set came with a special feature as well as an interview between George Lucas and film critic Leonard Maltin. The interview was split into three parts, with one part on each of the VHS tapes. These editions were also the last time that the original trilogy was released without any major changes. In fact, the box came with a note from George Lucas stating that this would be the final release of Star Wars in its original version, indicating that the next time Star Wars was released on VHS, it would be the Special Editions

1997 - The Special Editions

The Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy were released one at a time over the first three months of 1997. In August, the entire trilogy was released onto VHS. The trilogy was actually released twice, one box set in widescreen format (in a silver box) and the other in fullscreen format (in a gold box). This release also came with a special feature, a short featurette showing the updates and changes that were made in the creation of the Special Edition version of the trilogy. 

2000 - The Phantom Menace 

The Phantom Menace was released on VHS in April of 2000, almost a year after the movie came out in theaters. Though DVDs were growing in popularity at the time, The Phantom Menace was originally released only on VHS. A DVD release of the film wouldn't happen until a year later.

The DVD release of The Phantom Menace also changed several scenes, making this 2000 VHS release the only way to watch the movie in its original theatrical form. A special edition of the VHS was also released. The tape appears identical to the standard release, but it came with an art book and a strip of 35mm film from the movie as a keepsake.  

2000 - Special Edition re-release

The original trilogy was re-released in the 2000s with a new box design. The 2000 release designed each movie's box to more closely resemble The Phantom Menace release that had just come out, using the Roman numeral and the movie title as part of the logo. The tapes themselves were no different than the 1997 Special Edition releases, though there is no indication on the box that these are the Special Edition versions of the movies. This would be the last time that any of the original trilogy was released on VHS. 

2002 - Attack of the Clones

Attack of the Clones was released on VHS on November 12, 2002, around six months after the movie's theatrical release. Attack of the Clones was the first time a Star Wars movie had been simultaneously released on VHS and DVD on the same day. By the time Attack of the Clones had been released on home media, the DVD was quickly overtaking the VHS as the most popular format, thanks in no small part to the special features included on the DVD disc. The VHS of Attack of the Clones also featured six deleted scenes from the film that played after the movie since those were also already a part of the DVD release at the same time. 

2005 - Revenge of the Sith

For most of the world, the list of VHS releases of Star Wars movies stopped in 2002 with Attack of the Clones. By the time Revenge of the Sith was released, the entire Star Wars saga had been re-released on DVD, which had become the dominant format. Given that Revenge of the Sith's home format release was less than a year before the last VHS release of a major Hollywood film ever, it's not surprising that in many countries Revenge of the Sith was only released on DVD.

However, a small number of VHS copies of Revenge of the Sith were made and sold in the UK and Australia. Today, due to the low print run of the original release, it is one of the most sought-after Star Wars VHS. 

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