Weekend Roundtable: Star Wars Memories

One of the greatest strengths of the ‘Star Wars’ saga is the feeling of personal attachment it instills in each viewer. How were you first introduced to the ‘Star Wars’ franchise? How old were you and which movie did you see first? Did you see any of the original trilogy in the theater?

Shannon Nutt

I was lucky enough to see ‘Star Wars’ during its original run back in the summer of 1977 when I was 7-years-old. I saw it at the Uniontown Mall Theater in Uniontown, PA, which is now a Carmike, but was then run by a local (now-defunct) movie chain called Manos. I can’t remember how long after the movie started playing that my parents took me to see it, but I know it had been out for at least a few weeks because kids at school were talking about it. (I also remember getting in a fight with my best friend after I’d seen the film over whether it was Obi-Wan who said “That’s no moon; it’s a space station” and whether Darth Vader lived at the end of the film. Naturally, I was right on both counts.)

After seeing the movie, I became obsessed with ‘Star Wars’. Not just in getting my hands on the toys (I begged my mom to buy me the X-Wing until she finally caved… it was an “obscene” $13, which was a lot for a toy back then), but anything and everything ‘Star Wars’ related. I saved up my allowance ($5 a week, which was pretty darn good for a 7-year-old!) to buy John Williams’ double-LP soundtrack (“You know that doesn’t have any words on it, right?” I remember my mom telling me), and a book that literally fell apart on me I read it so much: ‘The Art of Star Wars’, which included the original script among its pages. By the time I turned 8 that winter, I was talking to people not just about what happened in the movie, but how it was filmed. I was a walking library about the blue screen effects and models that were used and how certain shots were created. And, of course, I knew the movie’s dialogue by heart.

Sadly, almost everything post-‘Empire Strikes Back’ in the ‘Star Wars’ universe has let me down to one degree or another. If there’s any franchise that has survived the longest off the good will obtained during those first two theatrical films, it’s this one. By the time you read this, I’ll have seen ‘The Force Awakens’ at least twice, and will either be in my bedroom crying or back at the theater praising J.J. Abrams for saving my childhood.

Mike Attebery

The first ‘Star Wars’ film I saw was ‘Return of the Jedi’, which I saw in the theater. I can still remember walking across a boiling hot parking lot with my dad and my sisters to see it at the Allen Theater in Farmington, NM.

The next film I caught was ‘A New Hope’. I can’t remember if it was airing on TV, or if we had rented the movie and a VCR, but I know I was around 8. Right after seeing the first film, my mother rented a VCR and VHS tape so I could see ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. I watched that tape twice, back-to-back viewings. I was about to watch it a third time, but the tape broke, so we had to take it back to the rental shop halfway through viewing #3.

As a kid, I collected a bunch of the old ‘Star Wars’ actions figures. I still remember the anguish of losing Boba Fett down my friend’s drain pipe. I’ve also owned the movies on just about every home video format available. Multiple times.

Brian Hoss

Unlike a lot of other movies (heck, even the green-striped ‘E.T.’), I did not have access to VHS versions of the original trilogy growing up. This in effect led me to discover the movies on more than one occasion in spite of having quite a few toys and even taped ‘Return of the Jedi’ toy commercials. I can vividly recall thinking that I was watching each installment for the first time on different random occasions with the first movie coming last. Inexplicably, my grandparents owned ‘Star Wars’ as one of the handful of movies for their RCA SelectaVision CED player. Unfortunately, instead of watching ‘Star Wars’, it was always the ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ CED that was in the machine. Still, I had the cover art to admire, and only later really wonder about Luke and Leia.

A more distinct ‘Star Wars’ memory was making a special trip with my nerdy friends to see ‘The Phantom Menace’, which was remarkable for the practically brand-new 30 theater AMC still having to make some big changes to handle the special film. Leaving the theater, I was so stunned at the disappointment, but later, when I learned that the new movie would focus on an epic war of clones, my hopes were raised… and dashed. For the longest time, ‘Star Wars’ in videogames easily topped the whiny Anakin movies to the extent that it seemed normal. This past year has been different – truly a new hope (*cough*).

Tom Landy

I was far too young to see the original ‘Star Wars’ movie in a theater (I was only 6-months-old), but I remember seeing it at home on VHS a few
years later. I had a small army of the Kenner action figures (who didn’t?),
but my favorite toys of all were those little micro ‘Star Wars’ playsets that came with tiny metal figurines of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and other characters from the films. It’s a little sad that they don’t make toys like they used to anymore.

The only ‘Star Wars’ movies I’ve seen in a theater were the Special Editions and prequels – all of which sadly left me with varying levels of disappointment. Fortunately, I recently discovered Harmy’s De-Specialized Editions online, which is a project to painstakingly restore the original trilogy to what they were when they were first released. Now I’m finally able to relive my childhood and watch these great films without all the unnecessary tampering whenever I want to… and in HD, too!

M. Enois Duarte

My earliest memory of the ‘Star Wars’ universe was ‘A New Hope’. If I remember correctly, I was around 8, maybe 9-years-old. The movie had just come out on VHS that year. I was really excited because other kids had already seen it and talked about it, and I collected many of the toys. I didn’t finally see a ‘Star Wars’ movie in the theater until ‘Return of the Jedi’.

Of the toys, the Darth Vader Collector’s Case was my most prized possession, but I most often played with Han Solo, Greedo, Chewie, Vader, Boba Fett and one lonely Hoth Stormtrooper.

Although I had seen all three movies repeatedly long before the prequels, my fondest memory of the original trilogy, for some strange reason, still remains the battle scenes on Endor and the Ewoks.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

I was born in 1978 when ‘Star Wars’ was already an established phenomenon, so I have no real memory about when I first saw any of the original trilogy. Honestly, I don’t have any specific memories of watching the movies at all when I was a kid. Between TV broadcasts and very early home video releases, they were always just around. I’m not sure if I saw any of these movies theatrically prior to the 1997 Special Edition reissues, but I know I saw them many, many times growing up.

The earliest ‘Star Wars’-related memory I can muster is asking my father about the colors of lightsabers in 1982 or ’83, although I’m not sure if that was inspired by the movies or by the action figures. Even after G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe had taken over the toy aisles, I’d still grab every ‘Star Wars’ figure I could get my grubby little hands on. I have unexpectedly vivid memories of buying Bib Fortuna, and I remember my dad being livid at me for breaking my new C-3PO figure, unaware that it was meant to have its limbs removed.

The prequel trilogy had a particularly long-lasting impact on my life. It’s a little embarrassing to admit now, but I was terrified of driving when I was a teenager. I had a license and even a new car, but I just couldn’t bring myself to drive much of anywhere, especially by myself. During the summer of 1999, my mother was visiting family out west and I was left home alone for more than a month. I was desperate to see ‘The Phantom Menace’, though, so I finally mustered up the courage to get in my car and drive a couple of miles to the theater by the mall. After that, my weird mental block was shattered, and I racked up a couple hundred miles behind the wheel within a few days. At least something good came out of ‘The Phantom Menace’!

Josh Zyber

I was about 6 or 7 when my grandparents took me to visit their friend “Uncle” Bob (not really a blood relation) and his wife. This was in the early days of the home video boom, and Bob was obsessed with movies in a way that must have seemed really abnormal to other adults at the time. He had a rec room with a TV, a VCR and several shelves filled with hundreds of VHS tapes of movies he’d recorded off television airings (probably in EP speed to get as many per tape as possible).

I remember that Bob asked how many times I’d seen ‘Star Wars’, and was practically aghast when I told him I’d never seen it at all. He needed to rectify that right away, so he set up that tape to keep me occupied while he and the other adults had some tea and a chat in the dining room. I think I watched the movie about one-and-a-half times before my grandparents collected me to take me home.

The first ‘Star Wars’ movie I saw in the theater was ‘Return of the Jedi’. My mother had a system in place where I had to do either chores or activities with her to earn “points” which I could save up. After a certain number of points, she’d take me to a movie of my choosing. Of course, that’s the one I wanted to see. I don’t believe my mother had ever seen either of the previous ‘Star Wars’ movies herself (or had even the faintest interest in them) and I’m sure she had absolutely no idea what was going on in this one, but she endured it for me. As an adult now, I recognize that ‘Jedi’ is by far the weakest of the original trilogy films, but it still has a lot of sentimental value for me.

Star Wars Princess Leia Power of the Force action figure
I never owned very many ‘Star Wars’ toys as a kid. It really bothered me that the action figures couldn’t bend their elbows or knees like my G.I. Joe figures could. However, as an adult, I got swept up in collector’s fever during the late 1990s and bought up dozens of the hideous “Power of the Force” action figures – the ones that were all sculpted to look like the characters had beefed up on steroids. Even Princess Leia looked like a linebacker. Fortunately, I eventually came to my senses and sold the whole lot while there was still a market for them.

I do not currently own any of the ‘Star Wars’ movies on DVD or Blu-ray. I have the Definitive Collection Laserdisc box set to tide me over until the original theatrical cuts of the first three films are properly restored.

Your Turn

Tell us your ‘Star Wars’ memories in the Comments below.


  1. NJScorpio

    The Sega Genesis 32X version of ‘Star Wars: Arcade’…having not played any of the Star Wars PC games, the combination of the (then cutting edge) 3D graphics and high fidelity movie score and sound effects, it truly felt like I was in the movies, flying around with R2-D2.

  2. BrennerM

    I never saw the first two in the theater but I did have some Star Wars toys in the late 70s/early 80s (I know I had the rolling landspeeder plus a few action figures). I first got exposed to them in about 1982 when I stumbled upon the Empire Strikes Back radio drama running on a local radio station on Sunday nights. It ran past my bedtime so I listened on headphones in my room, trying to make sure my parents didn’t know that I was staying up late. I missed the first couple parts but I vividly remember listening to the scene where Han gets frozen in carbonite. At the time I just thought the radio was broadcasting the sound from the movies, I didn’t know it was specifically made for radio. In 1983, my Mom drove me and a couple friends to see ROTJ in the theater. We were 11-12 but she just dropped us off and we went on our own…no adult supervision back then! I subsequently saw the first two on VHS later in the 80s, and of course I saw all of them in 1997 in the theater with the Special Edition rereleases. Looking forward to TFA on Sunday, hopefully it will at least be better than the prequels but it will be very unlikely to topple TESB as my favourite movie of all time.

  3. photogdave

    I was four when Star Wars premiered. We were on a family vacation in San Francisco and went to see it once in the theatre and once at a drive-in. My dad fell asleep both times. I remember stopping at a Toys R Us (which was so awesome because we didn’t have them in Canada back then) and my parents bought me a C-3P0 and R2-D2. I played with those the whole drive back home and then supplemented my collection with Luke and Vader.
    Everyone around me had Star Wars toys so I didn’t really need to get any more of my own. One friend had the Death Star playset from JC Penny with the working trash compactor, another had a crazy cardboard Death Star that was like a cutaway globe.
    My parents took me to Empire as well and since I was now eight, I took the film far more seriously and really got into the toys, buying the latest versions of all the main characters and the coolest vehicles like the snow speeder and Slave I. Sadly, my stupid little brother traded almost all my Star Wars toys for a crappy Air Raiders ship sometime in the late 80s. Don’t worry — I kicked his ass!
    For my 10th birthday I was allowed to invite a select group of friends to see Jedi at one of the best screens in Vancouver — the old Stanley. We were chauffeured in a classic 50s Cadillac and treated to large popcorns and pops (what we call soda). Best birthday ever! We all loved Jedi — especially the speeder bike chase through the forest.
    I saw all the re-releases in theatre and remember enjoying the new FX and being really excited about seeing the “lost footage” from A New Hope because I used to have trading cards with stills from those scenes. OF course I was disappointed with Greedo …
    Saw all the prequels in theatre too and actually enjoyed Phantom Menace, except for the stupid Midi-chlorians, and stupid Jar-Jar. I thought it set up the stories to come quite well but Clones was a bit of a let-down, and Revenge felt too rushed.
    Looking forward to Awakens but not as excited as I should be. Maybe because JJ kinda screwed up Star trek…

  4. merlich

    In the summer of 1977 I saw Star Wars at the Avco Embassy theater in Westwood Village, Los Angeles. I didn’t buy it on VHS but I did buy it on Laserdisc (!) and watched it many times. I also saw The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi during their first runs in theaters in Los Angeles. Fond memories, but that was a long time ago, and now I am so over Star Wars with the saturation marketing and endless product tie-ins that I’m not sure I’ll bother to see The Force Awakens even when it hits Blu-ray.

  5. Csm101

    I saw Return of the Jedi during it’s original theatrical run. I don’t remember ever seeing any trailers for it, although I do remeber toy commercials for Star Wars figures. I saw it at the Arcade theater in downtown Kissimmee at night. The line was wrapped around the building and I feel like we sat kind of close to the front. It was an old building that had balcony seats in the back from the days of segregation. They had the best popcorn, so buttery. I will always love Return of the Jedi the most of all the Star Wars flicks. To this day, I find it the most entertaining of the original three. I love Jabba the Hutt and all the nasty little critters in his lair. The rancor scene, Vader throwing the Emperor over the railing, some of the best moments in the whole series for me. I might of actually watched the original Star Wars in either kindergarten or first grade in my classroom toward the end of the year. I specifically remember the cantina scene when Obi Wan severs the ugly dude’s arm, although those memories are very fuzzy. I never collected Star Wars toys but a friend of my mom’s who was a house keeper brought me a chewbacca figure and the robot who repaired Luke’s hand in ESB and a couple other figures. I did get to see the original three in theaters again when they were re-released in ’99 or 2000 and I had a blast with those as well.

  6. CC

    I saw it in june of 1977 and thought it was a fun fantasy.
    But by the end of the year, the much superior Close Encounters of the Third Kind had all but eclipsed it.

  7. charles contreras

    As I mentioned in an earlier post, I saw the original Star Wars in 1977 when I was 15. The line of people waiting was wrapped around the newly built Plitt Orland Square theatre in Orland Park. It was a big deal at the time with its 4 screens, across the drive from the mall that opened a year earlier. Because I was collecting movies back then, I was one of the first to have an 8 min. digest version of Star Wars on super 8mm film, which highlighted the scene where Obi Wan gives Luke his lightsabre, and then the escape from the Death Star and battle between the Millennium Falcon and the Tie-Fighters. Back then it was a big deal just to have it on my shelf. Later on they released deluxe editions of both Star Wars and Empire in color and with the soundtrack. Both had a running time of approx. 32 minutes when both 400 ft. reels were spliced together. They never did release Jedi on super 8, but by then I was making the switch to vhs, and ultimately to blu ray. But I’ll never forget the feeling of watching those films on the big screen, such a magical thrill that needs to be experienced.

  8. Bolo

    My life was almost designed for ‘Star Wars’ to have as little impact on me as possible. I grew up in that little zone between when the initial enthusiasm for the original films had just warn off and the nostalgia had yet to kick in. Where I grew up, pop culture wasn’t such a defining force in people’s lives on account of most of the people in my neighbourhood were from third world countries where such things are less important.

    I didn’t see these films until I was a teenager in the 90’s, shortly before the ‘Special Editions’ got trotted out. One of the Supernintendo games brought them to my attention, since I liked the game I figured I would rent the movies.

    Aside from probably being a little too old to really get into the magic and adventure of these films, their mythology had already been taken down a few notches in my eyes because I had seen ‘Spaceballs’ before ever seeing a ‘Star Wars’ film. Making things slightly worse was that the guy who ran my local videostore did not know much about movies and thought ‘Return of the Jedi’ was the second one, so I rented and watched these films in the wrong order.

    Nonetheless, I found them to be excellent films. I liked them and I can see why they captivated the imaginations of people who were alive in the 70’s or people born since who experienced them as children. I’ve seen the original trilogy only a couple of times, and I only saw the prequels once during their initial theatrical run because my friends at the time wanted to see them.

  9. Wow, saw the original when I was 15 at the Astro Twin in Greenville, SC. Then drove 90 miles to see “Empire” in 70MM in Charlotte NC. “Jedi” I saw back in Greenville at the Camelot on opening day. With the exception of the original, saw all the movies on opening day. Lord, I’m a geek!

  10. Wow – none of you fellas ever had a tin Star Wars lunch box?
    My very first exposure to the original Star Wars may have been a showing on HBO in the very early 80’s. I would have been old enough (like Shannon) to see it back in ’77 but we did not have much back then.
    Like so many others, I have owned them on various formats… VHS, laserdisc, dvd and now of course BD.

    • charles contreras

      I never did own the lunch box. I had owned the movies in all the various formats, had the Hildebrandt poster of the first Star Wars film, as well as the soundtrack albums for the original trilogy, not to mention the movie posters, including a checklist poster for said original trilogy. I had an opportunity to purchase an original copy of Revenge of The Jedi, but $500.00, even for me, was a little steep at the time.

    • photogdave

      I had the tin lunch box! Some kid tried to steal it from my so I hit him in the face with it, leaving a dent. (In the lunch box.)
      It had a big still photo of an X-Wing in space.
      Other Star Wars novelties I had: Play-Doh Death Star set, die-cast mini X-Wing and TIE fighter, original light saber (the flashlight with a big plastic tube on the end) and many packs of trading cards.

  11. EM

    My first viewing of Star Wars is quite a striking memory, yet I remember surprisingly little from it. In the summer of ’77 I was seven years old, a perfect age for that movie’s magic. I lived outside a town with just one (indoor) movie theater, a family-run downtown brick palace from the 1920s that still bore but a single screen. I don’t know when exactly Star Wars finally opened at that theater—I’m not even sure it was still summer anymore—but my father had heard it was the thing to see, and so my parents and I went. I didn’t know anything about it at all. By the time the movie started, I was in a poor mood. I’m not sure why—was it the long wait in line? was I frightened by the image of a giant, looming Darth Vader on the movie poster? were my fears multiplied by the posters of past movies still hanging in the lobby (think Jaws and King Kong ’76)?—but I was not receptive to a fun night at the movies, and I barely paid any attention to the screen for quite a while. As a result, for years I had virtually no firsthand memory of the movie prior to the scenes aboard the Falcon in transit to Alderaan. But what I did pay attention to, from that point forward, got me hooked. I had Star Wars mania, and I was able to piece together much of what I’d missed thanks to a wide variety of sources, including the novelization, the screenplay in The Art of Star Wars, the bubblegum cards, and the poster magazine. (Tie-ins were not exactly scarce…) I think it was the 1981 rerelease that finally had me experiencing the movie as a whole.

    The Empire Strikes Back had been out for a few weeks before I finally got to see it. By that point, I had even read the Marvel Comics adaptation—more than once! The film still hadn’t come to my town—oh, the agony!—when finally my parents, a friend of my mother’s, and I crossed the state line to see Empire at a multiplex. I think it was the first multiplex I had ever seen! This time I paid a lot more attention, though I did miss a little of the escape from Cloud City—I had drunk a little too much soda, and I simply had to go to the restroom! When Empire came to that same 1920s one-screen theater in my hometown later that summer, I didn’t overdo the food and drink!

    My mother and I went to see Return of the Jedi on its opening day (at last!), at another multiplex in a nearby city. As she drove, my mother said she felt like firing lasers at the other cars on the road! I remember my frustration at hearing a man read Jabba’s subtitles to a child obviously too young to have wittingly seen the previous movies. But I had a good time anyway, and I caught the movie a couple more times when it finally came to my hometown. But those hometown viewings weren’t at the old downtown theater—they were at the corporate multiplex that had opened a couple of years earlier. 1983, the year of the Jedi, was the year the old downtown theater finally closed down. It was razed to become the neighboring bank’s parking lot. Instead of a box office, it got an ATM.

    But the saga doesn’t end there. The old downtown theater’s site is being used for arts and entertainment once again, as it has been converted into a park with an open-air live theater. The multiplex across town where I caught repeated viewings of Jedi closed down years ago. Meanwhile, the town’s drive-in movie theater—opened in the 1950s by the same family that owned the downtown theater—still operates to this day.

  12. William Henley

    Does it count if my introduction to Star Wars wasn’t through one of the six movies? My introduction was when I was like 4 years old with the Ewok made-for-television movies, and later with the Ewok animated show. Then I saw Return of the Jedi, then probably a year or two later I saw Star Wars and Empire for the first time.

    So my introduction to Star Wars was with the Ewoks.

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