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The History of 'Star Wars' at the Oscars

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Did you know that every Star Wars film to hit theaters has had a presence on Oscar night? It all started at the 1978 Academy Awards when the then-simply titled Star Wars received seven Oscars, including one for its original score by John Williams. While the film lost out on best screenplay, director, and picture, it was still the best night that George Lucas’s creation has had at the Academy Awards.

The first <em>Star Wars</em> film had more success at the Academy Awards than any film that has followed it in the franchise. (Photo: Everett Collection)
The first Star Wars film had more success at the Academy Awards than any film that has followed it in the franchise. (Photo: Everett Collection)

Interestingly enough, while The Empire Strikes Back is many people’s favorite film in the franchise, it received less love at the 1981 Academy Awards than its predecessor. It won for best sound and picked up a special-achievement award for its visual effects, but that was it. Not even John Williams’s score was a winner that night. Return of the Jedi managed to get one more nomination than Empire, but came away with just one win, for its visual effects.

Time hasn’t been kind to the prequels, but they all had a presence at the Academy Awards as a reminder that even poorly received movies can still have elements worth recognizing, such as makeup or visual effects. Unfortunately, none of them have come away winners.

<em>The Force Awakens</em> got more nominations than all of George Lucas’s prequels combined. (Photo: Lucasfilm)
The Force Awakens got more nominations than all of George Lucas’s prequels combined. (Photo: Lucasfilm)

It should be no surprise that with The Force Awakens being better received by critics and audiences alike, it was up for more categories at last year’s Academy Awards. John Williams managed to get his fourth nomination for writing a Star Wars score, but much like his fellow Force Awakens collaborators, he didn’t come away a winner that night.

A topic of conversation was comparing The Force Awakens with the first Star Wars standalone feature, Rogue One, with many feeling the latter was a better film. Yet, it’s found itself with fewer nominations at this year’s Oscars, scoring just a pair for sound mixing and visual effects. We’ll have to wait and see if the franchise picks up its first hardware since the 1984 ceremonies.

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