Known as the mastermind behind the beloved “Star Wars” franchise, George Lucas turns 74 on May 14. Although the famous director might be best-known for bringing to life one of the greatest movie franchises ever to enter the galaxy, Lucas has enjoyed much success financially and creatively throughout his career.
In 2017, Forbes listed Lucas as one of the wealthiest celebrities in the U.S. along with fellow director and contemporary Steven Spielberg. Currently, Lucas has a net worth of $5.1 billion.
Click through to see some of the highest-grossing films — based on domestic lifetime gross — that catapulted Lucas into becoming one of the richest directors in cinema history.
‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’: $197,171,806
Taking a backseat to director Steven Spielberg, Lucas wrote and executive produced the third installment of the “Indiana Jones” franchise. The film, which centers around protagonist Indiana on the hunt for his missing father among other things, pulled in $29,355,021 its opening weekend and grossed $197,171,806 domestically. The movie performed well overseas and brought in $474,171,806 worldwide. Released in May 1989, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was the second highest-grossing film in 1989 behind Tim Burton’s “Batman.”
‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’: $248,159,971
Lucas might not have directed the film, but the story of an adventurous archaeologist named Indiana was surely his brainchild. Lucas served as writer and executive producer of the very first film in the “Indiana Jones” series. Although it remains the second highest-grossing movie of the franchise, the film starring Harrison Ford was released in June 1981, made $8,305,823 its opening weekend and has a lifetime gross of $248,159,971. It was the highest-grossing film of 1981 in the U.S., ahead of “On Golden Pond” and “Superman II.” Overseas, the film pulled in a cool $141,766,000, bringing its worldwide gross to $389,925,971.
‘Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back’: $290,475,067
Released in May 1980, “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” is one of the lowest-performing “Stars Wars” movies that Lucas wrote and executive produced. The second of the “Star Wars” original trilogy, the film grossed $290,475,067 in the U.S. and raked in $538,375,067 worldwide. The movie also scored big during both its opening weekends: $4,910,483 in May and $10,840,307 in June of that same year.
‘Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi’: $309,306,177
Since the release of the first “Star Wars” movie in 1977, it’s hard to find any subsequent George Lucas film that performed poorly at the box office. Although Lucas directed the first movie in the “Star Wars” original trilogy, he took a backseat for this one as an executive producer and writer. The film, which features Luke Skywalker confronting Darth Vader and the fall of the Empire, is the third installment in the “Star Wars” original trilogy. Released in May 1983, “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi” made $23,019,618 during its opening weekend, grossed $309,306,177 domestically and pulled in $475,106,177 worldwide. It was also the highest-grossing movie of 1983 in the U.S.
‘Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones’: $310,676,740
Released in May 2002, “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones” was the third highest-grossing movie in the U.S. in 2002, scoring $310,676,740 in its domestic release and making $80,027,814 its opening weekend. And unlike other “Star Wars” films, Lucas was completely hands-on: directing, writing and executive producing. The film made history as the “first major motion picture to be shot digitally, using Sony HDW-F900 high-definition video cameras and Fujinon lenses,” according to Lucasfilm. It was either that or the love story between characters Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala that drove fans to the theaters. Worldwide, “Episode II” collected $649,398,328.
‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’: $317,101,119
Starring actors Shia LeBeouf, Harrison Ford and Cate Blanchett, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” is the latest in the “Indiana Jones” franchise. As he did with “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Lucas served as executive producer and writer for the film. The movie premiered in theaters in May 2008 and received mostly positive reviews. It grossed $317,101,119 domestically and was one of the biggest opening weekends for Lucas, making $100,137,835. Worldwide, the movie about the famous archaeologist afraid of snakes scored $786,636,033 and was the third highest-grossing film in 2008 in the U.S, right behind “The Dark Knight” and “Iron Man.”
‘Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith’: $380,270,577
Released in May 2005, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” is the final movie in the prequel trilogy. Starring Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, the movie notoriously reveals the origins of the infamous Darth Vader and the fall of the Jedi. “Episode III” was a slam dunk at the box office, grossing $380,270,577 domestically and $108,435,841 on its opening weekend. The movie enjoyed overseas success, pulling in $848,754,768 worldwide.
‘Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope’: $460,998,007
The movie that started it all and arguably made Lucas a household name in the galaxy, “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” debuted in May 1977. The “space opera,” starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, grossed $460,998,007 domestically and $775,398,007 worldwide. During its first opening weekend, the movie pulled in $1,554,475, and it drew $6,806,951 nearly two months later during its second opening weekend.
At the time, “Star Wars” changed the game of the movie industry by using creative and unique special effects. It went on to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture in 1977 and has since become a staple of pop culture, spawning countless action figures and several sequels and prequels.
‘Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace’: $474,544,677
Although this was the highest-grossing movie that Lucas wrote and directed, it was not a fan favorite. In fact, despite its monstrous success at the box office, it was given a 55 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. The first of the “Star Wars” prequel series was released in May 1999 and pulled in $474,544,677 domestically and $64,820,970 on its opening weekend. “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” shows viewers the beginning of Anakin Skywalker, one of the most central characters in the “Star Wars” franchise. Perhaps it was this backstory that initially attracted viewers to the film. Worldwide, it made $1,027,044,677 and was the highest-grossing movie of 1999 in the U.S.
Click through to read more about movies that flopped in the U.S. but hit big overseas.
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