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The films that inspired Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The films that inspired Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Here are seven movies that helped make this Sky Cinema premiere an episode to remember

Action adventures, war movies, heist films, samurai dramas – all of them fed into Rian Johnson’s Star Wars episode

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, available from Friday 17 August in Sky Cinema on demand. Cert 12. Also available in HD

If Star Wars: The Force Awakens comforted us all with a reassuringly familiar set-up and situations, then Star Wars: The Last Jedi surprised us all with its fantastically brave story choices and modern sensibility.


Which isn’t to say that director Rian Johnson (Looper) wasn’t looking at past classics for inspiration. For the movie in which Luke Skywalker’s fate is revealed and the heroic Resistance faces its greatest challenge yet, Johnson referred back to a set of films made between the late 1930s and mid ’60s, which he considered the “basic ingredients” for his Star Wars adventure.

So what is Star Wars: The Last Jedi made of, cinematically? Read on and find out…


1. Gunga Din (1939)

Gunga Din

This adventure comedy stars Cary Grant as one of three British soldiers trying to stop a dangerous Thuggee cult in 19th century India. For Johnson, it was its “sense of fun and camaraderie”, as well as its “swashbuckling sense of slightly arch high adventure” that fed into The Last Jedi — even if, as he points out, the film is “Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom, basically.” 


2. Sahara (1943)


In this Second World War adventure, Humphrey Bogart plays a tank crew sergeant who picks up a group of survivors, before they all have to struggle through the deadly heat of the titular desert – and with the Germans advancing on them, too. A small group of survivors facing a terrible situation and an overwhelming enemy in a harsh environment? It’s not hard to feel the echoes in the last members of The Resistance’s scramble to escape the First Order’s encroaching Dreadnoughts during The Last Jedi.


3. Twelve O’Clock High (1949)

Twelve O'Clock High

Another World War Two movie, this time focusing on the American Air force, as a demoralised squadron is whipped into shape by a hard-nosed General, played by Gregory Peck. “Consider yourselves already dead,” he, er, inspiringly tells them. It’s the film’s scenes of the airmen resisting their General’s commands that most interested Johnson, who reflected them in the face-offs between Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac).


4. To Catch A Thief (1955)

To Catch A Thief

Another Cary Grant movie, this time directed by the Master of Suspense himself, Alfred Hitchcock. In this breezy romantic caper, Grant plays a retired jewel thief who is framed for a heist and has to find the person who really did it. Johnson said it was “a great film to rewatch, for the romantic scale and grandeur.”


5. The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)

The Bridge On The River Kwai

David Lean’s classic epic might be the least surprising inspiration on this list, not least because it stars one-time Ben Kenobi, Alec Guinness. It’s a war movie, of course, and “an incredible mission movie,” Johnson said, with Guinness’ prisoner of war leading a Herculean effort to build the titular bridge for his Japanese captors. It’s also a film that Johnson felt really encouraged you to deeply care about its characters – something he achieves in The Last Jedi.


6. Letter Never Sent (1960)

Letter Never Sent

A Russian adventure film about a quartet of geologists sent to find diamonds in Siberia, and who ultimately become trapped in a forest fire, is easily the most obscure of Johnson’s inspirations. With its huge, real-life wilderness backdrops, it’s the film’s “very tactile feeling” of the natural world that Johnson drew on for his movie’s visuals.


7. Three Outlaw Samurai (1964)

This Japanese samurai drama, directed by Hideo Gosha, not only gave Johnson “the feel of the sword-fighting” in The Last Jedi, it also directly inspired the scene where Benicio del Toro’s DJ (below) appears to join the cause, with a moment where “a flea-bitten samurai” is found in a cell and reluctantly comes along, only to reveal he has “incredible skills”.

Benicio del Toro in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, available from Friday 17 August in Sky Cinema on demand. Cert 12. Also available in HD


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