Gen Z Reviews Classic Movies | 'American Graffiti': George Lucas' true masterpiece years before 'Star Wars'
'American Graffiti' isn't just a commercially successful film, it is a historical and cultural treasure, chronicling a moment in America's history and preserving it for all eternity
The name George Lucas is now synonymous with the space opera franchise, 'Star Wars', but the filmmaker's true masterpiece came nearly half-a-decade before the first 'Star Wars' film hit theaters. 'American Graffiti' isn't just a commercially successful film, it is a historical and cultural treasure, chronicling a moment in America's history and preserving it for all eternity.
Most successful films made in the '70s and '80s usually don't hold up so well when you look back at it now. But this is not the case with this meditative coming-of-age story.
Whether it's Steve Bolander (Ron Howard), torn between going to college and staying in his hometown, or Curt Henderson (Richard Dreyfuss) with his search for romance, these characters tug on your heartstrings in a way that's both universal and timeless. 'American Graffiti' is a brilliantly well-made film but its importance goes beyond itself.
The movie is believed to have been the inspiration behind the popular TV sitcom, 'Happy Days', though actually that's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. The pilot for 'Happy Days' first aired in 1972 and George Lucas loved Ron Howard in the pilot so much that he cast him as one of the lead characters in 'American Graffiti', which in turn helped 'Happy Days' get picked up by ABC.
'Happy Days' would go on to set the standard for youth sitcoms. And the success of 'American Graffiti' is what enabled George Lucas to produce his first 'Star Wars' movie and introduced him to Harrison Ford, the future Han Solo and Indiana Jones.
'American Graffiti' isn't just a classic piece of entertainment, it is one of the last remaining pieces of a time that was already lost when it first came out in 1973. The movie is set in 1962, before the JFK assassination and the Vietnam War, events that would drastically transform the United States.
Watching 'American Graffiti' is like stepping into a time-bubble suspended over one night in the '60s. Call it an escape, call it nostalgia, whatever. There's just something about this movie that makes it as enjoyable now as it was when it first premiered in theaters.
'American Graffiti' was released on August 11, 1973.
'Gen Z Reviews Classic Movies' is a column that revisits some of the greatest films of all time and discerns how they hold up decades later