Star Wars Wannabes

by grendelkhan | created - 18 Apr 2015 | updated - 19 Apr 2015 | Public

When Star Wars became a massive hit, everyone jumped on the bandwagon, churning out space opera and sci-films. Some ended being quite good and original (or, at least, different than Star wars). Many were blatant copies. Some fell somewhere in the middle.

For clarity's sake, I'm mostly sticking with space opera films. A lot of sci-fi films were greenlit because of Star Wars; but, many were very different projects, like Alien and Blade Runner.

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1. The War in Space (1977)

85 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Earth is attacked by alien spacecraft from Venus. But a Japanese scientist has constructed a space craft, the Gohten, with which he may save humanity.

Director: Jun Fukuda | Stars: Kensaku Morita, Yûko Asano, Ryô Ikebe, Masaya Oki

Votes: 376

Japanese film that was launched because of Star wars; but is more a space remake of the film Atragon.

2. Quark (1977–1978)

30 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi

The misadventures of an outer space garbage collector and his crew.

Stars: Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Patricia Barnstable, Cyb Barnstable

Votes: 471

Less a Star Wars wannabe and more of a sci-fi spoof, in general. It parodies Star Trek, Flash Gordon, and many other sci-fi properties, much like Buck Henry's previous work, Get Smart, parodied the spy genre. It didn't last long; but was darn funny, at times.

3. Hardware Wars (1978)

Not Rated | 13 min | Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi

This is a short parody of the movie Star Wars.

Director: Ernie Fosselius | Stars: Frank Robertson, Scott Mathews, Jeff Hale, Artie Deco

Votes: 1,744 | Gross: $0.50M

Blatant Star Wars spoof that was a favorite of the midnight movie circuit.

4. Starcrash (1978)

PG | 92 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

An outlaw smuggler and her alien companion are recruited by the Emperor of the Galaxy to rescue his son and destroy a secret weapon by the evil Count Zarth Arn.

Director: Luigi Cozzi | Stars: Marjoe Gortner, Caroline Munro, Christopher Plummer, David Hasselhoff

Votes: 5,454

This Italian film jumped on the bandwagon right away, with Marjoe Gortner as the young hero and Caroline Munro as a hottie Han. It's pretty abysmal, though with a certain cheesy charm.

5. Battle of the Planets (1978–1985)

TV-Y7 | 30 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

A five-member superhero team called G-Force fights to defend Earth and its space colonies from the threat of the planet Spectra.

Stars: Alan Young, Keye Luke, Ronnie Schell, Janet Waldo

Votes: 1,549

Gatchaman predates Star Wars; but, this Sandy Frank edit added Star Wars elements, like narrator 7-Zark-7, and moving the action into space, by claiming that the adventures took place on other worlds and that Galactor agents were actually the soldiers of an alien planet. To be fair, Sosai X (the Luminous One, here), was supposed to be an alien, who created Berg Katse, by merging a pair of fraternal twins. Frank had new, inferior animation created to add the space element.

6. Message from Space (1978)

PG | 105 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

In this Star Wars take-off, the peaceful planet of Jillucia has been nearly wiped out by the Gavanas, whose leader takes orders from his mother (played by a comic actor in drag) rather than... See full summary »

Director: Kinji Fukasaku | Stars: Vic Morrow, Shin'ichi Chiba, Philip Casnoff, Peggy Lee Brennan

Votes: 1,090

Speaking of copyright infringements...... This one at least tries, though it rarely succeeds. It has more in common with some of the earlier Star Wars script drafts (especially the more "Kurosawa" elements) than the finished product. The effects were better than the European knockoffs.

7. Battlestar Galactica (1978)

PG | 148 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

After the destruction of the Twelve Colonies of Mankind, the last major fighter carrier leads a makeshift fugitive fleet in a desperate search for the legendary planet Earth.

Directors: Richard A. Colla, Alan J. Levi | Stars: Richard Hatch, Dirk Benedict, Lorne Greene, Herbert Jefferson Jr.

Votes: 7,832

There was a whole lawsuit about this, since John Dykstra did the effects work and some of the designs were a little too close. However, from a plot standpoint, it was a different animal. Lucas lost in court but ultimately won because BG was too expensive to sustain itself. The pilot got a theatrical release, with some editing (mostly for time).

8. Blake's 7 (1978–1981)

Not Rated | 50 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

A group of convicts and outcasts fight a guerrilla war against the totalitarian Terran Federation from a highly advanced alien spaceship.

Stars: Michael Keating, Paul Darrow, Peter Tuddenham, Jan Chappell

Votes: 2,955

You could easily dismiss this as a Star Wars wannabe; but, that would be grossly underestimating the show. This one was a pretty good mix of the best elements of Star Wars, coupled with other sci-fi and space opera influences. It suffers from a much smaller effects budget; but, not from imagination.

9. Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978–1979)

24 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

In 2977, mankind has space colonies, machines do all the work and everyone just wants to have fun. When deadly plant-based aliens that look like women attack the Earth in order to colonize it, only one rogue captain can stop them.

Stars: Makio Inoue, Akira Kamiya, Ken'ichi Ogata, Chiyoko Kawashima

Votes: 877

Adaptation of the manga series, of the same name, created by Leiji Matsumoto. This is grand space opera, in the style of Star Wars and EE Smith's Lensmen Saga, which was highly influential upon Star Wars. It's got more depth than Star Wars (the first movie, anyway); but, it doesn't take much to see where the idea of a space pirate hero came from. However, space pirates were nothing new, in space opera.

10. Star Blazers (1979– )

22 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

In the year 2199, a starship must make a dangerous voyage to the distant planet Iscandar and back to save Earth from an alien invasion.

Stars: Eddie Allen, Michael Bertolini, Amy Howard Wilson, Lydia Leeds

Votes: 1,063

Technically, this is Space Battleship Yamato; but, in this English version, things are tweaked to give it more of a Star Wars appeal. They are different animals; but, Star Wars paved the way for this (as did Captain Harlock). Also from Leiji Matsumoto.

11. Galaxy Express 999 (1979)

PG | 129 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

The adventures of a brave young boy who travels from planet to planet in a determined quest to avenge his mother's death.

Director: Rintaro | Stars: Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Yôko Asagami, Miyoko Asô

Votes: 1,693

Leiji Matsumoto's third space opera series. This guy really dug this stuff and he did quite well with it.

12. The Shape of Things to Come (1979)

PG | 98 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Some time in the future, man has set up colonies on the Moon, when Earth becomes uninhabitable. A madman decides to destroy the Moon colonies with his robots and automated ships, and only three people and their robot dog can stop him.

Director: George McCowan | Stars: Jack Palance, Carol Lynley, Barry Morse, John Ireland

Votes: 667

This is truly awful! These guys took the HG Wells novel, jettisoned everything, except the name Cabal, and proceeded to create a complete copyright infringement; but, one that tanked so badly that Lucas didn't care (and, he didn't exactly come up with things on his own, anyway). This came and went so fast it gave you whiplash.

13. The Black Hole (1979)

PG | 98 min | Action, Sci-Fi

A research vessel finds a missing ship, commanded by a mysterious scientist, on the edge of a black hole.

Director: Gary Nelson | Stars: Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms

Votes: 21,242

This was Disney's attempt at cashing in on Star Wars, though it has just as much, if not more, in common with Star Trek. However, it had to have robots and a Darth Vader-looking evil henchman/robot Maximillian.

14. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979)

PG | 89 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

A 20th century astronaut emerges out of 500 years of suspended animation into a future time where Earth is threatened by alien invaders.

Director: Daniel Haller | Stars: Gil Gerard, Erin Gray, Pamela Hensley, Henry Silva

Votes: 4,503 | Gross: $21.67M

Buck got a greenlight for a tv series, thanks to Star Wars. It also got a theatrical run because sci-fi movies were hot, so why just waste this on tv, with the budget it had? On the whole, it's a pretty good film, though the effects weren't quite in the same league as Star Wars. It gets points for being different enough from Star Wars to stand on its own.

15. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

PG | 104 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

A young farmer sets out to recruit mercenaries to defend his peaceful planet, which is under threat of invasion by the evil tyrant Sador and his armada of aggressors.

Directors: Jimmy T. Murakami, Roger Corman | Stars: George Peppard, Robert Vaughn, Richard Thomas, John Saxon

Votes: 6,922

Now, this one actually did a pretty good job of aping Star Wars, on a much smaller budget. Basically, it's The Magnificent Seven (or, more correctly, The Seven Samurai) in space, with John Boy Walton as the hero. Roger Corman got a pretty good bang for his buck, thanks to a lot of young talent, like John Sayles, James Cameron, and Gale Ann Hurd.

16. Flash Gordon (1980)

PG | 111 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

58 Metascore

A football player and his friends travel to the planet Mongo and find themselves fighting the tyranny of Ming the Merciless to save Earth.

Director: Mike Hodges | Stars: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Max von Sydow, Topol

Votes: 46,319

This is probably a questionable entry. It doesn't try to emulate Star Wars; it's just that Star Wars stole so much from Flash Gordon. That said, nobody was interested in doing a Flash Gordon film until Star Wars came along (even though the rights were already sold, when Lucas inquired).

17. Galaxina (1980)

R | 95 min | Comedy, Sci-Fi

The crew of the police cruiser Infinity is finally heading home after a long stay in deep space. Just when they think they are about to get some much needed rest and relaxation, the crew is... See full summary »

Director: William Sachs | Stars: Stephen Macht, Avery Schreiber, J.D. Hinton, Dorothy Stratten

Votes: 2,463

This is a largely forgettable Star Wars spoof, if not for the murder of star Dorothy Stratten. It also swipes/spoofs Star Trek and Barbarella.

18. Space Raiders (1983)

PG | 84 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

A futuristic, sensitive tale of adventure and confrontation when a 10 year old boy is accidentally kidnapped by a spaceship filled with a motley crew of space pirates.

Director: Howard R. Cohen | Stars: Vince Edwards, David Mendenhall, Patsy Pease, Thom Christopher

Votes: 982

Another Corman quickie that reused footage from Battle Beyond the Stars.

19. The Last Starfighter (1984)

PG | 101 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

67 Metascore

Video game expert Alex Rogan finds himself transported to another planet after conquering The Last Starfighter video game only to find out it was just a test. He was recruited to join the team of best starfighters to defend their world from the attack.

Director: Nick Castle | Stars: Lance Guest, Robert Preston, Kay E. Kuter, Dan Mason

Votes: 35,506 | Gross: $28.73M

I hesitate to call this an outright knockoff; but, there are quite a few similarities in the plot. It also borrows from King Arthur, the Music Man, and EE Smith and the Lensmen, which factor into Star Wars.

20. Dune (1984)

PG-13 | 137 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

40 Metascore

A Duke's son leads desert warriors against the galactic emperor and his father's evil nemesis when they assassinate his father and free their desert world from the emperor's rule.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Francesca Annis, Leonardo Cimino

Votes: 112,603 | Gross: $30.93M

Dune had been in development for years, as a film (most famously by Alejandro Jodorowsky); but, Star Wars (which ripped off a lot of it) helped get it to the screen. Much of its similarity to Star Wars is based on the elements that Lucas borrowed; however, the execution of the story by Lynch, as it departs from the novel, bears more of a resemblance to Star Wars than the source material.

21. Lensman (1984)

PG-13 | 107 min | Animation, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Kimball Kinnison, a young man from the agricultural planet Mquie and his Valerian companinon, Buscirk find a dying man with a legendary crystal lens embedded in his hand. As the man was ... See full summary »

Directors: Shûichi Hirokawa, Yoshiaki Kawajiri | Stars: Toshio Furukawa, Mami Koyama, Chikao Ohtsuka, Nachi Nozawa

Votes: 553

This one is a bit unique. Star Wars swiped heavily from EE "Doc" Smith's Lensmen series of books, especially the first book (published), The Galactic Patrol. In that novel, newly commissioned Lensman, Kim Kinnison, is assigned to a ship whose very intent is to draw the Boskone pirates into battle, to obtain data about their advanced ships. The Boskone board the Galactic Patrol ship by cutting their way inside, from space, while wearing "space armor" (pressure suits), and a battle ensues inside the Patrol ship. Kinnison ejects in a lifeboat, with a wire recording of the details of the Boskone ship, crash-landing on an alien planet. He meets up with another Lensman, and they work to reach their lines, to deliver the data. Sound familiar? Well, that's not quite the plot here. Instead, a Lensman crashes on the planet where Kim is residing and is mortally wounded. He passes on his lens to Kim, who then goes off to get to the Galactic Patrol, with a robot at his side, and a space captain, who was a friend of Kim's father. It's got some cool (for the time) computer animation; but, the story is a little slow, at times.

The Lensmen Saga also influenced the Green Lantern Corps, at DC Comics; but, the plot here is a swipe of the origin of Hal Jordan, as Green Lantern, rather than the other way around.

22. The Ice Pirates (1984)

PG | 91 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy

In the far future water is the most valuable substance. Two space pirates are captured, sold to a princess, and recruited to help her find her father who disappeared when he found ... See full summary »

Director: Stewart Raffill | Stars: Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, Michael D. Roberts, Anjelica Huston

Votes: 9,269 | Gross: $14.26M

This space opera comedy swiped not only from Star Wars; but, also Alien. It's a decent little film, apart from the segments with Bruce Villanch (which really slows down the film and which are as unfunny as can be).

23. Robotech (1985– )

TV-Y7 | 30 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

An alien spaceship crash lands on Earth and the technology and secrets she bears lead Earth into three destructive interplanetary wars.

Stars: Robert Axelrod, Bill Capizzi, Frank Catalano, Richard Epcar

Votes: 3,134

I'm (again) using the English catch all series to cover these three separate Japanes series (Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Galatic Climber MOSPEADA), which deals with an attack by an alien invader. Many of the character elements are similar to Star Wars, though there are other sci-fi influences, as well.

24. Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)

PG | 100 min | Animation, Action, Adventure

Set on the subterranean Mine-World, a band of human worker are treated like slaves under the power of the evil overlord Zygon until one, Orin, unearths the hilt of a mythical sword that ... See full summary »

Director: Steven Hahn | Stars: Joe Colligan, Carmen Argenziano, Noelle North, Anthony De Longis

Votes: 1,786 | Gross: $3.36M

Very much in the Star Wars/King Arthur vein. It's a mixed bag, but ambitious, for an animated feature.

25. Spaceballs (1987)

PG | 96 min | Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi

46 Metascore

A rogue star pilot and his trusty sidekick must come to the rescue of a Princess and save the galaxy from a ruthless race of beings known as Spaceballs.

Director: Mel Brooks | Stars: Mel Brooks, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Bill Pullman

Votes: 160,153 | Gross: $38.12M

Okay, this is an outright parody; but, you can't have a parody unless you have the original to spoof. It's kind of uneven; but, the Dark Helmet stuff is pretty darn funny, which makes up for the weaker jokes.

26. Space Mutiny (1988)

Not Rated | 91 min | Action, Adventure, Romance

A pilot is the only hope to stop the mutiny of a spacecraft by its security crew, who plot to sell the crew of the ship into slavery.

Directors: David Winters, Neal Sundstrom | Stars: Reb Brown, John Phillip Law, James Ryan, Cameron Mitchell

Votes: 6,341

This one is a combination of a Star Wars ripoff and a Battlestar Galactica swipe, complete with actual BG footage. I know Cisse Cameron is Reb Brown's wife and 6 years his junior; but, she looked about 10 years older and like a space hooker (or cougar; take your pick). John Phillip Law didn't distinguish himself, either.

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