Is Star Wars the most important film ever? In a word, yes. There are plenty of films that have influenced filmmaking, inspired future generations, or made advancement in film techniques. But none have had the unparalleled success that Star Wars has.
First, let's talk money. So far, the films have generated a combined box office total of over 4.4 billion dollars, making it the 3rd most profitable film series. And with the impending re-release in theaters of Star Wars 3D, it has nowhere to go but up. Tie into this DVD sales (the recent release of the Blue-Ray saga cleared 1 million bucks the first week), and a merchandising juggernaut including toys, video games, clothing, comic books and novels, makes Star Wars profitable beyond any film ever.
But its influence and success extend far beyond mere commercial gain. From this independent film spawned a filmmaking empire. Lucasfilm, Lucasarts, THX, Pixar, Skywalker Sound, Skywalker Ranch, and Industrial Light and Magic are the gold standards in modern cinema, and all have their roots in Star Wars. Like the story of Star Wars itself, George Lucas was an independent filmmaker who rebelled against the Hollywood machine. Once blacklisted from studios and unions like the Director's Guild, George's Empire is now the go to place to create movie magic. Star Wars pioneered the genre pastiche, where several classic movie genres into one film.It started the tradition of the summer blockbuster movie in the film entertainment industry.
Industrial Light and Magic, or ILM, have been known to make the impossible happen. Outside of Star Wars, ILM is responsible for, The Abyss, Indiana Jones franchise, Harry Potter Franchise, Men In Black, Schindlers List, Avatar, Terminator sequels, the Transformer films, Forrest Gump, Back to the Future trilogy, most of the Star Trek films, Magnolia, and so much more. ILM has, and continues to be at the forefront of visual effects in filmmaking.All together, ILM has, as of 2009, received 15 Oscars for best Visual Effects, with another 23 nominations.
THX is the audio standard in movie theaters, home theaters, computer speakers, car audio systems, and game councils. THX is a quality certification insuring the most accurate and nearest to the intentions of the mixing engineer.
PIXAR is another fantastic studio that puts out top quality animated films. While not owned by Lucas, it was created from a division of Lucasfilm and later sold.
The cultural impact of Star Wars is undeniable. Star Wars conventions are popping up everywhere, and surely Stormtroopers and Bobba Fett can be scene at cross-interest events like sci-fi, comic book, and gaming conventions the world over. Star Wars characters are still a favorite to dress up as every Halloween, and everyone at one point or another has said to someone, "May the force be with you." Star Wars has also been arguably the most parodied film, with dozens of skits on SNL, a Star Wars episode of the Muppet Show, three feature length Family Guy DVDs, not to mention a hundred fan films that can be seen on YouTube. Just look for Jabba On The Dais, George Lucas In Love, TROOPS, and Christmas Tauntauns, to name a few. in 2001, a United Kingdom census showed over 390,000 people listed their religion as "jedi", making it the 4th largest religion surveyed. Star Wars is also listed in the AFI top 100, and Darth Vader is considered to be one of the all time best on-screen villains.
There have been real world applications of technology inspired by Star Wars. The U.S. Military were developing armored walkers similar to the AT-ATs. A company in Hong Kong recently made a powerful, hand held laser that looks a lot like a lightsaber. In 2010, at a Technology, Entertainment, and Design conference, Nathan Myhrvold, former chief technology officer of Microsoft, demonstrated a miniature "Death Star" bug zapper, designed to use tiny lasers to shoot down flying mosquitoes. Bionic technology for amputees are becoming more and more similar to that used by Luke and Anakin Skywalker.
Star Wars has been so inspirational that in October, 2007, a space shuttle carried on board Luke's Return of the Jedi lightsaber. After 2 weeks of orbit, it was returned to its owner, George Lucas. The Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum featured an exhibit called Star Wars: The Magic Of Myth.
Sure, George Lucas never won an Oscar, nor has Star Wars earned as many Oscars as Citizen Kane, the Godfather, or Gone With The Wind. But it's clear that Star Wars absolutely dominates the film industry, pop culture, and the furthering of technology, both in film, and as a source of inspiration to real world science and technology, pushing the boundaries of the human spirit and knowledge.