8 Major Cinematic Influences On Star Wars: A New Hope

The Dam Busters

dam targeting

A New Hope has a lot in common with World War II action films in general, but the British-made The Dam Busters provides the basis for one of its most spectacular and memorable set pieces. The Dam Busters tells the story of an engineer working to find a way to destroy German dams in an effort to damage the Nazis’ heavy industry and thus cripple their weaponry. This winds up involving the creation of a “bouncing bomb” that can be dropped into the water from low-flying airplanes, thus avoiding Germany’s protective torpedo nets.

The climactic scene of The Dam Busters involves RAF bombing crews finally attacking the dams using the bouncing bombs; bombs that must be targeted with great accuracy or they’ll burst too early and fail to achieve their aim. Lucas lifts this element of the film for the Rebels’ climactic attack on the Death Star, where the fighters attempt to fire photon torpedoes into the unprotected center of the battle station. There are even sections of dialogue lifted from The Dam Busters as the pilots communicate with one another.

All signs point to this homage to The Dam Busters being deliberate, especially considering Lucas’s purposeful depiction of the Empire as Nazi-esque overlords and the Rebels as plucky Allied fighters. The general tenor of Star Wars as an extended riff on World War II aerial dramas will be borne out during the prequels, in which all those boring Senate negotiations begin to sound like the League of Nations prior to World War II.