Although Lucas's first film, THX-1138 (1970), was not successful, his next two, American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977), set the course for filmmaking in the next decade. The first made song scores an acceptable alternative to symphonic orchestrations; the second presented a simple action scenario bolstered by amazing special effects. Both were tremendously successful, the latter becoming the first film to top $200 million at the box office. Lucas then formed Lucasfilm (which has since become a business conglomerate) and produced two further installments of the Star Wars tale, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). In both films he promoted a special effects-driven aesthetic through the formation of Industrial Light and Magic, a company that produces state-of-the-art effects for films.
Lucas also produced the popular Indiana Jones trilogy, which mixed spectacular stunt work with a seriallike content of inescapable traps from which the stalwart hero escapes. In addition, he has provided financial sponsorship for more traditional work, such as Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985). In 1987 he won a special Academy Award for lifetime achievement. By the early 1990s he controlled a large, multifaceted entertainment business empire. Lucas has also produced, written, and directed two additional installments of the Star Wars cycle, “prequels” entitled The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002).
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