As the space opera galaxy far, far away envelops us with Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi and we're searching for more ways to experience that Star Wars magic after the lights come back up, let's turn our attention to the inspiring constellation of fan films that have been spawned in the shadow of the sci-fi saga.
Fan films operate in a special corner of the Star Wars Universe as a kaleidoscopic extension of creativity, imagination, and some astonishing technical prowess, all exhibiting a genuine love for the characters and worlds conjured up by George Lucas beginning back in 1977.
Many of these shorts were honored by the now-defunct Star Wars Fan Film Awards sanctioned by Lucas from 2002 to 2012, and more recent offerings are now being screened by Lucasfilm at Star Wars Celebrations around the globe.
Displaying a variety of styles, special effects, and budgets, here are 14 Star Wars fan films deserving of your attention and respect. Strap in for a binge-worthy blast into these unofficial amateur productions below and tell us which ones you believe shine the brightest.
Christmas Tauntauns (2001)
Need a cute pick-me-up after an exhausting day of gift shopping and crowds? Here's a computer animated gem from Matt Bagwell about a certain hairy, Hoth-dwelling creature one little girl wants to see under her Christmas tree this year. Won the George Lucas Selects Award at the innaugural Star Wars Fan Film Awards in 2002!
Blue Milk (2006)
Check out the winner for Best Commercial Parody at the 2006 Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. A pint-sized Princess Leia, wearing her all-white robe and trademark bun hairdo, is the spokesperson for bottles of sweet and yummy Bantha Blue Milk. All is well until the ad is interrupted by a squad of Stormtroopers who change the tone of the taping and cause Leia to unleash an epic eye-roll.
IG-88: The Dancing Robot (2007)
You've heard of Pennywise The Dancing Clown, now behold IG-88 The Dancing Robot! This was awarded the Best Animation prize at the 2007 Star Wars Fan Film Awards and was directed by Anton Bogarty, with bounty hunters Boba Fett and IG-88 getting down and funky at a dance club aboard a Star Destroyer. Worth it just for Mixmaster Lobot spinning discs in a Slave Leia bikini!
Call Of The Empire (2016)
It's short but sweet and set years after the Battle of Endor, as a single TIE fighter pilot still wages war and engages with a lone X-wing pilot inside a churning cloud, then returns to his patrol squadron after dispatching his enemy in a storm of green laser fire. Directed by Trevor Kerr, it's a bite-sized taste of the best that fan films offer.
Star Wars: The Force and the Fury (2017)
Witness this gorgeous short that demands attention for its lush cinematography and simplicity of story. It's focused around a lone Jedi who crash-lands on a forested planet, where he's stalked by a mysterious Sith woman who seems to know him. Directed by Jason Satterlund and starring Aris Juson and Deborah Smith, it's injected with the everlasting spirit of the Star Wars Saga
Star Wars: The Lesser Evil (2015)
This engaging mini-movie won the Filmmaker Select prize at the 2015 Star Wars Fan Film Awards and was chosen by Kathleen Kennedy herself. Created by Iron Horse Cinema, this Old Republic story depicts a talkative Sith warrior named Darth Zeanis attacking a Jedi master and his Padawan on a planet's wooded surface. Love the Sith makeup and the general pacing of this solid effort that obviously impressed the President of Lucasfilm.
Star Wars: Troops (1997)
This is an oldie but a goodie from back in 1997 when the Internet was just a wee influence on our lives. Styled as a mockumentary spoof on Cops, this hilarious parody is by Kevin Rubio who was working at the Fox Kids Network at the time and it nails the snarky style of the show perfectly. Imperial stormtroopers of the Black Sheep Squadron patrol the Dune Sea on the planet Tatooine and run into familiar characters while being filmed for the hit Imperial TV show Troops. Shot on location on the El Mirage Dry Lake, this classic film helped kickstart the modern fan film movement!
Rebel Scum (2016)
Here's Blood Brother Cinema Co.'s excellent Rebel Scum, an impressive effort that uses minimal CGI and retains the tone and flair of the original saga as a Rebel pilot is hunted by the ruthless Empire after being abandoned during the hasty retreat from Hoth. A clever bit of disguise helps him escape certain annihilation. Director Timothy Van Nguyen shot the short on location in -30°C (-22°F) at Columbia Icefield in Alberta Canada.
Star Wars: Destroyer (2016)
Stay tight and soar into this exhilarating fan film that centers on a squadron of X-wing pilots on an attack run on a lone Imperial Star Destroyer that becomes a lethal projectile after it's crippled by Rebel laser cannons. Directed by Arya Moghaddam with visual effects and animation by Christopher Parks, it's a smart self-contained story that exhibits the love of the franchise. Outstanding dogfighting choreography with a clean script and a clever end twist!
Written and directed by Joe Sill, Kara is an entirely impressive film with absorbing cinematography and special effects to match its serious tone. A Rey-like desert dweller assists a female Rebel pilot who has crashed in the sand after a stunning aerial battle with Imperial TIE fighters. The Force-sensitive girl pulls out some gravity-defying special powers to help vanquish the pursuing Sandtroopers before containing her rage.
Star Wars: Generations (2016)
Here's a little 5-minute jewel by director Don Bitter III that won the Spirit of Fandom award in London at Star Wars Celebration 2016. It's a perfect valentine to the pure joys of Star Wars fandom as a grandfather regales his grandson with heroic tales of the Jedi, recreated with a liberal dose of imagination and a toybox load of plastic lightsabers, action figures and vehicle playsets.
TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story (2016)
TK-436: A Stormtrooper Story is a unique take on the Star Wars Universe and demands repeat viewings. Tells the unflinching tale of a loyal Imperial Stormtrooper forced to confront his past sins in the ravages of an epic battle. Directors Samtubia & Samgoma Edwards are to be commended for their singular vision and haunting, impossible to forget imagery. It was rewarded as the winner of the 2016 Filmmaker Select Award at Star Wars Celebration Europe by a panel of judges that included Rouge One's Gareth Edwards and executive producer John Knoll of Industrial Light & Magic. Grab another sugar cookie and watch it again!
Darth Maul: Apprentice (2016)
Here's our runner-up for the title of King of the Star Wars fan films, a spectacular production written and directed by Shaun Bu. This 17-minute gem showcases the horned Sith warrior, Darth Maul, whose untimely demise in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace caused fans to clamor for more. If you love balletic lightsaber battles amid pastoral green settings, you're gonna dig Darth Maul: Apprentice. This sensational short has attracted over 15 million viewers on Youtube and reigns supreme as one of the finest examples we've seen. A special shout out to Vi-Dan Tran for his outstanding choreography!
Star Wars: TIE Fighter (2015)
Nobody was able to topple this stunning Empire-focused fan film to take the gilded laurel wreath. With eight million hits on YouTube alone and a fanatical band of followers, Star Wars:TIE Fighter is the '80s-style Japanese anime short that you'll be drooling over by the time its epic seven minutes is over. It's drawn and directed by Paul Johnson with ion cannon-like precision and edited with a guitar-crunching rock 'n' roll score that gets better every time it's watched. I want to see this space battle between the forces of the Empire and the Rebellion splashed across the biggest IMAX screen in the universe.