Anyone with two eyes, a heart, and a Disney+ subscription is probably enjoying Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, the recent behind-the-scenes doc chronicling the making of the first Star Wars live-action TV series — you know, the one with Baby Yoda.
The first two installments of the multi-part series are available, which gives Mandalorian executive producer and writer Jon Favreau and his fellow creatives an opportunity to take a deep-ish dive into how Disney and Lucasfilm brought the fan-favorite series to life using new digital production techniques mixed with ol' fashioned analog puppets and craftsmanship. The first episode, "Directing," focuses on the series' star-studded cast of directors — Deborah Chow, Rick Famuyiwa, Dave Filoni, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Taika Waititi — while the second episode, "Legacy," dives into Star Wars' impact on film, culture, technology, and everything in between.
If you're like us, then watching this behind-the-scenes chronicle has you itching for more peeks behind the Star Wars curtain. Here are 10 more documentaries you should check out.
Empire of Dreams (2004)
Released in 2004, to coincide with the original trilogy’s DVD debut, Empire of Dreams is a feature-length, in-depth look at how George Lucas and his team of filmmakers made the original trilogy in a way that would change movies forever. While some of the broad-strokes beats are well-covered for die-hard fans of the franchise, the real draw here is the B-roll from the sets of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, as well as the vintage interviews with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late Carrie Fisher.
Watching Lucas and his cast on the set, making some of the original trilogy’s most iconic scenes, is still goosebump-inducing 16 years later.
The Beginning: Making Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Aka "The One Where Spielberg and Lucas Play With a Life-Sized Battle Droid."
Look, in my opinion, The Phantom Menace is as disappointing as Jar Jar is offensive, but the best thing to come out of the movie (other than John Williams' “Duel of the Fates” cue) is the making of it.
The centerpiece of Phantom Menace's DVD release, The Beginning is a surprising, warts-and-all chronicle of the first Star Wars prequel. (The all-access pass viewers have to the production is a sharp contrast to the top-secret way Disney often handles this franchise and its Marvel properties now, with the possible exception of The Last Jedi making-of doc.) There are no corporate overlords to appease or protect here as the documentary takes a fly-on-the-wall approach to the production's struggles and triumphs in telling the first Star Wars story with computer graphics visual effects mixed with old-school practical filmmaking.
Watching a candid George Lucas direct his first film since 1977's Star Wars — and gaining insights into his process (and the potentially problematic nature of it) — is worth revisiting.
The Director and the Jedi (2018)
One of the best making-of documentaries ever, director Anthony Wonke's feature-length chronicle of how Rian Johnson and company made The Last Jedi feels like the type of generous bonus feature fans would get on discs in the early 2000s. Director Rian Johnson and producer Ram Bergman give Wonke unfettered access to what would become the most controversial Star Wars movie, with highlights including rarely-seen production aspects like the director signing off on the final approved budget. If you ever wanted to know how one gets a sea cow puppet to a remote island location, or watch Mark Hamill watch Frank Oz bring Yoda to life, Director has got you covered.
At a time when electronic press kits are what pass for special features on Blu-rays nowadays, Wonke's work here is proof that fans and audiences deserve more than just hastily-edited B-roll.
The Skywalker Saga (2020)
The Rise of Skywalker's attempt to replicate some of The Director and the Jedi's success is a mixed bag, much like the trilogy capper it chronicles. The feature-length doc is full of behind-the-scenes observations that barely go much further than surface-level, which is disappointing given that director and co-writer J.J. Abrams' movie wraps up over 40 years' worth of Star Wars stories. (But this aspect is not unexpected, given Abrams' "mystery box" approach to making movies.)
What should be an in-depth chronicle of constructing and filming the story of one of the most unique and important blockbusters of the modern era comes off more like a glossy, uneven EPK presentation. A pale attempt to do for Rise what Director did for The Last Jedi — though we are grateful for the insights and run time devoted to pulling off John Williams' cameo and how the production pulled off a very intricate Babu Frik puppet.
SPFX: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
This 1980 making-of TV special is a deep cut. Mark Hamill hosts, providing key narration behind ILM’s process of bringing the iconic sequel’s visual effects to life.
We could spend a small mini-series watching the making of the AT-AT assault on Hoth, but we appreciate that the first half of SPFX is devoted to the work required to make it come to life — as well as highlight what techniques inspired those that were used in the final film. The second half, though, is where the doc truly shines, with behind-the-scenes insights on stop-motion animation, constructing, and filming on the life-sized Millennium Falcon, and working with the Yoda puppet.
Within a Minute: The Making of ‘Episode III’ (2005)
Director Tippy Bushkin's feature-length doc about the making of Revenge of the Sith is a sharper, more streamlined version of what The Beginning attempted. It, like The Director and the Jedi, tells a story with an emotional center wrapped around the execution of a movie largely built of ones and zeroes. By focusing on a key sequence in Episode III, the climactic lightsaber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan, Within a Minute manages to profile the production as a whole by using this small scene as a window into the complex decision-making process of making a movie with as many moving parts as this one.
Elstree 1976 (2015)
Star Wars: A New Hope changed more than just the lives of the people that watched it in May 1977. Elstree 1976 takes the unique angle of profiling and catching up with 10 of the film's background players and the impact the movie had on their lives and careers. Think of it as a Star Wars doc by way of Michael Apted's 7 Up documentary film series.
Elstree's concept is ultimately more engaging than the full execution of it; at the same time, it succeeds at putting a much overdue spotlight on those undersung members on the periphery who helped make movie history.
The Toys That Made Us: Star Wars (2017)
Netflix's The Toys That Made Us is more than well-made nostalgia porn. It's the first doc of its kind to profile the politics and production of how toys became the literal tools of our imagination.
Their segment on Kenner's first-generation Star Wars toys, and their lasting legacy, offers a fascinating look back at how merchandising changed the filmmaking and marketing business. It also wisely puts front and center the toyline's four-decade effect on people of all ages, from the designers to the collectors. A must-see.
The People vs. George Lucas (2010)
Swiss filmmaker Alexandre O. Philippe makes a comedy-documentary hybrid about filmmaking and fanaticism, and how fans struggle finding a balance with both.
Since fandom has conflated Star Wars' creator with his creation, Philippe puts fans' inability to see George Lucas in any other light — due to the heavy shadow his crowning achievement casts — front and center. Laughs ensue, but sometimes of the tragicomic variety as The People vs. George Lucas takes an insightful and poignant look into how audiences' investment in a property they didn't create often feels like ownership, given that they are as integral to its success as the ones who actually made it.
Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (1983)
This CBS TV special from 1983, hosted by Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams, explores Return of the Jedi's abundance of impressive creature effects and the equally-impressive professionals responsible for wrangling them into movie history.
Jabba the Hutt and the Ewoks get considerable screen time, as we’re offered glimpses of hundreds of pieces of concept art on the way to the final product — along with anecdotes straight from Lucas and other members of the production team as the movie was being made. Creatures is a love letter to practical effects, making a strong argument that those working in that field are the closest things we have to actual miracle workers.