The 8 most entertaining Star Wars rip-offs
With every game-changing film event that has come along in the history of blockbuster cinema, whether it be Jaws, Mad Max, The Matrix, The Lord of the Rings, X-Men or The Hunger Games, a legion of copycat films have followed closely behind.
When Star Wars was released in 1977, shattering every box-office record that came before it, filmmakers and studios the world over sat up and took notice. Before too long, cheap space opera clones started to appear with alarming frequency.
Though not all Star Wars rip-offs are worth watching, some of these films are just too entertaining (or hilariously terrible) to ignore.
Will we get a series of new cheapo knock-offs after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens? If they're as fun as these 8 films, we certainly hope so. With that in mind, we present you with the most entertaining Star Wars rip-offs ever made.
1. Starcrash (1978)
Made as a quick and cheap attempt to cash in on the Star Wars craze, Starcrash transcends its obvious budgetary limitations to become a truly enjoyable piece of shlock that shows a decent amount of actual creativity from its director, Luigi Cozzi. Led by the beautiful Stella Star (Caroline Munro), a group of smugglers (including a weird droid-looking alien and a laser-sword-wielding sidekick) undertake a mission from the Emperor of the Galaxy (Christopher Plummer in cheque-cashing mode) to rescue his son (played by a young and luxuriously coifed David Hasselhoff) from the evil Count Zarth Arn (the late, great Joe Spinell). Much inexplicableness occurs, but you'll be having too much fun to care.
2. Message From Space (1978)
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku (Battle Royale, Battles Without Honor and Humanity), this tongue-in-cheek Star Wars send-up also takes inspiration from classic Kabuki theatre. Though it features the usual assortment of space battles, laser blasters and droids, Message from Space takes Star Wars' Kurosawa influence a step further by introducing space samurai into the mix. The film's hero is played by Vic Morrow (The Bad News Bears) and Sonny Chiba (Kill Bill) plays its evil Darth Vader surrogate, Hans. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a young Chris Isaak in his first on-screen appearance.
3. Masters of the Universe (1987)
Though the toys and cartoon it was based on were mostly rooted in fantasy, the producers of the live-action He-Man film, Masters of the Universe, saw fit to capitalise on the Star Wars craze (a few years too late, at that) by injecting it with an obvious space opera sensibility. Suddenly, the evil Skeletor (Frank Langella) became a Darth Vader-like figure with an army of black-clad, Vader-looking, laser-shooting storm troopers at his disposal. Still, there's plenty to like about this cheesy adaptation in which He-Man (a miscast Dolph Lundgren) and his pals are transported to Earth in the 1980s. Look out for a young Courtney Cox as the teenager tasked with helping our heroes retrieve the Cosmic Key, the McGuffin which will help them get back home.
4. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
Made by Roger Corman's New World Pictures on a minuscule budget, Battle Beyond the Stars is packed to the brim with droids, aliens, space battles, lasers and all the other stuff that every good Star Wars rip-off should be able to boast. Its Seven Samurai inspired plot sees a young farmer recruit mercenaries to help defend his planet from an evil tyrant's forces. Though the film was marketed to a family crowd, Corman couldn't help but fill the movie with his trademark sexual references and innuendo, including one ship which actually has boobs. Featuring buckets of adventure, spirited characters and detailed model ships created by a young James Cameron, Battle Beyond the Stars is easy to recommend.
5. The Man Who Saves the World (1982)
Better known as Turkish Star Wars, The Man Who Saves the World (geez, spoiler alert) sits squarely in the 'so bad it's good' category of cinematic atrocities. Armed with a bunch of terrible costumes, a few old cameras, heaping helpings of stolen footage from Star Wars and other popular films, and the kind of completely nonsensical script that a particularly slow child would scribble down, director Çetin Inanç (Turkish Rambo) managed to achieve the kind of perversely entertaining gibberish that only those gifted with anti-talent could accidentally conjure. Any film that proclaims baffling things like "thousands of years passed, and the solar system was replaced with the galaxy system" during its opening narration is surely worthy of analysis from the world's finest film scholars (and psychologists).
6. Star Odyssey (1979)
Okay, so not every sci-fi epic can afford lightsaber effects, but would you settle for some cardboard swords with fluorescent paint on them? Star Odyssey is the kind of movie that is either insufferable or hilarious, depending on your mood while watching. Like Starcrash, Star Odyssey is an Italian cash-in on the Star Wars craze, only director Alfonso Brescia has neither the talent nor the enthusiasm of the former film's director, Luigi Cozzi. Apart from its flashy swords, Star Odyssey has other things in common with Star Wars – both films feature an intergalactic overlord hell-bent on ruling the galaxy, and Star Odyssey even continues the Star Wars tradition of using 'parsec' in an incorrect manner!
7. Space Raiders (1983)
A long time ago, in a video store far, far away, long before Joss Whedon gave us the likes of Firefly and Serenity, people looking for something in the vein of a Han Solo spin-off had to settle for Space Raiders. The film, which features a familiar sounding "last-ditch hero and his alien crew," is actually quite entertaining in a B-grade sort of way, with a moderate level of scope and some enjoyable characters and effects. As a kid, it was easy to get swept up in Space Raiders' story, which sees a 10-year-old spaceship stowaway taken on a trip to the far reaches of the galaxy with a band of space pirates. This Roger Corman production is considered by many to be an unofficial sequel of sorts to Battle Beyond the Stars, so if you like enjoyable trash, you could do much worse than a double-bill of these two space flicks.
8. Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin (1985)
This animated space opera has Star Wars written all over it. Featuring gorgeous Ralph Bakshi-style rotoscoped animation, Starchaser: The Legend of Orin tells the story of a chosen one who teams up with a space pirate to free the galaxy from the tyranny of an evil warlord using a sword made of light. Sound familiar? Though it sounds very by-the-numbers, Starchaser is notable for being one of the first animated films to employ computer graphics for its many space battles, and also one of the first to be released in 3D.
Stephen primarily covers phones and entertainment for TechRadar's Australian team, and has written professionally across the categories of tech, film, television and gaming in both print and online for over a decade. He's obsessed with smartphones, televisions, consoles and gaming PCs, and has a deep-seated desire to consume all forms of media at the highest quality possible.
He's also likely to talk a person’s ear off at the mere mention of Android, cats, retro sneaker releases, travelling and physical media, such as vinyl and boutique Blu-ray releases. Right now, he's most excited about QD-OLED technology, The Batman and Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga.