I Watched The 1978 ‘Stars Wars Holiday Special’ So You Don’t Have To

Yes,  The Mandalorian is a big hit and every Star Wars fan is on the edge of their seat for The Rise of Skywalker coming out later this month. But, have you ever heard of The Star Wars Holiday Special from decades ago? Probably not, because everyone who participated—the original cast of Harrison Ford, Mark Hammil and Carrie Fisher included—wishes it didn’t exist.

It’s been more than 40 years since The Star Wars Holiday Special was released and the question still stands: Is it worth the watch?

If you’re a true Star Wars fan then yes, you have to watch this.

It’s the most epic train wreck in the Star Wars franchise (yes, worse than Jar Jar Binks. Much worse.) and maybe in all of television history. It’s 90 minutes of pure “what the fuck” confusion, but wow, what a trip it takes you on.

If you lack a true Star Wars nerd’s dedication to the franchise, then I understand if you don’t think you can handle the whole special. For the casual Jedi here’s the best synopsis I can give on the magic.

It opens as Han Solo and Chewbacca are trying to make it back to Chewie’s home planet Kashyyyk to celebrate “Life Day,” which seems to basically be Wookiee Christmas. Agents of the Galactic Empire chase the Millennium Falcon and stake out Chewie’s family home to wait for Han and Chewie’s arrival. That’s basically the whole story (come to think of it, I’m not sure why the imperial agents end up leaving the family alone). The threadbare plot is interrupted by trippy hologram dancers, oddly sexual singers, Jefferson Starship doing their thing to a light show and the rad 10-minute animated sequence that introduced Boba Fett to Star Wars.

Animated Boba Fett Clip

The special ends with everyone celebrating Life Day. A strung-out Princess Leia sings a folk song about the made-up space holiday with lyrics like “a day of joy we all can share together joyously” and the camera randomly fades in and out of Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill’s pained faces. Somehow even Chewie seems embarrassed.

The reviews are almost as funny as the special. Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club wrote “I’m not convinced the special wasn’t ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine … If it has a single virtue, it’s that it does eventually end.”

Even the cast and crew think the special was a mistake. George Lucas said that if he had the time and a sledgehammer he would smash every copy out there. Carrie Fisher said she liked to play the special at the end of parties to get everyone to leave. Mark Hamill said he knew it was going to be horrible from the beginning and didn’t even want to do it in the first place. And Harrison Ford has never even watched it.

But even a sledgehammer the size of the Death Star couldn’t help George Lucas today. While The Star Wars Holiday Special was once only available through back alley videocassette deals, now the entire special is up on YouTube. So if you’ve got the time (and maybe some drugs) then click play and may the force be with you.

Star Wars Holiday Special

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