Photo of George Lucas George Lucas

The man whose movies spearheaded the shift from cinema to spectacle grew up on a Modesto, Calif., walnut farm. In his youth, he was passionately interested in drag racing -- an experience he would later capture in the Oscar-nominated American Graffiti (1973).

Born May 14, 1944, George Lucas studied filmmaking at the University of Southern California, where his short film "THX 1138" captured the attention of Hollywood. After interning at Warner Bros., Lucas made a feature-length version of that film, which became an instant cult hit.

That success paved the way for American Graffiti, which got Lucas the backing he needed to make Star Wars (1977), a movie whose spectacular effects and breakneck storytelling pace would forever change filmmaking. More hits followed with the Indiana Jones franchise (which he developed with buddy Steven Spielberg) and additional entries in the Star Wars saga.

George Lucas in Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace

1999 PG

In this Star Wars prequel, jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) must protect Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) from the evil clutches of Darth Sidious and Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid). Along the way, they meet Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), a child who shows intimations of a great gift. Terence Stamp and Samuel L. Jackson co-star amid spectacular CGI scenery in director George Lucas's sci-fi epic.

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