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Rian Johnson’s 6 Movies You Need to Watch Before Star Wars: Episode VIII Releases

Rian Johnson’s 6 Movies You Need to Watch Before Star Wars: Episode VIII Releases

There’s a lot of excitement about the impending December release of Rogue One,  but for those of us ready to see what happens next with characters like Rey, Poe, and Finn, we’ve got a hefty wait ahead of us. December 2017 is a long ways away, but luckily there’s a pretty great way to pass the time. IGN recently released a list of movies that Episode VIII director Rian Johnson asked the cast and crew to watch to prepare for shooting. The films all have themes we’ll see in the eighth Star Wars film like war, leadership, survival, and redemption through betrayal. Since there is no synopsis available for Episode VIII, we can only speculate wildly about how those themes will actually play out. Still, these movies should get you in the right frame of mind for the adventures to come in a galaxy far, far away.

Twelve O’Clock High

This classic movie from 1949 stars Gregory Peck and focuses on the story of a general who takes control of a struggling squadron tasked with bombing strategic German targets during the day. While these daylight attacks were often more successful than night raids, they also held a much higher risk for the soldiers. Though the squadron struggles at the beginning of the movie, with several soldiers requesting a transfer, ultimately they are able to come together and do some real damage against the German forces. Johnson has said that this film inspired Episode VIII the most, so if you can only watch one of these six films, this is the one to check out. While we can’t know for sure what it means for Episode VIII, it’s likely that Peck’s charismatic and impactful leadership is the draw to this film.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

This film centers around a British soldier and prisoner of war who is tasked with building a bridge for his captors. Of course, the Allies plan to destroy this bridge, and this plan ultimately leads the main character, played by Alec Guiness, to question his loyalties. Ultimately, good and evil are quite muddied, and we see unique and uneasy alliances between enemies.

Three Outlaw Samurai 

This 1964 film is about a wandering ronin who encounters two samurai tasked with killing the peasants who kidnapped the daughter of a corrupt magistrate. So obviously, this film focuses on following a corrupt leader blindly and the deadly consequences that result. I don’t know about you, but this screams Kylo Ren and Snoke to me. Whether or not Ren will see how dangerous Snoke is in this film, I’d be willing to guess that he’ll at least start considering the consequences.

A Letter Never Sent

This movie is the story of a a group of geologists who are exploring and come across a wealth of diamonds. Unfortunately, their escape from the dense forest is cut off thanks to an intense fire, and the geologists must fight to keep their very lives. Any movie with this much survival and isolation immediately makes you think of Luke and his isolated island.

Gunga Din

British soldiers stationed in India accidentally discover the plans of to revive an ancient cult, one that is not only dangerous, but is actively planning to celebrate its return to the world by a huge rampage of death and destruction. Could the Knights of Ren be considered Episode VIII‘s version of the cult? Or is thee film simply going to be centered on dealing with military forces you don’t fully understand? Either way, this one has Kylo Ren’s name all over it.


Not to be confused with the 2005 movie with Matthew McConaughey, this 1943 film focuses on men in a tank who are separated from their unit and have to cross the brutal Saharan desert in their tank while dodging German soldiers. Ultimately, this movie is about power and resources, as the Allies in the tank fight off Germans for a nearly dry well. So who is going to be showing up in Episode VIII that will be focused on gaining resources and playing the power-grabbing game effectively?

While watching these movies won’t give you any definitive information, one thing will be clear after finishing these films: we’re in for a wild ride in Episode VIII. How do you think these movie themes will tie into the next movie? Do you like the idea of watching classic films to prep for a movie? Let’s talk in the comments! 

Image credit: 20th Century Fox

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