The Cinema Behind Star Wars: Hitchcock, Ridley Scott, and The Fugitive

Bryan Young | March 12, 2013

If you’ve watched the final arc of the fifth season of The Clone Wars, you might have noticed something interesting about each of the episode titles. (And if you haven’t watched the final arc of the fifth season of The Clone Wars, why in the world not?)

Each of the episode titles, “Sabotage,” “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much,” “To Catch a Jedi,” and “The Wrong Jedi,” correspond to a film by Alfred Hitchcock. Sabotage, The Man Who Knew To Much, To Catch a Thief, and The Wrong Man all deal with themes and situations similar to those faced by Ahsoka Tano in this series of episodes. In Sabotage, police are left to investigate a terrorist plot that blew up a crowded bus, which can relate directly to the bombing of the Jedi Temple. The Man Who Knew Too Much has a spy confess knowledge of an assassination plot moments before he’s murdered, leaving Jimmy Stewart to put the pieces together on his own to prevent more killing. To Catch a Thief follows Cary Grant as he works to clear his name of crimes he’s accused of but didn’t commit, and The Wrong Man follows Henry Fonda as he struggles to prove his innocence in a system where the circumstantial evidence holds more weight than the truth.

These are all fantastic films. When I saw the titles of the episodes, I made sure to re-watch all of these films with my son. Each are appropriate for kids willing to sit for older movies, but the tension in many of these films gets ratcheted up to uncomfortable levels, just like in these episodes of The Clone Wars.

While these breathtaking episodes of The Clone Wars borrowed much inspiration from these Hitchcock classics beyond their titles, there were more films that quite clearly inspired these episodes.

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Perhaps the two most obvious cinematic inspirations in the entire arc came in “The Jedi Who Knew Too Much.” That inspiration came from the films The Fugitive and Carol Reed’s The Third Man. When Ahsoka is set on the run from the clones, she takes to a series of tubes and sewers, just like Orson Welles in The Third Man. The sewers of Vienna in that film created one of the most iconic chases in film history, with Joseph Cotten’s character seeking out his friend on the run. There’s not just a story parallel, there are specific shots that echo those in the original film. One in particular sees Ahsoka in the foreground with a nice band of light across her face as if she were in a noir picture, cast as Harry Lime, Orson Welles’ second greatest on-screen character.

Ahsoka finally finds herself at an outlet in the tunnels and in a situation much like Harrison Ford’s Dr. Richard Kimble found himself in during The Fugitive. In both the film and the episode, the accused parties (Ahsoka and Dr. Kimble) plead their case to their pursuers, but their pleas fall on deaf ears. Then, like the good doctor before her, Ahsoka takes a swan dive from the tube and down to her fate below.

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Other episodes in this arc, particularly those that took place in the seedy underbelly of Coruscant, seemed to take many visual clues from another classic Harrison Ford film, this time from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The neon lights and trash filled streets were a dead ringer for the Los Angeles of 2019 depicted in that landmark film. The production design and special effects that brought the look of Blade Runner together in the ’80s have been hailed over the years as a masterpiece in their own right, and that’s an honor that I’m confident will also be bestowed upon the artists of The Clone Wars.

If you’re going to go back and enjoy any of these films with younger fans, bear in mind that The Fugitive is rated PG-13 for a brutal murder and intense action sequences, and Blade Runner is rated R for violence. The Hitchcock films and The Third Man might be over their heads at times, but are all appropriate for younger audiences.

Bryan Young is an author, a filmmakerjournalist, and the editor in chief of BigShinyRobot.com! He’s also the co-host of the Star Wars podcast, Full of Sith.

You can also follow him on twitter.

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