For me, film preservation has always been of great importance, and that is why I have always held an animosity towards the Star Wars: Special Editions. Constantly changing the substance of these films because technology has improved or because you might be second guessing a creative impulse from years earlier does the films a disservice and destroys them as documents of the time that they were originally made.
Sure, some of the biggest changes – Han suddenly not shooting first in his confrontation with the bounty hunter Greedo, Han’s encounter with Jabba the Hutt at the docking bay – has been debated back and forth for almost two decades now. But do people really know the extent the film’s have been tampered with over the years? Well YouTube user Marcelo Zuniga has assembled a rather in-depth look at all the changes that the classic trilogy has gone through over the years from their original theatrical cuts (1977) to the Special Edition (1997) to their release on DVD (2004) and blu-ray (2011). Between the four videos below you get every sound effects and line of dialogue change, different or extended shot, added scene and altered special effect.
Currently, there are rumors that Lucasfilm, not that it is owned by Disney and out of the hands of Star Wars creator George Lucas, is looking at releasing the original Star Wars trilogy in its unaltered form. Until that time though, here is the best way to study those changes.