For years, creator George Lucas has refused to give fans a restored version of the original 1977 Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope as it appeared in theaters for the first time almost forty years ago. Now, a group of hardcore Star Wars fans have gone rogue, restoring the movie themselves. And they have leaked the cleaned-up print online.

For decades, fans have wanted to see Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope without its special edition makeovers. So a group of friends and enthusiasts has decided to take it upon themselves to restore an original faded 35mm print of the movie, spending thousands of their own dollars to do so. The process took many years, and has resulted in the best-yet HD version of the original theatrical cut. Following their efforts, they've decided to leak the print online for all to see.

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The group behind the project has dubbed themselves Team Negative 1. They quietly released this restoration on a message board last month, calling this Star Wars print the "Silver Screen Theatrical Version". This past Tuesday, did an interview with the leader behind the group about the extensive restoration process. And how the team had to go frame-by-frame through the entire 35mm print to bring it back to its original glory. You can read that here.

This restored copy of A New Hope is the exact copy they showed in 1977. Before the Special Edition tweaks were added that have irritated fans over the years. All of the new dialogue, visuals, and CGI creatures that have been added throughout the 80s, 90s and 2000s are nowhere to be seen. And in this restored original version, Han shoots first. You'll even see that Greedo doesn't fire his blaster at all. The Silver Screen addition isn't a flawless restoration. It still has some pops, scratches and color issues. But fans claim this is the most accurate release compared to what debuted in theaters May 1977. It's not the only restored versionof the movie.

There have been similar attempts bring Star Wars back to its original form. Perhaps the most infamous of these was the fan-made Despecialized Edition. With the help of many dedicated fans and video editors, an user calling himself Harmy recreated the complete original, unaltered trilogy in Hi-Def using various film and video elements culled from a number of resources. The difference between Harmy's Despecialized Edition and the Silver Screen edition is that this new restoration has been completed from an intact 35mm print of the movie as its sole source of footage. George Lucas has long refused to release a restored version of the 1977 movie. He had this to say way back in 2004.

"The special edition, that's the one I wanted out there. The other movie, it's on VHS, if anybody wants it. ... I'm not going to spend the, we're talking millions of dollars here, the money and the time to refurbish that, because to me, it doesn't really exist anymore. It's like this is the movie I wanted it to be, and I'm sorry you saw half a completed film and fell in love with it. But I want it to be the way I want it to be. I'm the one who has to take responsibility for it. I'm the one who has to have everybody throw rocks at me all the time, so at least if they're going to throw rocks at me, they're going to throw rocks at me for something I love rather than something I think is not very good, or at least something I think is not finished."

George Lucas started making changes to the movie as far back as 1981, when it was originally re-released back into theaters. The title was officially changed to Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, and over the years, there have been multiple tweaks and changes to the home video versions of the movie, with all VHS, DVD and Blu-rays arriving slightly altered from one to the next. As it stands, there is a whole generation of kids who have never seen the original theatrical print of the 1977 classic. About that, the Silver Screen version's restorer had this to say.

"We know that anyone under 30 kind of prefers the clean, sharp, detailed look. Then the older crowd, the retro crowd, is like, 'give me the grain and give me the matte boxes and give me a little weave in the picture.' It's kind of like CD vs. vinyl."

The online version isn't legal, by any means. But it's not hard to track down if you look hard enough. LucasFilm representatives have refused to comment. You can check out images and videos from the restoration below. What do you think? Best thing to happen to Star Wars since The Force Awakens?

Star Wars Fan Restoration Poster
Star Wars Fan Restoration 1
Star Wars Fan Restoration 2