George Lucas has had an extraordinary impact on pop culture. He created Star Wars, a space opera and underdog story that became perhaps the most significant media franchise in the world. He and fellow cinema icon Steven Spielberg co-created Indiana Jones, a roguish intellectual hero now in his fifth decade of adventuring. As Lucas celebrates his 80th birthday this week, we are taking a look back at his incredible career.

Born on May 14, 1944, in Modesto, California, Lucas is a man with two passions. Before his love of film came his love of fast cars. As a child, he aspired to be a race car driver, but after surviving a near fatal car accident in high school he changed his mind. His appreciation of cinematography and clever camera tricks began while attending community college. It bloomed into career aspirations when he transferred to the University of Southern California’s filmmaking school. His film career began in the mid-1960s, working in the sound department, as a camera operator, production assistant, cinematographer, and editor.

In 1971, he founded the film and television production company, Lucasfilm. Though his first feature film, THX-1138, was considered a flop by its studio, his second one, American Graffiti, did quite well. The teen movie about a group of friends spending a final night together after graduation was released in 1973. Boasting the young talents of Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss, Candy Clark, and a kid named Harrison Ford, it was filled with nostalgia, love of beautiful cars, and music. Co-written and directed by Lucas, it earned five Academy Award nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Picture.

Lucas wanted his next project to be the modern equivalent of a Saturday morning children’s program, combining fairy tale elements with fantasy and adventure, set in space. It evolved into the feature length Star Wars, that eventually became titled Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which he wrote and directed. The underdog story about a group of rebels fighting an empire, quickly earned fans not just of science fiction but of adventure, drama, and even romance. It may have begun as a genre film, but nearly 50 years of build-up in the pop culture zeitgeist has turned it into an entertainment juggernaut. The story continued in The Empire Strikes Back, with Lucas writing the story; then the trilogy wrapped in Return of the Jedi, with Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan cowriting the script.

In the midst of his work on the Star Wars franchise, Lucas conceived the idea for Raiders of the Lost Ark while thinking about old movie serials from the golden age of cinema. He brought the idea to Spielberg, then Lucas and Philip Kaufman developed the story, Kasdan wrote the script, and Spielberg directed the movie. Released in 1981, the action-adventure film captivated the imagination, transporting viewers to a dangerous time in recent world history to follow an intellectual hero as he tried to keep a powerful artifact safe. A few years later, Lucas wrote the story for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and co-wrote the story for Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

In the mid-1980s, Lucas wrote the storylines for the Star Wars TV movies, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. Then he contributed to the story and was an executive producer for Labyrinth, produced Howard the Duck, co-wrote the story for Willow and was an EP, and he produced The Land Before Time. He created the TV series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, which told the treasure hunting tales that Indy had when he was a young man.

Following the 20th anniversary of Star Wars, and with the improvement of special effects technology, Lucas decided it was time for another trilogy. Lucas wrote and directed The Phantom Menace, a prequel that began Anakin Skywalker’s journey to the Dark Side, Emperor Palpatine’s rise, and the Galactic Republic’s fall. He cowrote and directed the sequel Attack of the Clones, and he wrote and directed the final prequel installment, Revenge of the Sith.

On October 30, 2012, it was announced that The Walt Disney Company had acquired Lucasfilm for $4 billion, making George Lucas, with 40 million Disney shares, the company’s second-largest non-institutional shareholder.

Lucas has been semi-retired since then, though he has had some involvement as a producer on the Star Wars franchise and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.