George Lucas is famous for wanting complete control over his directed films, so it makes sense that he would use his own production company for Star Wars. Given Lucas' history with the film industry, this decision was for the best—after all, it gave us Star Wars. 'Nuff said.
In 1971, Lucas directed THX-1138 and presented it to Warner Bros. under Francis Ford Coppola's production company, American Zoetrope. THX was a feature-length expansion of Lucas' 15-minute experiment film. Lacking faith in the project, Warner Bros cut five minutes from the film and hardly supported its theatrical run.
Deciding he wanted more control over his films moving forward, Lucas created Lucasfilm Ltd., and the first project that was completed by the brand new film studio was American Graffiti. Lucas was able to produce his next film under the production company, a little phenomenon called Star Wars. As the writer, director and producer, Lucas lessened the number of people he had to report to.
Under the Luscasfilm Ltd. banner, Lucas founded Industrial Light and Magic in 1975 and laid the foundation for what would become Skywalker Sound that same year. Both divisions won Academy Awards for their work on Star Wars, taking Best Visual Effects and Best Sound in 1978.
They totally deserved it. Visuals aside, who can forget the swoosh sound of the lightsabers or the Big Bad Wolf-esque huffing of Darth Vader? That is some sound magic, right there.
After the success of Star Wars, Lucas shifted from directing to producing, and Lucasfilm Ltd. became his base of operations. Between then and the company's acquisition by Disney in 2012, Lucasfilm branded itself by having a hand in creating some of the most popular and influential films in cinematic history.
Like what, you ask?
The company produced all of the Star Wars sequels and prequels as well as other films that Lucas wanted to see made. After Lucas pitched the idea of Indiana Jones to Steven Spielberg, the two filmmakers joined forces to see the film made and used Lucasfilm Ltd. as the production company for it and its three sequels. Lucasfilm Ltd. also produced Willow (1988), the David Bowie extravaganza Labyrinth (1986), and Howard the Duck (1986)—that last one proving that everybody has an off day.
The company continued to create forward-thinking divisions as well. Pixar Animation Studio got its start as a Lucasfilm division before being sold in 1986 and going on to animation greatness. The theater sound system THX, which deafened moviegoers of the 90's with that awful logo and noise, was also born there. LucasArts, a now defunct video game division, created some of the medium's classics, including The Curse of Monkey Island, Star Wars: TIE Fighter, and Grim Fandango.
Industrial Light and Magic continued to innovate. Its work on Jurassic Park, Jumanji, and The Mummy helped usher in the digital effects revolution. Finally, Skywalker Sound has continued to do excellent work as evident by its sound design being nominated for an Oscar almost every year since 1980.
All in all, it's not a bad pedigree for a production company created by a man who simply wanted to do things his way.