18 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Star Wars
It must be tough being arguably the most influential movie series of all time. With countless websites and message boards dedicated to picking apart individual movies, scenes and moments, it might seem that there’s nothing left to see after you’ve watched the original Star Wars trilogy for approximately the one millionth time. But you’d be wrong.
Despite the fact that fans and viewers have obsessed over A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi since the films were released in the late 1970s and early '80s, there are still some awesome details to look out for when you marathon the movies for Star Wars Day.
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE (1977)
1. Hidden dashboard dice are a big deal in the sequels and spinoffs.
Unless you’re an eagle-eyed Star Wars superfan, viewers of 2017’s The Last Jedi might have been a bit confused about the importance of Han Solo’s dice, which were used as a reminder of the fallen smuggler. The prop only appears in a single scene in the 1977 original—and no characters even mention them—but they popped up again in The Last Jedi. Rumor has it they’ll make an appearance in the upcoming spinoff movie, Solo. But if you want to see where it all began, look above Luke and Obi-Wan’s heads in the scene where they’re in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, marveling over the size of the Death Star.
2. Luke's womp rat killer is parked in his Tatooine garage
When Luke and the rest of the X-Wing fighter pilots are getting debriefed about the size of the small exhaust port design flaw before their attack run on the Death Star, a disbelieving Wedge Antilles tells Luke, “That's impossible, even for a computer.” To which the young Skywalker responds, “I used to bulls-eye womp rats in my T-16 back home. They're not much bigger than two meters.”
It turns out, we get a glimpse of the scourge of Tatooine’s womp rats earlier in the movie. Luke is seen playing with a small toy version of the T-16, while the real deal is parked in the garage behind him.
3. An expanded universe favorite makes an appearance in Mos Eisley.
You’ll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than Mos Eisley, but you will still find a beloved fan favorite character who only appears in the Expanded Universe. One of the most popular non-canon stories, now called Legends, was the 1996 novel Shadows of the Empire, which spawned a popular video game featuring the Han Solo-esque mercenary Dash Rendar. In a change made for the 1997 Star Wars Special Editions, you can see Rendar’s ship, the Outrider, blasting off in the background of the decrepit spaceport as Luke, Obi-Wan, and the droids drive through the city streets.
4. Luke might be a Force ghost ... or just a still photo.
Was Luke always a Force ghost!? That might be one fan theory too much, but an image early on in A New Hope gives the spooky theory some credence.
In an establishing shot of the Lars homestead on Tatooine, when Uncle Owen looks for Luke after he goes searching for the missing R2-D2, a ghostly image of Luke can be seen in the top right corner of the hovel. Does this mean Luke has been dead all this time? Probably not. To save costs on film, Lucas inserted a still image that unwittingly featured a hidden Mark Hamill.
5. The clumsy stromtropper who had just to poop.
Among the first behind-the-scenes stories you learn about as a Star Wars fan is the infamous stormtrooper who hits their head on a Death Star blast door in pursuit of Luke and Leia. The second thing you could learn about the blunder is that it was a bad case of having to go number-two that caused actor Laurie Goode to bonk his head.
“On about the fourth take, as I shuffled along, I felt my stomach rumbling, and 'bang,' I hit my head," he told The Hollywood Reporter of the infamous scene. "As I wasn't moving too fast, it was more of a scuffed bash, so it didn't hurt, but as no one shouted 'cut,' I thought the shot wasn't wide enough for me to be in frame.”
6. George Lucas put his first movie in the original trilogy.
The young mastermind behind the Star Wars saga got his start in another, very different sci-fi story. His debut, THX 1138, told the Orwellian story of the titular character trying to break free of a drug-regulated dystopian future. It’s decidedly dour stuff, and it’s perhaps no surprise that Lucas found greater success with Star Wars. But he never abandoned his first movie. The number “1138” can be found sprinkled throughout various parts of the saga.
In A New Hope, Luke tries to fool the Imperial guards by telling them Chewie is a prisoner transfer from cell block 1138. The full title of Lucas’s debut is extremely difficult to see, but can be found on a computer monitor behind C-3PO when he and Artoo are trapped in the Death Star hangar control room.
In The Empire Strikes Back, General Rieekan orders Rogues 10 and 11 to station 3-8 on Hoth, and in Return of the Jedi, Princess Leia has "1138" painted on the helmet of her Boushh disguise.
7. Lucas added an extra to fix a special edition continuity error.
A Biggs/Luke reunion scene before the Death Star attack run was added for the Special Edition of A New Hope, but that’s not the only thing added in the scene. Lucas included a hidden wipe when an extra walks in front of the camera as a way to hide part of Red Leader's original dialogue, which stated that the veteran pilot had previously met Anakin Skywalker. This detail would have been a continuity error with the then-upcoming Prequel Trilogy. You can see the wipe based on R2-D2’s position in the top right corner of the frame.
Red Leader’s original dialogue in the script was, “I met your father once when I was just a boy, he was a great pilot. You'll do all right. If you've got half of your father's skill, you'll do better than all right.”
8. Beware of reused bounty hunters.
George Lucas’s saga was known for revolutionizing the concept of a lived-in future. But what about a retroactively recycled future? The head of the droid bounty hunter IG-88, who along with a handful of other mercenaries like Boba Fett is tasked by Darth Vader to find the Millennium Falcon in The Empire Strikes Back, can be seen as a lamp structure in the cantina scene in A New Hope. A similar droid can be seen awaiting incineration on Bespin.
STAR WARS: EPISODE V - THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
9. Two key visual artists are part of the Rebel Alliance on Hoth.
Star Wars sports some of the most distinctive and memorable designs in cinema history. Besides Lucas, the two people perhaps most responsible for those iconic looks are concept artist Ralph McQuarrie and designer and special effects artist Joe Johnston. While their creations—like the Millennium Falcon—speak for themselves onscreen, the pair appear in the same shot onscreen as well.
Lookout for Johnston as the Captain telling a pair of Rebels about the escape plan on Hoth, while McQuarrie can be seen hurriedly walking from right to left.
10. An AT-AT gets a little help falling down.
The harrowing Hoth attack sequence is capped off onscreen with an Imperial AT-AT exploding and tipping over. The sound effects and triumphant music really sell the scene, but a slightly hidden detail reminds you that the sequence was painstakingly created using detailed models. If you look at the bottom right of the smoldering AT-AT you can see a small rod nudging the model over to sell the supposedly massive machine falling on its side.
11. You can eat the asteroids.
The tactile nature of The Empire Strikes Back’s special effects in 1980 made it so you couldn’t just push some buttons and input CG to create rousing sequences like the asteroid field chase between the Millennium Falcon and TIE Fighters. So when they needed asteroids, special effects whizzes like effects cameraman and eventual Return of the Jedi visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston went to the grocery store.
"We had to shoot all these asteroids flying everywhere, so, just for laughs, we went out and bought a bunch of potatoes at the local store,” Ralston said. “We stuck those on rods and we started shooting potatoes, but not telling anybody ... They look pretty much like rock; they’re just smoother and go flying by the cockpit."
12. Boba Fett is unmasked on Bespin ... kind of.
Actor Jeremy Bulloch landed the role of Boba Fett after his half-brother—The Empire Strikes Back producer Robert Watts—asked him to audition. But being the most notorious bounty hunter in the galaxy isn’t Bulloch’s only role. An actor dropped out on the day he was supposed to play an Imperial officer avoiding Luke and escorting Princess Leia through Cloud City, so Bulloch jumped in as a quick day-of replacement.
13. Mickey Mouse is on Cloud City.
Disney acquired Lucasfilm over three decades after the release of The Empire Strikes Back, but anybody who watches the climactic I-am-your-father battle between Luke and Vader on Cloud City could have anticipated the house of mouse and Lucasfilm’s destiny together. As Luke and Vader battle near a window, which is eventually smashed by the Sith lord, the three-circled silhouette of Mickey Mouse can be seen in a Bespin workstation in the background. It seems the creators of Empire just wanted to get into the Hidden Mickey game.
14. Lando Calrissian is a puppet.
Before Lando Calrissian escapes with Leia and Chewie at the end of Empire, the trio head to the bottom of Cloud City aboard the Millennium Falcon to save Luke, who is dangling from some space scaffolding. Instead of creating a full-size portion of the Falcon showing actor Billy Dee Williams emerging to save Luke, a miniature panel and a custom-built Lando puppet was created using soft foam and papier-mâché to sell the effect. The Lando puppet can be seen in a split-second shot right before Luke drops down into the Falcon’s open hatch.
STAR WARS: EPISODE VI - RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
15. Ewoks speak English?
While you could chalk this one up to your ears playing tricks on you, it does seem like the Ewoks listening to C-3PO turn to each other and say, “That guy’s wise.” While we can’t detect any other Ewok Anglophiles in Return of the Jedi, we can say the rest of Ewokese is based on Tibetan, Nepali, and Kalmyk languages spoken in Asia.
16. Return of the Jedi's director works for the Empire.
While we can vouch for his job as director of Return of the Jedi, we can’t vouch for filmmaker Richard Marquand’s allegiance to the Empire. You can spot Marquand as one of the AT-ST pilots who yells, “Get him off of there” when Chewie and a few Ewoks try to steal the Imperial machine on Endor. You might also recognize the director’s Welsh accent as EV-9D9, the torturous droid at Jabba’s palace that assigns Threepio and Artoo to Jabba’s sail barge.
17. The guy who made every Star Wars sound wants you to freeze.
From the hum of the lightsabers to Artoo’s squeals, sound designer Ben Burtt is responsible for the iconic sound effects that make up the Star Wars universe. But the guy who has given this onscreen galaxy some memorable sounds also has a cameo. He plays Imperial Colonel Dyer who catches Han Solo and the group of Rebels attempting to blow up the shield generator, only to be pushed off a ledge.
"I had the opportunity to play a very minor part in the film as an Imperial officer," Burrt said in the Return of the Jedi audio commentary. "In the Endor power station, who jumps out from behind a wall, at the power station, and holds a gun on Han Solo then gets hit with a toolbox and then falling into a generator room below. And my big line was 'Freeze!'"
18. Darth Vader wields Luke's lightsaber in their final fight.
During the climactic lightsaber battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the evil Sith lord has a phantom lightsaber. You can see Vader holding Luke’s distinctive laser sword while taunting him aboard the Super Star Destroyer. This little continuity error can be chalked up to a deleted scene: When Luke hides under the platform, he was supposed to drop his lightsaber and roll it over to Vader as a way to make peace. Vader picks it up, creating the shot that stayed in the movie. A form of the deleted scenario actually made its way into an early Return of the Jedi poster when the movie was still called Revenge of the Jedi. On the poster, Luke can be seen wielding a red saber, while Vader has a blue one (though Luke wields his own custom made green saber in the final movie).
All screen shots courtesy 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, by J.W. Rinzler
Star Wars Year by Year: A Visual History, Updated and Expanded Edition, by Daniel Wallace
Updated for 2019