Star Wars Origins - Miscellaneous Influences
Flash Gordon
Kurosawa films
Joseph Campbell
Personal Myth
Lord of the Rings

2001: Space Odyssey
Forbidden Planet
The Wizard of Oz
E.E. "Doc" Smith

The Droids
Imperial Walkers
Other stuff
More other stuff

Storytelling Lessons
Other Science Fiction
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Queen Amidala's senate costume was probably inspired by this photo of a Mongolian lady, taken from a 1921 National Geographic. Note the gold hair bands, the shoulderpads, and the whiteface with red beauty spots on each cheek. Amidala's character is influenced by Princess Yukihime from Akira Kurosawa's film The Hidden Fortress (Yukihime also poses as her own handmaiden).

John Carter of Mars books Banthas Banths1
John Carter of Mars books The Sith (evil Jedi) The Sith (evil insects)
John Carter of Mars books Leia's "space bikini" outfit Dejah Thoris outfits, particularly as painted by Frank Frazetta
John Carter of Mars books Jabba's desert skiff Flying platforms
Gone With The Wind Han Solo, a roguish blockade runner Rhett Butler, a roguish blockade runner2
Gone With The Wind Yoda's manner of speaking, in particular his habit of putting the verb at the end of the sentence Gerald O'Hara's Irish brogue
Gone With The Wind Idea of overdubbing actors with different voice actors, used for Darth Vader and Aunt Beru The actress who played Bonnie was trained to jump horses so she couldn't be replaced, but the director didn't care for her voice so he overdubbed a different actress
Dinotopia Naboo imagery Theed similar to Waterfall City, Jar-Jar Binks similar to Bix3
The Fighting Devil Dogs Darth Vader, the Stormtroopers Darth Vader visually similar to "The Lightning," Stormtroopers similar to Lightning's evil minions4
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, by Lewis Carroll John Tenniel's illustration of the Jabberwocky, from the original 1872 publication5 Jabba's pet rancor
The Outer Limits (1963-1965) The Cantina Band The "Bith" race may be inspired by Ikar from the episode "Keeper of the Purple Twilight"
Jack Kirby Comics Darth Vader, Darth/Luke relationship, The Force Lucas has cited comic books as a big influence on Star Wars6
Star Wars comics the idea for Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber Lucasfilm has apparently agreed that Darth Maul's double-bladed lightsaber was invented by artist Christian Gossett, from a story written by Kevin J. Anderson.
Hong Kong movie Wu gong zhou (literally "Centipede Curse," 1988) Villain attempts to kill Padme by sending centipedes to kill her while she's in bed. The centipedes are slowed down by her guardian (R2-D2), but finally stopped only by the hero's magic talisman (the lightsaber). I don't know for sure, but Wu gong zhou feels like an influence. In the Chinese movie a villain attempts to kill the hero by sending centipedes to kill him while he's in bed. The centipedes are slowed down by his guardian (a flaming chicken skeleton), but finally stopped only by the hero's magic talisman (an amulet).

Words convey ideas, music conveys emotion

1 Banthas and Banths are both giant beasts of burden. Lucas has acknowledged Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars series as a major influence on Star Wars. The lion-like monster in the colosseum scene of Attack of the Clones is probably also inspired by the Mars books.

2 Lucas was strongly influenced by the great films from Ye Olden Days, including Wizard of Oz, Triumph of the Will, The Bicycle Thief, etc., which he was probably exposed to as a film student at UCLA in the late 60's. It's probable that he was shown Gone With the Wind, sometimes called the greatest American film. Hero Rhett Butler, as played by Clarke Gable, is arguably the most popular male heart-throb in history. He's strong, fierce and manly but can also cry and show love. In one scene he implores Scarlett to kiss him, telling her she should be kissed every day, and well. She resists, saying he's a rogue and she prefers gentlemen. This seems to be the source of Han and Leia's first kiss in The Empire Strikes Back.

3 The Phantom Menace bears several remarkable similarities to James Gureny's popular Dinotopia books, including a waterfall city of buildings with green domes, a final celebration featuring dinosaurs parading down a Romanesque promenade, and a comedy relief side-kick dinosaur character ("Bix" even sounds like "Binks"). It seems probable that Lucas was at least subconsciously influenced by Gurney's work: Lucas has gone on record saying Dinotopia is his son's favorite book, and Lucas often reads it to him. Lucas saw the pre-production work for the Dinotopia movie 8 months before he began writing The Phantom Menace. Ian McCaig was concept artist for The Phantom Menace and a principal designer for Sony Pictures' Dinotopia. Picking up ideas subconsciously is how the creative process works, and this does not mean that Lucas "ripped off" Gurney in any way. Gurney implies that Lucas has acknowledged Gurney's contribution to Phantom Menace off the record in both his public statement on the matter and this interview.

Note: Gurney's Waterfall City draws heavily on the Sumerian city of Ur, established 4200-4500 BCE in Mesopotamia. Archaeologists and historians consider Mesopotamia "the world's earliest complex society, with real cities and the written word," and Ur is mentioned in the Bible as the home of Abraham, the first prophet and father of the nation of Israel. Like Waterfall City, Ur was built where two rivers join into one (the Tigris and Euphrates; Mesopotamia means "between two rivers"). Both cities also contain stepped pyramids called "ziggurats": ancient peoples believed these structures were reflections of the palaces of the gods.

4 The Fighting Devil dogs is a 12-part serial from 1938. The villainous "Lightning" wears a very familiar black cape and mask, and his evil minions are equally faceless behind their white outfits. The Lightning's voice is a whiney squeak, hardly the deep boom of James Earl Jones. Indiana Jones also borrows a few ideas from this serial, including a wooden boat racing between two converging steel ships.

5 Mrs. Henry Morss Jr. noticed a similarity between Tenniel's Jabberwocky illustration and Paolo Uccello's painting of Saint George and The Dragon. (Information from The Annotated Alice by Martin Gardner, original edition 1960.) Great art builds on earlier great art.

6 There are obvious similarities between Darth Vader and Doctor Doom (both are evil warlords who hide their scarred faces behind hightech body armor and a cloak). The father/son relationship between Darth/Luke is similar to Darkseid/Orion from New Gods, and The Source has some similarities to The Force (also from New Gods)

Star Wars created by George Lucas, © LucasFilm Ltd.
Star Wars: Origins © 1999-2006 by Kristen Brennan,
part of the Jitterbug Fantasia webzine.