Since its launch in 1977, the Star Wars movies have gone on to become one of the most popular and lucrative film franchises in history. While the movies have grossed over $30 billion, they’ve also been undeniably expensive and challenging to produce, particularly the original three films made in the 1970s and early 1980s, which are now dubbed Episodes IV to VI. In contrast with the prequel, Star Wars Episodes I to III, and the next-gen, Episode VII, the original Trilogy represents filmmaking of a different era, a time when CGI was in its infancy and the special effects techniques were not nearly as advanced as they are today. It meant the difference between the victory by Ewok of Return of the Jedi vs. the CGI-heavy epic battle and fallout of the same between Anakin/Darth Vader and Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet, Mustafar, of Episode III.
Shot in Panavision, state of the art at the time, the original Star Wars film set a new standard for sound reproduction with the THX system, and the special effects crew more or less made up new processes as they went along to create what would revolutionize and set a new bar for space and sci-fi movies for all time. George Lucas made changes with each reissue, including the 1997 VHS Special Edition and subsequent DVD release of the original Trilogy in 2004, but some of the production mistakes are still in evidence. Here’s a look at 15 mistakes, bloopers and flubs still in the Star Wars films.
15. Still Background Image
Early in the story in Episode IV: A New Hope, Luke had bought two droids he found at a market on his native planet of Tatooine. He brought them to the homestead where he lived with his aunt and uncle, Lars. Yet, the next morning he woke up to find R2D2 was gone, having left to search Tatooine’s desert sands for Obi-Wan Kenobi and to deliver Princess Leia’s crucial message. Luke left the compound early in the morning, hoping to avoid a confrontation by retrieving the little droid before his uncle, Owen, woke up. When his uncle did wake up, he searched for Luke, calling his name as he entered the compound. An “establishing shot” is one that, as the name implies, sets up a specific scene typically from a wide shot that locates every component relevant to the story. You wouldn’t notice that the shot of his uncle looking for Luke in the original version was a still and not a video, except for the fact that there’s a shadowy image of Luke in a window to the far right. It looks like a still photograph where Mark Hamill’s image wasn’t completely removed.
14. Phantom Crew Member
Mos Eisley is a spaceport on Tatooine, the interstellar equivalent of a truck stop that Luke first encountered in Episode IV. After hanging out at the Cantina, listening to Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and getting into trouble with locals, Luke, Han Solo, Obi-Wan, and Chewbacca made it to the hangar where the Millennium Falcon was being housed, and where Storm Troopers rushed in to capture them. Naturally, our heroes managed a skin of their teeth escape with the Falcon zooming off into space under fire from the Storm Troopers. After Luke, Obi-Wan and the droids were settled into their places within the ship, Chewbacca and Han sat at the flight controls. There’s a shot of Han Solo, and if you look over his shoulder, you’ll see part of a figure in light green lean in and out of the picture just behind him in the hallway of the spaceship. Was it an extra crew member that was written out of the scene later, or a gaffer who didn’t get out of the way in time?
13. The Helping Hand
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is thought of by many Star Wars fans to be the best of all seven of the movies released so far, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a few mistakes here and there. The action begins with that ultra-cool battle on the snowy planet, Hoth, between the Rebel Alliance forces and the Empire with its giant Imperial Walkers. With their firepower, the Rebel Alliance fighters had to come up with creative ways of downing the deadly mechanical behemoths. A tow cable wrapped around the legs brought one down, and then Luke downs another with his lightsaber and a handy grenade thrown into the undercarriage. Yet, if you look closely, there is a helping hand from underneath that uses a stick to push the foot of the Imperial Walker up and help topple it over. It clearly seems to be a stagehand and a less than special effect that was missed in the edits.
12. Han Solo Wardrobe Malfunctions
In a multi-movie series, continuity issues likewise span multiple scripts. At the end of Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo was encased in carbon. Just before he’s lowered into the carbonite chamber, Leia finally proclaimed her love, and Han was wearing a white shirt. The camera went to her face, and when it fell back on Han, he was wearing a jacket. Then, in a subsequent shot as he was finally lowered into the chamber, he was back in a white shirt with restraints across his upper arms and back. The mercenary shipped his carbon-encased body off to Jabba the Hutt, and the Rebel Alliance is down but not out as Princess Leia, Luke, Chewie and the droids escaped Darth Vader’s clutches at the last minute. By the very end of the movie, Han’s friends were on the way to find him. Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi came out three years later in 1983, and the story opened with the elaborate cascade of events that showed Luke returning as a Jedi and Leia freeing Han from his carbon prison, but the restraining harness had vanished. Perhaps the carbonization destroys the material, but somehow not his clothes?
11. Lando Calrissian And The Vanishing Black Glove Mystery
The first part of Episode VI: Return of the Jedi covered the epic takedown of Jabba the Hut. All seemed lost with Leia as Jabba’s (half-naked) captive, chained to him by the neck. She watched in horror as the craft holding the prisoners, including Luke, Han Solo, Chewie, and Lando Calrissian hovered over the edge of the Sarlacc pit. The Sarlacc is a ravenous Earth monster, and in later releases, George Lucas added to the CGI effects to include the writhing jaws of the monster menacing the band of friends from below. Then the tide turned as Luke and R2D2 exact their plan and put a lightsaber back in the budding Jedi’s hands, but the group wasn’t out of the woods just yet. During the chaos, Lando nearly fell into the pit, holding on for dear life as he dangled at the edge. As they shot the scene, the action shifted between actor, Billy Dee Williams, and his stunt double. The problem was that the stunt double was wearing black gloves, and Billy Dee Williams wasn’t. You’ll see bare hands in the shots that show Lando’s face, while you’ll see black gloves in shots where he’s looking away.
10. The Head Banging Storm Trooper
In Episode IV: A New Hope, our heroes were on the original Death Star, and Luke and Han Solo overpowered two Storm Troopers and take their uniforms. Disguised as guards, they led Chewie ostensibly to detention undetected on their way to rescuing Princess Leia. R2-D2 and C3PO hid in the gantry office above Docking Bay 327, where a squad of Imperial Storm Troopers was eventually sent to investigate the locked door. As the Storm Troopers ran through a doorway, one of them inadvertently hit his head and the flub was left in the edit. It’s become arguably the most famous Star Wars franchise mistake. A clunking sound was added to the 2004 DVD release of the original trilogy to emphasize the gaffe. George Lucas himself paid tribute to the head banging Storm Trooper in the 2002 feature Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones when Jango Fett bumped his head on the doorway of the Slave I spacecraft.
9. Lando’s Shifting Uniform
In Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi, Lando Calrissian took the Millennium Falcon as part of the fleet that awaited Luke, Leia, Han, and Chewie to blow up the outpost that was keeping the Death Star’s force field in place. Before he boarded the ship, Lando and Han talked about the beloved, ugly, yet speedy space ship. As they talked, the perspective shifted between Han and Lando, and then focused on Lando as he boarded the Falcon and set off with his crew. If you keep your eye on Lando’s uniform right at the part where Han finally leaves and Lando says, “Would you get going, you pirate?”, you’ll see the bandolier holster jump from the right shoulder to the left hip to the opposite diagonal. Likewise, the insignia jumps from the left to the right side of his chest. The insignia shifts back to the left when Lando sits down at the ship’s controls.
8. R2D2 Color Shift
During the climactic battle scene at the end of Episode IV: A New Hope, we saw R2D2 being lowered onto Luke’s X-wing fighter, his blue-striped body a little battered. But, as Luke assures the techs helping him, he wouldn’t choose another droid to help. The two of them, along with the rest of the squadron, jet it to the original Death Star to blow it up. Now, it is to be remembered that the original Star Wars special effects team was pretty much inventing what they were doing as they went along. The entire scene was filmed in front of a blue screen. Nowadays, we realize that when you do so, anything that is actually in blue will get blacked out. Sure enough, when we see R2 during the battle in the trenches, his blue stripes become black. These days, a green screen is used during the filming of this type of scene to avoid problems with blue shades.
7. Lightsaber Gaffes
“I’ve been waiting for you, Obi-Wan. We meet again at last.” Who is the Master and who is the student when Kenobi and Darth Vader meet up again so many years after Obi-Wan left Anakin burning to a crisp on the planet Mustafar? As Luke and Han Solo rescue Princess Leia, Obi-Wan is on a mission to disable the ship’s tractor beam so the Millennium Falcon can escape. Yet, in the hallways, he comes upon Darth Vader for the final battle that would end his life. The camera POV switched to Darth Vader’s view of Obi-Wan, wielding a lit light saber and a white electronic wire that’s clearly visible running down his sleeve. The scene happens in Episode IV: A New Hope, the first film produced in the Star Wars franchise back in 1977 and one that George Lucas had no way of knowing was going to become the phenomenon that it did. While in the story, lightsaber dueling was an ancient art, for Lucas and company, it was a whole new ballgame to choreograph. Other gaffes in the original version (since corrected) include shifting lightsaber colors between Obi-Wan and Vader, and a cloud of dust that erupts when the two lightsabers first clash.
6. Luke’s Ventriloquism
In Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi directed Luke Skywalker to the planet, Dagobah, where he is to find Yoda for the final phase of his training as a Jedi. Luke crash landed his spacecraft in a swamp, leaving him and R2D2 to fend for themselves. As he set up camp and began to explore the area, Luke had a conversation with R2, who was apparently questioning the wisdom of their gloomy destination after hostile encounters with swamp creatures. “Now, all I gotta do is find this Yoda,” Luke said, “if he even exists.” The only problem is, if you watch Luke’s face, his lips only move for the first part of that speech. “If he even exists” was a later addition, spoken by a completely different actor. Editors tried to mask the fluff by darkening Luke’s face, but you can clearly see that he isn’t speaking even as you hear the words.
5. Han Solo Helps Leia With Her Lines
Han Solo and Princess Leia did a good job of pretending to be enemies during most of the original Star Wars Trilogy. But, despite their bickering, there’s an undeniable attraction. By Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, it’s a smoldering love/hate relationship. They were on the Millennium Falcon escaping the Imperial Forces but the banter continued. Leia called him a “scruffy looking Nerf herder” but then there’s turbulence on the ship and she’s knocked into Han’s arms. “Let go,” she said once, then twice. “Don’t get excited,” Han replied. Now, we don’t know exactly how many takes it took to get the scene down cold, but it must have been more than one or two. By the time she issues her caustic reply, “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited,” you can actually see Harrison Ford’s lips silently saying the words along with Carrie Fisher.
4. Disappearing Rocks
In Episode IV: A New Hope, R2D2 went looking for Obi-Wan in the Tatooine desert and Luke in turn went looking for the droid. It led to a nasty encounter between Luke and a Tusken Raider. While Luke grappled with him (eventually being saved by none other than Obi-Wan himself) R2 hid in a small rocky alcove. By the time the original Trilogy was re-released in 1997, however, George Lucas had decided that the little droid’s hiding place wasn’t terribly realistic. After all, you can clearly see him hiding underneath an outcropping of rock. So, Lucas had the scene edited to draw in extra rocks to make R2’s hiding place a little more plausible looking. The problem is, after the fight is over and Obi-Wan coaxed R2 to come back out, those extra rocks have vanished again. In other words, Lucas actually edited in a continuity error to correct another supposed error.
3. Vanishing Storm Troopers
“Mos Eisley spaceport,” Obi-Wan explained to Luke as they looked down on the settlement from a nearby cliff, “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.” As the pair rode into the spaceport with R2D2 and C3PO in Episode IV, their hovercraft was surrounded by Imperial Storm Troopers. It involved one of the more famous quotes from the Star Wars films and the first time Luke got to see the Force in action. As the Storm Troopers question them, Obi-Wan used the Force to make the Troopers say, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” It’s a great scene, but with one little mistake. In the first shots of the Storm Troopers, a number of them surrounded the hovercraft, including around the back. When the conversation is over and the Troopers let them pass, the camera pulls back, and now there are only three of them, with none stationed at the back of the hovercraft.
2. The Disappearing Jacket
Luke first met Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV after the legendary Jedi master saved him and the droids from the Tusken Raiders. They went inside Obi-Wan’s home to avoid further encounters with the Sand People and Obi-Wan regaled Luke with tales of his father, the former Jedi Knight, and let him fool around with Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber. As the conversation progressed, we saw the pair from various angles. While the conversation is seamless, those shots were obviously taken at different times and edited together. In some shots, there is clearly a dark jacket or cloth of some kind hanging on the wall behind Luke. In others, it completely vanishes. In fact, there isn’t even a hook on the wall where a jacket could hang. It’s not the kind of mistake that immediately pops out and was obviously spotted by a devoted fan who saw the movie a few too many times.
1. Luke’s Deleted Conversation
When George Lucas began filming Episode IV, the original 1977 film, he didn’t have all the plot twists fully worked out. That’s why, when Luke first met Obi-Wan, he gets a vague explanation of who his father was, how Obi-Wan knew him, and Darth Vader’s role in it all. Once the dust settled, the story got a lot more complicated, but that all came later. Toward the end of Episode IV, just before the epic battle to destroy the original Death Star, Luke met up with Biggs Darklighter, a childhood friend from Tatooine at the Rebel Alliance station. They are joined by their squadron commander. In the original script, the commander made an offhand remark to Luke about his father. By the time they got to post production, Lucas had hammered out the Anakin/Vader plot line and realized the offhand remark wouldn’t jibe with the story. He edited it out with a fairly simple method. As the three talked, someone walked right in front of the camera, cutting off the conversation. Yet, in the background, C3PO is supervising as R2D2 is being hoisted onto Luke’s X-wing. You can clearly see the little droid make an uneven jump as the edit rolls.