The influence of Dune on George Lucas

02 March 2010
Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune is widely considered a masterpiece of science fiction, and its influence on the genre cannot be overstated.

It sold a giga ton of books. 

It's a damn good book, regardless of enjoying sci-fi and giant space worms. 

It is also widely acknowledged that George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars franchise, drew inspiration from Dune when he wrote the script for the original 1977 Star Wars film. Heck, Lucas borrowed ideas from everywhere.

Common themes between the ᑐ ᑌ ᑎ ᕮ and Star Wars

The Chosen One

One of the most obvious similarities between Dune and Star Wars is the concept of a "chosen one" who is destined to bring balance to the universe. In Dune, this chosen one is Paul Atreides, the son of Duke Leto Atreides who is tasked with leading a rebellion against the evil Baron Harkonnen

In Star Wars, the chosen one is Luke Skywalker, who must defeat the Empire and restore balance to the Force. Both characters are young men with extraordinary abilities who are thrust into a conflict that they did not ask for, and both must come to terms with their destiny and the weight of their responsibilities.

[One could make a reallllly good argument that the sequel films made Ray the chosen one...]

Mysterious Forces

Another similarity between Dune and Star Wars is the use of a mystical force that can be harnessed by certain individuals to perform seemingly supernatural feats. In Dune, this force is known as the "spice trance" and is accessed through the use of the drug melange, which is found only on the desert planet of Arrakis. In Star Wars, this force is known as the Force and is accessed through meditation and training. Both forces allow individuals to manipulate reality in ways that seem impossible, and both are used by characters to perform incredible feats of strength, speed, and agility.

The influence of Dune on George Lucas

I hate sand, it gets every where etc

The desert planet of Arrakis, with its harsh environment and valuable natural resource, also served as inspiration for the planet Tatooine in Star Wars. Both planets are home to nomadic tribes and are ruled by powerful factions who are willing to do whatever it takes to maintain their power. In Dune, the ruling class is the Padishah Emperor, who seeks to control the spice trade, while in Star Wars, it is the Galactic Empire, which seeks to maintain its grip on the galaxy.

Space Slugs and Worms

space slug work star wars

Of Raiders and Fremen

The desert planet setting of Tatooine in Star Wars also includes a similar nomadic tribe of people known as the Tusken Raiders, who are akin to the Fremen in Dune. Both groups are portrayed as savage and dangerous, but also possess a deep connection to the land and an understanding of the harsh realities of their environment. Both the Fremen and Tusken Raiders also possess unique skills that make them formidable adversaries in battle.

Good v. Evil

Perhaps the most significant thematic similarity between Dune and Star Wars is the idea of a struggle between good and evil, with both works exploring the concept of how power corrupts and the lengths that people will go to in order to maintain their grip on power. 

In Dune, the Bene Gesserit sisterhood represents an ancient and secretive group who manipulate events behind the scenes, while the Harkonnen family represents the dark side of human nature, seeking power and control at all costs. In Star Wars, the Jedi Order represents the light side of the Force, while the Sith represent the dark side, seeking power and control for their own gain.

Also Jabba The Hutt is a big fat slug. Leto II Atreides is a worm in God Emperor of Dune.

dune influence in star wars

Did George Lucas acknowledge his borrowings from Dune?

While it is widely acknowledged that George Lucas drew inspiration from Frank Herbert's Dune when he wrote the script for the original Star Wars film, it is also known that Herbert was not pleased with the extent to which Lucas borrowed from his work.

In a 1979 interview with Omni Magazine, Herbert expressed his dissatisfaction with the similarities between Star Wars and Dune, saying:

"I understand that Star Wars is going to be one of the biggest money-making films ever... I'm not sure I like that. It's been my life for six years, and it's kind of like seeing someone else run off with your wife."

Herbert went on to explain that while he didn't begrudge Lucas his success, he was disappointed that he had not been approached for permission to use his ideas and concepts:

"I would have said no to most of it. It's not that I don't think Star Wars is fun, it's just that it's not science fiction. It's a fantasy set in space. It has a lot of elements of mythology and mysticism, which I don't believe are science fictional."

Herbert also criticized the way that Star Wars simplified and sanitized the themes and concepts he explored in Dune.

It is clear that while Herbert may have been flattered by the attention that Star Wars brought to his work, he was ultimately disappointed with the way that Lucas had used his ideas without permission and had simplified them for a mass audience.

influence dune star wars jessica concept

George Lucas has acknowledged that he drew inspiration from a wide range of sources when creating the Star Wars films

Here is a list of some of the most notable influences and the media they came from:

Flash Gordon serials - The Flash Gordon serials were a series of adventure films that were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They featured heroic characters fighting against evil villains and often included futuristic technology and space travel. The Star Wars films were heavily influenced by the Flash Gordon serials, with their use of similar character archetypes and space-faring technology.

Akira Kurosawa's films - Akira Kurosawa was a Japanese filmmaker who directed many classic samurai films, including The Hidden Fortress, which was a major influence on the original Star Wars film. Lucas has acknowledged that the characters of R2-D2 and C-3PO were inspired by two bickering peasants from The Hidden Fortress, and the overall structure of the film was based on Kurosawa's storytelling style.

Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces - The Hero with a Thousand Faces is a book by Joseph Campbell that explores the common themes and archetypes found in myths and stories from around the world. Lucas was heavily influenced by Campbell's ideas and used them as a framework for the story of Star Wars, with Luke Skywalker being the archetypal hero on a quest to save the galaxy.

The works of J.R.R. Tolkien - J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was a major influence on the Star Wars films, particularly in the use of an epic, sweeping narrative that takes place across multiple locations and involves a large cast of characters. The character of Gandalf clearly serves as inspiration for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Indeed, when Lucas was creating the ANH script, he used experts from Lord of the Rings featuring Gandalf as place holder text!

Science fiction pulp magazines - Science fiction pulp magazines were a popular form of entertainment in the 1930s and 1940s and featured stories of adventure, space travel, and futuristic technology. Lucas has acknowledged that he was a fan of these magazines and that they influenced his vision for Star Wars and we haven't even started on the John Carter of Mars novels...

Lucas has also cited World War II films as an influence such The Guns of Navarone and The Dambusters.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

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