Moments from Star Wars that were inspired by Dune

Warner Bros. Pictures film Dune Part 2 in theaters Nov. 3, 2023.
Warner Bros. Pictures film Dune Part 2 in theaters Nov. 3, 2023. /

There is no question that George Lucas drew some inspiration for Star Wars from the book Dune. Along with The Flash Gordon serials and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, Dune clearly had an influence on Lucas in his creation of his saga that took place in a galaxy far far away. While there are many examples of how the classic sci-fi novel inspired the franchise that Lucas created, here are some of the biggest ones. Possible spoilers for Dune throughout the list. (And possible spoilers for Star Wars as well I suppose.)

1. The Desert Planet

Let’s look at the most obvious example first. Dune takes place on a planet called Arrakis, a desert planet that is referred to as Dune. The setting on the desert planet is a fundamental aspect of the book and one that clearly had a large impact on Lucas. A large part of the original Star Wars film was set on a desert planet as well, Tatooine. Just like on Arrakis, water was a scarce commodity on the planet that is most heavily featured in A New Hope, and continued to appear throughout the saga.

2. The Krayt Dragon

While we’ve seen several different creatures that live on Tatooine, one particular creature had the opportunity to capture the imagination without ever actually appearing in the movie. Early on in A New Hope, as C-3PO and R2-D2 are wandering through the desert, C-3PO passes by a giant skeleton of some mysterious, giant snake-like creature. The skeleton in question was that of a Krayt Dragon, a creature that for the longest time was only spoken about, but never seen beyond the giant skeleton in the desert. However, it seems that a massive, snakelike creature living among the dunes might have also been something inspired by the sci-fi book. One of the more well known creatures in the Dune franchise is that of the Sandworms, giant creatures that live across the planet, often traveling beneath the surface of the desert. It seems that the visual of a creature of that size living in the desert is something that inspired Lucas as well.

3. Spice

One of the most important elements in the Dune story is the Spice Melange that is found on the planet of Arrakis. Commonly referred to as “spice” it’s very existence is vital to the universe as it is essential for successful space travel in the franchise. Adding on the other benefits of using spice such as longer lifespans  and mind altering elements, spice in the world of Dune is extremely valuable, and it is said that a single briefcase of spice would be enough to purchase an entire planet. So, when an illicit substance was introduced in Star Wars, it also earned the name “spice.”  Spice showed up a few times in Star Wars, with C-3PO being worried about being sent to the spice mines in A New Hope, and Han being know for smuggling spice, though the exact details of what “spice” actually is in Star Wars was expanded on to a much greater degree in supplemental materials, particularly in Legends cannon. While it seems to be treated as an illegal substance in Star Wars, like Dune, there also seems to be some legitimate uses for Spice as well. Luke mentioned to Obi-Wan that he thought his father was a navigator on a spice freighter before learning about his Jedi history. Assuming that Uncle Owen’s lie wasn’t that Luke’s father was a drug runner, there must have been some socially acceptable reason for spice in Star Wars as well.

4. The Emperor

The idea of an Empire spanning across multiple worlds throughout an entire galaxy is one of the most interesting ideas in Star Wars, but it’s present in Dune as well. House Atreides is only one part of a much larger empire that we only get to see glimpses of throughout much of the first part of Dune. Just like in Star Wars, the Emperor himself is mentioned multiple times, but doesn’t actually appear himself until well into the story, perhaps about two thirds of the way through the original book. In both cases, the looming presence of the Galactic governing body gives the story the epic scope that both have become so famous for.

5. A Family saga

Even though it is a space opera that takes place on a galactic scale,  Star Wars is also a family saga, one that follows the Skywalker family through multiple generations. In the same way, even though Dune is a story with consequences on a galactic level, the focus of the story is still the family that is in the middle of it all. House Atreides is the main focus of Dune, and the story of a son trying to live up to the name bestowed upon him by his family and his father. To even further extend the similarities between the two space franchises, just like Star Wars revealing that Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker, it is revealed that Paul, the main character of Dune, is related to the book’s primary villain as well. Baron Harkonnen, the book’s antagonist is revealed to be the father of Lady Jessica, making him Paul’s grandfather as well.