Star Wars is known for many things, but there are certain aspects of the saga that have become synonymous with the property, such as lightsabers, holograms, and stormtroopers, among many other things. Stormtroopers are the elite (yes, elite) fighting force of the Galactic Empire, and they have done their fair share of killing — even if those kills rarely have anything to do with the Rebel Alliance or any characters we actually care about.
Everyone who has seen at least one Star Wars movie (unless they’ve only seen the the prequel trilogy) knows who the stormtroopers are and what they look like. They aren’t clones, and they wear all-white armor with a peculiar looking helmet, which is why they are sometimes referred to by the derogatory name “bucketheads.” Judging by their record fighting the Rebellion, perhaps they deserve it. It may seem like there isn’t much to know about stormtroopers, but they actually have a rather interesting history.
With that in mind, here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Stormtroopers.
15. Stormtroopers originally had lightsabers
For those of you who don’t know who the late Ralph McQuarrie is, he was the visionary concept artist responsible for the majority of how the original Star Wars trilogy (and thus Star Wars as a whole) looked and felt. Darth Vader (and his breathing apparatus), R2-D2, C-3PO, the rebels on Hoth, all the films’ sets, and so much more — he was responsible for it all. In fact, his drawing of Artoo and Threepio on Tatooine is what convinced 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars in the first place.
While a lot of what McQuarrie designed ended up in the Star Wars galaxy, certain things were removed or altered, such as the Stormtrooper Corps. Some of McQuarrie’s concept art for the original trilogy have been published in various collections over the years, and one of the earliest concept art drawings shows stormtroopers wielding lightsabers. That’s right, the people who apparently can’t hit a stationary object once used a far more elegant weapon than a blaster rifle.
14. Most Stormtroopers in the Original Trilogy were left-handed
In our world, approximately ten percent of the population is left-handed. It makes lefties all the more unique. But it looks like left-handed people are a lot more common in the Star Wars galaxy, because the vast majority of stormtroopers in the original trilogy were left-handed (or at least carried their blasters like they were).
Sure, things may be different in a galaxy far, far away, but for argument’s sake, let’s say they aren’t. Let’s say the Star Wars galaxy also has left-handed people making up about ten percent of its population. Going based on that statistic, there is likely a far greater ratio of lefties with the stormtrooper ranks.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a canonical or Legends (formerly known as the Expanded Universe) explanation for why stormtroopers were left-handed in the original Star Wars trilogy. But one thing’s for sure, whatever the reason was, the First Order seems to have fixed/changed it, because their stormtroopers are practically all right-handed. Just look at Finn, and his one-time friend, Nines.
13. 30,984 Stormtroopers died in the Death Star explosion
The Empire killed billions of people when they blasted Alderaan using the Death Star, and the Rebels retaliated by destroying their battle station/murder machine. They may not have killed as many people as the Empire, but the Rebels surely put a dent into their Stormtrooper program, because a lot of their soldiers died on the Death Star.
When it comes to canon, it’s unclear how much personnel (and how many stormtroopers among those personnel) were aboard the Death Star when it exploded. However, when we take a look into Star Wars Legends, we see that there were 265,675 people on the Death Star when it met its fateful end. Among those people were 30,984 stormtroopers.
These numbers come from various sources within the Legends continuity. While we can’t be one hundred percent sure there were just under 31,000 stormtroopers aboard the Death Star, it would be strange if the unknown, canonical number is all that far off. It seems like a rather trivial thing to alter.
12. Commander Cody thought Stormtroopers were inferior to clones
Clone troopers were phased out of the Imperial Stormtrooper program early on in the Galactic Empire’s history, but a few remaining clones stayed on temporarily. In Legends, however, some remained within the ranks for a lot longer than the rest of their clone trooper brethren, such as Commander Cody.
Star Wars fans will recognize Commander Cody, who was a high-ranking clone trooper assigned to Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Clone Wars. Although clones were initially part of the Stormtrooper Corps, over time, they were replaced by human recruits, and that is something Cody didn’t like. He believed that they were ineffective and couldn’t live up to the standards the Clone Army was once known for having.
Even Captain Rex agrees with the Commander’s opinion. In fact, the Captain also believes stormtrooper armor is significantly worse than the armor clone troopers wore during the Clone Wars, something he’s mentioned time and again in the Star Wars Rebels animated series.
11. Why clone troopers were replaced, according to George Lucas
For a long time, casual moviegoers assumed that all stormtroopers were clones, but that general sentiment changed when J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm cast John Boyega as a First Order stormtrooper in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We even got a short backstory of how the First Order obtains their candidates for the Stormtrooper Corps.
Immediately, it’s evident that the First Order’s troopers are much more skilled than their Empire predecessors. And the clone troopers that came before those stormtroopers were even more skilled than the First Order. So, the question is, why would the Empire choose to end the clone program and invest in human recruits?
According to George Lucas, whose notes were revealed during a Star Wars Rebels panel at New York Comic-Con 2013, stormtroopers would be inherently more loyal than clones. An exact quote wasn’t given during the panel, but Lucas’ notes stated that clones were becoming too individualistic, and stormtroopers proved to be more patriotic.
10. Stormtrooper training and female Stormtroopers
In The Force Awakens, Finn reveals that he was taken from birth and trained his entire life to become a stormtrooper. That may be how the First Order handles their recruits — and it may be an effective method, for the most part — but it’s not how the Empire filled their ranks with loyal fighters.
According to George Lucas, people who joined the Empire willingly were more likely to remain loyal to the Emperor and his reign of terror than they were to eventually defect (which is something that pretty much never happened). Once recruited, prospective stormtroopers are charged with enduring two grueling years of training at the Carida Academy.
Several officers in the Imperial Army, Navy, and Stormtrooper Corps trained at the Academy, which was one of many that the Empire created throughout the galaxy. For instance, female cadets who were interested in becoming a stormtrooper trained in all-female units at places like the Academy for Young Imperials on Lothal.
9. Specialized Stormtroopers
When people think of stormtroopers, they think of the standard, all-white stormtroopers seen throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as in The Force Awakens and Rogue One. But as we’ve come to learn, those aren’t the only types of stormtroopers running around. The Stormtrooper Corps consists of several divisions that specialize in different equipment, environments, and purpose. They aren’t really a new concept either, as we saw the first specialized stormtroopers on Tatooine way back in A New Hope: the Sandtroopers who were searching for R2-D2 and C-3PO.
In addition to Sandtroopers, there are Snowtroopers who, obviously, specialize in wintry conditions, like attacking the Rebels on Hoth. Aside from the traditional specializations, there are shadow troopers, who wear cloaking-enabled all-black armor and use T-21 repeating blasters, Spacetroopers, who wore packs that allowed them to survive/function in space, and Magma Troopers, whose specialized armor allowed them to fight in intense heat. There are plenty more, but one set of stormtroopers worth mentioning are the newly unveiled Death Troopers.
Death Troopers make their first theatrical appearance in Rogue One, acting as the personal guard of the film’s big bad, Director Krennic. He isn’t unique, though — Death Troopers served the elite bodyguards of all high-ranking members in the Tarkin Initiative, a covert think tank that’s part of the Empire’s Advanced Research Division. In addition to protecting military leaders, Death Troopers served in Imperial Intelligence, and they specialized in all sorts of weaponry, including short-range blasters and long-range sniper rifles.
8. Elite Stormtroopers protect the Emperor
Star Wars fans know that the Imperial Royal Guard protects the Emperor (and apparently Darth Vader, since his Rogue One appearance) at all times, but what about in combat? Sure, we’ve never seen the Emperor in a warzone or anywhere among regular people (at least in the movies). And when he was still the chancellor, he rarely went anywhere outside of Coruscant.
When he did, however, he was protected by Shock Troopers. These elite stormtroopers wore red-painted armor similar to their clone Shock Trooper predecessors. Some of the Empire’s troopers even continued to wear the Phase II clone trooper armor from the Clone Wars, presumably believing the armor to be better (which is something Rex would agree with).
If you play the video game Star Wars: Battlefront (the latest DICE installment), you’ll notice the Shock Troopers protecting the Emperor in combat whenever a player obtains a token to redeem the character. The developers didn’t just dream up the idea; it’s canon. We just wish we had the chance to see it on the big screen.
7. Stormtroopers are highly trained, elite warriors
When Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker come across slaughtered Jawas in the Dune Sea in A New Hope, Luke immediately assumes sand people were responsible. But Obi-Wan had a different theory, one that turned out to be right: stormtroopers were responsible. After all, the blast points on the Jawa’s sand crawler were “too accurate for sand people. Only imperial stormtroopers are so precise.” And the thing is, Obi-Wan’s right. Stormtroopers are highly trained, elite warriors within the Empire’s Imperial Army.
Captain Rex and Commander Cody may not believe stormtroopers are as accurate as clone troopers were, and they certainly haven’t proven as much on screen, but they have their moments. In Rogue One (SPOILERS!), stormtroopers are capable enough to kill every major character, and then some. Sure, they had some help from the Death Star, but their years of training at the Academy conditioned them for all sorts of warfare. Their high kill count in the final battle on Scarif proved that.
6. Stormtrooper armor has 18 blast resistant pieces
Aside from stormtroopers missing virtually every shot in the original trilogy, members of the Empire’s elite military force tend to die quite easily. One or two shots to any part of their body can apparently kill them — which is strange, because stormtrooper armor is supposed to be robust enough to deflect most blaster shots.
Created by the planet Gilvaanen by the Imperial Department of Military Research, stormtrooper armor was originally intended to be used by clones following the discontinuation of the Phase II clone trooper armor. However, once the clones were abandoned, the new duds became the primary armor set for the Stormtrooper Corps.
Containing 18 plastoid plates (the same type of material Darth Vader sports), stormtrooper armor is technically one of the strongest armors in the galaxy, not that it has actually helped stormtroopers in combat. The thing is, the armor is meant to protect the wearer from “glancing blaster shots,” not from direct hits.
5. Stormtroopers can survive intense conditions
We know that specialized stormtroopers are outfitted with special equipment to match their needs — but how durable and how capable are those armor sets?
As previously mentioned, Snowtroopers (formally known as Cold Weather Assault Stormtroopers) are elite members of the Stormtrooper Corps who are meant to fight in snowy, frigid conditions. Their armor has an insulated interior, and their mask contains a heated breathing apparatus powered by an external battery pack which allows them to survive for up to two weeks in the freezing cold. Alternatively, there are Magma Troopers, who can withstand intense heat on lava planets, like Sullust, by using modified respirators that filter out the planet’s volcanic ash.
Then there are Spacetroopers, who can survive in space, particularly outside the Death Star, for an indefinite amount of time, thanks to their rebreather mask. Interestingly though, regular stormtroopers are also capable of fighting in space, but only for a limited amount of time. They aren’t equipped with the necessary armor for prolonged exposure to, well, anything.
4. Every Stormtrooper carries a Baradium-core Thermal Detonator
By now it should be painfully obvious that stormtroopers are equipped with a variety of armors and weapons to aid them in particular combat or environmental situations. Star Wars fans, especially fans of games like Star Wars: Battlefront, will know that standard stormtroopers use E-11 Blaster rifles as their primary weapon, and that they each use a C1 Personal Comlink as their principal mode of communication. But have you ever wondered what that cylinder thing is around the backside of their waist?
In addition to their blaster rifles, every stormtrooper comes equipped with one cylinder-shaped, N-20 Baradium-core thermal detonator — not to be confused with the standard, metallic-looking thermal detonators used by the rest of the galaxy. The thermal detonators were manufactured by the in-universe’s BlasTech Industries, and they allowed the stormtroopers to set the level of blast intensity as well as timing, ranging anywhere from six to 18 seconds. After all, they wouldn’t want to go and blow themselves up, right?
3. “I can’t see a thing in this helmet!”
Some of the best scenes in movies tend to happen with an actor or actress adlibbing the scene. Several of those exist in Star Wars, with the most famous one being Han Solo’s response to Leia saying she loves him. Then there’s the time Mark Hamill remarked, “I can’t see a thing in this helmet!,” when he was wearing a stormtrooper uniform in A New Hope. The thing is, he really couldn’t see anything, and he didn’t expect the cameras to be rolling when he blurted it out.
Despite not being able to see much of anything in his time aboard the Death Star, Hamill loved every bit of filming the original Star Wars movie. So when time came to pack up, he kept an assortment of props from the set, including that blinding helmet. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t look as though the visibility of the dome piece has improved much over time. Hamill himself confirmed as much when he sported a First Order stormtrooper outfit on Hollywood Blvd back in 2015, leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
2. The Force Awakens cameos
By now, it should be quite evident that a number of people cameoed in Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. After all, who wouldn’t want to be in a Star Wars movie, even if it was only an in an undisclosed cameo? But, with this being Star Wars, and the internet being evermore prevalent, things tend to leak, and people tend to find out who despite the highly secretive nature of the filming process.
When it comes to Star Wars, it’s easy to allow people to cameo by having them play an alien, a handmaiden, or in this case, a stormtrooper. We know that Daniel Craig played the stormtrooper who presided over Rey, but he wasn’t the only First Order collaborator. Filmmaker Kevin Smith also played a stormtrooper, as did composer Michael Giacchino (who did the score for Rogue One), and Radiohead’s Nigel Godrich. At the end of the day, you may be a foot soldier for the Dark Side, but you’re in a Star Wars movie, and that’s all that really matters.
1. History of the Stormtroopers
The vast majority of Star Wars fans may know the history of why George Lucas chose the name stormtrooper for the Empire’s soldiers — but casual fans and general audiences likely do not. It’s quite evident that Lucas based the Empire and its determination for exterminating the Jedi on the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. However, he also took inspiration from the German Empire of the first Great War, namely the Empire’s loyal soldiers, which he based on the Sturmtruppen.
During the World War I, the German Empire used highly-trained soldiers called stormtroopers, who specialized in infiltration. WWI is widely regarded as being the first modern war, since a variety of new weaponry and vehicles, such as planes and tanks, were utilized in combat. But that doesn’t mean soldiers didn’t fight on the ground. In fact, most know WWI as a conflict that was fought in trenches, and the stormtroopers jobs were literally used to storm enemy trenches. Considering the first action sequence in A New Hope, it looks like Lucas chose the right name.
What else should Star Wars fans know about stormtroopers? Do you think they’ll ever be nearly as effective in future franchise entries as they were in Rogue One? Sound off in the comments.