Ah, the classic Stormtrooper. We love them, we hate them, and sometimes we love to hate them. They are one of the most commonly seen sights in the entire Star Wars franchise, an embodiment of soulless authoritarianism that the Galactic Empire and the First Order strive to achieve. They may not aim very well, their armor is about as durable as a Yugo, and they mainly serve as expendable cannon fodder for whatever battle they’re thrown into. But even the most critical Star Wars fan has to admit that, deep down, they know the stormtrooper is one of the coolest looking soldiers in all of science fiction. And part of that is due to their iconic helmet.
The stormtrooper helmet has become as much a part of the Star Wars brand as the lightsaber and Millennium Falcon. A combination of different design aesthetics, borrowed from the pulp-sci fi serials George Lucas watched as a kid, with a dash of Nazi iconography, the stormtrooper helmet is the defacto face of Imperial power and control. Yet, despite their relatively simplistic looks, the stormtrooper helmet is actually an extremely complex piece of technology, the likes of which would surprise even the most dedicated fans. Here are the 10 weirdest facts about stormtrooper helmets.
9 Stormtroopers Had A Nice Heads Up Display
Stormtroopers don’t have the best reputation in terms of accuracy. Their inability to shoot a target in the original trilogy gave rise to a number of in-jokes that fans have been laughing about for the last four decades. There are many theories as to why this is the case, including the belief that many of the stormtroopers seen in the movies were new cadets who hadn’t been trained properly before entering battle. Even if this is the case, there really isn’t much of an excuse for the troopers to have such sloppy aim, given that their helmets possess some really advanced technology to aid them in battle.
Each helmet had a heads up display, or HUD for short, which gave each trooper detailed information on the battlefield. This includes identifiers showing both their allies and foes, motion sensors to detect movement, and even night vision and infrared displays to aid them in low-light situations. They even have built-in blast shields, that mitigated the glare of muzzle flash to allow for better accuracy. Not like any of this was put to good use, as the stormtroopers in the original trilogy had a hard time shooting a target that was literally right in front of them. Maybe they forgot to turn on steady aim.
8 Each Helmet Featured Advanced Oxygen Systems
At the end of Rogue One, many fans were taken aback when they saw Vader, along with a number of stormtroopers, standing on the edge of a vacuum. Wouldn't they all suffocate? Well, not exactly. Those bulbous looking things on the side of the helmets aren’t just for show. They’re actually intended to aid the troopers in areas with limited oxygen, such as in a space vacuum, or in an environment filled with toxic gasses or airborne contaminants.
Of course, these features can only go so far, and troopers were never expected to stay in such inhospitable areas for extended periods of time. Fortunately, the Empire employed specialty forces with more advanced armor that would allow them to survive longer in such situations. These included spacetroopers, who had jetpacks that allowed for increased maneuverability in zero-gravity environments, a feature that probably made all other stormtroopers extremely jealous.
7 There Are Helmets Made For Non-Humans
When we think of the Galactic Empire, we usually imagine a governing body made up entirely of humans. After all, if the treatment of Wookies is any indication, then it’s safe to say that the Empire is racist against alien species. That’s not to say that non-human species didn’t serve in the Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is a prime example. But other than a few noteworthy examples, the Empire was comprised almost entirely of homo-sapiens.
However, in the pre-Disney expanded universe, a redesigned Galactic Empire, one that was established over a century after the end of the movies, employed more aliens in their ranks, including within the stormtrooper corps. This meant that some helmets needed to be created in order to accommodate the varying facial structures of all the different creatures that donned the iconic armor. As you can imagine, this resulted in a wild array of helmets in different shapes and sizes, the likes of which the movies have not yet known. Perhaps Disney could implement this concept in a future movie or TV show.
6 Everything A Stormtrooper Says Is Recorded
As with all totalitarian regimes, the Empire went to extremes to control what people said, thought and did. This was especially true for military personnel, who were subject to intense scrutiny to ensure that they weren’t planning to defect to the rebellion. Everything soldiers did or say was carefully recorded, and stormtroopers were no exception.
Everything a stormtrooper says on the comlink inside their helmets is automatically recorded and saved by the Empire. This was allegedly put into place in order to prevent non-essential chatter during work hours, but it’s more than likely that the Empire also used this to weed out the bad apples. After all, life as a stormtrooper is hard, and the temptation to revolt or join the other side must be strong at times. There’s probably been more than a few instances of a trooper mouthing his displeasure at the Emperor to his buddies, and not showing up to work the next day.
5 The Mask That Snowtroopers Wear Is Called A Breather Hood
Snowtroopers first appeared in Empire Strikes Back, standing in for the traditional stormtrooper during the battle of Hoth. With white hoods and slits for eyes, the snowtroopers looked like the stereotypical ghost, lending them an extra layer of intimidation. But the question remains: why do snowtroopers need all that fancy gear if the regular stormtrooper armor is already so advanced?
The answer revolves around the fact that regular stormtrooper gear isn’t made for such frigid environments. This is especially true for helmets, which are practically useless in the freezing cold. That’s why snowtroopers wear what’s called a breather hood overtop of their regular helmets. The hood automatically warms the air that the trooper breathes in, circulating it throughout the uniform, thus keeping the wearer warm and comfortable. In addition, it also helps prevent ice buildup around the faceplate, improving both visibility and safety. See, the Empire does care about its stormtrooper’s health and wellbeing… sort of.
4 They're Ready For Anything
Think of an environment, any environment. Doesn’t matter what type, but there’s probably a stormtrooper for that. Much like real life army units, the Empire employed a variety of different specializations for their stormtrooper units. There are the basics, like scout troopers, sand troopers, and the snowtroopers mentioned above, but there are also coastal defender troopers, swamp troopers, and even wet weather troopers. This makes sense when you think about it, given the variety of planets under Imperial control. But boy, do some of these trooper units really get specific.
Take, for example, the Crimson Troopers, which largely replaced the Magma Troopers from the Legends continuity. These troopers are deployed to planets with considerable volcanic activity, like Mustafar from Revenge of the Sith. They are also clad entirely in red armor, which looks really cool, despite being completely impractical. Even on a burning planet, nothing stands out like a sore thumb quite like a cherry-red stormtrooper.
3 First Order Stormtrooper Helmets Ain't What They Used To Be
While they may look sleeker than those used by the original Empire, in terms of functionality, the helmets of First Order stormtroopers were a lot less adequate. Granted, they still had stuff like night vision and filtration systems for smoke, but they lacked the sophisticated HUDs and the artificial air enhancements of those used by the Galactic Empire.
Granted, this was mainly done to help loosen the weight, which probably made the helmets more comfortable to wear. And with all the different specialized units available, there probably isn't much need for every trooper to have the same equipment. This could also be a side effect of Disney’s tinkering to the EU’s original specifications. Either way, it is a little disheartening to think that the next generation of stormtroopers lacked the bells and whistles that their parents had.
2 Mark Hamill Had Vision Problems With It
In Episode IV, Luke and Han don stormtrooper attire in order to sneak past security and rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of Darth Vader. While on the elevator going up to Leia’s cell block, Luke complains that he can’t see a thing out of his helmet. Was the HUD not working for him? It is possible, as the helmet’s advanced technologies were designed to lock out unauthorized users. However, the real reason behind Luke’s remark is a lot less complex.
In reality, Mark Hamill had a difficult time seeing out of the eye holes of his helmet, and his complaint was made off script when he thought mics weren’t on. In his defense, the stormtrooper armor worn by the actors on the set of the original Star Wars was said to be very uncomfortable, so he probably wasn’t the only one who had gripes with the helmet.
1 There's A Reason For The Different Mouth Sizes
Eagle-eyed viewers of A New Hope would know that the size of the mouth grill of the imperial stormtroopers are of different sizes, and vary from trooper to trooper. While it is subtle, if you pay attention to the raid on Leia's Corellian Corvette, you’ll notice that some of the stormtrooper’s grills are shorter than others. This is particularly apparent when the troopers themselves are standing side-by-side.
Apparently, this is largely due to design inconsistencies between the types of helmets used during filming. The helmets with the bigger vents were intended to be used by stunt actors, while the ones with smaller vents were given to everyone else. It’s likely that the stunt helmets had extra protection in order to prevent the actors from getting hurt while on set. And now you’ll never be able to unsee it!