The artists behind Star Wars are some of the best in the movie industry. The talented art departments at Industrial Light and Magic and Lucasfilm are responsible for some of the most iconic visuals in cinema history, and their creativity continues to raise the bar. Their work in Star Wars has helped make the franchise what it is today, and even when a film is finished, tons of unused content can still be leftover.
Their concept art can be pretty revealing; highlighting designs that were changed, ideas that were dropped, and movie-moments that never came to be. Sometimes these changes are for the better, but sometimes the concept art shows us something even cooler than we got.
For this list, we'll be taking a look at some of the best and worst Star Wars concept art to see just how many great ideas (or bad ones) were left on the drawing board.
Keep in mind that we aren't here to bash the work of these artists. It takes plenty of skill and effort to create these pieces, and even this list's "worst" entries are still incredibly impressive. This article isn't about declaring what art looks good or bad. Instead, we're here to speculate on why content was cut, and focus on what makes the artwork appropriate for its respective film. Cool? Cool.
With that out of the way, let's dive into the galaxy far far away to see just how differently things could have turned out. Here are 17 Best (And 13 Worst) Unused Star Wars Concept Art.
30 BEST — Padmé's Last Stand
Anakin and Padmé's last interaction is filled with melodrama and cliché dialogue, but this concept art by Eric Tiemens suggests a very different confrontation.
In this piece, Padmé is wearing a red dress, scowling, and confronts Anakin brandishing a small knife.
This is a huge change from the final film, where she cries and begs Anakin to turn back while he still can.
This implies that she was either much more powerful in early drafts, or deeply afraid of Anakin's instability. After all, she was carrying twins.
It's a shame that this intense version of their final scene was dropped in favor of something so much cheesier.
29 BEST — Jakku's Sunset
Artists James Clyne and Iain McCaig wanted to callback to A New Hope by creating a similar sunset scene in The Force Awakens. The original scene is one of the most iconic shots in movie history, and is very telling about Luke's adventure-yearning personality. They wanted to do the same for Rey with a visual parallel that fans have already grown to love.
It was probably cut for being a bit too similar to the original scene, but in a movie full of callbacks, what's one more?
This would have made for a gorgeous live-action shot, and an iconic moment for an entirely new generation of fans.
28 WORST — Creepy Kylo Ren
As Vader's grandson, Kylo Ren is supposed to be a little curious about his grandfather's evil legacy, but this is just plain creepy.
This early concept art for Kylo Ren has him comprised of even more robotic parts than Darth Vader himself. He shows a disturbing amount of interest in his grandpa's burnt-out helmet, eerily stroking it with his finger.
For a villain who is supposed to be conflicted, this misses the mark.
It makes him look a little too infatuated with the dark side for audiences to reluctantly hope he could turn to the light. It's a cool concept, but ultimately it doesn't work for the character.
27 BEST — Night Operations
Rogue One ended up being a heist-adventure film, but it started out as a straight-up war movie. Much of the film's concept art is rooted in military imagery and war-movie tropes, which is something the final cut didn't feature enough of.
This concept art depicts an unused sequence where the Rebel forces move out on a stormy night. This could be an early version of the night sequence on Eadu (where the gang finds Galen Marek's research station), but there weren't any rebel forces on the ground in the final film.
The only real military action in the movie is on the sunny beaches of Scarif, so it's a shame that this piece didn't make the cut.
26 WORST — It Burns
Good luck unseeing this one!
Jar Jar is unbearable, but he could have been worse.
Artist Terryl Whitlach was tasked with designing Jar Jar Binks, and by extension, the anatomy of his entire species. Naturally, such a task can't be completed by including clothes, so here's the result — the definitive anatomy of Jar Jar, who is looking a little too smug to not to cause some discomfort.
It's unlikely that they would have left him like this for the final cut of The Phantom Menace, but we can all agree the addition of clothing is a major improvement.
25 BEST — Droids
Ralph McQuarrie is the mastermind behind Star Wars' visuals. His earliest concepts defined the galaxy and its characters, with the concept above being the perfect example.
This image, created for the production of A New Hope, depicts R2D2 and C3PO walking through the Tatooine desert. Even in their earliest stages, you can clearly see the finished product taking form.
Of course, there are some differences from the final film. R2 was mostly colorless and 3PO was more humanoid-looking, inspired by the robot in the classic film Metropolis. Technically this is a "used" concept, but how could we leave such a quintessential piece of Star Wars history off the list?
24 WORST — The Original Yoda
Director Joe Johnston might be well-known for The Rocketeer and Captain America: The First Avenger, but his career started in the art department at Lucasfilm. As the Art Director on The Empire Strikes Back, he designed the piece above — an early take on Master Yoda that only vaguely resembles the final product.
The design direction didn't stray too far from this early concept, but fans should be glad it did.
It's a weird composite of generic-fantasy-wizard, and the childlike design they would eventually decide on.
The diminutive stature and large ears were seemingly an early idea, but he was turned into an alien — probably to seem more original.
23 BEST — Luke's Meditation Chamber
This concept art depicts Luke's island on the planet Ahch-To, featuring a curious piece of architecture. The structure on the cliff would have been Luke Skywalker's private meditation chamber — a giant dome that must be lifted with the force for anyone to enter and exit.
It would have created a quiet space for Luke and Rey to train, but it never came to be. It could have been left out for contradicting The Last Jedi's characterization of Luke, who had "closed himself off" from the Force before the events of the film. Would he really need his own private space to use the Force if he wanted to leave it all behind?
22 WORST — The Opposite Of Cool
The artists behind Solo needed to make the Falcon seem new again. Its design needed to feel clean and cool for its younger days in Lando's possession — but is this cool? Flames? Really?
Maybe it's cool for a Hot Wheels toy, but it's a little cheesy on the Millennium Falcon.
James Clyne and his team of artists went through a bunch of designs, modifications, and paintjobs, but none of them proved better than keeping it simple. Ultimately, a clean coat of paint and some blue stripes were a fantastic choice to spruce up everyone's favorite spaceship. The flames were drawn up as an inspiration for the team, as well as a good laugh.
21 BEST — Castle Vader
This piece by artist Brett Northcutt was an early creation for The Force Awakens. It's a reworking of another classic artwork by Ralph McQuarrie — a home for Darth Vader placed on an ice planet with more streamlined architecture. This piece instead makes the castle architecture more imposing and adds flowing lava as reference to Anakin Skywalker's final moments.
While this piece was never truly intended for use in The Force Awakens, it's a gorgeous design that would fit right at home on film.
This concept would be reworked yet again for an appearance in Rogue One, but with a totally different look.
20 WORST — The Emperor's Throne Room
Here's another piece by Ralph McQuarrie, this time for Return of the Jedi. The Emperor's throne room was originally envisioned in a volcanic cave. This coincides with other concept art confirming that his base would not have been on Death Star II but instead in a palace or Sith temple.
While it is a great piece of art, it would have kept Luke too detached from the main plot, as he wouldn't see Rebels failing in their attack against the Death Star.
The potential loss of his friends is what motivates Luke to take action. The throne room was likely worked into the Death Star to include this incentive.
19 BEST — Han Saves Chewie
Solo might be action packed, but we never get a scene quite like this. This concept art by Ryan Church suggests that Han would have saved Chewie from the Empire by pulling him into the Millennium Falcon's cockpit.
It's unclear when or where this would have appeared in Solo - it may be a relic of an earlier version of the story - but it seems like a missed opportunity.
The duo barely spend any time getting to know the Falcon without Lando around, and so the "classic" design doesn't get much screen time before it gets wrecked. This could have been a bonding moment for the two characters, and more time for the classic Falcon to shine.
18 WORST — Luke's Big Moment
Kev Jenkins' artwork for The Last Jedi portrays one of the coolest moments in the film — when Luke steps out of blaster fire unharmed. It's recreated almost perfectly in the film, but with one major difference. Luke appears as his older self, and not as the illusion of his younger self.
This suggests that Luke may have appeared on Crait to fight Kylo Ren in person, which doesn't work with Luke's reclusive characterization.
Realistically, this piece was probably created as a visual concept without any implications on the story, but it's a curious difference nonetheless. Maybe they hadn't decided on young Luke's design just yet, and used the older Luke design as a placeholder.
17 BEST — Alderaan Skyline
Another amazing piece by the late, great Ralph McQuarrie— this was meant to feature in A New Hope. It's a bright, sleek, clean metropolis that seems like the total opposite of the dirty, lived-in aesthetic of the original movies. It was likely cut because of that, as well as the fact that a scene on Alderaan wouldn't really bear much on the film's plot.
Alderaan's surface never actually shows up in the original trilogy, but it does appear in Revenge of the Sith, vaguely inspired by McQuarrie's work. This piece was also used as the inspiration for Lothal City in Star Wars Rebels.
16 WORST — Darth Maul's Early Design
Darth Maul went through several designs before his final look. Concept artist Iain McCaig drew up this concept, and it's safe to say that it's not quite as intimidating as what we got.
McCaig's artwork uses design elements that Maul would retain — namely the colorful skin and face tattoos. Here though, he looks more like a galactic aristocrat than a Sith assassin.
The high collar and jeweled accents don't exactly seem villainous.
While the design does share a resemblance with Grand Admiral Thrawn, the final Maul design proves to be much scarier, and better for an antagonist.
15 BEST — The Kessel Run
Han talked it up for so long, but fans finally got to see the Kessel Run in Solo. Han's claim to fame turned out to be a shortcut through a smuggling route littered with debris, a monster, and even a black hole.
While the sequence itself is fun, this concept art boasts much more visual variety.
This artwork suggests that it could have featured much more light, color, and open space. The image also features sharp stalactites, which probably would have been used as obstacles for the Falcon. Perhaps this doesn't seem as dangerous and claustrophobic as the scene in Solo, but it's much easier on the eyes than dark tunnels we got.
14 WORST — Vader Knockoffs
Kylo Ren is obsessed with Vader's legacy, which made it important for his costume to feel inspired by Vader without seeming too much like a copycat. He went through hundreds of designs (these by Christian Alzmann), but many of them looked just like this — Darth Vader lookalikes.
The Force Awakens was heavily criticized for being too much like A New Hope, and designs like this would not have made those comparisons sound any better. His final design is similar — black robes, helmet, distorted voice — but different enough to feel like an original character learning from Vader, and not some rebooted imposter.
13 BEST — Tight Squeeze
The Millenium Falcon always seems to be blasting through a narrow gap, only this time, it's a little bit prettier.
This concept art for Solo: A Star Wars Story was likely meant for the end of the Kessel Run, where the gang escapes by squeezing through some debris. Instead of bland rocks, this art imagines a narrow gap comprised of a sheer, glass-like mineral.
It's not the biggest change from the escape in Solo, nor is it a new stunt for the Falcon. However, the many reflections of the Falcon's engine would have made this a pretty unique visual. Sadly, it didn't make it into the movie.
12 WORST — Rey's Training
Luke promised to teach Rey three different lessons in The Last Jedi, and this wasn't one of them. This concept by Karl Lindberg shows Rey surrounded by the same training droids used in the Jedi Academy to teach students how to properly wield a lightsaber. Luke even trained against one himself in A New Hope.
Doesn't it seem a little hypocritical for Luke to abandon the ways of the Jedi, but then use their exact same methods to teach Rey?
Seeing as it conflicts with Luke's dislike of Jedi history, it makes sense that this was abandoned.
He'd rather teach her why the Jedi were flawed than make her follow in their footsteps.
11 BEST — The Standoff
This design is from the early days of The Force Awakens's production. Artist Ryan Church created this concept to guide the film's visual direction. It bears a striking resemblance to the scene on Han and Chewie's freighter, the Eravana, where two gangs ambush the heroes.
In the movie, this sequence happens in the tight corridors of the Eravana, where the characters run from violent aliens called Rathtars. This image suggests that the sequence could have been simpler — a shootout atop the Falcon, perhaps?
It's an interesting concept, and one that would have been a bit less silly than the rolling, roaring Rathtar chase.
10 WORST — A Third Opponent
The finale of Revenge of the Sith is a lengthy and gradiose sequence that serves as the culmination of the prequel trilogy, but concept art reveals that it could have been even longer.
Artist Sang Jun Lee created this concept, suggesting Anakin and Obi-Wan's final battle would have featured an interruption by a giant scorpion-like monster. Anakin also would have carried a red lightsaber, something the concept art suggests was an idea early on.
While there's nothing wrong with the art itself, it probably seemed like an unnecessary complication to an already complicated sequence.
The battle had plenty of other giant set-pieces anyway.
9 BEST — Coruscant Streets
Lots of Ralph McQuarrie's Return of the Jedi work went unused, including this concept of Coruscant's streets. The planet wouldn't appear until The Phantom Menace, and even then, it never looked as welcoming as this.
Coruscant is designed to be a seedy criminal underbelly, with the wealthy and powerful living in the highest levels of the city. Surely not every neighborhood is run by criminals and Hutts though, right? Regardless, this is a lively piece of art that would add some depth to the generic "Gotham City-in-space" vibes of Coruscant.
This looks like the place to hang out on Friday nights, and not a place to hire a bounty hunter or something.
8 BEST — Nightmare Maul
George Lucas wanted concept artist Iain McCaig to design his worst nightmare for Darth Maul, and boy, did he do it. This terrifying concept was one of the first designs for the character, and it would become one of the more famous production artworks from the prequel era.
Pale skin, dark features, and eerie red dreadlocks, this artwork formed the basis of Maul's eventual design — at least in color and tone.
It was cut for being a bit too dark for the George Lucas's tastes.
It's hard to even imagine this appearing on children's toys — but it remains one of the coolest unused designs in Star Wars history.
7 WORST — Conflicted Ben Solo
The creative team wanted a design motif to symbolize Kylo Ren's conflicted soul. Artist Eric Tiemens experimented with the idea of fire and ice, depicting Kylo wielding double-bladed lightsaber with opposing colors. The blue blade would represent his light side, while the red would represent his dark side.
This kind of weapon would have been a first for Star Wars, though ultimately they decided on an old fashioned lightsaber with a crossguard instead.
It's unclear why this concept went unused, though perhaps it was best for his conflicted nature to become apparent through the story, rather than through an obvious visual metaphor.
6 BEST — Imperial Occupation
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story depicts the galaxy from the perspective of ordinary people, which forces the audience to experience the Empire's tyranny up close. This concept by artist Thom Tenery doubles down on that idea, with Imperial forces rounding up prisoners guarded by spotlights and AT-ST walkers.
Rogue One does something similar with the Jedha City sequence, but Empire becomes a background element there rather than a highlight.
None of the shots in the film are as sad and oppressive as this.
It's rare that we get see the Empire's reign as an average citizen would, and this is something that Rogue One could have used more of.
5 WORST — Scrapped Falcon Designs
Millennium Falcon concepts for Solo are bizarre to say the least. James Clyne and his team of artists were desperate to make a version of the ship that felt new, yet had explainable differences from the Falcon we know and love. Clyne himself expressed interesting in knowing why Han's Falcon was built the way it was. What was it missing?
The artists came up with several designs all featuring attachments — extra engines, cannons, and even wings from Y-Wings and Tie Fighters. In the end, the only addition made to the "classic" Falcon was an escape pod in the mandibles, which gets destroyed in Solo.
It's a good thing, too, because these all look extremely clunky.
4 BEST — Cato Nemoidia
The prequels added many interesting places and unique planets to Star Wars lore, including Cato Nemoidia. This planet, comprised of cities hanging on bridges between massive cliffs, would be world of wealth and a battleground during the Clone Wars.
Unfortunately, it only appears for a few seconds during the Order 66 montage in Revenge of the Sith — blink, and you'll completely miss it.
It's a shame that such an original design wasn't given more screen time.
Thankfully, the design was worked into The Clone Wars animated series episode "Sabotage", the Poe Dameron comic series, and an entire level in The Force Unleashed II video game.
3 BEST — Yavin IV's Sith Temple
Ralph McQuarrie created this piece for the original trilogy — a hidden Sith temple in the forests of Yavin IV. Neither the original films nor the prequels explore a location like this, and Sith relics are hardly a focus of the Disney-era films. Sadly, it has become one of the many gorgeous McQuarrie pieces to go unused by the movies.
Thankfully though, like most of his unused work, it was used as inspiration for other Star Wars media. This artwork heavily inspired the design of the Temple of Malachor on Star Wars Rebels, resembles Vader's castle in Rogue One, and is recreated as the Temple of Exar Kun in the video game Star Wars: Galaxies.
2 WORST — Bald Kylo Ren
A shaved head can sometimes make someone look more intimidating, but did they really want to cut off Adam Driver's luscious locks? Concept artist Tonci Zonjic gave Kylo a brand new look.
Kylo Ren has received quite a bit of criticism since The Force Awakens for being a little immature for a main antagonist. While The Last Jedi helped develop the character into someone more sympathetic, this drastic haircut change may have only drawn more criticism for being a bit too "tough guy" for the sensitive Solo child.
This isn't to say that Adam Driver couldn't pull it off, but it comes off more distracting than imposing on paper.
1 BEST — Strong With The Force
The Force Awakens raised the eyebrows of longtime fans when Kylo Ren was given new, powerful force abilities. Not only could he freeze people in place and put them to sleep with the Force, but he could easily stop blaster fire in mid-air. His power is pretty intimidating.
Now imagine seeing Ryan Church's Kylo Ren concept, where he is swatting X-Wings away using some rocks and the force. Fans would have lost their minds!
It probably went unused for being a bit too powerful, but don't pretend like this isn't extremely cool.
Could they be saving this display of power for the next Episode film? Maybe Kylo Ren is even stronger than he lets on.
Which Star Wars concept art would you most want to see on screen? Make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section.