Concise visual design is vital to any piece of art or entertainment, and Star Wars has become famous for its iconic visuals. Its characters and locations are easily recognizable to moviegoers around the world. Establishing a look for any film is a long and arduous process, especially for imaginative genres like fantasy and science fiction. Largely a case of trial and error, artists create as many varying concept pieces as they can from basic verbal descriptions, just hoping that their bosses like what they produce. Eventually, with enough art pieces and a shared visual language, a film's aesthetic is established and teams can move on to the next step in production.
For the fantastical people and places of Star Wars, so much art is abandoned that early designs might vary wildly from what ends up on film. For this list, we'll be looking at unique pieces of concept art that Star Wars should have included in the feature films. This isn't to say that the finalized designs are "wrong" or of any less quality. Only that these forgotten illustrations could have brought something distinct and refreshing to the galaxy far far away.
Lightsabers, Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, the Millennium Falcon — they're all designs we know and love. While the work it took to create them should not be understated, let's take a look at some unused Star Wars concept art to see what could have been. You might wonder why they didn't use some of these designs in the first place. Here are 20 Unused Star Wars Concept Art Pieces Better Than What We Got.
20 Vader's Castle
The desire to give Darth Vader his own personal abode dates back to production of The Empire Strikes Back. Famous concept artist Ralph McQuarrie actually created a piece for Vader's castle at the time, with original artwork that consisted of rounded towers and a snow-covered landscape. George Lucas wanted to use fire and lava instead, to evoke hellish imagery more synonymous with evil. Lucas' concept was even modeled for Episode V, but didn't make the cut. Vader did eventually get his own castle, but only in the non-canon stories of the expanded universe.
This piece was actually created in early stages of The Force Awakens, where McQuarrie's snowy fortress and Lucas' evil hellscape were fused together to create a sinister design akin to Dracula's castle. It was eventually reworked and used in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with a much less interesting look. Rogue One's blackened and streamlined castle on Mustafar works just fine, but the majesty of this unused concept is hard to pass on. Between the beautiful contrast of the snow and fire and the sheer scale of the fortress — how didn't this epic design get the nod?
19 Luke And Vader
A classic piece of Ralph McQuarrie's production art — this illustration depicts an early look at Darth Vader and series' protagonist Deak Starkiller (in later drafts renamed Annikin and eventually Luke Skywalker). Vader's look remained mostly intact from the concept work here, other than his final red lightsaber. However, Luke's designs were drastically different. Instead of his trademark robes, here he wears a mask and some sort of breathing apparatus, connected to a large tank on his back. Visually, it may have been a precursor to the iconic orange pilot outfits worn by the rebels, but its purpose is unclear (you know, other than to breathe with).
This piece was undoubtedly a great influence on Vader's design, but imagine how cool Luke would have looked with this slightly more tactical outfit. It may not fit the doughy-eyed farm-boy audiences came to know, but the design is great nonetheless.
18 "The Jedi Killer"
Kylo Ren was given tons of different looks during the production of The Force Awakens. Much like the character's obsession with Darth Vader, his design takes noticeable cues from the series' classic villain. Pictured above is only one of the many designs for the character, but it happens to be one of our favorites.
Kylo Ren's final outfit attempts to convey power and superiority, which contrasts with the vulnerable and inexperienced man beneath the mask. This concept design could've highlighted that contrast even more so. He looks like a Vader-inspired knight, and the regal armor lends itself to a much more dignified and intimidating persona.
Early drafts of the character had him act like more of a Jedi "hunter" of sorts, truly finishing what Darth Vader had started during Order 66. With that said, the coolest part might be the collection of lightsabers on the waist, likely to clue in viewers on how he takes pride in killing Jedi — collecting the weapons of his vanquished foes. How awesome would that have been?
Similarly, Rey (known as Kira in early drafts of The Force Awakens) went through many designs until the production team settled on her robes, reminiscent of Luke's outfit in A New Hope. While her physical attributes remain the same as the character we now know and love, this piece of art depicts a slightly more resourceful Rey, wearing an outfit with lots of extra holsters, pouches, and gear. As an early production image, her trademark bo staff is noticeably absent here. The characters of The Force Awakens went through many changes during production, and the staff was likely a later addition to her overall design.
As a scavenger, this outfit makes much more sense for her character than the basic robes she wears in the film. Rey's character is built around many callbacks to Luke Skywalker — her final outfit included. Her look is already iconic, but something about this look speaks a bit more to her personality.
16 Tatooine In the Moonlight
Another Ralph McQuarrie piece, this illustration looks to be an early imagining of Tatooine for A New Hope. What's so interesting is that this depicts Tatooine at night, something rarely shown in the films. It's a nice sight, especially to see the moons etching out the landscape and mirroring the planet's twin suns during the daytime. With the right cinematography, this could make for a beautiful sequence.
This image also features concepts for the Jawa Sandcrawler, as well as C-3PO and R2D2. The art suggests that the droids would have escaped Jawa capture under the cover of night, instead of waiting to be sold at the Skywalker homestead. Of course, that's only speculation, and this piece doesn't necessarily "replace" a finalized design so much as hint at something something we never got — perhaps something we should have gotten. Aren't Star Wars fans tired of seeing the same old deserts in broad daylight?
15 Dagobah Locals
When Luke "lands" on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back, the tall trees, endless fog, and animal calls make Yoda's neighborhood seem a bit perilous. This piece (another McQuarrie) features some of the planet's inhabitants rearing at each other — perhaps an early concept for a minor creature brawl that would help establish danger upon Luke's arrival.
Aside from the creature in the lagoon (not that one), the scenes on Dagobah don't show any noteworthy lifeforms in the vicinity of Yoda's hut. To learn of its dangerous inhabitants, and that Yoda lives among them in peace, would speak volumes about his character's strength and courage. His introduction as this small but insanely powerful Jedi would only be bolstered by his life among dangerous wildlife. Not only that, but it would have been a great chance to showcase some bizarre creature designs.
14 Unused Battle Sequence
Now this should have been on film. As the first real spinoff of the franchise, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the first entry to really boast war movie tropes. Sadly, the caper-feel of the movie overshadowed the war aspects, as no battle this large or gritty ever appears. However, this concept art was likely used as an inspiration for some of the military-inspired visuals.
Depicting a rebel squad leaving a drop-ship, this skirmish in the rain is extremely grim and chaotic and likely would have captured the brutal war visuals better than the sunny beaches of Scarif. While the movie chose to go with locations that allude to classic Vietnam war films, this piece leans a bit more towards Saving Private Ryan, and really nails the mood of a large scale conflict. Honestly, it looks like Star Wars Battlefront come to life. The battle scenes in Rogue One are great, but this cut sequence looks like a real missed opportunity.
13 Vicious Ewoks
Ewoks have always had the same basic aesthetic, but some concept art shows us a slightly more aggressive side to them. This piece presents a bow-and-arrow-toting Ewok wearing an animal pelt and carrying a quiver on its back. This doesn't stray too far from the designs in Return of the Jedi, but more threatening ewoks like this one would have made them seem less like excuses for brand new toys, and more like capable fighters.
Sure, arrows and rocks still shouldn't pierce stormtrooper armor, but at least a more combative look helps the audience take Ewoks more seriously. They do eat humans, after all. Maybe more intimidating visual cues would help us keep that in mind. Not too intimidating, though -- they're creepy enough as it is. Be careful not to stare into those beady little eyes.
12 Cato Nemoidia
This mountainous planet makes a brief appearance in Revenge of the Sith, in a montage sequence depicting Order 66. During a battle, Jedi Master Plo Koon is seen fighting in its skies as Republic troops betray him and shoot him down. The scene is brief, and one of the most unique locations in Star Wars lore is passed right by.
Those brief shots actual take pretty direct inspiration from this concept piece, but the landscape is barely visible. Cato Nemoidia's cities are affluent and massive, and held up by bridges in between mountains. The ones in the foreground look like they simply sit on the bridges like hammocks, but the one in the background actually looks like it's upside-down and completely intact — pretty cool stuff! Sadly, this beautiful landscape design was all but wasted. New York City hung upside down between mountains in space? We would certainly pay to see more imaginative worlds like this one.
11 An Armed Intervention
The scene inspired by this piece does appear, but the art suggests a completely different tone. In the third act of Revenge of the Sith, a pregnant Padmé travels to Mustafar to confront Anakin for his turn to the dark side. In the movie, Obi-Wan informs Padmé of Anakin's treachery, but she remains skeptical. She shows up to plead with him, but her efforts are futile and she is eventually force-choked into unconsciousness by her husband.
Instead, this concept image depicts a contentious meeting, with both of them brandishing weapons. Anakin has his lightsaber drawn (red here, instead of blue like the film) and Padmé carries a knife. She is also wearing a drastically different outfit than in the release version.
It's likely that she may have believed Obi-Wan in early drafts, and came to Anakin with threats instead of loving words. Carrying twins, she probably brought the knife out of fear for her life. There is no question that this darker standoff would have been infinitely more effective than the cheesy scene in the film.
10 Mustafar Battle Royale
In the final battle of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin and Obi-Wan might not have been the only two combatants. This slice of concept art highlights another contender — a nasty looking native creature that would have interrupted the clash between our heroes. The presence of this alien-scorpion beast would have added a new dynamic to the entire conflict, the two not only looking to fight each other, but keep themselves away from that ugly thing.
Some fans argue that the climactic battle sequence between Obi-Wan and Anakin goes on for a bit too long and gets a bit too ridiculous. Is it any less ridiculous with a giant scorpion? Well, not really. Think about it though — this may have been a bit more compelling than the outrageous CGI jumps and flips over factory apparatus and lava-falls. Who doesn't love a good ol' giant monster anyhow?
9 General Grievous...?
Perhaps one of the most bizarre pieces of concept artwork on this list, this was one of the many original designs for General Grievous. The four-armed alien with a habit for coughing and lightsaber collecting must have been originally envisioned as a strange child in a floating throne — by one artist or another. Guarded by two droids, he may have been a dignified military officer archetype instead of the mustache-twisting villain Grievous was in Revenge of the Sith.
His outfit and physical features are reminiscent of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a character from the pre-Disney years that has since been brought back into official canon. It's a shame such a perplexing and eerie design wasn't taken any further than the concept stage. How crazy would it have been for Anakin and Obi-Wan to fight this creepy kid? Well, some people might have been frightened by the whole evil-child thing, but this design is great nonetheless.
8 Occupied Jedha City
Rogue One introduced a handful of new Star Wars locales, one of which is planet Jedha, home to one of the earliest civilizations to study the nature of the force. As such, Jedha is a sacred place for force users and believers, where the Jedi religion gets its namesake. In Rogue One, Jedha City is occupied by imperial forces until it is destroyed by a small blast from the Death Star.
The concept art here shows us an even bleaker look at Jedha City than what we ended up with. In the final film, Jedha City is meant to resemble busy, war-torn cities in the Middle East, but here, the city is much more devastated by imperial occupation. Contrasted with the city's supposed sacredness, a bleaker landscape would have been a nice visual juxtaposition with the internal remnants of tranquility. Sadly, we didn't get much of that either. Missed opportunities all around, apparently.
7 Peaceful Jedha City Courtyard
Speaking of tranquility, this piece of Jedha City concept art depicts a small city center that looks untouched by Imperial aggression. In Rogue One, characters constantly refer to the city's connection with the force and its importance as a home to a major Jedi temple. We don't actually see much of this in the set design, though, other than a tall steeple on the city skyline. Is that enough? The creative team evidently thought so.
This unused work further establishes Jedha citizens' connection with the force, or at least their peaceful nature. The plaza seems to host some kind of memorial or prayer gathering around a tree, as citizens gather with tiny lanterns of some kind. Do wax candles exist in Star Wars? Regardless, it's a soothing visual that the sacred city of Jedha sorely lacked.
6 Kira And The Horizon
Another piece of artwork featuring early Rey's early concept design, this image was meant to pay homage to Luke's iconic scene in A New Hope featuring Tatooine's twin sunset. In A New Hope, Luke takes a longing look at the beautiful vista and we instantly know everything there is to know about his character and his desire to leave home. Here, Kira stands atop a sci-fi water tower, similarly staring out into the sky.
The Force Awakens is full of homages to the original Star Wars, and perhaps this one comes off a bit too heavy-handed. The movie itself has a reputation for being too much of an homage overall, and acts more like an in-universe remake than a sequel. Despite that, in a movie full of tributes, is there any better moment to pay tribute to? This nod to an iconic scene should have made the cut, at least as an excuse to introduce John William's "Binary Sunset" to a whole new generation.
5 The Emperor's Sunken Throne Room
There aren't many aquatic sequences in Star Wars, and the ones that exist are so closely tied with Jar Jar that fans likely want to forget them. During the production of The Force Awakens, an idea was pitched that had characters exploring the remains of Death Star II, which would have crash-landed on Endor. All kinds of debris would be found underwater, which would have prompted submerging the Millenium Falcon like a submarine for exploration. Wait — it can do that?
Among the wreckage would be the Emperor's throne room from Return of the Jedi, mostly intact for the characters to swim inside. This concept wasn't used in any form, which is shocking given it's creativity and obvious nostalgia factor. JJ Abrams is coming back to direct the end of the new trilogy, so hopefully, something similar sees the light of day. The characters could have gotten a creepy glimpse at history, and would have been a great location for a haunting force flashback.
4 Luke and Vader's Helmet
Another piece from The Force Awakens exhibits a scene attributed to Kylo Ren in the final film. In this concept illustration, we see Luke inspecting Darth Vader's deteriorated helmet in a location that looks vaguely similar to what we see in the trailers for The Last Jedi (minus the lightning storm in the background). It's unclear what would have transpired in this scene, but fans would give anything to have gotten more Luke Skywalker in Episode VII.
In the final cut of the movie, Kylo Ren prays to Vader at a shrine displaying the burnt-out helmet, albeit for very nefarious purposes. It's unlikely that Luke would have been praying to the worst version of his father, but rumors of a morally gray Luke (or worse) have not been uncommon. On an unrelated note — his green lightsaber is sitting on the table in the lower right corner. Does it mean anything? Probably not. At least it's sitting in his cave somewhere, and not locked in a box in somebody's cellar.
3 Anakin's True Force Ghost
Another entry about The Force Awakens art? Uh, yeah. It's awesome art.
This concept piece was part of another early idea that had the ghost of Anakin Skywalker appear in the film. However, they weren't talking about compositing Hayden Christensen into a shot or two. This was an entirely new look for the character, as the ghost would exhibit qualities from before and after his transformation into Darth Vader. This ghost would be some kind of visual amalgam between Anakin's normal self, his charred self, and his predominantly robotic look in his later years. Sadly, the concept was abandoned, and all we're left with is this haunting image of the tragic villain. Where this would have fit into the film is unclear, but our bets are on Rey's force-back experience in Maz's cellar.
2 Early Stormtroopers
Probably the most recognizable piece on this list for hardcore fans, this is Ralph McQuarrie's original concept for stormtroopers. This goes way back — very early in the production of A New Hope. At this point, lightsabers were a common weapon in the universe, not specific to Jedi. Could you imagine if every stormtrooper carried a lightsaber? Maybe they'd do better with swords than blasters.
The armor itself was also slightly different at this stage, the most obvious change being the standard issue shield which wouldn't make it to screen. Eyes were slightly larger, mouths was slightly lower, and there were minor changes to come in the armor layout as well. Ultimately, this prototypical piece is responsible for the final design of the galaxy's most iconic soldiers. It's hard to put this above their final look, but a world where everyone wields a lightsaber is too cool to pass up.
1 Han's New Jacket
Han Solo's vest-look is pretty legendary. He's rarely depicted without it, or without similar dark-jacket-looking apparel (other than in extreme temperatures). So what about a light-colored trench coat? In this artwork from The Force Awakens, a truly scruffy-looking Han Solo embraces his pirate nature with a slightly different look.
He's grown a beard and sports a long coat over his vest. It's an extremely minor change to his standard appearance, but this extra bit of style and swagger might have been pretty refreshing in hindsight. To be fair, if our dads wore pirate jackets in their seventies, we might be a bit embarrassed of them (You're not alone, Kylo), but if anybody could pull it off, it's probably Harrison Ford.
Hundreds of artists have worked on Star Wars and what we see in the movies is only the tiniest sliver of approved concept work. There's plenty of concept art out there, and lots that didn't make it on to this list. Was there anything that should have been added? Anything that should have been left off? What was your favorite artwork? Make sure to let us know by leaving a comment below!