Highlights

  • Dune
    heavily influenced
    Star Wars
    , particularly with shared elements like desert planets and secretive orders.
  • Star Wars’
    “spice mining” concept was likely inspired by
    Dune’s
    use of the term in a drug-related context.
  • Both franchises feature supernatural elements;
    Star Wars
    with the Force,
    Dune
    with The Voice and chosen one prophecies.



One could probably write a book on all the things that influenced Star Wars, maybe even two or three. The franchise was always built on the Hero’s Journey, a model coined by Joseph Conrad that was itself based on thousands of years of literary tradition. We can see plenty of influences from classical Hollywood, particularly westerns and old WWII movies. There are elements of Japanese Samurai films, especially those of Akira Kurosawa. We can also see traces of old serials and earlier science fiction. There is a bit of Flash Gordon and Star Trek. There are even pieces of actual history thrown in, such as the way the Empire is not-so-subtly based on the Nazi regime, to the point where their soldiers became known as “stormtroopers.” But one particular source of inspiration stands out. There is one iconic sci-fi book that was clearly a massive influence on Star Wars.


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Frank Herbert’s Dune was first published in 1965, and ended up helping to shape what would become known as the “space opera.” A lot of modern science fiction can be traced back to Dune in some way, but few show its impact quite as clearly as Star Wars. They do have some notable differences. Herbert was more interested in moral ambiguity compared to Star Wars‘ themes of light and dark, but we can still see some pretty close similarities. Even the overall plot is similar, with both centering around a hero leading a rebellion against an oppressive empire. There are a lot of details from the book’s complex universe that have managed to find their way into Star Wars.


5 A Desert Planet

One Of Star Wars’ Most Iconic Settings Looks Noticeably Familiar


As expansive as the Star Wars Galaxy has become, one particular world continues to hold a special place of significance: a desert planet called Tatooine. This is easily the most recognizable planet in the franchise; six out of nine films in the main saga have at least one scene on tTatooine. While George Lucas certainly created something unique, the idea of a planet that was one big desert was hardly an original idea at the time. As if the name Dune wasn’t clear enough, Frank Herbert’s novels featured a desert world as their central focus.

However, there is another major parallel. Tatooine was literally the first setting Star Wars fans were introduced to, and famously the location where Luke began his hero’s journey. The desert world Arrakis played a very similar role for Paul Atreides, who also experienced his own journey that would see him taking on an authoritarian regime, and began, in large part, on Arrakis.


4 The Bene Gesserit

Herbert Laid The Groundwork For Star Wars’ Key Factions

One of the more peculiar aspects of Dune is the secretive order known as the Bene Gesserit. This was an ancient religious organization made up of women trained in superhuman abilities, which included heightened senses and mastery of The Voice. They had two main goals: aquire power at any cost, and to act as guardians for humanity. Put simply, they held a fundamentalist “the ends justify the means” mentality towards what they saw as a greater good, and used power as a means to exert their will.


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If this sounds familiar, it might be because Star Wars has its own version, or, more accurately, it breaks the Bene Gesserit into two main factions. The idea of them trying to act as guardians for humanity is similar to the intended position of the Jedi Order, while the “power at any cost” mentality calls to mind the philosophy of the Sith. George Lucas may have taken out the gendered aspect, but the basic idea remains.

3 Spice Mining

Star Wars Has Its Own Melange

At the start of A New Hope viewers get introduced to the desert planet Tattooine, but they also get one particularly interesting line. While the Tantive IV is boarded by Stormtroopers, C-3PO tells R2-D2 that “we’ll be sent to the spice mines of Kessel.” Interesting that George Lucas felt the need for C-3PO to specify that Kessel was home to spice mines. Spice isn’t usually mined, it’s usually grown and harvested from plants. Except on Arrakis, of course.


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Sure enough, Kessel’s spice mining would be explored in later material, and even become a major plot point during Solo: A Star Wars Story. The original line may well have been nothing more than an inside joke, but it clearly shows that Lucas was thinking of Dune when writing Star Wars. Interestingly, spice mining has actually become a big part of the Star Wars canon, with several types mined on different worlds. Even the use of the word “spice” is reminiscent of Herbert’s book, where it is shown to be referring more to a drug than regular seasoning.

2 The Voice

Star Wars Isn’t The Only Story To Dabble In Mysticism


From the beginning, there was one thing that easily set Star Wars apart from other sci-fi movies. When fans met Obi-Wan Kenobi, they were introduced to the concept of “the Force,” a supernatural aspect of the universe that became central to the franchise. There was never really an equivalent in Star Trek or other popular space operas of the time. However, it was far from the first to experiment in mixing a sci-fi futuristic setting with fantasy elements. Dune also had its own supernatural phenomenon that gave its users strange powers: The Voice.

This was a power wielded by specific people who could use it as a means of control, very similar to a Jedi Mind Trick. Furthermore, the inclusion of spirituality among the Fremen and an ambiguous prophecy that may or may not cast Paul as a “chosen one” further contribute to the idea that there is a greater force at play in the workings of the conflict on Arrakis.


1 Used Future

This Visual Style Is Older Than People Think

The “used future”aesthetic is one that’s often credited for being popularized in the 70s, particularly by Star Wars and Alien, but it may actually be older than that. Sure, the powerful Great Houses of Dune might have clean, shiny technology, especially the Harkonens (who no doubt got it through exploitation), but even House Atreides can feel weathered at times. The carryalls and harvesters actually used for spice mining are clearly designed to look like they’ve seen extensive use in the sand.

This is especially true for the Fremen, due to their portrayal as a nomadic desert people who have to work with limited resources. Their stillsuits have clearly seen better days, and that’s often complimented with articles of clothing designed to aid with desert survival. The technology they do have is often older and visibly rusted.


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