ByKristin Lai, writer at
MP Staff Writer, cinephile and resident Slytherclaw // UCLA Alumna // Follow me on Twitter: kristin_lai
Kristin Lai

It's no secret that George Lucas has a tendency to go back and change his work. As the creator of this amazing universe, he has every right to do so...however baffling it might seem.

In 1977, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope was released in theaters. This is the version that most of us know and love. Mos Eisley was a barren wasteland and Han shot first. Alas, unless you own a VHS copy, or better yet a VHS player, you are likely watching one version of Lucas' edited versions of Star Wars. It's a shame really. The only person who seems to be hyper-critical of George Lucas' George Lucas.

At first, Lucas started out innocent enough. He really only tinkered with various audio clips and the opening crawl, but nothing too major. But once 1997 rolled around, and he had the budget he always wanted, it was goodbye puppets and hello CGI! Luckily, Lucas stopped making major changes after the 2004 DVD release!

I'm going to run down a brief timeline for each movie of some of the most noticeable changes.

Changes To Episode IV: A New Hope

1980 Lazer Disc Release

The only major change made here was Luke's attitude in Episode V. When the swap on Dagobah spits out R2-D2 Luke used to say, "You're lucky you don't taste very good." In the edited version it was changed to "You're lucky you got out of there." Why was this changed? To make Luke less sassy maybe? I have no idea.

1997 Special Edition VHS Release

Most of the aesthetic changes were just upgrades that Lucas probably would have wanted had he had enough funds or the technology the first time around. That means new lightsabers! Here are just some of the other changes he made.

All of the matte paintings were replaced with digital paintings and we saw new stormtroopers and CG dewbacks.

Lucas also added digital aliens to the Mos Eisley Cantina, digital versions of the ships and their effects, a bigger Death Star explosion (which even includes a shockwave ring).

George liked it so he put a ring on it
George liked it so he put a ring on it

And lest we not forget...the addition of digital Jabba the Hutt (aka the stuff of nightmares).


This was extremely unnecessary, George.

Mos Eisley also ended up looking very different. All of the sudden it is bustling and even includes a few silly Jawas. Furthermore, changes made at the Mos Eisley Cantina spurred the now-famous phrase "Han Shot First."

Originally, Han just shoots the crap out of Greed. I kind of get it, this scene was changed in order to make Han not seem like a cold-blooded killer since he was acting in self-defense. But it just doesn't make sense that Greedo would miss at point blank range! Besides, this was a great character introduction! Han just kills a guy and says, "Sorry about the mess." like it's nothing. It was super badass.

Han looks like one of the Roxbury guys
Han looks like one of the Roxbury guys

We also get a look at Obi-Wan Kenobi's house and R2-D2 hiding from the sand people. For some reason George Lucas hides R2 in this scene more and more with each passing release (picture below).

There is also Han facing an entire hanger full of stormtroopers instead of just the ones that he had been chasing.

They also added a deleted scene between Luke and his best friend Biggs Darklighter. This was actually a really nice addition. It's just a short scene that kind of ties things together a little more.

Aww BFFs. Well...for at least a few more scenes.
Aww BFFs. Well...for at least a few more scenes.

George Lucas spent a reported $10 million to enhance this film. That's over 1/3 the original budget!

2004 The DVD Release

Well....Jabba gets another makeover in the 2004 DVD release.


Why, George? Personally, I feel like this was something that just should have been left alone the first time around.

In audio, George thought it was important to change Obi-Wan's scream to scare away the sand people. I thought it sounded fine in the original version. More guttural and animal-like.

This version is definitely higher and sounds like a mix between a lion, hawk, and a dragon or something. This doesn't hurt the story at all, but I'm not sure if it helped much either.

He also changes smooths over the shootout between Greedo and Han so that it looks a little bit less obvious. Now they basically shoot at each other at the same time. So that's cool, I guess.

2011 The Blu-ray Release

In the 2011 Blu-ray version of A New Hope, Lucas changed Obi-Wan's scream once more, this time to the point that it just sounds like a howling woman! I laugh out loud every time I hear it.

This is also the version that almost completely hides R2-D2 behind some rocks..

Finally, they edit the Han and Greedo shot AGAIN so that they're actually almost shooting at the same time. Enough is enough.

Changes To Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

1997 Special Edition VHS Release

Less changes were made in regards to Empire and Return. Where Lucas spent around $10 million for Episode IV, he only spent $5 million between the other two films. Like for Episode IV, 1997 meant a lot of aesthetic and audio changes, which are comparatively pretty subtle, for The Empire Strikes Back. Just take a look at Cloud City all fancy and new!

He also made similar changes to the battle on Hoth, but we really only see the removal of black compositing lines around the snow speeders.

2004 The DVD Release

This change might have actually been for the better. This was a change made after the prequels came out to for continuity purposes, and to make the Emperor Palpatine hologram scarier.

Here's the old Emperor:

Not sure if this is intimidating at all..
Not sure if this is intimidating at all..

And the new:

Hmm that's a bit better.
Hmm that's a bit better.

The Emperor's voice is also changed from Clive Revill to Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine in episodes I-III.

Speaking of switching voice actors, the voice of Boba Fett was changed from Jason Wingreen to Temeura Morrison who played Jango Fett in Episode II.

I understand why this is important, considering Boba Fett is a clone of Jango Fett and all, but it still hurts a little. Who am I kidding? This one hurts a lot.

2011 Blu-ray Release

Honestly, not much changed in this episode. Just some minor fixes George wasn't able to make along the way.

Changes To Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

1997 Special Edition VHS Release

The changes in Return of the Jedi are a lot more noticeable than those in Empire Strikes Back. Many of these changes were slightly altered dialogue and more CGI do-overs.

The one that really stands out is the new CGI version of Sy Snootles who now sings alongside Joh Yowsa in Jabba's palace. The song also changes from "Lapti Nek" to "Jedi Rocks."

We also see the Sarlacc looking a little scarier with more tentacles and a beak. Is this actually scarier? I can't really tell. I almost feel like it's scarier to not know exactly what's inside of the Sarlacc pit than to just have a Little Shop of Horrors-esque beak poking out at you.

And sadly, the celebrations are changed when they switched out the Ewok song "Yub Nub" for a new piece written by John Williams. I know that some of my friends weren't really fans of the "teddy bear tea party" vibe of the final scene, but I always thought it was so cute! Maybe that was the problem...Actually, in retrospect, this might have been another good change.

2004 The DVD Release

Since we learned that Anakin Skywalker gained his armor from being severely burned by lava, it only made sense for Lucas and the team to go back into the film before the 2004 release and make sure those eyebrows were burned the F off!

They also altered Sebastian Shaw further by completely cutting him out of the final scene! Instead they include the young, pre-burned Anakin played by Hayden Christensen.

This makes no sense to me! If Shaw is out and Christensen is in, the why was Obi-Wan still played by Alec Guiness instead of Ewan McGregor? When you die do you just get to pick the age you want to come back looking like as a spirit? Maybe you come back in your purest form? Maybe the answer is in the books, which I haven't read, so if you know why this needed to happen please let me know!

2011 Blu-ray Release

So much had been changed at this point that it almost seems like George Lucas made changes simply because he could. A great example would be putting CG eyelids on the Ewoks.

It made them a little more lifelike, but also a lot creepier. Not sure if that was really worth the risk.

In a similarly weird, but much more controversial, turn of events, now Darth Vader screams "Nooo!" as he picks up the Emperor and throws him. It just doesn't really sound good. If you don't believe me, check it out for yourself:

Sounds kind of like....

We get it, the stories connect and now it all comes full circle. But this level of symmetry might be a little too heavy-handed.

In Summation:

George, you really just can't stop can you? By the time the 2011 Blu-ray versions were released, no one really seems to care about minor change anymore. It's either because they flew under the radar or, the more likely scenario, we're so used to you changing parts we love that we have learned to emotionally distance ourselves.

You wrote Episodes I-III so long after Episodes IV-VI that no one would have faulted you for being unwilling to retouch everything to keep continuity all the way through. If anything, the originals are a testament to how far you had come in those 22 years!

Don't get me wrong! I love you! The whole world loves your work and everything you created for us! But you are your harshest critic. So just give yourself a break. Maybe this whole Disney deal will benefit everyone? Star Wars is the freakin' best, but everyone needs to please, please stop messing with the originals!


Which of these changes was the most shocking to you?


Latest from our Creators