Star Wars: 7 Changes In The Special Editions That Improve The Original Trilogy

While not all fans enjoyed the changes seen in the Special Edition of the original Star Wars trilogy, certain alterations benefitted each movie.


  • The Special Edition of the original Star Wars trilogy aims to align the first three movies with prequels, improving visuals and adding new scenes.
  • Implementing the Aurebesh language and extending monster scenes enrich the Star Wars universe.
  • More locations and improved visuals in the Special Edition make the galaxy feel cohesive and visually consistent.

The original trilogy of Star Wars movies is one of the best and most beloved collections of films in cinematic history. These movies came out between 1977 and 1983, and each one changed the future of cinema. The series, originally envisioned by George Lucas, didn’t end there, though, as more movies have been added to the franchise since, and there have been plenty of other stories from this universe told in other forms of media, too.



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However, perhaps the most controversial addition to the Star Wars canon was the release of the Star Wars special editions in 1997. These new versions of the original trilogy were released to mark the 20th anniversary of the franchise, and it includes versions of the first three movies that have been altered by George Lucas. The purpose of these alterations was to use modern technology to portray his original vision of the stories and also to line them up with the prequels. Many fans dismiss these additions and fondly remember the original versions, but there were some great changes made in the special editions that tend to go overlooked.


Fleshing Out The Language Of A Fictional Universe


  • Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope

Since Star Wars is set in a galaxy far away, it only makes sense that the people who live there would speak a completely different language to what fans would be accustomed to. Though most of the characters and aliens in Star Wars speak a comprehensible language so that viewers can understand them, these characters are actually speaking a universal language known as Basic. The language known as Basic was originally designed as an alphabet that translates into an exact likeness of English when the first Star Wars movie came out. However, George Lucas changed his mind when working on Empire Strikes Back.

Although Basic is still used in the Star Wars galaxy, the universal alphabet was changed to something more alien, known as Aurebesh. This language can be seen in all Star Wars movies except A New Hope. That is why George Lucas decided to make a change and include Aurebesh in the background and on screens in the first movie to help it better fit with the lore of the rest of the series.

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Extended Scenes

Revealing How Certain Things Were Supposed To Play Out


  • Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi

One of the biggest things holding George Lucas back when making Star Wars in the late 70s and early 80s was the special effects of the time. Such rudimentary effects would only serve to date the original movies and make them less appealing to newer generations. As a result, some of the more fearsome monsters in the movies were not given the appropriate screen time to shine.

Luckily, the revisit to these films in the special editions meant that George Lucas could extend specific scenes to include longer and more detailed shots of famous monsters in the series. Both the Wampa scene and the Rancor scene are extended to show just how powerful and dangerous each of these creatures can be. Not every extended scene in the special editions is looked upon fondly, but at least the monsters in this galaxy were improved.

Improving Cloud City

Adding Depth And Beauty To An Iconic Star Wars Location


  • Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back

A large part of The Empire Strikes Back sees Han and Leia heading to a place called Cloud City in search of help from Lando Calrissian. The city was originally depicted as a floating space hub full of activity. However, the interior of this place is mostly shown as a set of bland, white corridors.

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As expected, this aesthetic wasn’t as visually appealing as George Lucas intended, so he updated these scenes in the special editions. Now, the corridors of Cloud City are full of green screen windows that depict the sheer scale of the place, and a few ships can be seen flying by to make it feel like the city is a living, breathing environment.

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Adding Ian McDiarmid

Making The Emperor A More Recognizable Villain


  • Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back

Emperor Palpatine is the overarching villain of the first Star Wars trilogy and is the head of the evil Empire that the heroes are seeking to overthrow. Despite having such a big role, viewers do not meet the emperor until he appears in Return of the Jedi, where he is played by Ian McDiarmid. The actor also reprises this role for the prequel trilogy. As such, the villain has a large presence in this fictional universe.

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While fans do not get to see Palpatine in person in the trilogy until the end, Darth Vader does have a brief hologram conversation with the villain in The Empire Strike Back. Here, the emperor is not played by Ian McDiarmid and is instead played by Marjorie Eaton, who wears a dark hood and a mix of monkey prosthetics. Having this visual be the audience’s introduction to such a heinous character would be confusing, which is why George Lucas re-filmed this scene with McDiarmid for the special edition release.

Making Mos Eisley A Spaceport

Breathing More Life Into Tatooine


  • Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope

For Luke’s journey to begin in the first Star Wars movie, newly titled A New Hope as courtesy of the special edition, Obi-Wan takes him to the spaceport called Mos Eisley. The old Jedi describes the place as a hive of scum and villainy, but the location does not look like that in the movie.

Unfortunately, a low budget and poor technology meant that the only way that George Lucas could represent Mos Eisley at the time was with a few sets and props in the desert. Fortunately, the director was able to go back and add more digital creatures and ships to the old footage to make Mos Eisley feel more like a busy spaceport. Now, the location actually looks and feels like a hub where scum and villainy would thrive.

Adding Scenes To The Ending

The Prequels Expanded The Star Wars Galaxy


  • Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi

The fall of the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi is understandably cause for great celebration. That is why all the main heroes from the trilogy gather on Endor for a party with the Ewoks in the final scenes. However, the fall of the Empire is something that is good for the entire galaxy, which is why the original movies showed parties and firework celebrations occurring in other parts of the galaxy previously visited in the series.

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Some of these locations include Cloud City and Tatooine, but there is more life in the galaxy now that the prequel trilogy exists. This new trilogy takes viewers to some more important locations in the Star Wars galaxy, and it would have been odd for these civilizations to not celebrate the downfall of the Empire, too. That is why George Lucas added footage of some of the new locations, such as Naboo and Coruscant, to make the universe feel more cohesive.

Improved Visuals

One Thing All The Movies Could Benefit From


  • Visual Enhancements Are Present In Each Movie

When the original Star Wars movies were released, they were all praised for their stunning visual effects work. So too were the prequels when they were released, and George Lucas has long since been hailed as a visionary for his craft in the world of special effects. Sadly, newer technology and the passing of time are always going to make older special effects appear dated, which means that the once impressive visuals of the first Star Wars trilogy were considered quite poor compared to the standards of the 90s.

Luckily, George Lucas was able to go in and improve all the special effects in these movies with an overhaul in the special editions that made the original trilogy appear more consistent with the prequels. The lightsabers look cleaner, the spaceships are more impressive, the puppets look more realistic, and there are thousands of other small visual changes that most viewers won’t even notice. Overall, the special editions make the original Star Wars movies look better than they originally did.

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