back to top

Here Are The "Star Wars" Films' Most Blatant Special Effects Changes

Is whether or not Han shot first even up for discussion?

Posted on

If you've watched the original movies recently, chances are you were watching the Special Editions — the versions with updated visual effects.

Lucky for us, Chris Gould of DVD Active has cataloged all of George Lucas's changes in visual and audio effects since the films' theatrical releases in 1977, 1980, and 1983.

Stars Wars: A New Hope

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

It starts right away when the Lucasfilm Ltd. logo gets all fancified:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Which version is better?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Original.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Special Edition.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which version is better?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Original.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Special Edition.

R2-D2 wanders down an even lonelier canyon on Tatooine:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Jawas hide among the rocks.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Jawas hide among the rocks.

← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Jawas hide among the rocks.

  1. Which Tatooine version is better?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Original.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Special Edition.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which Tatooine version is better?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Original.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Special Edition.

Stormtroopers discover C-3PO and R2-D2’s presence aboard the escape pod:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Did the visual effects improve this scene?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    No.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Did the visual effects improve this scene?
  1.  
    vote votes
    No.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Yes.

The Tatooine sunset is redder:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Which sunset is prettier?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Original.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Special Edition.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which sunset is prettier?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Original.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Special Edition.

Obi-Wan Kenobi's home becomes far more grandiose:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Which home is better?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Original
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Special Edition
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which home is better?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Original
  2.  
    vote votes
    Special Edition

The Wolfman in the cantina transforms into an alien:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Do you miss the Wolfman?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yeah.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Nah.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Do you miss the Wolfman?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Yeah.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Nah.

By far the most controversial change in the Special Editions, Greedo now shoots first/roughly at the same time as Han Solo:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Lucas changed this scene multiple times, initally to make Greedo shoot first, and then to make them both shoot almost at the same time.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Lucas changed this scene multiple times, initally to make Greedo shoot first, and then to make them both shoot almost at the same time.

← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Lucas changed this scene multiple times, initally to make Greedo shoot first, and then to make them both shoot almost at the same time.

  1. Who should shoot first?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    HAN!
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Greedo.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    They shoot at the same time.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Who should shoot first?
  1.  
    vote votes
    HAN!
  2.  
    vote votes
    Greedo.
  3.  
    vote votes
    They shoot at the same time.

Obi-Wan Kenobi deactivates the tractor beam to allow the Millennium Falcon to escape from the Death Star, and the language changes from English to Aurebesh:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Do you prefer English or Aurebesh?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Speak English!
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Aurabesh.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Do you prefer English or Aurebesh?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Speak English!
  2.  
    vote votes
    Aurabesh.

Han Solo confronting a few Stormtroopers turns into Han running into a hangar full of troops:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. How many Stormtroopers should Han face?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Only a few.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    A shit ton.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
How many Stormtroopers should Han face?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Only a few.
  2.  
    vote votes
    A shit ton.

The destruction of the Death Star gets more epic:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Which Death Star explosion burns brighter in your mind?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Original
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Special Edition
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which Death Star explosion burns brighter in your mind?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Original
  2.  
    vote votes
    Special Edition

This scene with Han Solo and Jabba the Hutt was added into the 1997 Special Edition release. In the 2004 update, Jabba was redesigned to look more like he did in The Phantom Menace.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Watch that tail!

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Watch that tail!

← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Watch that tail!

  1. Are you glad Lucas added this scene?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes, but I prefer the 1997 Jabba.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes, and I like the 2004 Jabba.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    No, this scene is completely pointless and, if anything, ruins Jabba's reveal in the sequel.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Are you glad Lucas added this scene?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Yes, but I prefer the 1997 Jabba.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Yes, and I like the 2004 Jabba.
  3.  
    vote votes
    No, this scene is completely pointless and, if anything, ruins Jabba's reveal in the sequel.

The Empire Strikes Back

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould

This shot is from the perspective of Luke Skywalker, who's just been attacked by the less vague-looking Wampa:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Which version of the Wampa do you prefer?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Subtle, understated Wampa of the original.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    CGI version.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which version of the Wampa do you prefer?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Subtle, understated Wampa of the original.
  2.  
    vote votes
    CGI version.

The original hologram of the Emperor was played by an old lady with chimpanzee eyes.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Lucas replaced the old lady with Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine starting with ​Return of the Jedi.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Lucas replaced the old lady with Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine starting with ​Return of the Jedi.

← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Lucas replaced the old lady with Ian McDiarmid, who played Emperor Palpatine starting with ​Return of the Jedi.

  1. Who's your favorite Palpatine?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Old Lady with Chimp Eyes
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Ian McDiarmid
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Who's your favorite Palpatine?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Old Lady with Chimp Eyes
  2.  
    vote votes
    Ian McDiarmid

Cloud City got a major update:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Was this change worth it?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Eh.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Totes!
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Was this change worth it?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Eh.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Totes!

Darth's lightsaber turns pink:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Which lightsaber is prettier?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    White with red glare.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Pink, obvi.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Which lightsaber is prettier?
  1.  
    vote votes
    White with red glare.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Pink, obvi.

The Special Edition release added a scream to Luke's previously silent fall after his duel with Darth Vader.

Lucasfilms Ltd.

The later DVD release restored Luke back to his silent dignity.

  1. Do you prefer Luke screaming?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    No, he does NOT scream.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I love his scream!
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Do you prefer Luke screaming?
  1.  
    vote votes
    No, he does NOT scream.
  2.  
    vote votes
    I love his scream!

Return of the Jedi

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Right before Chewbacca grabs Han’s ankles, Han hangs off the skiff by his toes alone in the original:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. How strong are Han's toes?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Very strong.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    Not that strong.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
How strong are Han's toes?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Very strong.
  2.  
    vote votes
    Not that strong.

Here is a probably unnecessary visual effect change of Han Solo's face while he is freed from his carbonite prison:

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com
  1. Was this change pointless?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    No! Now it looks so realistic.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Was this change pointless?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Yes.
  2.  
    vote votes
    No! Now it looks so realistic.

For the Special Edition, Lucas once again added more audio at a climactic moment: when Vader decides to sacrifice himself to save his son.

Lucasfilms Ltd.
  1. Do you like the addition of "No. Nooooooo!"?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Hell no — before his pain was silent and implied. It was WAY better.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    I love the new way he yells "no" all sad-like.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Do you like the addition of "No. Nooooooo!"?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Hell no — before his pain was silent and implied. It was WAY better.
  2.  
    vote votes
    I love the new way he yells "no" all sad-like.

The spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker watch Luke and the Rebels celebrate their victory over the Empire.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Sebastian Shaw is replaced by Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin starting with Attack of the Clones.

Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Sebastian Shaw is replaced by Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin starting with Attack of the Clones.

← Slide →
Lucasfilm Ltd/Chris Gould / Via dvdactive.com

Sebastian Shaw is replaced by Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin starting with Attack of the Clones.

  1. Is Hayden Christensen creeping you the fuck out?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Uh, yeah.
    Correct
    Incorrect
    No, he looks cute!
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
Is Hayden Christensen creeping you the fuck out?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Uh, yeah.
  2.  
    vote votes
    No, he looks cute!
  1. ONE LAST QUESTION. Overall, do you think it was wrong to touch the originals?

    Correct
    Incorrect
    Yes. They should have been left alone. Plus I'm mad I can't get the originals on Blu-ray seriously WTF LUCAS!
    Correct
    Incorrect
    No! Updating the visual and audio effects keeps the movies up with the times.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later
Looks like we are having a problem on the server.
ONE LAST QUESTION. Overall, do you think it was wrong to touch the originals?
  1.  
    vote votes
    Yes. They should have been left alone. Plus I'm mad I can't get the originals on Blu-ray seriously WTF LUCAS!
  2.  
    vote votes
    No! Updating the visual and audio effects keeps the movies up with the times.