Timothee Chalamet standing in the desert in the movie 'Dune'

Why It’s So Difficult To Measure ‘Dune’s Influence on ‘Star Wars’

Dune: Part Two recently arrived in theaters, meaning the inevitable comparisons to Star Wars are bound to resurface.

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Author Frank Herbert created the Dune Chronicles with his first book, Dune, being hailed as one of the greatest works of science fiction in literary history. He released the original novel in 1965, over a decade before the first Star Wars movie landed in theaters. Since then, both Dune and Star Wars have expanded into sprawling franchises. Star Wars is now one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time, boasting 11 movies and over a dozen TV shows. Meanwhile, Dune has recently experienced a resurgence with Denis Villeneuve’s large-scale film adaptation series.

Nowadays, the Star Wars franchise has expanded its universe, lore, and history to the point that it’s completely its own, and its newer stories resemble Dune very little. However, one can’t ignore that the basic premises of the franchises are similar. Both stories take place in a galaxy far, far away, where an evil totalitarian system of government oppresses the people. The stories also start on desert planets (Arrakis and Tatooine), feature a Chosen One meant to save the galaxy, and feature ancient abilities (The Force and The Voice). Are the similarities purely coincidental, or did George Lucas pull inspiration from Herbert’s Dune?

Dune’s influence on Star Wars

Hayden Christensen as Anakin and Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
(Lucasfilm)

The answer to whether Star Wars is based on Dune is complicated. Most agree that the franchise is, at least, inspired partly by Dune. However, many disagree on to what extent Star Wars was influenced by Dune. Some agree with the argument that Star Wars was merely “inspired” by Dune, while others suggest it is “based on” Dune, and some go as far as to claim Star Wars is a blatant ripoff of Herbert’s work. Part of why it’s so difficult to measure Dune’s influence on Star Wars is because of what Herbert and Lucas have or have not said on the matter.

Lucas has spoken before about the many influences and inspirations for his creation. He has openly cited Akira Kurosawa’s filmography, J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and John Ford’s The Searchers as inspirations for Star Wars. However, he has never explicitly mentioned Dune as an inspiration nor given Herbert’s work any credit for the franchise. Although Lucas never mentioned Dune, Herbert himself seemingly saw Dune’s influence in Star Wars. In 1977, he told the Associated Press he was “trying hard not to sue” Lucas. His true feelings on Star Wars were difficult to measure, as he later retracted his plagiarism accusation. It’s safe to say, though, that he didn’t view Lucas’ works favorably.

The truth likely falls somewhere between Lucas’ and Herbert’s claims. Although Lucas never cited Dune as an inspiration, many suspect that Star Wars was at least partially inspired by Herbert’s work, especially Tatooine. At the same time, Herbert likely wouldn’t have had grounds to sue Lucas. After all, one could argue that Lucas’ story is more inspired by sci-fi and other narrative tropes than Dune. Herbert did not invent the Chosen One trope, the space opera, or stories centering on metaphysical powers. Dune and Star Wars may look so similar because they both pulled from earlier traditions and tropes—especially Joseph Campbell’s oft-borrowed vision of the Hero’s Journey—rather than because one copied the other.

Ultimately, it’s difficult to know to what extent Dune influenced Star Wars. The pair certainly bear similarities, but it would likely be an overstatement to say Star Wars is anything more than inspired by Dune.

(featured image: Warner Bros. Pictures)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.