In 1977, Star Wars revolutionized the world of cinema with its groundbreaking special effects, setting the standard for intergalactic dogfights, blaster battles, and lightsaber duels. These various images might be the first things many audiences think of when remembering the saga, but another groundbreaking element of the films are its sounds, which have become as ingrained in our memories as any character, creature, or location.
Sound designer Ben Burtt is one of the masterminds behind various iconic sounds, as George Lucas aimed to create an "organic soundtrack" for the saga. While most sci-fi films tried to create futuristic noises to convey the sounds of space, Burtt instead explored the world around him to catalog a massive amount of real-world sounds to manipulate and combine to conjure familiar feelings that sounded otherworldly.
Luckily for fans, Burtt has regularly opened up about how he created the amazing sounds, such as with StarWars.com or in the book The Sound of Star Wars.
Whether you're a fan of the franchise or not, virtually everyone on earth could be given a prompt that would result in an instant impression of countless sounds from the saga, in some cases with these sounds resonating more deeply with us that plot points.
Check out our picks for the most memorable sounds in the saga!
Seeing a lightsaber ignite only partially accomplishes the feat of conveying an elegant weapon for a more civilized way, with the weapon's hums, crackles and explosions helping audiences realize the power of the blades.
The idle humming of the blade came from recordings of film projectors at Burtt's former college, while he accidentally discovered the crackling sound when he brought a live microphone too close to a TV set, he recorded an interesting crackle.
The sound designer combined these two elements and, to make the sounds even more organic, waved a microphone at a speaker playing these sounds to create the wooshing sounds of the battles.prevnext
One of the early examples of Star Wars disregarding real-world science, TIE Fighters could seemingly be heard screeching on their approaches in battle, despite outer space being devoid of an atmosphere for the sound waves to travel through.
George Lucas took many cues for filming his outer space dogfights from World War II footage, so it would make sense that he incorporated a horrifying reference to the actual horrors of war. Certain German fighters that would produce loud sirens during air raids to further frighten individuals.
The sound was created with a combination of an elephant's call and the sounds of a car driving on wet pavement.prevnext
The iconic vocalizations of the Wookiee are easily some of the most organic in the series, as the various roars, grunts and grumbles instantly conjure images of similar-looking real-world animals.
Various sounds were collected from bears, badgers, lions, walruses, camels and more and began to combine and manipulate them to craft Chewie's dialogue. Rather than developing specific phrases that would reflect the Wookiee's dialogue, Burtt crafted an emotional language, with different snippets of sounds being developed in hopes of conveying Chewie's mood.
While every fan has their own roar of their own, it's best to leave the sounds of the Wookiee to the professionals.prevnext
The lightsaber might be the most iconic weapon in Star Wars, but the series' blasters are memorable in their own right.
Keeping Lucas' organic soundtrack in mind, the sound of a blaster required the least manipulation when being added to the films' shootouts. Always on the hunt for new sounds, Burtt had discovered interesting reverberations what he tapped on a metallic guy-wire for a radio tower, as it perfectly blended the real world with hypothetical technological advancements.
The sound designer merely started hitting these wires with a hammer to record the strikes, making for a sound you can easily replicate around your neighborhood.prevnext
Determining the emotions of a creature like Chewbacca can prove difficult, yet the body language of performer Peter Mayhew, when combined with the facial expressions and emotional vocalizations make the job a little bit easier. To make a metal trashcan come alive, Burtt really outdid himself with R2-D2.
Rather than having an actor recite lines like what was done with C-3PO, the filmmakers relied on electronic beeps and bloops to serve as the voice for the astromech droid. Burtt decided to inject some of himself into Artoo, essentially mimicking a baby talk that would convey the droid's intended dialogue, which he then combined with the synthesizer sounds to make the perfect blend of personality and technology.prevnext
Darth Vader Respirator
The sound that is sure to give Chewbacca's roars a run for its money in how often it has been replicated, the ominous sound of Darth Vader breathing is another example of Burtt's ingenuity.
Lucas knew that Vader would be somewhere between a human and a robot, with the character tapping into those different sides when necessary. To project that duality, Burtt used a SCUBA regulator and put a microphone in the mask, with the rhythmic breathing being the organic element that was heightened ever so slightly with the underwater breathing apparatus.
No matter how much you love the series, we don't recommend replicating Vader's breathing if you have asthma.prevnext
Jabba the Hutt's bizarre quasi-pet might not get much screen time, but its obnoxious laughter has stuck with audiences ever since first hearing it.0comments
In a deviation from the norm, Burtt isn't directly responsible for Crumb's laugh, but rather Mark Dodson gets to take credit. Dodson had worked for Lucasfilm and had a pet raccoon, which Burtt hoped to make recordings of. After the raccoon got cold feet, Dodson kept the equipment to try to capture the animal's vocalizations, while adding in some of his own. Burtt was impressed enough to offer Dodson some auditions, including E.T. and, eventually, Admiral Ackbar.
According to StarWarsInterviews, Dodson took breaks from reciting Ackbar's lines, launching into a hilarious laughter and cackles to shake off his performance. Dodson might not have earned the part as Ackbar, but Burtt knew the laughter was perfect for Jabba's rat-monkey-lizard creature.prev