Nearly every Star Wars movie so far has either prominently featured Tatooine itself or another desert planet with significant similarities to Tatooine:

  • I - Tatooine
  • II - Tatooine again
  • III - no Tatooine, besides its cameo (although Utapau's surface has a few similarities and was based on early concept art for Tatooine)
  • IV - more Tatooine
  • V - no Tatooine
  • VI - back to Tatooine again
  • VII - Jakku = Tatooine plus a spaceship graveyard
  • R1 - Jedha = Tatooine plus a Jedi temple and some Jedi statues (it even has these guys)

So in a galaxy with seemingly endless alternative, with do the filmmakers keep showing us Tatooine (or other very similar planets)? Is Tatooine the fan favorite or Lucas' favorite or something?

What I'm looking for:
Out of universe: "Here a quote or something saying fans/Lucas/Abrams/Edwards/someone else really loves Tatooine, so they wanted to bring it back or do an homage or something...."

NOT what I'm looking for:
In universe: "Well there are only so many environments to show, so you're bound to see repeats...."

Or "Well, Tatooine is important to the plot...." (circular reasoning; The filmmakers decide the plot)

  • 2
    Well, there was a quote from Abrams here (about ep. VII) where he said he wanted to introduce new characters using familiar concepts. Out-of-universe, I guess, back in 80s, deserts were ridiculously easy and cheap to film. Feb 27, 2017 at 8:14
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    The question made me laugh... Jakku = Tatooine plus a spaceship graveyard
    – user931
    Feb 27, 2017 at 11:34
  • 5
    Arguably, Hoth might also be a desert. We have no idea how much annual precipitation it gets, if it stays cold enough that snow could have built up over decades of minimal actual snowfall.
    – Paul
    Feb 27, 2017 at 11:35
  • Worlds like Jedha, Tatooine, and Jakku might be very common throughout our Galaxy. If so, you might expect to see many desert worlds in the Star Wars galaxy too. Utapau looks like the odd one out among these because it has a semi-arid climate (or at least the parts we can see) instead of truly arid. FWIW, Tatooine has plants. You can see some scrub bushes in an arroyo in a scene with the sandpeople, and Luke drives past other scrub bushes in another scene.
    – RichS
    Feb 28, 2017 at 3:22
  • For Episode V, you might consider Hoth a "desert of snow"...
    – Essen
    Feb 28, 2017 at 12:57

4 Answers 4


Originally - Inspiration from Dune

It can be argued that George Lucas took a fair bit of inspiration from Frank Herbert's Dune series.

During the filming of David Lynch's Dune Frank Herbert noted the following

"David [Lynch] had trouble with the fact that Star Wars used up so much of Dune. We found sixteen points of identity between my novel and Star Wars. That is not to say this was other than coincidence, even though we figured the odds against coincidence and produced a number larger than the number of stars in the universe."

Frank Herbert doesn't go on to list those 16 similarities, however there are many that are quite easy to spot ourselves

  • Tatooine a desert planet / Arrakis (Dune) a desert planet
  • Both have sand crawlers
  • Both mention spice
  • Swords/knives/lightsabers are still important weapons despite the sci-fi setting
  • Jabba the Hutt / God Emperor Leto II
  • Fremen / Sand people
  • Sarlacc / Sandworm
  • Mystical Powers - The Force / The Voice

The two desert planets are the most obvious similarities between the two.

Various other people have mentioned the similarities between Dune and Star Wars:

  • "I guess I would think that George Lucas would acknowledge Herbert's contribution to the epic quality of the genre. And while Star Wars has had more commercial success and more broad-based exposure than Dune, I believe anyone who would study both Star Wars and Dune would have to acknowledge the small debt that Star Wars owes to Dune."

    John Harrison, director of Frank Herbert's Dune

  • "Of course, complicating the question, can there be any doubt that the FIRST movie version of DUNE was actually STAR WARS?..."These are not the droids you want" He uses The Voice on them! And there's a sandworm skeleton in the background! To say nothing of "The Sand People.""

    Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's science fiction

  • "It really was, because Lucas realized you couldn't really make a movie of Dune"

    Rick Austin, Vice-President of on-air for the Sci-Fi Channel

  • "Star Wars was heavily influenced by Dune."

    Kevin J. Anderson, author of both Dune and Star Wars novels

There were also rumors, that I'm still trying to substantiate, that the original script for A New Hope was rejected for being too much like Dune. So, if this was the case, the similarities that are present were those that were kept or scaled back.

Once Tatooine was used in A New Hope it will then be revisited due to it being the home of our hero and as a familiar place tying the prequels in to the originals.

Subsequent directors on the new films use desert planets to give this familiarity without totally revisiting the same places.

The story of history repeating itself was, I believe, an obvious and intentional thing, and the structure of meeting a character who comes from a nowhere desert and discovers that she has a power within her, where the bad guys have a weapon that is destructive but that ends up being destroyed

J.J Abrams - Director of The Force Awakens

Though Gareth Edwards seems to have set Jedha on a desert planet as he was trying to evoke a Jerusalem or Mecca feel about the location.

"If A New Hope is kind of like the story of Jesus, there must be a whole religion beyond that," he said. "We felt like, for 1,000 generations, the Jedi were kind of these leaders of the spiritual belief system. It's got to be like a Mecca or a Jerusalem, but in the Star Wars world.

Gareth Edwards - Director of Rogue One

  • 3
    It is by will alone, er, The Force I set my mind in motion...
    – Machavity
    Feb 27, 2017 at 13:14
  • 4
    The mind killer, fear is
    – NKCampbell
    Feb 27, 2017 at 15:29
  • 1
    And then consider that Jodorowsky's script and story boards were probably seen by Lucas at some point, and that Dan O'Bannon was a colleague of Lucas at college and was on staff for the tactical displays at least...
    – Yorik
    Feb 28, 2017 at 21:05
  • 1
    "Jabba the Hutt / God Emperor Leto II" Feels like a really big stretch. Mar 4, 2017 at 15:49
  • @suchiuomizu is it? Both giant worm/slug like creatures. Both live in deserts. Mar 4, 2017 at 15:56

It is well known Lucas was greatly inspired by Joseph Campbell, as in the Hero's Journey. Since the first movie begins in a desert I believe it is metaphorical for the "Hard" life Luke has endured and not some cushy suburban existence. I know Abrams wanted to introduce new characters in familiar settings but I believe it was a mistake but that's just a personal opinion on my part.

The frozen "desert" of Hoth from ESB represents the fact that life hasn't been perfect for the heroes even though they "saved" the galaxy.

  • 1
    That's a bit speculative, but I feel that you did a decent job of backing it with arguments.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Feb 28, 2017 at 17:13

Well if you look at it most if not all (partly in R1) where all of the most main character(s) are from desert planets it may be a tradition.

  • 1
    Can you expand on this? I'm not sure what exactly you're trying to convey.
    – Möoz
    Apr 2, 2017 at 22:14
  • 1
    As far as the main characters are concerned, only the Skywalker family are from Tatooine. Everyone else is from other places.
    – Valorum
    Apr 2, 2017 at 22:30
  • 1
    What are you saying?  “Most of the action in the story takes place on desert planets, so therefore the films are largely set on desert planets.”? The OP explicitly excluded circular reasoning like that.   But even if that is what you’re saying, it’s not clear English.  (Perhaps translated from Wookiee by Google Translate?) ⁠   :-)   ⁠ Apr 2, 2017 at 22:48

It is where Luke and Anakin are from, Obi-wan stayed there a while, and it is notable for being outside the control of the Empire and the Republic. Jakku was like Tatooine in the way that Star Wars 7 intentionally emulated the original Star Wars in many ways.

  • 8
    I feel like you didn't read to the bottom of the question. OP is asking why the filmmakers were so obsessed with portraying their characters as coming from desert planets.
    – Valorum
    Feb 27, 2017 at 11:20
  • 4
    OP specifically said he wasn't looking for "in universe" answers like "because Tatooine is important to the plot." What's important to the characters plays a large role in determining the plot in most movies.
    – Steve-O
    Feb 27, 2017 at 14:36

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