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In every film of the Star Wars series someone, usually one of the main characters, says the line "I've got a bad feeling about this...". It's sort of one of the catch phrases associated with the series, along with "May the Force be with you". I believe it even shows up in quite a few of the Expanded Universe media, including almost every episode of Star Wars: the Clone Wars. Is this a reference, or homage to another work? Has George Lucas, or any other offical source ever commented on where the line comes from?

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    It's the verbal equivalent of the Wilhelm Scream, something that Lucas (and other Star Wars writers) intentionally references as an in-joke.
    – Valorum
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:52
  • This is a Star Wars invention. I don't remember but I have possibly seen it in extras of DVD.
    – user931
    Mar 7, 2020 at 13:58

9 Answers 9

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If it's older than Star Wars, it doesn't come from print. While have a bad feeling about something is a natural construction in English, it isn't very popular before Star Wars and then takes off:

bad feeling about this

While this doesn't rule out Lucas using that phrase from some earlier work (perhaps not a written work, or one that escaped Google's book archive), that hypothetical earlier work can't have been so well-known that audiences would have been expected to see it as an allusion.

Beware that the figures are smoothed; while usage does increase over the years, it only really starts taking off around the late 1980s, with an InfoWorld article and perhaps a fantasy novel being among the early occurrences that feel like they're alluding to a catch phrase.

Bad feelings are of course a trope or three, but the catch phrase does seem to start with Star Wars, for which it has become rather emblematic. It has been used in all six movies, in many other works in the Star Wars franchise and elsewhere.

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  • Interesting, even the more basic phrase "bad feeling about" didn't start climbing at an appreciable rate until the 70s: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Hypnosifl
    Aug 26, 2014 at 21:48
  • I know the original Star Wars is loosely based off of The Hidden Fortress, does that google database only factor in the phrase in English or all languages and media?
    – Monty129
    Aug 26, 2014 at 22:43
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    @Monty129 Well, I have watched The Hidden Fortress and I just cannot see how anything of Star Wars can be considered as being based on that movie. It's a completely different story. Aug 26, 2014 at 23:46
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    @DavidTonhofer: Maybe that's why he considers it based "off". :-)
    – Stephan B
    Aug 27, 2014 at 6:11
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    @DavidTonhofer an experienced swordsman escorts a princess to safety with the help of 2 hapless peasants (ie R2 and 3PO), also joined by the child of a farmer. Completely different... ;) Aug 27, 2014 at 13:20
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Originally both Luke and Han Solo said a variation on this during Episode IV: A New Hope. Specifically Han's "I got a bad feeling about this." as the trash compactor activated became a catchphrase for the film. Since then it has been used in each of the films as a nod to the audience that something is about to go horribly wrong.

Since then it has been a referential phrase for Star Wars every movie and almost all of the associated media will slip it in somewhere (games, comics, book series). Though Lucas has used it in non SW films, as has Steven Spielberg, and Harrison Ford has said it in other unrelated films. Most SW parodies will slip it in, sometimes redirecting to joke of a scatological nature. But at this point it has disappeared into the vernacular cut free from its SW origins.

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"I've got a bad feeling about this" is said by one of the astronauts on the Jupiter mission in "2001: A Space Odyssey". They were discussing the possible failure of their ship's AI, HAL.

So the phrase pre-dates "Star Wars: A New Hope" by several years.

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  • Whilst true do you have any evidence that this is where it might have come from?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Apr 27, 2019 at 21:26
  • Hi there. As the question was asking, would you have any info from the creators (Lucas etc) stating it's indeed an homage? (which is a bit unlikely, though) You cna edit it into your post to improve it.
    – Jenayah
    Apr 27, 2019 at 21:27
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I've always thought it was more than just a joke. I've always thought it was a subtle reference to the Force at work. Intuition, clairvoyance, etc.

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Long before star wars, the phrase "I've got a bad feeling about this" was used by a US army sergeant captured by the Germans, in the film Battle of the Bulge, at 1hour 21 mins and 38 seconds in, just before the massacre of prisoners. I'm not sure of any earlier instances.

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    Whilst this may have been earlier, do you have any evidence you could edit in that this is where the line comes from for Star Wars?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Dec 28, 2020 at 20:02
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    Interesting; we know that other World War 2 movies and film of aerial dogfighting were influences, so this seems plausible.
    – DavidW
    Dec 28, 2020 at 20:06
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My understanding:

In the first released movie (retroactively sub-titled "A New Hope"), it wasn't a reference to anything, just appropo of the moment. IIRC, it was Han Solo who said it first just after they exited hyperspace where Alderaan used to be. I interpreted that as a display of Han's intuition/experience as a mercenary space pilot - almost in juxtaposition of "the force".

In all of the other movies, it was an in-joke/reference to the first movie.

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The phrase appears in a lot of Star Wars related material. Although not an official response by Lucas, it's speculated in the book Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine by Kevin S. Decker, Jason T. Eberl, and William Irwin that the phrase is an expression of "existential anxiety... an intuitive response to an undefined problem."

In reality though, it is likely that it was taken up as an in-joke that was repeated by various writer's of Star Wars related material.

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Everyone says it

A lot of people in a lot of different movies and literature say something along the lines of "I'm not sure about this" or "Are you sure about this".

From Wookieepedia:

If you scroll down the wikia shows the appearances of it outside "Star Wars".

Maybe it was stolen from somewhere

TV Tropes:

Possibly as a plot device.

To make more of a point Lucas has had it in 2 of his movies.

Possibly just nothing at first, but eventually became a staple of the genre.

It has been said in many of the Star Wars creations(movies, etc) this could say that at first it was just a phrase, but slowly became something that was expected.

From here, if you consider it canon.

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2001 A Space Odyssey was the first to use this line. Clearly stolen from this film, much like George Lucas stole everything else from it!!

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    This is identical to Fang's answer. Do you have any reference to support this argument? Please take our tour and refer to the help center for our guidelines. Welcome to Sci-Fi & Fantasy. Apr 26, 2022 at 6:14

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