Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune launched a story that would keep on captivating fans even today, with the story often being called one of the best in the history of science fiction. On the other hand, long after, George Lucas began work on his space opera titled Star Wars, which became one of the lucrative cinematic franchises in history. Now, Star Wars did premiere after Dune, but was that enough?
The Dune and Star Wars universes are, despite a lot of similarities between them, essentially quite different and that is why we cannot determine a clear winner; it all comes down to one’s personal preferences. Dune is a deeper, more symbolic work with a lot of intrigues, while Star Wars is more like a superhero saga and it all comes down to what you like more in the end.
The rest of this article is going to be divided into three sections. The first two sections are going to bring you an overview of the two series, respectively, so you know all the necessary information. Finally, we’re going to bring you a detailed analysis of the two shows to determine which one is the better of the two iterations.
How Do Dune and Star Wars Compare?
Both Dune and Star Wars are pillars of modern science fiction and works whose cultural impact is immeasurable. Dune is for literature what Star Wars is for cinema.
They are among the most famous and enduring works of their genre and are, rightfully, considered to be classics. How do they compare to each other? Well, as we’ve said, that all comes down to personal preferences.
Dune is a deeper work, full of philosophy, politics, and intrigue, and while we have that in Star Wars, Lucas’ space opera is a work that relies on heroism, hope, and the eternal fight between good and evil. These aspects are present in Dune, but the two works simply have a different focus, and that is their main difference.
In the next section, we are going to explore their similarities.
Everything Star Wars Borrowed from Dune
Now, when Star Wars debuted in 1977, Dune had already been out there for more than a decade and it’s quite obvious that Frank Herbert’s epic science-fiction work had an influence on Lucas’ work.
And while Lucas never directly acknowledged the influence, claiming that he had been, in fact, inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s 1958 jidaigeki classic The Hidden Fortress (which is true, the movies share a lot of common elements), the similarities are quite evident.
Frank Herbert himself, after seeing Lucas’ work, counted a total of 37 similarities between the movie and his literary works. In this section, we are going to list these for you. Some are more obvious, while others are a bit interpretative, but we still think that they could be classified as similarities. Let us see:
Tatooine and Arakis
This is actually the most obvious similarity, although Lucas heavily expanded on his planetary atlas in the movies. Two of the most famous planets in both Star Wars and Dune are similar in a large number of ways.
In Lucas’ Star Wars, Luke Skywalker was taken by Obi-Wan Kenobi to a desolate and nearly inhabitable desert planet on the far reaches of the galaxy called Tatooine, where his father was also born.
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, Paul Atreides and his family move to a desolate and nearly inhabitable desert planet on the far reaches of the known universe called Arrakis. Sounds familiar?
Both Tatooine and Arrakis are extremely important for the plot of the two universes and are, in a way, a central location, although – as we said – Lucas explored his galaxy more than Herbert.
While we’re at it with Tatooine feat. Arrakis, we have another one for you. Namely, both planets are home to vehicles known as sandcrawlers, although they are very different in their design and function.
In Star Wars, the cute Jawas use these large forms of transport “left over from a forgotten mining era long ago” to travel around and trade.
In Dune, however, people on Arrakis use them to mine the drug spice melange.
Moisture Farmers and Dew Collectors
This is a similarity connected to the first one as well.
Namely, Luke’s uncle Owen works as a moisture farmer on Tatooine; he basically implants devices in the desert to draw moisture from the atmosphere, which, as you might guess, is a pretty tricky thing to do in the desert.
On Arrakis, on the other hand, there is a device called a dew collector that has the exact same function.
Sarlacc and Sandworm
Okay, this one took some time to show itself, but in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the third movie of the Original Trilogy, we meet a giant, sand-dwelling worm-like creature with a giant and multi-toothed mouth called a Sarlacc.
As you might deduce, they’re not overly friendly. These creatures are very, very similar to the giant sandworms from Dune. The Sarlacc lives on Tatooine, and the sandworms live on Arrakis.
Spice is present in both universes and is, actually, a drug in both, although it’s not equally important.
In Star Wars, the Kessel mines are a well-known and rich source “spice,” a very dangerous drug; it doesn’t serve as a major plot element, though.
In Dune, the spice melange is the most powerful and desired substance of any kind in the known universe and is central to the franchise’s; spice melange is a drug that gives its user precognition among other mental and physical advantages.
The Force and The Voice
This one is not a direct one and requires a bit of imagination.
As we all know, in Star Wars, there is a mystical power called the Force, which is a source of power for both the Jedi and the Sith.
In Dune, the Bene Gesserit have a similar source called the Voice, which they’ve acquired through mental conditioning.
Jedi Bendu and Prana-Bindu
Now, this is actually a piece of history and not a direct similarity, but in the original draft of George Lucas’ script, the Jedi were called the “Jedi Bendu,” with their connection to the force retained as an element. In the draft, they were also referred to as “the most feared warriors in the universe”.
Eventually, the Star Wars canon recycled the term Bendu in the animated series Rebels, where we meet Force-sensitive entities of the same name who are an embodiment of the source of the Force.
In Dune, the Prana-Bindu is a method of training that leads to the complete control of one’s body, which greatly increases the person’s combat skills. It’s a major principle of the Bene Gesserit, whom we have already talked about.
Interestingly enough, both terms are actually derived from the Bindu symbol, which, in turn, stems from the Sanskrit word meaning “dot.” Bindu is associated with chakra and also means “the point at which creation begins and becomes unity.”
The Empire and The Imperium
The main antagonist in the original Star Wars trilogy was the Galactic Empire, ruled by the merciless Emperor Palpatine.
In Dune, the known universe is governed by the villainous Imperium.
Both of these franchises eventually focus on the downfall of these tyrannical forms of government.
Princess Leia and Princess Alia
Princess Leia Organa, who actually turns out to be Luke Skywalker’s sister, was one of the best and most beloved characters in the whole franchise and one of the symbols of hope in the series.
This, of course, is similar to Princess Alia of Dune, who is Paul Atreides’s sister with whom he shares a very powerful spiritual and psychic bond.
Luke and Leia eventually learn that they are the children of Darth Vader, the franchise’s principal antagonist.
In Dune, also, Paul and Alia eventually find out that they are the grandchildren of that saga’s main villain, Vladimir Harkonnen.
Han Solo and Duncan Idaho
The characters of Duncan Idaho and Han Solo are very similar as well. In the novel, Idaho is completely loyal to the House Atreides but is a somewhat marginal character and a maverick. He is also a ladies’ man, which gives him more than enough for a comparison with the legendary Han Solo.
In Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, we are introduced to Jabba the Hutt, a hideous slug-like creature who lives like a king on Tatooine (okay, okay, an edited version of the movie introduced him earlier, but that’s not relevant). Jabba, although despised, is one of the most famous characters from the franchise.
In the Dune universe, however, the son of Paul Atreides, Leto II Atreides, will eventually, albeit slowly, into a sandworm-like creature carried on a dais who is quite literally royalty, similarly to Jabba.
Are Dune and Star Wars Set in the Same Universe?
Frank Herbert’s Dune and George Lucas’ Star Wars are not in the same universe. They are two completely individual fictional universes, with nothing to connect them, really. They might share some narrative and structural elements, as we’ve seen, but they are not part of the same fictional universe and are completely separate.