Geekery: The Iconic Sounds of Star Wars

The movies’ iconic sounds – from the pew-pew of a blaster to the whoosh of a lightsaber – started with Ben Burtt and a hammer.

This cut from the Art of Film different perspective on the franchise. – the sounds used across it’s 40 year history are remarkably curated thanks to Ben Burtt‘s work on the original trilogy. Take a listen to his legacy from A New Hope through Rogue One…

Burtt discussed the plan he and Lucas created for the movies’ sound with Film Sound Today:

Since we were going to design a visual world that had rust and dents and dirt, we wanted a sound which had Squeaks and motors that may not be the smooth-sounding or quite. Therefor we wanted to draw upon raw material from the real world: real motors, real squeaky door, real insects; this sort of thing. The basic thing in all films is to create something that sounds believable to everyone, because it’s composed of familiar things that you can not quite recognize immediately.

Some of the sounds used to create the soundscape of Star Wars:

  • TIE Fighter: an extremely altered elephant bellow
  • Laser Blasts (aka pew-pews): a hammer being banged on the guy wire of a radio antenna
  • Lightsaber hum: a mash up of an old TV set and a 35mm projector
  • Speeders: a mix of a P-5 Mustang and a P-38 Lockheed airplanes
  • Imperial Walkers: a machinist’s punch press mixed with the sound of bicycle chains being dropped on concrete

He took inspiration from Ralph McQuarrie’s work when coming up with sounds, too.


What sound do you most associate with Star Wars?

  • zeno666

    A legend

    The sounds I mostly associate with Star Wars is the lightsabers and TIE-fighters.

    • ZeeLobby

      A close third for me would be the blaster noise.

    • petrow84

      This, but Vader’s re-breather tops everything.

  • petrow84

    We now all take it kinda granted. But imagine, how it was for Sir Alec Guinness, who had no idea about the final lightsaber sound, or the actors who just waved around with blaster props, not knowing what it will sound like in the movie. Or talking to David Prowse in the Vader suit.

    • zeno666

      Actually I don’t consider Lucas to be the one behind the magic of the first three movies, its every other talent behind him.
      Just look at episode 1-3 where Lucas was surrounded by yay-sayers.