Visionary Star Wars Concept Artist Ralph McQuarrie, Dead At 82

By Steve West | Updated

Ralph McQuarrie

Ralph McQuarrie, the man responsible for the incredible designs of the world of Star Wars, passed away at the age of 82.

A visionary artist, Ralph McQuarrie designed the characters and feel of the original films and was instrumental in making the aesthetic of the movies so iconic.

For those unfamiliar with Ralph McQuarrie’s role in bringing Star Wars concepts and images to life, we’ve included some of his concept artwork below.

It’s fantastic to see what was envisioned contrasted to the final product. In particular Ralph McQuarrie’s version of Darth Vader had far more movement and fluid grace in a single image than in all the films.

Other concepts he produced align right with what we ended up seeing on the big screen when the Star Wars franchise began hitting the big screen. Sure some of the colors ended up shifting, but the bones of the iconic characters and dress are more than there.

In addition to Star Wars, Ralph McQuarrie also worked on other projects such as concept artwork for the old Battlestar Galactica series.

Plus, there was a time when he was asked to help Gene Roddenberry mock up ideas for a Star Trek: Planet of the Titans movie. That movie never got off the ground, but McQuarrie’s ideas did end up being used in Star Trek: Discovery.

He even went on to help design beloved films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. – The Extraterrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Back to the Future, and Total Recall.

When looking back at the history of cinema, these movies were among the most iconic and influential ever. It’s really a testament to Ralph McQuarrie’s genius that he had a hand in all of these.

But Ralph McQuarrie’s work on Star Wars had the biggest impact. His concept art secured George Lucas’s deal with 20th Century Fox to make Star Wars. The images and designs helped visualize what these movies would and did become.

We truly have Ralph McQuarrie to thank for getting Star Wars made. Some of the images he created are as iconic to sci-fi fans as the movies themselves. We are particularly partial to the C-3PO image where it’s the only time the droid has a look of quiet dignity and composure.

Ralph McQuarrie will be greatly missed, but he has left a lasting impact on the visual art of genre storytelling. His work has inspired so many to move forward and create such amazing worlds.

With those initial concept pieces, Ralph McQuarrie imbued the characters with life, and in turn helped to reenergize the genre film industry that is still going strong.