The Most Hated Star Wars Villains Were Almost Much Scarier

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

In Star Wars, no bad guys seem quite as weak and disposable as the basic battle droids seen in The Phantom Menace. Everything from their forced humor to their weird design soon made these droids the most hated Star Wars villains. Originally, though, these baddies were going to be much scarier because each of them was going to be twice as tall as a human.

Prequels’ Droid Dilemma

When The Phantom Menace came out, it felt a little weird to have battle droids be the most ubiquitous foe instead of something analogous to Stormtroopers. However, the need to add a disposable robotic army was clear. In fact, the reasons why go all the way back to the original trilogy.

In A New Hope, we see what happens when a lightsaber cuts through flesh. When Luke Skywalker is being agitated by two aliens, Obi-Wan Kenobi intercedes in a surprisingly violent and gory fashion. One of the aliens (the walrus-faced dude named Ponda Boba) takes out a blaster, and Obi-Wan cuts his arm off, with the camera lingering on the bloody stump on the ground.

Combat Concerns

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What does this have to do with the inclusion of battle droids in the prequels? While we see some more lightsaber amputation in The Empire Strikes Back (namely, Luke cutting off a Wampa’s arm and getting his own hand chopped off by Vader), George Lucas was clearly starting to get concerned with how violent he should make lightsaber combat.

That’s my theory for why we don’t see Luke’s saber blows actually dismembering any of Jabba’s henchmen (seriously, he might as well be hitting them with a baseball bat) in Return of the Jedi, a movie decidedly aimed more at kids in order to sell toys.

Finding Middle Ground

Fast-forward to the late ‘90s and George Lucas has something of a dilemma on his hands. The prequels were going to focus largely on Jedi fighting foes without lightsabers, and he could either feature realistic dismemberments (making the average Jedi look as vicious as Leatherface) or once again have lightsabers magically knocking foes down without harming them (something that, honestly, fans had already criticized him for in Return of the Jedi).

Lucas found a middle ground by introducing battle droids, lifeless foes that the Jedi (like the Ninja Turtles before them fighting robotic Foot Soldiers) could slice up without upsetting anybody’s parents.

Weak Droids

It’s a good idea on paper, but many critics of the prequels point out that Lucas went a bit too far in making the battle droids both weak and incompetent. Everybody makes fun of Stormtrooper aim, but A New Hope quickly establishes them as villains capable of mass murder (the Jawas) and cruelty (like, how many times do you have to shoot Luke’s aunt and uncle before they are just smoking skeletons?).

By comparison, the battle droids seemingly existed in the prequels for the sole reason that easily killing them would make the Jedi look cool. Originally, though, the battle droids were going to be something much scarier and harder to defeat.

According to a now-defunct official Star Wars Databank entry, “early design had towering droids twice the height of humans, but subsequent iterations brought its height down to normal size.” Sadly, there isn’t much info about what this would have looked like, but we can tell from the prequels and other media how difficult these super-tall droids would have been to fight.

Missed Potential

In Attack of the Clones, we see large droids like the octuptarra tri-droid (walking eye, Hank!) and the Hailfire Droid that can only be defeated by heavy artillery. While it doesn’t put up much of a fight (we’re not counting that cool boss battle in the old SNES game), even the oversized Probe Droid in The Empire Strikes Back looks like it could have taken on Han Solo and Chewbacca easily instead of self-destructing if it had to.

In short, if the battle droids of the prequels had towered over all the Jedi facing them the way some of these other big droids do, they would have been downright frightening as foes.

Disposable Foes

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That didn’t happen, of course, and the final battle droid design gave us the dumb, disposable guys that fans know and loathe. Instead of making the Jedi look cool at the height of their power, these guys just made it look like our heroes were playing on easy mode.

Or as Harrison Ford’s Han Solo said when Luke began to successfully block blasters from a remote droid, “Look, good against remotes is one thing, good against the living, that’s something else!”