Climb on in
Star Wars appeals to audiences for many reasons. There’s the spaceship dogfights, laser sword duels between Jedi and Sith warriors, memorable main characters, and scenes set on strange fantasy planets. Most important, though, may be the wide range of non-human creatures that populate the galaxy far, far away.
With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, there’s no better time to look back on the aliens who fill the series. The Last Jedi introduces even more new aliens to the series–including more than just Porgs and crystal foxes.
From turtle nuns and scaly fry crooks to keyboard-playing elephants and three-eyed goats, these are the greatest Star Wars aliens to appear in the long-running film series so far. Check out our Star Wars: The Last Jedi review too, while you’re at it.
Watch The Empire Strikes Back at a tender enough age and the hulking, cave-dwelling Wampa becomes the stuff of nightmares. It’s huge and furry, strings its victims up by their ankles, and saves them in a natural refrigerator while it chows down on other remains. A frightening creature, it’s still at least a little sad that it had to lose an arm to learn the valuable lesson that Jedi are not to be eaten.
The latest mascot character to arrive in the Star Wars universe, the Porgs already seem to have won the hearts of viewers everywhere. Regardless of anything else (like, say, its existence solely as marketing material), the otter-meets-penguin design of the Porg is a masterclass in laser-focused cuteness.
48. Dexter “Dex” Jettster the Besalisk
Though his appearance lacks in imagination–basically a sci-fi/fantasy version of a stereotypical greasy spoon diner chef–this character compensates with sheer audacity of design. If you’re going to make an alien species out of a mustachioed fry cook in a stained t-shirt, make it look like this. And name it Dexter Jettster while you’re at it.
47. Darth Maul the Zabrak
Darth Maul is hard to separate from images of overeager early 2000s Star Wars merchandising, but take a step back, pretend to see him for the first time, and he’s not actually a bad creation. Silent and menacing in red and black, Maul may look a lot like a guy trying to scare you in face paint, but he’s also imposing enough to serve as a central villain for The Phantom Menace’s heroes. And his race, the Zabrak, are a near-human species with vestigial horns.
While the Devaronian isn’t great design per se, there’s something admirable about A New Hope’s costume department simply dressing someone up in a Halloween devil costume and calling it a day. Hail space Satan.
Criminally underused, Rogue One’s shaggy Gigoran mercenary is still great creature design. Shuffling around like a well-armed, upright polar bear, Moroff recalls the outsized design of Yeti-like characters like Chewbacca or The Empire Strikes Back’s monstrous Wampa.
44. The Caretakers
It’s hard to take the Caretakers seriously at a first glance–they are, after all, just turtle monsters wearing nun habits–but the decision to have The Last Jedi’s weirdest new aliens performed by real people in costume lends them a believability they by all rights shouldn’t possess.
43. Tusken Raiders
The Tusken Raiders, yelping and bashing Luke Skywalker about with their massive clubs, look like fever dream interpretations of First World War soldiers. Their strange language and mask-covered faces are one of the viewer’s introductions to Star Wars’ creature design early on in A New Hope. They serve as a good indication of the visual imagination that would go on to make the series what it is.
42. Jar Jar the Gungan
Sure, Jar Jar Binks sucks, but the design of his species, the Gungans, isn’t bad. Their floppy ears and duck mouths are expressive and suitably alien even if their faux-Jamaican accents distill a veritable Curb Your Enthusiasm season’s worth of second-hand embarrassment into single sentences.
Just below Jabba’s palace is a nightmare monster waiting to devour anyone unlucky enough to cross the slug gangster. Defeated by Luke with a well-timed gate to the brain, the Rancor is terrifying–until it wheezes its last breaths like a sick dog and it becomes impossible to feel anything but sympathy for the unfortunate hellbeast.
40. Greedo the Rodian
His puckered mouth may make Greedo the Rodian look like he’s always on the verge of asking for a kiss, but the rest of him is classic space grotesquery. With an extra pair of antennae-style ears atop his bright green head, Greedo is a throwback to the pulp sci-fi Martians that pre-empted the series.
39. Unkar Plutt the Crolute
The flat-faced alien who trades Rey food for scrap technology near the beginning of The Force Awakens is one of the best new creatures to appear in the film. Ugly and miserly, he doles out tiny bits of instant rising bread and sells Rey out at the first possible opportunity.
38. Admiral Ackbar the Mon Calamari
His octopus head and enormous wet eyes give the impression that Admiral Ackbar shouldn’t be spending too long on dry land. Forget the dumb “calamari” pun that gives his species its name and it’s easier to appreciate the sheer gusto that must have gone into the decision to make one of the series’ main alien characters a sea animal in a spacesuit.
From Jedi Knight Aayla Secura to Jabba’s right hand man Bib Fortuna, Twi’leks are fascinating creatures of many talents. Known for the thick, long tentacles jutting from their skulls, Twi’lek skin spans a wide variety of colors.
36. Max Rebo the Ortolan
Another classic from the substantially smaller budget days of the first Star Wars, Max Rebo is really just a keyboard playing blue elephant. That’s an idea weird enough to justify itself right there.
The Sarkan in A New Hope is basically just a dinosaur, but his brief appearance, enjoying a pull on what looks like a vape rig while wearing a floppy hat, gives him a distinctly bohemian vibe that’s definitely unique.
34. Fodesinbeed Annodue
There are a lot of bad alien designs in the prequel trilogy, but the two-headed podcast race announcers, better known as Fode and Beed, are ridiculous enough not to be counted among them. Their uncomfortably long necks and separate faces look absolutely stupid. It just so happens that it’s the kind of stupid that works within the context of The Phantom Menace.
The piggish bodyguards who patrol Jabba’s palace stick out among of the series’ most physically imposing monsters, especially since there doesn’t seem to be much going on behind their dull little eyes.
32. Nien Nunb the Sullustan
A Rebel who serves as Lando’s copilot in the Return of the Jedi’s climatic fight, his leather cap, glassy eyes, and uncomfortably wet mouth make him hard to forget. Also, he has a distinctive, hilarious laugh.
31. Weeteef Cyu-Bee the Talpini
A nasty little imp with the mutton chops of an 18th century British aristocrat, Weeteef is a notable member of Saw Gerrera’s band of partisans. He represents just one example of the excellent practical effects that went into portraying Rogue One’s cast of aliens.
This sad-looking blue demon is maybe a bit too obviously a human in makeup, but his horns and tentacles combination is just gnarly enough to make him a memorable alien. The most notable Chagrian is Mas Amedda, who served as the Vice Chair of the Galactic Senate.
By far the worst movie for cool aliens, Revenge of the Sith at least features one scene in which poor Ewan McGregor’s time in front of the green screen pays off when he’s paired with a weird beast that resembles a mixture of horse and oversized iguana.
Like Porgs, Ewoks are thinly-veiled merchandising opportunities masquerading as fun new characters. Put that aside temporarily, though, and they’re also adorable miniature bears who walk around with hoods, spears, and no pants. Cut the Ewoks a break. Plus, they had at least two of their own (terrible) live-action movies.
27. Maz Kanata
Owner of The Force Awakens’ millennia-old castle with its bustling jungle world bar, Maz Kanata ends up being an important figure when she helps Rey discover her natural affinity for the Force. It’s just too bad the turtle-like orange alien is shown only as CGI, as her design is sure to look as dated as the prequel series’ creatures in years to come.
26. Grummgar the Dowutin
Massive and largely silent, The Force Awakens’ mercenary Grummgar, with its wrinkly bald head and two chin tusks, is a minor but well-designed villain.
25. Pao the Drabata
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Rogue One’s Pao so entertaining, but it may have something to do with the fact that it alternates between looking like a constipated toad in some scenes and an amphibious howler monkey when it opens its mouth almost as wide as its head during an attack on enemy forces.
24. Maz’s House Musicians
These reggae-loving aliens are an obvious attempt to recapture the Mos Eisley players from the original trilogy, and luckily, they succeed. With names like Sudswater Dillifay Glon and Infrablue Zedbeddy Coggins, you know these weirdos are among the avant-garde of the galaxy.
Looking like reused costumes from a lost Marilyn Manson music video shoot, the Utapaun (aka Pau’ans) are one of the best designs from the otherwise lackluster prequel trilogy. They add a bit of creepy otherworldliness to the series, which is a welcome change of pace from cuter aliens.
Goats are one of the most adorable animals on our boring old Earth. Give them human bodies and three eyes jutting out from a trio of flesh-stalks and a real-world favorite gets even more interesting. Grans forever.
The Ubdurian may not look especially novel, but the infectious smiles on the twin alien’s faces (which call to mind a pair of old men enjoying a game of chess in Central Park) makes them one of The Force Awakens’ best new creatures.
20. Bistan the Lakaru
Some unlikely combination of whiskered cat and gun-wielding monkey, Bistan, like his ally Pao, steals the show every time he makes a cameo in one of Rogue One’s scenes.
More than just a sleeping bag in waiting, the furry Tauntauns ridden by Rebel soldiers in The Empire Strikes Back’s opening scenes are a great example of the practical effects work that makes the original trilogy’s aliens so memorable.
An absolutely enormous slug monster, the Exogorth is responsible for one of The Empire Strikes Back’s most unexpectedly exciting scenes. Watching Han and crew narrowly escape its gullet and the stop-motion animation that shows it gnashing away at its lost prey recalls lost footage from a Harryhausen film.
17. Bossk the Trandoshan
Aside from fan favorite Boba Fett, the scaly Trandoshan hired by Darth Vader is the most intriguing bounty hunter to show up in The Empire Strikes Back. Nobody forgets an upright lizard in a sci-fi jumpsuit.
16. Sebulba the Dug
This podracing, knuckle-walking jerk from The Phantom Menace is a great bit of creature design. Wonderful to watch scoot around with its stubby little legs kicking free in the air, the Dug is only let down by some unfortunately dated computer animation.
15. Watto the Toydarian
A flying insect with the face of a rubbery anteater, Watto the Toydarian is an early villain in The Phantom Menace. He looks like he smells pretty awful, which says something positive about his visual design.
While their name may be one of the sillier to ever grace Star Wars, the crystalline Vulptex foxes are solid creature design. They look as fearsome as they do brittle, which can’t be an easy look to pull off.
One of the famous denizens of the Star Wars universe, Yoda is remembered as much for his wild eyes, wrinkly green face, and sparse old man hair as he is for his unique understanding of English grammar. It’s too bad that he became roughly fifty percent less cool as soon as the prequel trilogy decided to show him flip-flopping around in energetic lightsaber fights.
The gas mask-wearing species called Tognath are a highlight of Rogue One. Where their flesh ends and the mechanical parts covering most of their bodies begins is anyone’s guess.
These nefarious alien bureaucrats ran the Trade Federation during the Galactic Republic, playing a crucial role in the prequel trilogy’s events. Luckily, the decision to create their perpetually aggrieved faces and blank red eyes with largely practical instead of computer-generated effects makes the scenes they appear in at least somewhat interesting.
The Happabore only appears in a single scene from The Force Awakens, but watching the truck-sized pig/elephant hybrid slurping up water from the same trough as a desperately thirsty Finn makes it stand out.
Showing up early in A New Hope, the Jawas–tiny humanoid figures with glowing eyes and surprisingly rodent-like hands poking out from their robes–are instantly intriguing. They’re made even more fascinating when viewers try to imagine what they get up to when hanging around in their desert-crossing landship, which looks like a giant slab of concrete on wheels.
A mix between horse and wooly mammoth, the Bantha is even stranger looking than the Tusken Raiders that ride them through the deserts of Tatooine.
The bulbous-headed Bith playing the music underscoring A New Hope’s introduction to Han Solo are one of the most striking creatures in Mos Eisley, which is saying something given the number of bizarre aliens that surround it.
Talz, a four-eyed, furry creature, is only glimpsed for a moment, but even a quick glance makes the bug-like alien stick out among the rest of the cantina.
5. Jabba the Hutt
A repulsive creature that resembles an overgrown slug with stunted arms and a giant flappy mouth, the hookah-loving Jabba makes Return of the Jedi’s early scenes good enough to excuse the muddled rest of the original trilogy’s worst entry.
4. Space Gary
An alien twist on Carrie Fisher’s beloved French bulldog Gary, Space Gary (as the creature’s named for now) is a small but lovely tribute to the late actor. It doesn’t hurt that regular bulldogs look close enough to aliens that adding even a slightly mutated version of one to The Last Jedi doesn’t seem out of place.
3. Salacious Crumb
Jabba’s constant companion, a nasty little rat-monkey, is one of the most irritatingly sinister (and therefore best) creatures to appear in the Hutt’s palace. Listen to the stinker cackling away at every misfortune that befalls Jabba’s guests to appreciate the true charm of this Muppet from hell.
2. Kabe the Chadra-Fan
The thirstiest little fella from A New Hope’s cantina scene, watching this tiny walking bat gratefully receive his drink with the two-handed grip of a toddler is one of the first Star Wars’ small highlights.
1. Chewbacca the Wookiee
The best there ever was, Chewbacca managed to turn the frightening prospect of an enormously strong and markedly intelligent sasquatch into the sort of friendly giant every kid who watches Star Wars dreams of having as a best friend. Despite communicating entirely in warbled growls, Chewbacca is still one of the most expressive cast members of the entire series.