- "There will only be one. And it won't be what I would call the 'rough cut,' it'll be the 'final cut.' The other one will be some sort of interesting artifact that people will look at and say, 'There was an earlier draft of this.' The same thing happens with plays and earlier drafts of books. In essence, films never get finished, they get abandoned. At some point, you're dragged off the picture kicking and screaming while somebody says, 'Okay, it's done.' That isn't really the way it should work. Occasionally, [you can] go back and get your cut of the video out there, which I did on both American Graffiti and THX-1138; that's the place where it will live forever. So what ends up being important in my mind is what the DVD version is going to look like, because that's what everybody is going to remember. The other versions will disappear. Even the 35 million tapes of Star Wars out there won't last more than 30 or 40 years. A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition], and you'll be able to project it on a 20' by 40' screen with perfect quality. I think it's the director's prerogative, not the studio's to go back and reinvent a movie."
- ―George Lucas on the Special Editions
The following are partial lists of changes in Star Wars re-releases. The commercial success of Star Wars has given George Lucas the opportunity to tinker with his original trilogy, now called Episode IV A New Hope, Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI Return of the Jedi. In a September 2004 MSNBC article, Lucas points out that the original films were "25 or 30 percent" of what he intended.
Many changes were motivated by the vast improvements in CGI technology and other production techniques that occurred in the two decades after the original trilogy was produced. Other changes improved the cohesiveness among the films, and eliminated continuity errors between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy.
Changes to Star Wars films after the theatrical release aren't always limited to the original trilogy. In the release of The Phantom Menace DVD, two deleted portions were either partially or completely restored.
According to Lucasfilm Ltd., the 2004 DVD versions are the canonical versions of the original trilogy. The original, unaltered theatrical editions were released (as bonus material) on DVD on September 12, 2006.
Changes to the Original Trilogy
Although not as obvious as the 1997 Special Edition re-release of the trilogy, there were still some alterations made in 1977 and 1981.
A New Hope
- The line "Episode IV: A NEW HOPE" was added to the opening crawl from 1981 forward. The crawl was also reformatted for the music to stay in synchronization. In addition to the reformatting, the new opening crawl also capitalized the word "rebel" in "rebel spies", which was not capitalized in the original 1977 crawl.
The film was originally released with 35mm Dolby Stereo and 70mm 6-track audio. Since these were both mastered from the same mix stems, there is little to no difference between them in terms of content. However, a mono mix was produced in June 1977 for exhibition in cinemas with no Dolby Stereo or Surround support, which did contain the following changes in content from the other versions.
- As Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan, and the droids approach the Cantina in the mono sound version, a Cantina musical cue can be heard.
- C-3PO's line "Use the comlink? Oh my! I forgot, I turned it off." is from an alternate take.
- As the stormtroopers chase Han and Chewbacca, one now says "Close the blast doors!" before the rebels narrowly run through.
- When R2-D2 shows the schematics of the Death Star's tractor beam, C-3PO now speaks over the scene, the line being "The tractor beam is coupled to the main reactor in seven locations. A power loss at one of the terminals will allow the ship to leave."
- The line "Blast it, Biggs, where are you?" from the original stereo sound version was changed to "Blast it, Wedge, where are you?" to fix continuity.
- Aunt Beru's lines are alternate takes (possibly even a different actress).
- During the search of Mos Eisley for the droids, the stormtrooper's lines have been changed from "Alright, check this side of the street. The door's locked. Move on to the next one." to "Alright, check that side of the street. It's secure. Move on to the next one."
- More growls are added to Chewbacca that were not present in the stereo and surround mixes.
- Computer sounds are heard when Luke fires up the Millennium Falcon's targeting system.
- A short beep can be heard when the Death Star's superlaser system is booted up to fire at Alderaan.
- The speech over the X-Wing's radios have less garble and static, and some lines are from alternate takes.
- Luke groans when he gets dragged by the Dianoga into the trash compactor's murky waters for a second time.
- When R2-D2 falls over after being shot by the Jawas, the thud when he hits the ground is different.
- The pipe creaks when it is being bent by the trash compactor walls.
- The line "What good will it do us if he gets himself killed?" spoken by Luke is from an alternate take.
- The heavy echo from Luke and Leia's speech at the chasm is absent.
- The blaster sound is different when Leia fires it at the Stormtroopers.
- Porkins' scream when he is hit is cut out.
- The voices announcing the progress of the Death Star's journey to Yavin 4 is different.
The Empire Strikes Back
The 70mm version of the film was substantially different from the 35mm version that was more widely seen.
- After the Probot lands and moves left, there is an optical wipe to the overhead shot of Luke on his Tauntaun.
- The Wampa is shown in full form eating the carcass of the Tauntaun and approaching Luke, we see the battle between Luke and the Wampa with his arm getting cut off in full form as well.
- After Luke wanders through the snow and falls face down, there is an optical wipe to Han instead of a straight cut.
- The bacta tank scene starts on a close-up of Two-One-Bee and pans right to a closeup of Luke in the tank. It then cuts to FX-7 extending its arm to the tank. There is no cut to Leia, Han and Threepio observing.
- In the snow battle scene, when Luke drops into the snow after throwing a charge into the Imperial walker, the AT-ST in the background has no atmospheric depth. It looks too close and small.
- In the Emperor scene, the hologram of the Emperor is already present in the first shot - it does not "tune in" gradually.
- The Imperial fleet establishing shot after the cave scene has a different TIE Fighter sound effect.
- When Luke falls from Cloud City into the Millennium Falcon, the Falcon's radar dish is not added to the shot.
- The telepathy between Luke and Vader during the "Hyperspace" cue has straight cuts instead of quick dissolves.
- On Hoth, right after C-3PO tells R2 to "Switch off," R2 gives out a little 'blurp.'
- When Luke finally collapses in the snow, he lets out a grunt as he lands on his face.
- Luke says an additional "Ben… Dagobah…" just before Han says "and I thought they smelled bad on the outside."
- When C-3PO tells Luke "It's so good to see you fully functional again," Luke replies "Thanks, Threepio."
- The line "Headquarters personnel report to Command Center" is repeated three times instead of two.
- When R2 is being loaded into Luke's X-Wing, C-3PO says the word "and" before saying "do take good care of yourself."
- Han's line "Transport, this is Solo. Better take off, I can't get to you. I'll get her out on the Falcon" is followed by, "Come on!"
- In the asteroid field, after C-3PO says "Oh, this is suicide." He says, "There's nowhere to go."
- After R2-D2 is spat out by a random monster, Luke says, "You're lucky you didn't taste very good". This is changed to him saying, "You're lucky to have gotten out of there".
- Yoda makes a frightened "Ehhhhh!" sound just before Luke says "Like we're being watched" and points his blaster at him.
- Yoda says the word "Run!" before "Yes. A Jedi's strength flows from the force." The following lines "But beware the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side of the force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight" are also much louder and clearer.
- In Cloud City, after C-3PO says "That sounds like an R2 unit in there. I wonder if it…" he says "Hello?" only once instead of twice.
- Before C-3PO gets shot, a different voice says "Who are you?"
- While C-3PO is on Chewbacca's back when they enter the carbon freezing chamber, the line "Now remember, Chewbacca, you have a responsibility to me, so don't do anything foolish" is louder and heard more clearly.
- During the duel, when Luke knocks Vader from the platform, Vader lets out an "ooooh!" instead of an "aaargh!"
- Lando's line at the end, "Luke, we're ready for takeoff." is a different take.
- In the final scene, there is no tracked music from "Yoda and the Force".
- When Lando's head comes out of the hatch to get Luke it's actually the head of a doll.
Return of the Jedi was left unaltered.
TV Broadcasts and VHS/Betamax/CED Editions
The mono mix was used for a 1980s UK ITV broadcast. There were also some minor changes made to a few 1980's pan and scanned TV broadcasts such as squeezing in the second Tusken Raider while looking through Luke's macrobinoculars.
The original releases of A New Hope on VHS, Betamax, and RCA's CED featured the Dolby Stereo mix, identical to that heard on the 35mm theatrical prints. Playing the mix through a home Dolby Pro-logic decoder authentically recreates the original 4-channel surround experience. This mix did not contain the line uttered by C-3PO "The tractor beam is coupled to the main reactor in seven locations. A power loss at one of the terminals will allow the ship to leave." This line was only present in the original mono mix. For the 1985 VHS/laserdisc releases, Ben Burtt supervised the creation of a new, digitally remastered audio track and the line was heard for the first time on home video.
Due to technical and cost limitations, the CED editions of A New Hope are presented time-compressed (sped up by 3%) from its original 121-minute length to 118 minutes to fit one double-sided two-hour disc.
In the UK and throughout Europe widescreen VHS versions of the original three films were released in 1991. An advertisement before the films started explained how widescreen showed more of the picture. They were re-released in 1994 with different artwork and released a third time as THX versions in 1995.
The VHS reissue in 1995, which was the last available release of the Pre-Special Edition trilogy prior to the 2006 DVD release, utilized THX digital remastering to enhance the picture and sound quality on all three films.
Due to technical limitations, most pan and scan versions of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back are presented time-compressed (sped up by 3%) from their respective 121- and 125-minute lengths to fit one double-sided 2-hour disc. Letterbox versions of the original theatrical releases of the original three films have also been released.
The initial 1989 North American widescreen release of "A New Hope" suffered from a shrinking aspect ratio. The master that was used was the Japanese subtitled Laserdisc, in which the image appeared higher in the screen to allow for subtitles. For the North American release, it was shifted down, and a black bar was put up to cover the unused parts. However, as the film progresses, the image creeps up on the screen moving underneath the top bar, causing the image to become increasingly wider. By the time the film reaches the Battle of Yavin scenes, the image has widened from 2.35:1 to 2.55:1. This problem was fixed in the 1992 re-issue of the disc. The original shrinking LD has the CBS/Fox logo on it, but the fixed edition has the newer "Fox Video" logo on the jacket. The 3PO line about the tractor beam can be heard on this laserdisc.
In 1993, the Star Wars Trilogy: The Definitive Collection box set was released. This version featured the original trilogy on 9 CAV discs, widescreen transfers, THX remastering, audio commentary tracks, assorted bonus features, a copy of the hardcover book George Lucas: The Creative Impulse, and for "Star Wars IV: A New Hope", a new surround sound audio mix. This mix, digitally remastered by Ben Burtt and Gary Summers, was supposedly a mix of the best elements of all three original mixes . However, it is primarily a fold-down of the 6-track 70mm mix, with some mono mix elements and additional elements "dialled in". An interview with Dave Schnuelle, printed in a 1993 issue of Widescreen Review, corroborates these observations.
Initial versions of this box set were missing approximately 10 seconds from "The Empire Strikes Back". Fox Video offered a replacement disc, and this mistake was corrected in later pressings. 
The final Laserdisc edition of the original trilogy was released in 1995, sourced from the 1993 masters. 
In 1997, Episodes IV, V, and VI were re-mastered and theatrically re-released as the "Special Editions." For the re-release, in addition to extensive clean-up and restoration work, Lucas also made a number of changes to the films in order to "finish the film the way it was meant to be" (as Lucas said in a September 2004 interview with the Associated Press).
Many of Lucas's changes for the Special Editions were cosmetic, generally adding special effects which weren't originally possible. Other changes, however, are considered to have affected plot or character development. These changes, such as the change referred to by fans as "Han shot first," have proven to be controversial. The "Han shot first" situation can be generally described as this: in the original release of Episode IV, the character Han Solo shoots and kills a bounty hunter named Greedo, after Greedo threatens to kill him in order to collect a bounty which had been placed on Solo's head by Jabba the Hutt. In the Special Edition of the film, however, Greedo shoots first at close range. Only after he misses does Solo return fire. George Lucas has been quoted in Entertainment Weekly as saying that this version of the scene was meant to be the original, as in the original storyboards (Greedo fires first at Han Solo).
- In 2000, this version had box art redesigned to match the Box Art of Episodes I–III except the front of the box was white for Episodes IV and VI while Episode V retained the black used for the Prequel box art. Also the Star Wars logos on Episodes IV–VI used the logo design as featured for Episodes I–III. This was done to create a more uniformed look for all 6 movies.
Special coverage on CNN in 1997 notes that Lucas spent $10 million to rework his original 1977 film, which was roughly what it cost to film it originally. $3 million of that was spent on the audio track for the special edition. Lucas also spent $2.5 million each on Episodes V and VI.
The following is a partial list of changes aside from overall audio and visual alterations:
A New Hope
- Opening credits have been altered completely to achieve a uniform style in the original trilogy.
- A revised Jawa sandcrawler. The sunset progression has been enhanced, having the sky darkened, and at the end, adding stars to the newly darkened sky. The scene where R2-D2 is captured has been tinted red to resemble a sunset.
- A new digital matte painting of the sandcrawler and extended sky were added when the Jawas are setting up shop in front of the Lars farm. Artificial zooming in is also present. More vaporators have been added but they disappear in subsequent shots.
- Extended shot of the stormtroopers search for the missing droids with additional troopers riding dewbacks. A Sentinel-class landing craft can be seen taking off, and new (costumed) stormtroopers have been added to the scene.
- The Lars dinner scene has a slight audio manipulation from Aunt Beru: "Luke's just not a farmer Owen. He has too much of his father in him." There is a slight pause before she says father and the word "father" is changed to sound more worrisome.
- More CG dewbacks have been added in front of the Cantina, and a stormtrooper is shown dismounting from one as C-3PO says "I don't like the look of this" and the droids look on.
- New shot of Ben Kenobi's hut done in CG replaces a previous shot of the Landspeeder parked near Ajim.
- A pilot droid has been digitally added to most scenes with Imperial Stormtroopers on Tatooine.
- Luke's landspeeder hovers over the ground in a cleaner and more "realistic" manner.
- Skeletal remains of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen were enhanced.
- Mos Eisley is bigger and busier with an extended opening showing dinosaur-like rontos and the original speeder that would have been in the first version, slapstick Jawas, and droids. Dash Rendar's ship, the Outrider. Two stormtroopers can also be seen in a far shot standing watch.
- A short pause of the camera features a Jawa being bucked from its Ronto mount.
- The far shot of Mos Eisley spaceport, shows a ship taking off from the ground.
- New aliens are seen in the Cantina replacing the "Wolfman" characters in two shots, though the Defel still appears in the cantina. Although these new characters look different from each other, they are actually both portrayed by the same mask. The mask was just turned around backwards for the second creature.
- Han’s last line to Greedo, "Yes, I’ll bet you have", was re-recorded to a more calm "I'll bet you have."
- Greedo now fires an inaccurately aimed shot at Han before being shot in the cantina while Han bobs his head slightly to "dodge" the shot. (It's worth noting that, although it seems like a minor change, it caused a great uproar in the community, and thousands of fans complained.)
- A CGI version of Jabba the Hutt confronts Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon's launch bay, replacing a Human actor from a deleted scene that is now re-inserted after the Greedo scene. New dialogue was recorded in the Huttese language for this scene. Also, Boba Fett has been added to the scene as a bystander and in one scene a close-up.
- Due to a color timing error, when Luke swings his father's lightsaber in Ben's hut, it appears green (instead of blue).
- A new Mos Eisley scene of the Falcon taking off with Troopers firing upon it. The angle of the Falcon flying off has also been adjusted.
- Large Praxis-effect shockwaves from the destruction of Alderaan and the Death Star have been added, and Alderaan's explosion itself redone.
- Due to color timing errors, a "pink glow" was apparent in many of the new Tatooine scenes, including the extended entry into Mos Eisley.
- The Death Star docking bay is revised to be more consistent with the one seen in Return of the Jedi, most notably in the overhead shot when the Millennium Falcon has landed.
- C-3PO's line where he describes the tractor beam's power systems is put back in.
- New superimposed shots of the stormtroopers in the Death Star after Han Solo charges them, with extra "return fire" as Han flees the regrouped troopers.
- When Han Solo and Chewbacca are chasing a squad of stormtroopers on the Death Star, instead of running to a dead end with more stormtroopers, the pair end up at a hangar bay with seemingly hundreds of stormtroopers and officers. Laser fire was increased in the next scene where Chewbacca approaches the corner.
- The flashes of blaster impacts on the Imperial officers' chests were censored in all but one shot.
- "Close the blast doors!" is put back into the scene where Han and Chewbacca jump through the doors as they close.
- A digital version of a shot of the Millennium Falcon flying below the Planet Yavin towards Yavin 4.
- A scene between Luke Skywalker and Biggs Darklighter, just before the Battle of Yavin. A pilot has been digitally inserted walking past the camera at one point to mask a deleted line by Red Leader (which in the script indicated that he knew Luke's father and his reputation as a pilot).
- New CG shots of the X-Wings and Y-Wings taking off from Yavin 4 (in the original version, they just appeared as white dots) and assembling in front of the Death Star.
- New, additional, and revised dogfighting and attack run scenes during the battle with the Death Star
- The line "Blast it Biggs, where are you?" was changed back to "Blast it Wedge, where are you?"
- After Red Leader's unsuccessful trench run, the line "He's on your tail!" was added to the film.
- A blast scar indicating Red Leader's missed shot has been added to shots of the exhaust port, visible when Luke fires his.
- The shot of the Rebel fighters flying to the Death Star and away from the Death Star has been revised.
- Some garbage matte boxes around starships in space were removed (but some still remained).
- During the victory celebration, as Luke, Han and Chewbacca enter the assembly hall, Rebel soldiers standing on the sides were cardboard cutouts in the original, they have now been replaced with actors composited in.
- James Earl Jones was added to the credits as the voice of Darth Vader.
- "Luke's Theme" is partially repeated in the ending credits music to make room for the Special Edition release credits.
The Empire Strikes Back
- The opening credits were altered to lessen the effect that they move side-to-side sporadically.
- New scenes on Hoth with a fiercer-looking wampa ice creature (man in a suit), including showing the wampa screeching in agony following the loss of its limb. Two close-up shots of the original wampa mask are still noticeable.
- The opening battle sequence was cleaned up.
- Cockpits of the Snow speeders were cleaned up so as not to appear transparent.
- The blaster bolts of the TIE Fighters have been made more green.
- New and additional shots of Cloud City with a CG Falcon and Cloud Cars approaching and flying through.
- New sequence added following a Cloud Car patrolling Cloud City.
- In the scene where Luke heads to Cloud City, the Cloud Car is replaced by a Tibanna refinery. (The Tibanna refinery is almost panned and scanned out of the full screen DVD version. The right side of the refinery can be seen briefly in the full screen DVD version if played on a PC.)
- Several wall panels have been digitally replaced with windows on Cloud City.
- Background cityscapes have been replaced in some areas with new CG versions.
- Luke's line, "You're lucky you don't taste very good," after R2-D2 is spit out by a Dagobah swamp creature, is changed to "You were lucky to get out of there."
- An additional CG shot of Slave I pursuing the Millennium Falcon out of the Star Destroyer's floating garbage has been added.
- Lando Calrissian says "Attention" twice when he speaks on the Cloud City PA.
- Shot of Tian Chyler, a Bespin Wing Guard and an unidentified blonde woman listening to Lando on the Cloud City PA ordering the evacuation of the city are added. Exterior shot of people milling about in Downtown Plaza.
- Luke screams as he jumps off the platform in Cloud City (the scream is actually lifted from the Emperor's death scream from Return Of The Jedi)
- Darth Vader's line "Bring my shuttle." is changed to "Alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival." The rest of the scene is extended with an additional shot of Vader walking to his shuttle and arriving on his Star Destroyer, where an outtake from Return of the Jedi was used (that's Moff Jerjerrod with his lines muted out who greets Vader).
- A digital hatch has been added to replace the white light that appears when Lando opens the outer hatch of the Falcon to rescue Luke.
- Some garbage matte boxes around starships were removed (but not all).
- "The Imperial March" is partially repeated in the ending credits music to make room for the Special Edition release credits.
- James Earl Jones was added to the credits as the voice of Darth Vader.
Return of the Jedi
- A new Jabba's Palace Band musical number, "Jedi Rocks" replaces "Lapti Nek"; Oola is now accompanied by three back-up dancers. Some other footage is added from the extended music video of Lapti Nek .
- Boba Fett is briefly shown flirting with Rystáll Sant at Jabba's palace, and walking past Jabba.
- A new shot of Oola was added showing her getting up inside the rancor's den and screaming.
- Subtitles have been added to the dialogue between Boushh and Jabba the Hutt when discussing the bounty for capturing Chewbacca, although C-3PO still interprets the conversation.
- Added scene on Tatooine of a herd of Banthas before heading to the Pit of Carkoon.
- Right after the scene of the Banthas, the poorly composited guard walking about on the Sail Barge's deck was redone.
- A revised version of the Sarlacc at the base of the Pit of Carkoon which features a beaklike mouth and extra tentacles.
- When the skiff Han and Chewbacca are on is shot at from Jabba's barge, it now rocks to the side and forward rather than its original forward tilt.
- CGI rope has been added around Han's ankles as he hangs onto the skiff by his feet.
- In the original version, where Han is about to shoot the tentacle that is grabbing Lando, Han says "It's all right, trust me!" In the Special Edition, Han says "It's all right, I can see a lot better!"
- In the original version, a flight of four TIE Fighters appear from behind the camera flying towards the Death Star and disappear a second before the scene changes to the Emperor's arrival. This is corrected and the fighters continue heading toward the Death Star.
- As with the destruction of the first Death Star, the second has been given a shockwave ring.
- At the end of the trilogy after the Empire is defeated, scenes of celebration on Endor, Bespin, Tatooine, and Coruscant are shown. The "Ewok Celebration" song (often referred to as "Yub Nub") during this sequence has been replaced with an entirely new John Williams composition, "Victory Celebration". A few quick shots of the Ewoks celebrating by bonfires and with different musical instruments (horns) have been added.
- During the end celebration, a brief shot of Luke hugging Wedge Antilles was inserted.
- "Parade of the Ewoks" is partially repeated in the ending credits music to make room for the new Special Edition release credits.
- James Earl Jones was added to the credits as the voice of Darth Vader.
In 2004, in addition to an extensive and comprehensive hi-definition digital cleanup and restoration job by Lowry Digital, the original trilogy films were changed once again for their release on DVD. In these new versions of the films, a few changes which had been made for the 1997 Special Editions were removed. Even more changes were made to the films, however. With this release, Lucasfilm created a new high-definition master of the films, which will be used in future releases as well. Its sound mix was a combination of the first SE mix and the original mono mix.
One of the most notable of these new changes includes new footage shot during the filming of Revenge of the Sith of Ian McDiarmid portraying Palpatine, which has been inserted into The Empire Strikes Back, which replaces the original performance (voiced by actor Clive Revill and portrayed by Elaine Baker, wearing a specially made mask) recorded for the film. Another notable and quite controversial change was to a scene at the end of Episode VI, when the spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Anakin Skywalker look upon the Rebels' celebration. The original actor who played Anakin in this scene (Sebastian Shaw) was replaced by Hayden Christensen, the actor who played Anakin in Episodes II and III.
In 2005, the 2004 Special Editions were again released on DVD; however, this time they were repackaged and sold as a three-disc set that did not include the bonus materials disc. This was done to provide a more affordable trilogy set.
The 2004 DVD changes were made in an attempt to make a better connection between the old and new trilogies. The 2004 DVD releases also received John D. Lowry's digital restoration visual enhancement treatment. The following is a partial list of changes:
A New Hope
- Darth Vader's voice filter was changed to match the rest of the saga.
- The Star Destroyer's pursuit of Tantive IV in the very beginning was sped up to make it look more like a real chase. The engines on the ships are also improved to look more realistic.
- As the droids are leaving in the escape pod, an improved matte with more effects has been added to the outer space background to show the stars in more detail, and remove the blue tint to them.
- A buzz is now heard when R2-D2 opens the escape pod aboard Tantive IV.
- When the Jawa Sandcrawler stops outside the Lars Homestead, C-3PO says "We've stopped" before telling R2-D2 to wake up. He also says "Wake up!" an additional time.
- The Long shot of Luke's Landspeeder in the canyon, with the two Tusken Raiders taking aim has been improved upon. Now instead of being merely a moving white "blob" the landspeeder is actually seen in minute detail.
- Obi-Wan Kenobi's scream to scare off the Sand People has been changed to a higher-pitched wail. The new version of Kenobi's scream in the 2004 version sounds similar to a krayt dragon (first seen in Star Wars Galaxies). This is similar to the sound that Boga on Utapau in Revenge of the Sith makes. Previously the sound had a dewback roar tacked onto the end.
- A brief shot of Luke's landspeeder as it enters Mos Eisley carrying Luke, Ben Kenobi, and the droids has been redone.
- The odd "pink glow" is removed from the extended Mos Eisley entrance sequence (which includes what is described in the precedent entry).
- The Han/Greedo scene is redone yet again, so that Greedo and Han shoot at almost exactly the same moment, but Greedo is still fractionally ahead. Han also dodges Greedo's shot by moving to his right in the new version in a slightly more lifelike manner. In addition, Han's original "Yes, I'll bet you have" line was restored, but was moved to a few frames earlier.
- An improved CGI version of Jabba the Hutt now confronts Han Solo in the scene added to the 1997 re-release. This new version more closely resembles the way Jabba looked in Episode I.
- When the docking bay controller tries to contact TK-421, slightly audible static can be heard over the communicator.
- The matte painting in the detention block has been extended, making the corridor seem longer. The painting's perspective has been edited to make it appear more realistic.
- The dianoga's eye stalk that pops up over the water to spy on the heroes has been modified so that it blinks.
- In the Death Star, several shots have been inserted that are previous shots of Obi-Wan searching for the tractor beam generator. These shots are the reverse of their previous state to ensure the scene isn't inserted 'same'.
- After Han shoots Greedo, a frying sizzle can be heard.
- Due to color timing errors, R2-D2's blue domes are now a much brighter blue while he is on the Tatooine sands with Threepio after the pod crashes (compare to his coloration in other scenes).
- Due to color timing errors, Princess Leia's makeup appears very caked on and pasty in several scenes, especially those on the Tantive IV (also in Episode VI on the Endor mission).
- Due to color timing errors, the Rebel troopers on the Tantive IV sometimes appear to be wearing blue uniforms (they are actually gray in most shots).
- The colors of some spaceship explosions have been changed.
- The colors depicting the destruction of the planet Alderaan and the Death Star were changed.
- The English writing in the Death Star tractor beam control panel ("POWER - TRACTOR BEAM 12 (SEC. N6)" and "INOPERATIVE") is changed to the standard Star Wars "foreign" (Aurebesh) writing. The word "INOPERATIVE" is panned and scanned out of the full screen DVD version.
- An audible bump was added to the infamous gaff where the stormtrooper on the screen-right shacks his head on the door-frame when they break into the control room. This mistake had been hinted at in Episode II (When Jango Fett - escaping from Obi-Wan on Kamino - bangs his helmet on the closing door of the Slave I.)
- Line "There's no one here" has been added as the stormtroopers are searching the Falcon.
- Luke and Leia's voice echo when they are trapped in the Death Star chasm has been redone more realistically.
- The glow effect of the lightsabers has been slightly revised, though not without flaws. (NOTE: In Luke's training on the Millennium Falcon, the lightsaber is not blue as it ought to be in every shot; for one shot the blade is green, and for the others it was not colored at all and remains white. In the new version the lightsaber is green in almost every shot except near the end, when Luke dons the helmet and begins to block the shots fired by the remote. There are also several lightsaber mistakes still visible in the battle between Obi-Wan and Vader, such as Vader's lightsaber changing color, and Obi-Wan's missing its core, plus a few far shots still show uncolored lightsabers)
- Additionally, the first instance of Luke swinging a lightsaber, in Ben's hut, has been fixed so that it is blue again (the glow effect is remarkably different than when it is seen again on the Falcon).
- Obi-Wan's lightsaber blade is thinner than previous versions in every shot, including when he uses it in the Cantina.
- John Williams's score has been quieted or eliminated from some portions of the Battle of Yavin scene, such as "The Force Theme" when the X-Wings make their first attack run which is now drowned out by the loud engines (except on the French audio track).
- During the dialogue between Tarkin and Leia, their voices change modulation noticeably mid-sentence, and Leia's lines exhibit background hiss whenever she speaks.
- The shot of the Y-Wings descending to make the first attack run has been fixed. Originally, the two lead Y-Wings disappear when their leading edges touch the bottom of the screen but the third one smoothly moves out of frame like it should. Now all three move smoothly out of frame.
- When R2-D2 walks toward the cantina, he gives an angry beep to the Dianoga standing outside.
- The left and right rear channels of the score have also been swapped. 20th Century Fox claims these and other audio changes are "deliberate creative decisions" and not mistakes.
- The line "Blast it Wedge, where are you?" was changed back to "Blast it Biggs, where are you?"
- The "He's on your tail!" that was added for the 1997 Special Edition was removed.
- The Code Cylinders in Grand Moff Tarkin's uniform jacket no longer move up and down between shots.
- As the blast door closes after Luke blasts the controls, Darth Vader's lightsaber glow was added.
- The credits are unchanged from the 1997 Special Edition, except that the format was changed to make it more in line with the credits roll of the prequel trilogy.
The Empire Strikes Back
- The wording in the opening credits has subtle transparency errors.
- In a scene where Darth Vader speaks to the Emperor via hologram, the Emperor is now Palpatine as portrayed by Ian McDiarmid (in the original film and the Special Edition, Elaine Baker, wearing a specially made mask with chimpanzee's eyes superimposed over her own portrayed the Emperor, whose voice was dubbed in by Clive Revill.) A few lines of new dialogue have been added to this scene as well, in which Palpatine informs Vader that their new enemy is "the offspring of Anakin Skywalker."
- Due to color timing issues, the explosion accompanying the destruction of the shield generator appears with a strange tint of green and purple.
- The four lines spoken by Boba Fett (Originally in the voice of Jason Wingreen) are now in the voice of Temuera Morrison, the actor who played Jango Fett (Boba Fett's clone "father"). The engine sounds of his ship, Slave I, have also been modified to sound as they did in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
- The odd "pink glow" on the scene where the Cloud Car is replaced by the Tibanna refinery in the Special Edition version is removed.
- In both the original and Special Edition versions of the film, during the scene in which Han is lowered into the carbon-freezing chamber, a shadow on the actor's clothing has given rise to a rumored (but false) wardrobe blooper of him wearing his dark jacket during one shot (behind the scenes shots of the scene dispel the rumor). The "jacket" has been digitally erased in this release.
- The tracked Emperor death scream by Luke Skywalker introduced in the Special Edition re-release, which is heard during Luke's voluntary fall from the Cloud City platform after his fight with Vader, was removed.
- In the original and special edition, when Darth Vader asks if the Falcon's hyperdrive is deactivated, Admiral Piett's rank plaque and code cylinders are on the wrong side of his uniform (the plaque is supposed to be on the left side of his tunic, but it was on his right side). This is corrected and Piett has the correct rank placement on his uniform. The same was done for another officer in the same shot.
- Due to color timing issues, Darth Vader's lightsaber in the Luke/Vader duel now looks pink instead of red in almost all the shots it is in (this problem is also in the Episode VI lightsaber duel as well). It also changes to orange in a few shots (when Vader leaps at Luke in their duel in the Carbon freezing chamber, and when they encounter in the cave on Dagobah).
- Due to color timing issues, Yoda appears much more green than in previous versions, although this is also true of his incarnation in the prequel trilogy and therefore may have been intentional.
- At least one shot of R2-D2 in space has been modified with CG recoloring to make him have blue panels instead of black (the blue screen technique in the original film removed all color from the droid). With the new coloring, his black central "eye" appears much smaller than normal. Despite this fix, R2-D2's domes appear black in several other shots throughout this release of the trilogy.
- The credits are unchanged from the 1997 Special Edition, except that the format was changed in make it more in line with the credits roll of the prequel trilogy. Consequently, Clive Revill remains credited as the voice of the Emperor, despite being replaced by McDiarmid, who remains uncredited.
Return of the Jedi
- The dialogue spoken by Jabba the Hutt in the scene where he is discussing the price for Chewbacca that had the subtitles added in the 1997 Special Edition has the subtitles removed, making C-3PO's dialogue in the scene relevant again.
- The matte lines on the rancor have been completely erased and the blue screen glow on the figure of Luke has been removed, with the colors being retimed to match, making the two appear to be in the same scene together.
- During the Speeder Bike chase through the Forests of Endor, Luke's Speeder Bike has had its speed decreased when Luke slows down to attack the two Imperial scouts following Himself and Leia. This was made to add realism upon braking speed and to also match Commander Neyo's Speeder Bike attack upon Jedi Master Stass Allie on Saleucami in Revenge of the Sith.
- The effects of the scene from the interior of the Imperial Shuttle have been again improved, as to further decrease the transparency, which caused the Forest Moon of Endor to be seen through the cockpit in earlier releases.
- Due to color timing errors, Leia's makeup in the shuttle on their way to the Endor mission and on the ground appears very caked on and pasty.
- Vader's lightsaber appears pink or red-violet in several scenes, then changes back to the normal red (compare the shot where he is searching for Luke who is hiding, versus most of their fight prior).
- At the beginning of the duel between Luke and Vader, in the scene where their sabers clash in front of the Emperor's face, the scene has been noticeably darkened. The lowered brightness hides the "Emperor's slugs" gaffe (dark colored blobs on the actor's hood to cover gaps in the makeup). This darkening makes the lightsabers appear to intersect, and makes it appear that Vader's saber is in front of Luke's, suggesting that he was trying to kill his master rather than defend him (this is of course an unintended consequence of the gaffe).
- In Anakin Skywalker's final scene, when he is not wearing his helmet, the eyebrows of actor Sebastian Shaw have been digitally removed. This is meant to indicate what happens to Anakin's eyebrows when he gets burned alive on Mustafar after the duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. His eyes have also been changed to blue, to better resemble the Anakin portrayed by Hayden Christensen in the prequel trilogy. His skin tone has also been altered so it appears gray and colorless, instead of fleshy and pale like it was previously (also compare to his exposed head in Empire Strikes Back).
- Another scene of celebration, this one on Naboo, is shown after the Empire is defeated, some Gungans partake in the celebration, and one is heard chanting "Wesa free!", Some Star Wars fans believe that this is Jar Jar Binks even though it is not Jar Jar's voice.
- On the Coruscant celebration scene, one can see the Galactic Senate building in the distance at the start of the shot, and the Jedi Temple at the end. These replaced generic buildings that appeared in the 1997 Special Edition. This is meant to indicate that the Jedi Temple was not destroyed during the Great Jedi Purge. We can also see a stormtrooper being "crowd-surfed" against his will and uttering the infamous Wilhelm scream.
- In the final scene where the spirits of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Yoda appear to Luke, the Sebastian Shaw (as Anakin) has been replaced by Hayden Christensen. Hayden's entire body replaces Shaw's, not just his head as many people believe (by comparing shots of the two actors, you can see that their belts, robes and cloaks are in different positions). Lucas has said that the reason he made this change was because after redemption, Anakin returned to his "inner persona," once one with the Force, and appeared the way he was before he turned to the dark side of the Force.
Note that in all three films, the ending credits have remained unchanged from the Special Edition releases in 1997. Thus, they do not reflect such changes as Ian McDiarmid's Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back or Hayden Christensen's Anakin in Return of the Jedi. However, the font was changed in order to reflect the credits of the prequel trilogy. In the case of pan-and-scan versions of the re-releases, the 2004 DVD releases were pan-and-scanned differently from the 1997 theatrical releases.
2006 DVD release
On September 12, 2006, the original trilogy was re-released on DVD for a limited time (until December 31, 2006). Each film (Episodes IV, V, and VI) is packaged as a two-disc set with the first disc presenting the 2004 Special Edition with remastered THX sound and video and the second disc containing the "original, unaltered theatrical release" of each film as "bonus material".
These original editions are presented as they were first shown theatrically. For example, Star Wars has the 1977 opening scroll (before "Episode IV: A New Hope" was added and other adjustments made for the April 10, 1981 re-issue). Though the original features are presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround audio, the video transfer is derived not from original masters, but from the 1993 Laserdisc transfer (aside from the original Episode IV opening scroll taken from a best available original 1977 print), meaning that the film's 2.35:1 Panavision format is letterboxed into a non-anamorphic 4:3 video frame, even for widescreen television playback. 
Instead of using the original theatrical sound mixes, the "bonus" DVD presentations use the 1993 laserdisc remixes. However, the Spanish and French audio tracks on the Star Wars DVD appear to be based on the original theatrical mono sound mix for the film, not the Definitive Collection version. Certain sound effects from the 1993 mix are missing (such as all of the "exploding glass" sounds when Luke and Han blast the various cameras and such in the Death Star's detention center), and certain sounds have been added (such as metallic clicks when R2-D2 and Chewbacca press buttons on the Millennium Falcon's holographic chessboard). Luke Skywalker also says "Blast it, Wedge, where are you?" during the final battle on the alternate language tracks, something he only said in the theatrical mono mix. In all other versions of the film, he says, "Blast it, Biggs, where are you?"
The French and Spanish audio tracks for The Empire Strikes Back 2006 DVD also feature a different sound mix than the 1993 Definitive Collection mix. This alternate mix features additional sounds that were not heard on the 35mm and subsequent home video versions, but which were later reincorporated into the 1997 and 2004 mixes. Such sounds include additional R2-D2 beeps when Yoda rummages through Luke's supplies, which are missing from prior mixes, and additional TIE Fighter engine sounds in the establishing shot of Darth Vader's Star Destroyer (after Luke Skywalker beheads the illusory Vader on Dagobah), which are missing from the prior sound mixes.
2011 Blu-ray release
In 2004, Lucasfilm's then-Vice President of Marketing Jim Ward speculated on future releases: "As the technology evolves and we get into a high-definition platform that is easily consumable by our customers, the situation is much better, but there will always be work to be done."
At Celebration V on August 14, 2010, a version of all six films released on the Blu-ray high-definition format was announced. It was said to include never-before-seen and otherwise unreleased deleted scenes from the original trilogy, although the set did not include the original editions.
A New Hope
- A rock was added in front of R2-D2 while he's hiding from the Tusken Raiders after they attack Luke. This confused many fans, as the hole he peeked out of was smaller than R2 himself.
- Obi-Wan Kenobi's Krayt Dragon call was changed.
- A subtle beep can be heard from R2 before Obi-Wan looks over at him.
- Some frames have been removed during Han and Greedo's shootout, leaving the scene more seamless.
- Blue hue during Death Star's explosion has been removed.
- During Luke's lightsaber training inside the Millennium Falcon, part of the scene was restored by giving back the lightsaber blade a blue color. But for some reason only a shot was fixed, leaving the rest of the scene unrestored.
- Some lines are from alternate takes.
- Matte boxes that occasionally surround the TIE fighters were removed.
- Missing portion of the frame that occurs during the TIE fighter attack on the Millennium Falcon was restored.
- Additional sound effects are added, and some are altered.
The Empire Strikes Back
- Digitally removed puppeteering flaw of rig visible on Wampa arm attacking Luke.
- A reflection has been added to a window in Cloud City when a cloud car passes by.
- Sparks have been added to the melting chamber when Chewbacca is searching for the remains of C-3PO in Cloud City.
Return of the Jedi
- The door of Jabba's Palace was edited to appear larger.
- A computer-generated Dug was added to Jabba's Palace.
- Computer-generated eyelids were added to some Ewoks.
- When R2-D2 is shot, some additional effects have been added, revealing his many hidden tools.
- Most of the lightsaber shots were restored by giving them back their white cores. Most notably during the shot where Vader and Luke cross blades in front of the Emperor.
- The "Emperor slugs" have been removed when the restoration team was working on the lightsabers of that shot.
- Vader shouts "No" in anger before he throws the Emperor down the pit.
2015 Digital Movie Collection
- The 20th Century Fox Fanfare was removed from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The ending of the track "The Rebel Fleet/End Title" from The Empire Strikes Back now plays over the Lucasfilm logo. A New Hope retained the fanfare, as 20th Century Fox owns permanent distribution rights to the film.
Changes to the Prequel Trilogy
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace DVD
Several deleted scenes are added into the film:
- Several introductions of other racers are included
- Footage of the second lap in the Pod Race was reinserted
- Removal of a scene of Watto screaming "SEBULBA!"
- An air taxi sequence was reinserted after the arrival on Coruscant.
2002 Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones DVD
Most of these changes did not appear in the main theatrical release, but made it into a version shown in select digital theaters.
- Several speeders were removed from a shot during the Bounty Hunter pursuit scene.
- New dialogue added to the scene where Anakin confesses to the Tusken slaughter to Padmé.
- Additional sparks and smoke have been added to Jango Fett's jetpack shortly before his death to better present its malfunction.
- After falling out of the gunship on Geonosis, a clone trooper asks if Padmé is all right. Her response of "yes" has been changed to a more realistic groggy "Uh-huh."
- During their duel on Kamino a shot of Jango Fett headbutting Obi-Wan is removed from the UK version of the film and DVD.
- Anakin's mechanical hand now holds Padmé's hand during the closing wedding sequence (this was originally included in the DLP theater release of the film).
Despite Lucasfilm's official statement that there were absolutely no changes made to the theatrical version of the film, the November 1, 2005 DVD release of Revenge of the Sith had a few slight changes from the theatrical cut.
- In the scene where a shot transitions to Vader crawling up the lava bank, a wipe from the shot of Obi-Wan and Threepio in the cockpit of Padmé's ship leaving Mustafar to Vader's mechanical hand grasping at the volcanic soil has been replaced with a straight cut to this shot from the cockpit of Padmé's ship on the DVD.
- There is a different wipe and slightly shorter "Noooo!!" from Darth Vader.
2011 Blu-ray release
For the Blu-ray and future 3D release, The Phantom Menace went through an extensive restoration using the original digital files (although shot on film, a digital version of the movie was created back in 1999 for a short release in four theaters with digital projection). This restoration provides a clearer picture with no image magnification or artifacts, flaws which are present on the DVD release.
The Phantom Menace
- The scene composition affected by image magnification in the original DVD release was restored bringing around 8% more picture to the frame.
- Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's Force speed effect was redone to look more realistic.
- A close-up shot of Nute Gunray and Rune Haako watching a viewscreen showing the Jedi escaping was replaced for a wide shot with a new effect for the screen itself.
- The puppet version of Yoda was replaced with a CGI version as in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
- An effects error causing Fode and Beed's hand to pass through their vest was fixed.
- Right after Jabba the Hutt's introduction before the podrace a new voice is heard from a spectator when the camera is focused on the crowd.
- Calls from the Senate to "Vote now!" when Queen Amidala puts forward a motion of no confidence have been replaced with the sound of a general uproar.
Attack of the Clones
- During the chase on Coruscant, when Anakin and Obi-Wan pass through the power couplings, several shots are rearranged.
- During Anakin's nightmare scene, a voiceover of his mother Shmi is added.
- After Yoda saves Obi-Wan and Anakin from Dooku's falling pillar, the reaction shots of Yoda and then Anakin and Obi-Wan are moved to before the shots of Dooku escaping on his ship and Padmé and the clonetroopers arriving and firing at him. This edit creates an irregularity in the background music.
Revenge of the Sith
- The scene in which Obi-Wan encounters General Grievous on Utapau and the Clone Army arrives is altered, adding dialogue from the troopers as they land on platform.
- The transition from Padmé's ship to Vader on Mustafar is changed from a straight cut back to a wipe, restoring the original theatrical release.
At a ShoWest convention in 2005, George Lucas demonstrated new technology and stated that he was planning to release all six films in 3D. The Phantom Menace was released in 3D on Februrary 10, 2012. Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were originally set for release in September and October 2013 respectively, but were postponed following Disney's buyout of Lucasfilm.
2015 Digital Movie Collection
- The 20th Century Fox Fanfare was removed from all three prequel films. The ending of the track "The Rebel Fleet/End Title" from The Empire Strikes Back now plays over the Lucasfilm logo.
Many fans were displeased by some of the changes Lucas has made. It is the most evergreen topic for fan criticism of George Lucas and is the most broadly accepted as inspiring legitimate objections. Re-release changes were also the first major cause of the reactionary criticism phenomenon that takes a vehemently anti-Lucas stance, known as "Lucas bashing".
Greedo shooting at Han is particularly contentious. In the 2004 Special Edition DVD set the shots are timed to occur almost simultaneously, with Greedo's shot being just a hair faster and with Solo now effectively dodging his head out of the way from the blast. However, many argue that not only should Greedo not have made his shot, but that the scene undermines Solo's character. Han's original action marked him as a tough, independent-minded character; having him respond to Greedo makes him appear weaker, though he is still nonchalant about killing him. This change was so controversial that it spanned a movement called "Han shot first", a retort to Lucas' assertion that Greedo shot first.
There was also controversy over Lucas's decision to place Hayden Christensen in the end scene of Return of the Jedi instead of Sebastian Shaw, as well as replacing the heavy fan favorite "Boba Fett's" voice with Temuera Morrison's (Jango Fett). Many longtime fans feel that it's disrespectful to the original trilogy, although others feel that it helps the two trilogies flow together better.
The altering of the dialogue between the Emperor and Vader has also been criticized as creating a contradiction, since it implies Vader does not realize Luke is his son until this moment, despite his being "obsessed" with finding Skywalker, mentioning him by name and pursuing him for the rest of the movie until this point. Defenders have argued that the scene is an improvement because it provides another blatant example of Vader plotting against his master by playing dumb in the face of this revelation.
Other fans especially missed the "songs" that were altered in Return of the Jedi ("Lapti Nek" and "Yub Nub"). They point out that the new music makes the Ewok's dancing and antics seem out of place (for example the "Stormtrooper Helmet drums" were beat in sync with the original music in the theatrical version). Others have argued that the new flute music and pan over shots of the planets being liberated makes a more effective end to the entire saga, rather than just a celebration of the single battle. The alteration of "Lapti Nek" into the new "Jedi Rocks" to many critics helps to undermine the serious nature and threat of Jabba the Hutt and his evil henchmen. They characterize the new sequence as "cartoonish," with overt pandering to Boba Fett "fanboys" by introducing superfluous shots of Don Bies in the bounty hunter suit.
A final alteration, unique to the 2004 DVD release, is that of lightsaber discoloration. In the scene in Episode IV where Luke trains against the practice droid aboard the Millennium Falcon, his lightsaber blade is inexplicably given a faint (but distinct) green color. Also, Vader's blade, in particular, is given a "pink" hue throughout the original trilogy. Perhaps the largest infraction is a scene in which two blades are seen to pass "through" one another during the final climax of Episode VI. This appears to be the result of color balance changes for the 2004 release.
On December 9, 2005, a new set of Star Wars original trilogy DVDs were released, also with the label "Limited Edition". However, it was merely a repackaged and discounted version of the 2004 set with no changes, and no original versions (despite packaging that some felt was misleading in that it used the original theatrical film posters, as if to imply that these were the original versions). The set was discounted in price, with the fourth (bonus) disc from the previously released 2004 set removed.
Reportedly, nostalgia for the original versions of the original Star Wars Trilogy on a high quality format has driven up the demand for the Laser Disc editions of the movies released prior to 1997, as well as the proliferation of fan made DVD's, often encoded from the Laser Disc originals. How far the demand will go depends upon sales of the current "official" releases of the original versions of the classic trilogy on DVD.
Notes and references
Fan/news media links:
- DVD Active - A New Hope Differences between versions of A New Hope
- DVD Active - The Empire Strikes Back Differences between versions of The Empire Strikes Back
- DVD Active - Return of the Jedi Differences between versions of Return of the Jedi
- DVD Active - The Prequel Trilogy Differences between versions of The Prequel Trilogy
- The Starkiller's Guide to the Mono Sound Mix of Star Wars Website about differences between the mono and original stereo version of A New Hope. Includes samples.
- The Original First-Week Engagements of "Star Wars" Article that includes info on the multiple theatrical sound mixes of A New Hope
- May 25, 1977: A Day Long Remembered Another article that includes info on the multiple theatrical sound mixes of A New Hope
- CNN presents - STAR WARS: Twenty Years Later
- MSNBC - Lucas talks as ‘Star Wars’ trilogy returns
- Star Wars Compendium of Lost Footage
- Censored Star Wars QuickTime movie illustrating the laser blast removal on the Special Editions. (1.3MB)