With approximately ten gazillion alien creatures packed into the Star Wars universe, you can count on there being one to creep out almost anybody. Some of the most memorable creatures in the original films could have easily carried their own horror stories, adding excitement and danger to these beloved classics with their inventively threatening designs and abilities. I’d be researching made up animals for days if I counted the entirety of Star Wars fiction, so for this list, I’ll be sticking as close as possible to the “official” canon of the feature films and immediate spinoffs.
10 – The Kouhun
The centipede-like Kouhun supposedly pack a sting so deadly that they’re employed by assassins throughout the galaxy, as seen in episode II when a couple of the scurrying killers are released into Queen Amidala’s quarters. Maybe I just like these because I’m biased towards bugs and we don’t see a whole lot of them in the Star Wars films, but you have admit there’s always something cool and dramatic about living alien creatures as weapons, impractical as they may be. Sure, a gun doesn’t have to poop, but would you rather just shoot your enemies or watch a bunch of giant, alien death worms pump them full of acid?
9 – The Dianoga
Known to fans as “the trash compactor monster,” the Dianoga appeared in Episode IV: A New Hope when our heroes make a not-so-dignified escape down a Death Star trash chute, where Luke is attacked by a mysterious aquatic creature who shows us only a pale, clammy tentacle and bulging, periscope-like eyeball. Artists have interpreted the rest of the Dionaga various ways, usually as some sort of one-eyed octopus, though an official 1977 Kenner playset included an oddly shark-like interpretation. How exactly does a tentacle monster end up in the garbage on a space station? I’m pretty sure that’s a story unto itself…a story simply far too disturbing to tell.
8 – The Temptor
This multi-eyed, reptilian eel is an indigenous predator of Endor, the forest moon best known as the home of the merchandise-friendly Ewoks. Demonstrating similar biology to deep sea fish, the Temptor uses a fuzzy, squeaking, doe-eyed growth on its tongue to attract other hungry carnivores, hiding the rest of its grotesque form in a hollow tree. If you don’t remember any of this, it’s because the critter was scrapped as a concept from Return of the Jedi but recycled for “Caravan of Courage,” a made-for-tv Star Wars spinoff starring the Ewoks in all their sickening, roly-poly cuteness. We can only hope that Ewoks are a common food source. They certainly SEEM dumb enough to fall for the trap.
7 – The Opee Sea Killer
The ultimate nightmare of every Icthyophobe, the Opee from Episode I combines the front end of a fangsome deep-sea fish with the posterior of clawed crustacean and slaps on a sticky, chameleon-like tongue for reeling in its prey. The beast is promptly eaten by an even bigger fish called the Colo, devoured in turn by a titanic dragon-like “Sando,” but the Opee is by far the most creative of the bunch…and it comes the closest to killing Jar Jar Binks. I don’t know what the Colo had against good cinema, but it got what it deserved.
6 – The Mynocks
In Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo flies the Millenium Falcon into a tremendous cavern on an asteroid, narrowly evading the evil empire. When Leia notices movement outside the ship’s window, we get one of the trilogy’s only “jump” scenes as a slimy, shrieking, sucker-faced creature splats against the glass. Though they turn out to be lowly space vermin, the “Mynocks,” resembling bat-winged lampreys, are apparently some sort of energy sucking parasite known for attaching to starships and chewing through their wires…the last thing you want to happen in the vacuum of space. These guys, however, are just warming the audience up for an even bigger shock….
5 – Space Slug
When Han and Chewie open fire on the troublemaking Mynocks, the entire slimy “cave” begins to tremble. Leia already notes that the ground is awfully squishy, and you know that nothing good is ever squishy in outer space. The cave is, of course, a living thing – an impossibly vast organism originally referred to only as the “space slug.” The scene is a brief diversion with no impact on the storyline, but the imagery of a spaceship narrowly escaping a gargantuan set of alien jaws is one of the most memorable moments in science fiction cinema, even if it was rather obviously a hand puppet. According to a 2007 Star Wars comic, these monstrosities are properly known as “Exogorths.” Could there possibly be a more suitable name? That thing is PRECISELY what the word “Exogorth” brings to mind.
4 – The Wampa
Appearing in The Empire Strikes back in only brief glimpses, the Wampa is the dominant predator of the frozen planet Hoth, a huge and hungry cross between a polar bear, a yeti and a mountain goat. What makes this shaggy brute an especially abominable snowman is its habit of hanging prey upside down and still alive from the ceiling of its icy lair, apparently keeping a larder of the freshest meat possible.
3 – The Rancor
Slimy crime boss Jabba the Hutt lives every man’s dream; alien bounty hunters taking his orders, half-naked alien women on leashes and a giant button to drop anyone he doesn’t like down a hole. A hole inhabited by a slobbering, hulking, ravenous flesh-eating beast. With its toothy pug face, reptilian skin and creepy oversized hands, the Rancor is as elegantly simple as a monster can get…the sort of nondescript scaly whatsit we all knew crept out of the closet and watched us sleep when we were five. Luke Skywalker’s encounter with the Rancor is one of the original trilogy’s most suspenseful battle scenes, but best remembered for its almost comical finale – once the beast is crushed under a falling gate, his portly human keeper breaks down sobbing like he just lost a puppy.
2 – The Sarlacc
Jabba the Hutt is understandably pissed when his Rancor gets put down, but luckily he’s such a bad mofo that he knows an even BIGGER hole with an even WORSE monster to throw people into. Chew on that, Jedi! No, wait, Get chewed on BY that, JERKI! Haha! That’s totally what I’d say if I were Jabba.
So like…anyway…the Sarlacc is a huge, slimy, tooth-lined, freudian orifice out in the desert, lined with squirming tentacles and a snapping CGI beak it spontaneously evolved one day. If that’s not grotesque enough, it supposedly takes over a thousand years to digest its prey and somehow keeps them alive the entire time, an adaptation that makes absolutely zero biological sense but sounds pretty damn ominous. Peripheral Star Wars literature delves into all the disturbing details, with victims going steadily insane as tentacles drill through their flesh in a literal living hell. You have to wonder, though, if Jabba had even MORE back-up monster-holes to execute his prisoners. Increasingly horrible ones. Would you ever even want to see a worse hole than the sarlacc pit? I sure would, but I’m just like that I guess.
1 – The Acklay
I feel like I’m betraying geeks the world over by putting anything from the prequel films at #1, but the Acklay – largest of several vicious arena beasts from Episode II – was created when George Lucas specifically requested a cross between “a praying mantis and a velociraptor.” If you can conceive of a more impressive predator without your head exploding, you’re probably an alien yourself.