A big reason why the Star Wars films have been so incredibly successful is that they show viewers things they have never seen before. Whether it be strange looking ships hurtling through space, indestructible beams of light wielded as hand-held weapons or eye-popping, mind-blowing alien species, the Star Wars series fulfills viewers’ need for wonder. Another aspect of design in the Star Wars unit that is often overlooked, is the care put into the form and structure of the universe’s helmets. Let us not forget, the title of this franchise is Star WARS, and in war, each side must wear a helmet. Here is a look at our top 10 favorite Star Wars-related helmets—based solely on how cool they look.
#10. AT-DP Driver
The unsung hero of the Star Wars series is Ralph McQuarrie. The illustrator and designer was commissioned by George Lucas to provide concept art based on the script for the original Star Wars film. Not only did McQuarrie’s drawings inform the designs of Darth Vader, C-3PO, Chewbacca, and more, but his concept art is still being used by Lucasfilm today.
The AT-DP driver is a great example of how timeless McQuarrie’s designs really are. The unique look of the helmet, especially the curvature of the “mouth” is a direct reference to McQuarrie’s original concept art for the Snowtrooper. There is something incredibly sinister looking about this helmet that we love. It is a shame that it never got to see the light in an actual Star Wars film, only the recent Disney-helmed Rebels series.
#9. Scout Trooper/Biker Scout
Their representation in Return of the Jedi would have many believe that these specialized Imperial soldiers existed simply to ride awesome speeder bikes. The reality is that Scout Troopers (aka Biker Scouts) were actually more like the Navy Seals of the Imperial order. They were incredibly skilled soldiers trained in reconnaissance, espionage, and survival in harsh conditions. The Scout Trooper helmet is smaller and lighter than others, allowing for greater mobility and a larger range of sight.
All that training was for naught, however, as the overconfident Scout Troopers made a mockery of the Empire when they were defeated in the Battle of Endor by a small band of Rebels and the planet natives, the cuddly, short-statured, Ewoks.
#8. TIE Pilot
One of the key aspects of Star Wars are the many battles fought in space and in the lower atmosphere. Breathing is very difficult without an oxygen mask in a small spacefighter without an air pressurization system. The TIE series of spacefighters employed by the Empire (including the bomber, interceptor, and the original LN model seen in large numbers throughout the Star Wars galaxy) were small, light, and powerful, leaving very little room for life-support systems.
These design choices for the TIE starfighters directly influenced the look of the TIE helmet, with its prominent breathing tubes. Other than the oxygen tubes, the TIE helmet is not that far removed from a standard Stormtrooper helmet, but has enough small changes to make it look entirely fresh. The sleek and shiny black is the most obvious change, made to match the color of the TIE spacefighters. Otherwise, the overall shape of the helmet echoes those of the Stormtrooper, creating an appearance of uniformity to the militaristic Empire.
#7. X-Wing Pilot
The most Earthly of all the helmet designs in this list, the X-Wing pilot helmet is a classic look and shape that resembles World War II fighter pilot helmets. It is no coincidence that George Lucas and his team decided on an instantly recognizable form for the helmet worn by the heroic “good guys” of the Star Wars saga. The X-Wing pilots were modeled after the sort of back-slapping, gung-ho American pilot culture that reached its apex in films like Top Gun.
Since it exists in the Star Wars universe, however, the fighter pilot helmet needed some added flair—and a killer paint job. It’s those bright oranges and reds on top of a battered and bruised white that makes the X-Wing pilot helmet really pop. The raised ridge that runs from the base of the helmet to the rear gives it a subtle, otherworldly touch that makes it a perfect fit for the far away galaxy of Star Wars.
The best Star Wars helmets are those that offer a visual that is at once incredibly foreign and also somehow familiar. The helmet for Boushh, the bounty hunter disguise that Leia Organa uses to infiltrate Jabba the Hutt’s palace, is a fine example of this. The shapes resemble few other Star Wars (or Earthly) helmets, but the extended mouthpiece gives it a faintly equine visual. We can assume that the helmet is optically-enhanced to aid the bounty hunter in tracking prey and staying alive. There is still so much we don’t know about the functions of the helmet, which is what makes it so fascinating.
#5. Darth Vader
Darth Vader’s iconic helmet was designed to strike fear in the heart of the Rebellion. More importantly, it was designed to keep the severely injured Anakin Skywalker alive. As seen in The Empire Strikes Back, Vader can only survive without his helmet if he is inside a special “meditation chamber.” The idea that Vader’s helmet—a powerful and fearsome symbol of the Empire’s tyranny and villainy—is also his life-preserver, makes it an interesting, and no less cool addition to the Star Wars universe.
We're used to seeing this famous headgear in solid black, but for 24 completely different interpretations, check out the artist submissions from our Darth Vader Helmet Art Design Contest!
All-white attire has never looked as unnerving as it does on a Stormtrooper. Elite (but expendable) soldiers of the Galactic Empire, Stormtroopers were as much enforcers as they were symbols of the power of Emperor Palpatine. The design of the Stormtrooper helmet is all about uniformity and fear over function. As Luke states in A New Hope when he tries a trooper bucket on for size, “I can't see a thing in this helmet!” Even if it is more for show than anything else, we still love the timeless look of the Empire’s fearless (and a bit inaccurate) foot-soldiers.
#3. Boba Fett
You know him. You love him. Or maybe you love to hate him? Boba Fett had very little screen time in the original Star Wars trilogy, but that didn’t stop little boys and girls around the world from gobbling up every bit of information and merchandise they could related to the famed bounty hunter. It hard to put into words why so many fans love Boba Fett, but we think it boils down to this simple, undeniable truth: he looks cool. And it all starts with the helmet. The famous T-shaped visor on Boba Fett’s helmet is one of the most iconic designs in all of science fiction. The battle-worn, fatigue-green color scheme with hints of red and black gives him the look of a truly formidable warrior. Extra cool fact: those orange stripes on the side of his helmet? Those are known as “kill stripes.” We’ll let your mind fill in the details.
#2. Emperor's Royal Guard
If you were the most powerful and important Sith Lord in the galaxy, you can bet there would be more than a few attempts on your life. It comes with the territory. All powerful men and women have personal bodyguards, and the Royal Guard were Emperor Palpatine’s. These mysterious and elite Royal Guards made a small but powerful appearance in Return of the Jedi, where their bright red design stuck out against the common greys and blacks of the Imperial Navy. The single, black visor against a sea of red makes this a truly memorable helmet. The angles and strong lines down to the breastbone create a dignified presence. The Emperor’s Royal Guard project exactly the type of stoic and fearsome look you need when protecting a galactic Emperor.
#1. Imperial Gunner
We love the simple, sleek design of this gunner helmet, how it’s form actual serves a clear function, and how it looks like nothing else in the Star Wars galaxy. Also known as the Death Star Gunner, these specialized Imperial troops were charged with one of the most important jobs in the bad guy corner of the galaxy—manning the massive turbo and superlaser canons on the Death Star. Design lore has explained that the strange, sweeping form of the helmet and visor exist because Imperial Gunners were often exposed to the intense flash of heavy artillery fire—and surely they didn’t want to go blind on the job.
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