Locations shoots for the 10 “Star Wars” films have covered a wide variety of landscapes across the world. There is not a continent on the planet that hasn’t been visited in the making of “Star Wars.”
Australia has the least “claim to fame” in the “Star Wars” universe. No location shoots have occurred there, but the Fox Studios in Sydney was used for movies II and III.
Among some of the international locations for “Star Wars” are Tunisia in Western Africa, Iceland, Spain, Italy, China, Thailand, Norway, Croatia, Bolivia and Ireland.
Seeking out and visiting the actual locations where “Star Wars” was filmed in California can be a fun hobby. Get the family involved. Start by watching the movies that have portions filmed in California including “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” (1977), “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones” (2002), “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005) and “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” (1983).
‘Star Wars’ Films
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
California and ‘Star Wars’
California is where “Star Wars” was born and boasts several significant “Star Wars” locations.
Some locations are difficult to find, and some locations, like the forest used to shoot the land of Endor backdrop where rebels and Ewoks fought the evil empire in “Star Wars Return of the Jedi,” no longer exist.
The most accessible of the California locations used in “Star Wars” were locations used in Death Valley National Park.
Most of the scenes in early “Star Wars” films were shot in the national park a few decades ago, when that type of filming was permitted.
Those scenes would be impossible to shoot now as the vast majority of the filming that was done is now prohibited due to commercial filming bans in protected wilderness areas.
Buttercup Valley, Imperial Sand Dunes
Buttercup Valley is a region of the Algodones Dunes that’s more commonly known as the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area. The valley is located in the southeastern portion of California near the border of Mexico.
The Imperial Sand Dunes are the largest mass of sand dunes in the state. Formed by windblown sands of ancient Lake Cahuilla, the dune system extends for more than 40 miles in a band averaging 5 miles wide.
This remote location was used for the Great Pit of Carkoon scene on the Dune Sea in “Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi.”
The location was also used for additional footage in the special edition of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” Scenes of stormtroopers finding evidence of droids was shot there and cut in with original shots from La Grande Dune, Tunisia.
There is much online debate as to the actual locations used for the forest scenes on the moon of Endor.
The National Parks Service claims on its website that Endor scenes for “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi” were filmed in the Tall Trees Redwood Grove in the northern part of Humboldt County.
However, reliable first-hand reports place the land of Endor backdrop location in Del Norte County.
Lucasfilm shot scenes for moon of Endor near Smith River on Miller-Rellim Redwood Company land April to May, 1982. The forest location was subsequently clear cut, leaving no remnants of the lush forest location.
A few side by side photos and screenshots online suggest some steadycam sequences were also shot in the Owen Cheatham Grove in Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park. The shots of Luke and Leia, while pursuing stormtroopers on landspeeders, has been placed as having been shot in the Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.
Other footage has been credited to being captured along the Avenue of the Giants, the world-famous scenic drive, which is a 31-mile portion of old Highway 101, that parallels Freeway 101, and is surrounded by Humboldt Redwoods State Park in Humboldt County.
Death Valley National Park
Want to visit Tatooine? It’s not as far away as you might think, since scenes of Tatooine were show in Death Valley National Park, before prohibitions on such location shoots were put in place.
Death Valley is home to many of the most accessible and most easily recognizable locations from “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” and “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”
Winter and spring are the best times to find these locations in Death Valley National Park. Summer hiking is not recommended in the lower elevations of the park. Visitors in the summer are recommend to spend only 15 minutes out of the car’s air conditioning in the summer heat in the lower elevations.
Look for these locations:
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is where a scene was shot of when R2D2 goes his separate way after he and C3P0 crash their escape pod on Tatooine (spliced with footage shot in Tunisia).
Artists Palette and Golden Canyon locations where R2D2 is abducted by Jawas (spliced with footage shot at Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia).
Artist’s Drive is where the miniature Sandcrawler was filmed for the shot of R2D2 being carried up to it by Jawas.
Desolation Canyon is where Tusken Raiders mount Bantha before Luke Skywalker is attacked (spliced with Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia footage).
Dante’s View provided the panoramic establishing shot of Mos Eisley (spliced with Sidi Bouhlel, Tunisia footage of Luke and Obi-Wan standing on a rocky outcrop). Recognize the view looking down on Mos Eisley?
Twenty-Mule Team Canyon, Death Valley is the location of two Tatooine scenes from “Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.” Recognize the landscape around Jabba the Hutt’s palace? You can find this location a short distance down the road in the canyon. It’s where C-3P0 and R2D2 walk up to the Palace of Jabba the Hutt. The Blu-ray deleted scenes of “Star Wars Episode VI” also include a scene in a small cave (which for safety reasons, is now not accessible) where Luke Skywalker finishes his lightsaber. There are also a few shots from outside the now defunct cave followed by R2D2 and C3PO starting their trek to Jabba’s palace.
The unpaved road through colorful, eroded badlands runs 2.5 miles, one-way. The unpaved road is good for most cars and drivers, but check road conditions before you travel. Afternoon and morning light will provide a delight of contrast, as the erosion in the hills becomes highlighted and shadowed.
Desolation Canyon is a multi-hued canyon that also includes a few views of Tatooine. Scenes from “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” were filmed near here. To find the location, walk towards the route into Desolation Canyon. Before the mouth of Desolation Canyon, find another canyon which will look familiar from the movie.
Drive to the Artists Palette parking area where you can enjoy the colors and also notice a few views of Tatooine.