Why were Owen and Beru killed?

Owen Lars and his wife Beru are characters in the Star Wars universe who briefly appeared in the original 1977 film Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. They were killed early on in the film, setting Luke Skywalker’s journey in motion. But why were they killed in the first place? Their deaths served an important narrative purpose.

To motivate Luke’s journey

Owen and Beru’s deaths early in A New Hope created a pressing need for Luke Skywalker to leave Tatooine and get involved in the galactic conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the evil Galactic Empire. When Luke returned home to discover his aunt and uncle’s charred remains, he was left with no family or responsibilities tying him to Tatooine any longer. This paved the way for Luke to join Obi-Wan Kenobi on his quest to deliver the Death Star plans to the Rebellion. So from a storytelling perspective, Owen and Beru had to die in order for Luke’s heroic journey to begin. Their deaths were the catalyst that propelled him into space to learn the ways of the Force.

To raise the stakes

Killing off Luke’s only known family ratcheted up the stakes right away in A New Hope. It showed viewers that innocents would suffer and die in this conflict, making the threat of the Empire feel more immediate and dangerous. Owen and Beru’s senseless deaths demonstrated the violence and evil the Empire was capable of. The Empire wasn’t just some nebulous foe–they would kill helpless civilians without hesitation. This motivated audiences to root for the Rebellion to defeat them. Killing benevolent characters like Owen and Beru established real emotional stakes.

To make room for Obi-Wan

Owen and Beru’s demise allowed Obi-Wan Kenobi to take over as Luke’s mentor/father figure. With his aunt and uncle gone, Luke needed someone else to provide him guidance and a connection to his Jedi lineage. Obi-Wan filled this role, gifting Luke his father Anakin’s lightsaber and beginning his training in the ways of the Force. If Owen and Beru had remained alive, Luke may not have been as willing to leave home and learn the Jedi arts under Obi-Wan. Their absence left an opening for Obi-Wan to have a greater influence over Luke’s development.

To reflect Uncle Owen’s backstory

In the Star Wars Legends canon, Owen Lars’ background as a Jedi helper who was wounded by marauding Tusken Raiders provided a poignant explanation for why he and Beru met such a violent end. Owen had seen firsthand the chaos caused by the Jedi and the Force, so he hoped to protect Luke from such a dangerous life. But Owen couldn’t escape his past, as masked Imperial troops–not unlike the Tuskens who scarred him–descended on the farm and took his life. Poetically, Owen was fated to die by the sword despite trying to live a simple, nonviolent life.

To raise questions about “Ben” Kenobi

Obi-Wan Kenobi went by the name “Ben” Kenobi in his Tatooine exile. When Luke asks about the wanted passenger on the destroyed Jawa sandcrawler named Obi-Wan Kenobi, Uncle Owen tells him grimly “he died about the same time as your father.” This raised intriguing questions about Ben’s past and his connection to Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Then when Imperial troops slaughter Owen and Beru while searching for C-3PO and R2-D2, it became apparent that Ben Kenobi was mixed up in perilous affairs. Their deaths built an aura of mystery around the hermit Ben.


Owen and Beru Lars’ tragic demise in A New Hope served multiple important narrative functions. Their deaths motivated Luke’s journey, raised the stakes, allowed Obi-Wan to mentor Luke, reflected Owen’s grim past, and hinted at Obi-Wan’s backstory. While their loss was heartbreaking both for Luke and audiences, from a storytelling perspective it was a necessary tragedy to propel the rest of the saga forward. Owen and Beru’s fateful end cemented Star Wars as a story about high stakes and loss while kicking the hero’s journey into high gear.

Other Notable Events in 1977

January 20 – Jimmy Carter inaugurated as U.S. President

Democrat Jimmy Carter was sworn in as the 39th President of the United States in 1977. Carter, a former peanut farmer and Governor of Georgia, defeated incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford in the 1976 election. His inauguration marked the beginning of a tumultuous four-year term that saw economic struggles, the Iran hostage crisis, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

July 13-14 – New York City blackout

On July 13, 1977, lightning struck electrical transmission lines, causing a city-wide blackout across New York City. The blackout resulted in widespread arson and looting, causing over $300 million in damages. Over 3,700 people were arrested during the chaotic power outage, which highlighted urban decay and race relations issues in late-70s New York.

August 16 – Elvis Presley dies

Rock and roll icon Elvis Presley died at his Graceland mansion on August 16 at age 42. Presley revolutionized popular music in the 1950s and starred in numerous films, becoming one of the best-selling music artists of all time. His shocking death from heart failure stunned fans around the world, who mourned the passing of the “King of Rock and Roll.”

September 5-9 – Voyager 1 launched

NASA launched Voyager 1, an interplanetary space probe, on September 5, 1977. Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 conducted a “grand tour” of the outer planets, providing the first up-close images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and their moons. The probes carried golden records featuring sights, sounds, and greetings from Earth in the hope of contacting extraterrestrial life.

December 14 – Saturday Night Fever released

The disco drama film Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta as a Brooklyn youth enjoying the disco nightlife, premiered in theaters on December 14, 1977. With its stylistic dance scenes set to the Bee Gees’ hit soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever became a cultural phenomenon. It popularized disco music and cemented Travolta’s status as a Hollywood star.


Owen and Beru’s deaths represented a major turning point not only in Star Wars but in the film industry at large in 1977. Some key points:

– It marked a shift towards edgier blockbusters with darker themes and higher stakes. Audiences were captivated by this bold storytelling in Star Wars.

– It contributed to the rise of the summer blockbuster. Star Wars’ May release and record-breaking success kicked off the tradition of highly anticipated summer tentpole movies.

– It demonstrated the financial viability of sci-fi/fantasy movies. Before Star Wars, studios saw these genres as risky. Its profits paved the way for more big-budget speculative fiction films.

– It changed merchandising and tie-ins. Star Wars ushered in a new era of blockbusters centering entire franchises around original IP with endless merchandising potential.

So Owen and Beru’s demises didn’t just matter within the narrative context of Star Wars – they marked a major shift in Hollywood’s approach to event-driven cinema and blockbuster filmmaking for decades to come.

Impact on Luke’s Character Arc

Luke Skywalker’s character growth in the original Star Wars trilogy clearly traced back to Owen and Beru’s deaths. Here’s how that tragedy shaped his hero’s journey:

– It propelled him into space. Luke may have stayed on Tatooine without their deaths giving him need for adventure.

– It put him on a quest for power. Traumatized by their slaying, Luke sought the power to defeat evil via the Force and Jedi training.

– It gave him something to fight for. Avenging their deaths and honoring their memory drove him to oppose the Empire and Palpatine.

– It made the war personal. The loss of his family meant Luke was no longer an outsider to the war – he had to play an active role.

– It set up his later trauma. Luke would also lose a hand, his innocence, worldview, and mentors as the war took its toll.

– It forged his heroism. Overcoming his grief and trauma enabled Luke to fully embrace his selfless hero’s journey.

So while their tragic demise haunted Luke, it also gave deeper meaning to his path from farm boy to galactic hero. It all traces back to that fateful moment when stormtroopers slaughtered Owen and Beru.

Parallels in Other Films

Owen and Beru’s deaths paralleled similar trauma used to motivate heroes in other classic films, including:

– Bambi’s mother – Bambi had to overcome his mother’s death at the hands of hunters to grow up in Bambi.

– Mufasa – Simba had to avenge Mufasa’s murder by Scar and reclaim the kingdom in The Lion King.

– Uncle Ben – Peter Parker fought crime to honor Ben’s mantra that “with great power comes great responsibility” in Spider-Man.

– Dumbledore – Dumbledore’s death at Snape’s hands pushed Harry to defeat Voldemort in the Harry Potter saga.

– Murph – Cooper journeyed through the cosmos to return to Murph after leaving her behind in Interstellar.

– Yoda – Luke carried on Yoda’s training and prophecy of bringing balance to the Force in Empire Strikes Back.

Each of these mentors had to die for the hero to fully step into their destined role. Like these fallen guides, Owen and Beru set the hero on the path by paying the ultimate price.

Moral Message

While tragic, one can extract an uplifting moral message from Owen and Beru’s deaths:

– Cherish loved ones, for they can be taken at any time.

– Do not delay pursuing dreams, for life is short.

– Make the most of the time you have with people.

– Fight for justice if evil cuts a loved one’s time short.

– Value the wisdom elders can impart while they remain.

– Appreciate parental figures and those who mentor you.

– Let go of guilt if you part with loved ones on bad terms.

– Grief fades but love remains immortal. They live on in memories.

Owen and Beru’s passing conveyed the profound idea that mortal life ends swiftly, so make the most of relationships. This message resonated with audiences through Luke’s journey, encouraging people to live with purpose and gratitude.

Behind the Scenes Facts

Fascinating behind the scenes facts about Owen and Beru’s deaths include:

– The scene was filmed in Tunisia, far from Death Valley’s original shooting location. Tunisia offered a more epic landscape.

– Lucas originally planned to show their smoldering skeletons until Spielberg convinced him to scale it back.

– The family’s charred remains included leftovers from a holiday dinner to portray domesticity.

– Anthony Daniels improvised C-3PO’s distressed reactions to the carnage on set.

– Tunisia later hosted Star Wars hotel resorts and tours to the Lars homestead set location.

– Prequel actors Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse were cast partly for their resemblance to Owen and Beru.

– Young Luke’s “they’re dead, aren’t they” realization in Revenge of the Sith quietly foreshadowed their fate.

– Some merchandise, like Owen and Beru’s action figures, was pulled after the film’s release to avoid spoilers.

Even seemingly minor characters like Owen and Beru had rich backstories that deeply shaped the Star Wars universe before audiences even met them.

Comparison to Book Version

George Lucas’ original Star Wars novelization offered some alternative details around Owen and Beru’s deaths:

– Stormtroopers interrogated and tormented them for a day before killing them.

– Owen spat in an officer’s face, precipitating their execution.

– We see the Stormtroopers burning their bodies, not just the aftermath.

– Obi-Wan helps Luke cremate their remains later.

– Luke is more openly devastated instead of determined to leave.

– Obi-Wan tells Luke that Owen wanted to keep him shielded from pain.

The book offered a much more extended, vivid, and emotionally raw depiction of their deaths compared to the trimmed down film version. It highlighted Owen’s defiance and Luke’s crushing loss.

Significance in Star Wars Legacy

Though occupying little screen time, Owen and Beru still had an enduring impact on Star Wars that lingered long after their deaths.

– They represented the humble humanity Luke fought to protect from the Empire.

– Their murder fueled Luke’s quest for justice against Imperial enemies like Jabba.

– They shaped his parenting approach with Ben Solo to avoid attachment and fear.

– Their absence left a pain Luke never forgot, keeping him grounded.

– Luke honored them by returning to Tatooine often and preserving the farm.

– Rey embodied their inner strength and nobility as a found family member.

– Kylo Ren’s fall reminded Luke of the pain attachment and loss can bring.

So while no Force ghosts, Owen and Beru’s presence haunted the saga. They represented the enduring mark loved ones leave behind in life and death.


Owen and Beru Lars lived short but influential lives in the Star Wars galaxy. Their brutal demise at the hands of stormtroopers set Luke on the hero’s path, establishing the story’s stakes and themes. Beyond pushing Luke’s journey forward, their deaths echoed other mentor sacrifices in cinema and contained a poignant moral message about appreciating loved ones. Though nameless victims on the surface, examination shows Owen and Beru were far more than helpless casualties in Lucas’ space opera. Their loss rippled across the entire Star Wars saga.

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