Star Wars prides itself on its diversity (at least of alien species) but the sheer number of crazy creatures trotted out on our screens can make your head spin. Of course, realizing that Star Wars was originally released over 40 years ago can make your head spin, too. No wonder there are so many creatures and characters wandering around.
Some of these species are friendly, some are frightening, and some are just plain foolish. But they’re all memorable. Let’s take a look at the 27 of the best Star Wars species.
Alien Species Across the Star Wars Universe
There are literally hundreds of alien species included somewhere in the Star Wars canon, and no doubt there are thousands spread throughout the galaxy. You probably have your personal favorites but I’m going to try and stay mainstream here, so I’m limiting this survey to sentient species we’ve seen on screen, so nothing that exists only in the Expanded Universe and no non-sentient species (sorry, rancor).
Star Wars Species We Love to Hate
Some of the alien species I’ve included not because they’re my favorite, but because they’ve evoked powerful fan reactions over the years. Let’s start our survey with those members of galactic society who make us want to turn to the Dark Side.
I think it’s fair to say that Gungans are as disliked by the rest of the galaxy far, far away as they are by Star Wars fans. One of the more painful ideas dreamed up by George Lucas when he created the Prequel Trilogy, these amphibian creatures native to the planet Naboo spawned arguably the most hated characters in all of Star Wars. (Do I need to say his name? And no, he isn’t a Sith Lord.) But beyond that, Gungans are just kind of silly, and uncomfortably racist. Not a great first return to that galaxy a long time ago.
Phantom Menace really gave fans the one-two punch of cringy-ness in its opening scenes. The only reason more people don’t complain about the awkward, racially-stereotyped Neimoidians is because we then met the Gungans. But even if we were to change out the accents, the Neimoidians are still pretty vicious creatures, and watching them get taken down is extremely satisfying.
In stark contrast are the Dugs, another race introduced in Phantom Menace. But the main Dug is Sebulba, a genuinely nasty fellow who’s a believable threat to our heroes. Dugs are interesting because they stand on their front limbs and use their rear limbs for manipulation. Sebulba is an excellent baddie, but the Dugs we see in the TV series aren’t much nicer: why couldn’t they just leave the Zillo Beast alone?
Sentient spiders – what more do I need to say? Oh, giant, super-intelligent, sentient spiders that scheme, cackle, and fight against the Galactic Republic. And talk in that totally creepy, wet-clicking way. I don’t think I can conceive of a more horrendous alien. One of the most satisfying moments in all of Star Wars is when Anakin Skywalker hacks Admiral Trench to pieces. Bleh.
We first meet this humanoid species in The Empire Strikes Back in the sinister Bossk. He doesn’t say much, but his low snarls got the point across just fine. Well-known as bounty hunters, some Trandoshans have a particularly brutal hobby of kidnapping innocent species and then hunting them on a game reserve planet. Kind of like Alien Versus Predator, with one side totally unarmed and starving, while the other carries laser rifles in hovercars. Except that the “aliens” are sentient creatures with no special fighting skills (or any chance of surviving). Not nice at all – and we’re quite satisfied when the Trandoshans get their comeuppance.
Another controversial species, native to Endor, the Ewoks played a short but pivotal role in bringing down the Galactic Empire. And while they may be widely ridiculed today, let me offer two things to consider. First, when Return of the Jedi initially released, the Ewoks were widely loved as cute but scrappy fighters using primitive technology to defeat their enemies. Second, they were planning to eat our heroes, and they made drums out of severed Imperial heads, so they really aren’t that nice. Just picture Wicket chowing down on a nice Leg of Han before you write them totally off.
Star Wars Species We Love Seeing in the Background
Not every sentient species in Star Wars can take center stage, but over the years we’ve come to appreciate the small appearances of some recognizable races.
Introduced before Luke Skywalker, Han Solo or Chewbacca were even mentioned, the Jawas are a species native to Tatooine but with colonies throughout the Outer Rim. Scavengers who will steal any piece of technology they can get their hands on, they’re well-known as shady dealers who can’t be trusted but who just might have exactly what you need. One of the biggest mysteries in Star Wars is what they look like under those brown hoods.
A reptilian race, Rodians are one of the most commonly seen humanoid species in the galaxy. Distinctive with their knobbly green skin, large eyes and antenna-ears, they’ve found their way in the Star Wars universe as everything from Jedi Knight to petty criminal. The first Rodian we ever met was Greedo (who never got a shot off) but other members of his species have fared better – sometimes even surviving their first scene.
Okay, if you ever want an underwater battle scene, you want Nautolans there. This humanoid species is equally at home on land or underwater, and their giant headset of tentacles looks great in either environment. Jedi Master Kit Fisto is a really good character, and even though he doesn’t get a lot of lines he’s almost always there in the background. Why? Because he looks cool.
This one might be a stretch. Snivvians appear quite often in the Original Trilogy, but never once with a speaking role. You’ve probably never taken notice of them, unless you’re like me and you had the Star Wars action figure Snaggletooth way back in 1978. Because Snivvians are shorter than your typical near-human race, Snaggletooth was like a kid amongst the grown-ups in my adventure play – so naturally he wound up running the show, solving problems too subtle for the dim-witted adults like Han Solo et al. He was the center of my imagination, and pivotal to every adventure my toys went on.
Okay, so maybe most Star Wars fans don’t want to see more Snivvian action, but surely Snaggletooth could make an appearance in the next season of The Mandalorian? Please?
A diminutive alien race featured heavily at Cloud City, the Ugnaughts have a reputation for mechanical prowess. They featured again several times in Star Wars: Rebels and we can sympathize with their often being at the raw end of the shady deal. They were often portrayed as silly creatures, until we met the surprisingly dignified Kuiil in The Mandalorian. No matter what’s going on in Star Wars, it’s always good fun when Ugnaughts make an appearance.
Here’s an example of a total throwaway background species that was vaulted to prominence by the outstanding creativity on offer in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Bounty hunter Cad Bane is one of the best villains in the series, elevating skullduggery to an art form and consistently besting the Jedi Order. While we may not see Cad Bane again, his blue-skinned brethren will remain a steadfast background feature in any good scene.
Certainly the most iconic alien species featured in the famous Mos Eisley Cantina sequence, the Bith are really only known for their ability to play music. The Cantina Band even has a name – Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes – and even today, more than 40 years later, they’re a frequent meme or T-shirt topic. They may not be Force-wielders, master diplomats or great warriors, but something tells me Biths are appreciated throughout the galaxy.
This humanoid species looks nasty, and usually is. We first see them in Return of the Jedi as part of Jabba’s entourage, goons ripe for slaughter as Luke and the gang fight their way free. But the most famous Weequay in Star Wars rose to prominence in Clone Wars: Pirate captain Hondo Ohnaka. A genuinely complex and entertaining character, Hondo commands every episode he’s in, returning as a regular guest in Rebels, too. His Weequay minions are not as well-rounded, but we get a clear sense that trouble is afoot whenever this scaly species is around.
Star Wars Species We’d Love to Know Better
Some species in Star Wars are known only by a single individual, but there are hints of so much more. And if we like the character enough, we’d love it if we could learn more about their race and culture.
Jedi Master Plo Koon is one of the most intriguing background characters in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, even if he didn’t get any lines. We get to know him much better in the animated series, but we still don’t know much about his species. But he looks cool, has a great voice, and offers a brilliant counterpoint of serenity beside the chaos that follows Anakin Skywalker and Ahsoka Tano. Human-friendly atmosphere is obviously hostile to his race, as he wears goggles and a breathing mask at all times.
Grand Admiral Thrawn is the only member of his species to ever appear on screen, cutting a striking figure with his blue skin and red eyes. He was first introduced by author Timothy Zahn in the novel Heir to the Empire and was a huge fan favorite, but when Disney bought Lucasfilm everything that existed at the time, except the existing six movies and Clone Wars, was declared non-canon. Originally called the Expanded Universe and now known as Star Wars Legends, it contains a wealth of creative potential from before the Old Republic to decades beyond The Rise of Skywalker. Our favorite Chiss, Grand Admiral Thrawn was thankfully returned to canon as one of the major villains in Star Wars: Rebels.
Thrawn is a Chiss, a very sentient species from the Unknown Regions. According to the updated canon he’s the only member of his race to serve in the Galactic Empire and is a major figure in the Galactic Civil War. The Chiss remain a mysterious society mostly unknown to the galaxy, and may yet pose a serious threat to the New Republic, or to whatever emerges from the ashes of The Rise of Skywalker.
Made famous by Admiral Ackbar in Return of the Jedi (It’s a trap!) the Mon Calamari name is unfortunately rather dated – I guess the ubiquitous breaded appie wasn’t that well-known in 1986. But the species is super cool, featuring in an epic series of episodes in Clone Wars that took place on their water world of Mon Cala. Their ships form the backbone of the Rebel fleet and are apparently their underwater homes converted for galactic travel. Super cool.
Cast as the villains in Attack of the Clones, the Geonosians are a hive-society of industrious, flying creatures. We get a good look at their technology and a decent glimpse of their society thanks to Clone Wars and Rebels, including the fact that they were apparently wiped out by the Empire to protect the secret of the Death Star. That sort of devastation would be particularly painful to such a social race, and it would be fascinating to see how the remnant of their society survived. It would also be interesting to see more of them when they’re not playing the role of the villain.
Mirialans are a green-skinned, near human species known for having a strong affinity with the Force. The two best known Mirialans are Jedi Master Luminara Unduli and her apprentice Barriss Offee. Both women have strong character arcs in Clone Wars, but many fans want to see more. Luminara’s fate is known, but Barriss remains a character full of potential as an embittered Force-wielder. No longer a Jedi, did she turn to the Sith, or did she resist the Dark Side completely and join the Rebellion? So much could still be told.
Of all the aliens in Star Wars, Chewbacca’s race is definitely one of the most loved. But even after so many appearances, including a visit to their home world in Revenge of the Sith, we still don’t know much about them. We know they were commonly taken as slaves for other races, and that they live in giant trees, and that they’re surprisingly good with technology. We’ve seen them in action at the cool beach battle in Revenge of the Sith and a slave revolt in Solo: A Star Wars Story, but we really haven’t seen their culture or society.
And no, a certain holiday special doesn’t count.
There’s no question that, of all the sentient species in the galaxy, the most mysterious is certainly Yoda’s species. It doesn’t even have a name, and there are only three known members of it, even dating as far back as Old Republic records. Yoda is of course the best known member of his race, but the Prequel Trilogy showed us Jedi Master Yaddle. And then, of course, there’s Baby Yoda (okay, okay, Grogu… whatever) who’s dominated The Mandalorian without saying a word.
Are these three aliens in fact a family? The timings could work out, as Yoda and Yaddle were both living at the Jedi Temple 50 years before Mando took that bounty. I realize that Jedi aren’t supposed to have relationships, but if Yoda and Yaddle were the last of their kind, you might want to cut them some slack.
I include the Bothans here not because we’ve ever had a chance to meet them a little bit and want to know more. No, I include them because we’ve never had the chance to meet them. Like, ever. In all of Star Wars film, the Bothans are mentioned only once, in Return of the Jedi, where Mon Mothma stops her Death Star battle briefing to say, in a quavering voice, how many Bothans died to bring them the information.
So who are these Bothans? Who are these sentient aliens so clearly loved by a Rebel leader that she’d stop her own briefing to acknowledge them. I didn’t hear Vice Admiral Haldo pause her briefing in The Last Jedi to say, “Many Humans died to get us to safety.” Return of the Jedi came out 35 years ago – has nobody in the Star Wars creative team thought to resolve this mystery? I mean, they explained how Han Solo referred to parsecs as if they were a unit of time, and why it took 19 years to build the first Death Star and only 3 to build the second. We want Bothans!
Star Wars Species We Just Love
Some species have had a lot of screen time, and we don’t mind at all. There’s still a lot of creative life in each one of these races.
Of course humans are going to figure prominently in Star Wars – make-up, prosthetics and CGI ain’t cheap. But even leaving aside the realities of movie-making, it’s clear that humans are one of the dominant species in the galaxy, having spread to hundreds of planets and diversified to the point where they’re even sometimes known by their sub-species. Coruscant might be the home world for humans, and they certainly seem to have had a head start in colonizing the galaxy. Many are Force-wielders, but their talents can vary widely, with one human being the head of a major organization while his neighbor goes off to war, another becomes a farmer and yet another joins a group of bounty hunters. Luke Skywalker manages to do almost all those things and is not considered atypical of his species.
Of all the sentient species, humans seem to be the most diverse. And yet they can show an ugly side that eschews diversity. The Empire is clearly dominated by them, and the word “alien” pretty much means “non-human”. Some of the recent novels, in fact, make it clear that the Empire is overtly racist in favor of humans. This dark element to Star Wars hasn’t been explored in film yet, and might be an interesting story to tell.
Diversity is not a word often connected to Hutts – they’re pretty predictable. To them life is about power and profit, and the galaxy is their playground. Coming from the planet Nal Hutta, these slug-like creatures are infamous crime lords far more likely to control from the shadows than engage in battle. Ruling by wealth and influence, the Hutts often use humanoid species to do their dirty work.
Hutts are a great counterpoint to the typical, war-like species in the galaxy. Storylines involving Jabba and his kin are far more likely to involve cloak and dagger skullduggery than planet-killer weapons or Jedi versus Sith. And sometimes that’s exactly what we need.
Another species found throughout the galaxy, Twi’leks move in all walks of life, but of all the humanoid species they’re the most likely to be found in slavery. It seems that female Twi’leks are highly prized by the various rulers in the crime world, and to have Twi’lek slaves is seen as a status symbol.
Thankfully, though, we know enough about the Twi’leks to think of them as much more than just the “sexy alien”. Through Rebels star Hera Syndullah we’ve learned that life for many Twi’leks is still hard, even if they escape slavery. Their home planet Ryloth was a major battleground during the Clone War and for many the war didn’t end with the creation of the Empire.
Although they come in many shapes, sizes and colors, Twi’leks all have in common their easily recognizable lekku, or “head tails” that hang back off their heads like fleshy pony-tails. They also have cool French accents, which might be racist but does give them wicked style.
Of all the aliens in the galaxy, the Zabraks are definitely one of the most tragic. Segregated by gender, they live in a strict matriarchy where the men often seem to be treated as little more than creatures. But Zabrak men are both strong and sentient, the most infamous of them being Darth Maul, the Sith apprentice that blew us away in Phantom Menace and then returned for some of the best storylines in both Clone Wars and Rebels. His brother Savage Opress is a tragic figure of Shakespearean caliber who, while not actually a Sith, lived a life worthy of one.
And who can forget the most gorgeous species in the galaxy? Togrutas are immediately recognizable by their montrals and lekku growing like a mane from their multi-colored skin. We first saw Togrutas in Attack of the Clones in Jedi Master Shaak Ti, but it was fan favorite Ahsoka Tano who made her species a household word.
Ahsoka may not be the best representation of her species since she was taken to the Jedi Temple as a youngling and wasn’t raised in Togruta culture, but over the years we’ve had a few glimpses into their society and they seem to be a noble species. Ahsoka herself is a fascinating character and many fans are looking forward to her new, eponymous series, but any time the screen is graced with a Togruta, things just look a little more beautiful.
There Are More Races in Star Wars Than You Can Shake a Light Saber At
A long time ago, there was a galaxy filled with life, and some of the coolest alien species ever created. The tapestry of Star Wars continues to grow as more and more creative minds get their shot at bringing to life what’s become a shared vision. Here’s hoping the creativity continues for another 40+ years.
Bennett R. Coles is an award-winning, best-selling author and ghostwriter of science fiction and space fantasy series. His newest novel is coming in Spring 2024.