Facts that will change the way you look at Stormtroopers

Stormtroopers often get a bad rap in the Star Wars galaxy for being clumsy, weak-minded, and poor shots, but these Imperial soldiers are more than a bunch of disposable nameless, faceless bodies in terrible white armor. Search your feelings … and this article. You know it to be true. These are the Stormtrooper facts you're looking for.

They're inspired by WWII German Soldiers

They may not goose-step around the Death Star, but Imperial stormtroopers are heavily inspired by German stormtroopers. Go figure, right? It makes sense, as George Lucas once explained to the Boston Globe in 2005 (via The History Channel), "I love history … so while the psychological basis of Star Wars is mythological, the political and social bases are historical." In particular, much like BFF Steven Spielberg, Lucas has a major fascination with World War II.

During WWI, Germany used small units of soldiers called Sturmabteilung, or "storm troops," to break through enemy lines using stealthy tactics and brute force. During the early '20s, Hitler re-purposed the "storm troops" into a military group called the SA, which he used as protection during party meetings, and as a disruption to opposing political groups. Known for their brown shirts and black jackboots, the often violent SA were heavily featured in both pro and anti-fascist propaganda and became "the face" of Nazi Germany.

These "brown shirts" have much in common with their Imperial "bucket-head" offshoots, whether spreading fear to all around them or displaying an unwavering allegiance to their leader no matter how crazy and violent his ideas. And let's be real, Palpatine had to be crazy, to have built an expensive, moon-sized, planet-destroying weapon/base … twice. Ah well, loyalty is blind … at least when it's wearing those cumbersome white helmets.

Stormtroopers originally carried lightsabers

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … okay, really just around 1975 when Lucas and his team were planning out the Star Wars universe, lightsabers weren't just limited to Jedi Knights. Ralph McQuarrie's early concept art featured stormtroopers wielding the "elegant weapon for a more civilized age" and handheld shields. They probably would've had a better hit rate with the sabers.

Meanwhile, in the now-non-canon short story A Two-Edged Sword (part of Star Wars Legends), Vader trains a group of clones from noted Dark Jedi Cuis in lightsaber combat skills. These telekinetic Cuis Clones were armed with red-bladed lightsabers that had a special white hilt, which matched their regular stormtrooper armor. Four were killed by flamethrower, and two were Force-choked to death by Vader after a failed revolt against Emperor Palpatine. You'd think if they had Force powers, they would have seen THAT coming, even in those vision-obstructing helmets. The Force Awakens' stormtrooper, Finn, seems to be a spiritual brother to these Cuis Clones since he apparently has enough Force abilities to work Rey/Luke's lightsaber against Kylo Ren on Starkiller Base.

Anyway, Lucas originally envisioned lightsabers being as commonplace in the galaxy as blasters, but he quickly decided to limit their usage to Jedi Knights, to add to their mystique. Apparently, he too thinks that hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side.

Pre-Phasma, women could be Stormtroopers too

Okay ladies of the Empire, now let's get in formation! While Captain Phasma may be the first female stormtrooper we've seen onscreen, she's not the only badass lady to don the iconic Imperial armor. John Jackson Miller's novel A New Dawn casually introduced female stormtroopers to the new Disney-approved Star Wars canon, back in 2015. The official Rogue One novelization followed suit in 2016, meaning women have been part of the Imperial military since at least after the Clone Wars, even training and serving in all-female units like Unit Forn. Total #squadgoals.

For the most part, the Empire is totally progressive when it comes to gender equality. According to non-canon book The Essential Guide to Warfare (via Star Wars Legends), women undergo the same training as their male counterparts, wear the same uniforms, and even share the same barracks. But don't race off to join the Empire and get that equal galaxy pay just yet, ladies. During Palpatine's reign, even though women served in the Coruscant guard, no more than three women were allowed to serve in a legion, and zero served on the Death Star. Ugh. Though is anyone really surprised the Death Star is a total "no girls allowed" zone? Like, if Vader couldn't have his woman, nobody could have one.

They're all lefties

Something like ten percent of the population is left-handed, but judging by the Empire's recruits, the odds of being left-handed in that Galaxy are way higher. If you look at the Stormtroopers from the original trilogy, nearly all of them are left-handed.

No definite explanation has ever been given for this phenomenon. One possible explanation is that Stormtroopers keep their holsters and extra ammunition clipped to the left side of their utility belts. However, it may simply be because the film's props department based the E-11 blasters on WWII tank scopes, and a 1950s submachine gun used by British and Canadian forces called the Sterling Mark 4 L2A3, which has its magazine clip on the left. This made it a nuisance for right-handed actors, because the clip kept knocking into their chests while they stood in formation. To solve the problem, the actors switched to their left hands, so the clip would face away from them.

In a nice touch of continuity, even the clone troopers in the prequels are left-hand dominant, but that doesn't explain why Imperial stormtroopers are all left-handed, since they're normal human recruits. However, the First Order has both left and right-handed stormtroopers, so … maybe the Empire just has a thing against righties?

They carry a special thermal detonator on their backs

It may look like a cutesy thermos of soup or a some kind of Imperial-issue flask, but it turns out that cylindrical canister attached to the back of each Stormtrooper's utility belt underneath the "donuts and twinkies" is actually a highly specialized, thermal detonator.

Made by Imperial weapons designer BlasTech Industries with an N-20 Baradium core, these thermal detonators were designed specifically for stormtroopers, so Rebels couldn't operate them. According to non-canon resource The New Essential Guide to Weapons & Technology (via Star Wars Legends), each comes with an individual arming code and unlabeled buttons, further securing it from use by Rebel forces and probably making it more secure than most of our iPhones. Stormtroopers are also able to set a timer and modify the blast intensity, which has a range of up to five meters.

The canister was originally intended as a holster for lightsabers, but when Lucas abandoned the idea of Stormtroopers carrying the Jedi weapon, the design team re-purposed them into thermal detonators, which appear on phase I, phase II, and regular stormtrooper armor. So basically stormtroopers are the bomb … or at least, they could turn into one.

Some famous faces have worn the helmet

By now, everyone knows Daniel Craig had a cameo as an easily-Jedi Mind-tricked First Order stormtrooper in The Force Awakens, but so did Rogue One composer/frequent J.J. Abrams collaborator Michael Giacchino, Radiohead's Nigel Godrich, and Clerks director/mega Star Wars fan Kevin Smith. Meanwhile, '90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. voices a stormtrooper in the Star Wars Rebels cartoon, and even Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, donned stormtrooper duds and surprised fans along Hollywood Blvd as a prank for charity in 2015. Basically, anyone who's anyone is a Trooper.

Rumors have swirled across the internet about both Tom Hardy, and possibly Princes William and Harry making uncredited Imperial cameos in future films. Hardy is, as you might expect, playing coy, telling the Hollywood Reporter, "I don't know if I can even say that." Sounds like some pretty serious stormtrooper poker face, though we'd love to watch the gruff Hardy have a bit of bucket-head fun. As for those rumors about Prince William and Prince Harry? We're not so sure on that. They seem pretty busy helping to rule a country. William, in particular,will be King one day. Kinda tough to imagine him demoting himself to grunt, even in movie form.

Clone Troopers had more freedom and individuality

Though the Republic chose to genetically engineer an army of human clones on Kamino, rather than using human recruits like the Empire and First Order, Clone Troopers actually had more freedom to express individuality. Cloned from Jango Fett, each Clone trooper was given a designation number, but they quickly established distinct personalities, cool nicknames, and some even got face tattoos that would put Mike Tyson to shame. Clone troopers established a real sense of camaraderie and often referred to one another as "brother." How sweet.

That didn't last. All stormtroopers in the Empire and First Order were deemed "faceless" and "nameless," and only allowed to refer to one another by numerical classification on the job. Clearly these guys are the life of any Imperial party. The Empire and First Order pushed for conformity at all costs, in order to ensure complete loyalty to the cause, because serving the bad guys is no F'N (2187) joke. Who would have thought clones had more fun?

Stormtroopers have weird rules about, oh, everything

Maybe it's just us, but we're pretty sure the Empire are a bunch of paranoid control freaks. All stormtrooper conversations are not only recorded via their helmet comlinks, but downloaded and reviewed in an effort to cut down on non-essential talking on duty and curtail any potentially rebellious behavior. So basically, no discussing your favorite Tatooine cantina bands or how much your Emperor boss sucks.

Oh, and uniforms, including helmets, are to be worn at all times, presumably even when taking a leak, in order to maintain a sense of professionalism and represent the Empire in a positive light. Cripes, even Disney World lets their mascots remove their heads in private. And you thought YOUR office HR department was strict.

And don't even think about turning on the A/C. Stormtroopers are forbidden from using the internal cooling systems in their armor in noncritical situations, because of how much power it drains, so good luck if you get stationed on Tatooine or some kind of lava planet that makes global warming seem cutesy in comparison.

Stormtroopers can survive in extreme conditions

The official motto of the Boy Scouts of America is "be prepared," but that could just as easily apply to the Empire. Stormtroopers receive extensive training beyond combat training, including survival skills in extreme climates. Their 18-piece armor, worn over a sealed black body glove, features temperature control and enhanced vision capabilities, so they can easily adapt to any condition. The black body glove is insulated so stormtroopers can work comfortably (kind of), no matter the weather and even in vacuum conditions.

Stormtroopers also have an air purification system to filter out toxins and create breathable air in harmful environments. Their training, coupled with their environmental controls, allowed for the creation of specialized units like snowtroopers, sandtroopers, and scout troopers, who serve in harsh climates like Tatooine, Hoth, or lava-world Sullust. We still haven't figured out why every planet in George Lucas' vast galaxy only has one climate each, but at least the Empire has them all covered.

Hero vs. Stunt helmets

For A New Hope, the design team was tasked with constructing 50 stormtrooper helmets from a special kind of green plastic called High Density Polyethylene (what milk cartons are made from), which they had to spray-paint white. "I made no sketches, no models, no engineering drawings," recalled designer Andrew Ainsworth, "I sculpted the production moulds directly, using my own blends of resins, fillers and metal dusts." However, these initial helmets didn't look very good in close-ups, so Ainsworth/SDS made six additional "hero" helmets from a higher quality ABS plastic. These "hero" helmets (seen in the left photo) are what Luke and Han wear during their rescue of Princess Leia, and actually look both shinier and have better detailing than their "stunt" helmet counterparts (like those in the right photo).

LucasFilm actually sued Andrew Ainsworth for selling replicas of the stormtrooper helmet made from his original molds, which he did to pay off some of his school debts. Ainsworth ultimately won the $20 million lawsuit, and now sells replicas around the world … except for the US, where LucasFilm won the case.

That said, no matter which version of the helmet he wears, we're sure Luke still can't see a thing.