In Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Dune,’ the complexity and diversity of the characters evenly match the immenseness of the world-building. Every character in the film is so well-defined that it doesn’t take long for the audience to relate to them on different levels. At the beginning of the film, Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) is the head of the House Atreides, one of the great houses of the empire that encompasses the entire known universe.
He rules over his fiefdom from the planet Caladan. He is an exceptional leader and a great father. After the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV gives him the stewardship of the planet Arrakis, Leto accepts, despite knowing his decision might start an all-out war with House Harkonnen, the previous stewards of Arrakis. If you are wondering whether Duke Leto dies in ‘Dune,’ this is what you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Does Duke Leto Atreides Die in Dune?
Yes, Duke Leto Atreides dies in ‘Dune.’ Before House Atreides, the Harkonnens controlled the Spice production in Arrakis through force, brutality, and terror. In contrast, after his arrival to the desert planet, Leto seeks to make an alliance with the native Fremen population and sends out his swordmaster Duncan Idaho for that purpose. Duncan succeeds in his mission and arranges a meeting between his duke and Stilgar, a leader among the Fremens.
One of the most important aspects of Leto’s personality is his humanity and how it affects almost everyone around him. From Duncan to Gurney to Thufir, all of his retainers are unquestionably loyal to him. In return, he trusts them impeccably. However, this trust ultimately becomes his undoing.
Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and his twisted Mentat Piter De Vries abduct the wife of Atreides family’s suk doctor Wellington Yueh and force him to betray his duke. While Leto’s soldiers are some of the best ones in the universe, they ultimately lose the battle against the combined force of the Imperial Sardaukar troops and Harkonnen soldiers. Although Yueh has betrayed Leto, the former still ensures that Leto’s son Paul and his concubine Jessica will get out safely. He even gives Leto a false tooth filled with poison, giving him an opportunity to take down Vladimir for good.
And Leto almost succeeds. The Baron’s soldiers strip him off his clothes before presenting him to Vladimir and his council. Yueh, who has also been brought there, learns that his betrayal was for nothing; the Harkonnens have already killed his wife. Vladimir kills Yueh before turning his attention to Leto. The Baron reflects on the enmity between the two houses that has lasted several generations.
The Baron gloats about Paul and Jessica’s death, not knowing that they are still alive. As Leto mutters something, Vladimir activates his shield and leans towards him to hear him. Leto breaks the false tooth, releasing the poison. Everyone in the room, including Piter and Leto, dies, except Vladimir. The Baron climbs up to the ceiling and is later found.
Leto leaves a remarkable legacy, and it will continue not just through Paul. As the audience learns, Jessica is pregnant with their second child. In the books, this child is a girl named Alia. Both she and Paul achieve remarkable things in life. Paul becomes the emperor of the known universe, while Alia later becomes the regent for her nephew.
Read More: How Old is Paul Atreides in Dune?