Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Director:- Irvin Kershner
Producer:- Gary Kurtz
Story by:- George Lucas
- Mark Hamill
- Harrison Ford
- Carrie Fisher
- Billy Dee Williams
- Anthony Daniels
- David Prowse
- Kenny Baker
- Peter Mayhew
- Frank Oz
Music by:- John Williams
- May 17, 1980 (Washington, D.C.)
- May 21, 1980 (United States)
Country:- United States
Budget:- $18–33 Million
Box Office:- $534.1–538.4 Million
Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has been driven from their former base on Yavin IV by the Galactic Empire. The Rebels, led by Princess Leia, have set up a new base on the ice planet Hoth. The Imperial fleet, led by Darth Vader, continues to hunt for the Rebels’ new base by dispatching probe droids across the galaxy.
While investigating a potential meteor strike, Luke Skywalker is captured by a wampa, a yeti-like creature. He manages to escape from its cave with his lightsaber, but soon succumbs to the sheer-cold temperatures and collapses. The force ghost of his late mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, instructs him to go to the Dagobah system to train under Jedi Master Yoda. Luke is found by Han Solo, whose tauntaun collapses and dies, and then he uses its warmth to keep Luke warm while he sets up a shelter. Han and Luke make it through the night and are rescued by a search party.
On patrol, Han and Chewbacca discover the meteor Luke had planned to investigate is actually a probe droid, which alerts the Empire to the Rebels’ location. The Empire launches a large-scale attack, using AT-AT Walkers to capture the base. Despite great resistance, the Walkers destroy the base’s shield generator and force the Rebels to retreat. Han and Leia escape on the Millennium Falcon with C-3PO and Chewbacca, but the hyperdrive malfunctions. They hide in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia grow closer, and eventually, kiss. Vader summons bounty hunters, including the notorious Boba Fett, to assist in finding the Falcon. Luke, meanwhile, escapes with R2-D2 in his X-wing fighter and crash-lands on the swamp planet Dagobah. He meets a diminutive creature who is revealed to be Yoda; after conferring with Obi-Wan’s spirit, Yoda reluctantly accepts Luke as his protege. Yoda trains Luke as a Jedi, and raises his sunken ship from the swamp with the power of the Force, after Luke claims it to be impossible.
After evading the Empire, Han travels to planet Bespin, where a floating colony in the skies known as Cloud City is. Cloud City is run by Han’s old friend, Lando Calrissian. Unknowingly, the Millennium Falcon has been tracked for the Empire by Boba Fett; shortly after they arrive, Lando leads the group into a trap and they are handed over to Darth Vader and Boba Fett. Vader plans to use the group as bait to lure out Luke, intending to capture him alive and take him to the Emperor. During his training on Dagobah, Luke sees a premonition of Han and Leia in pain in a city in the clouds and, against Yoda’s wishes, leaves to save them.
Vader goes back on his agreement with Lando to let Leia and Chewbacca stay in Cloud City and instead, takes them into custody. He intends to hold Luke in suspended animation in a block of carbonite for delivery to the Emperor. To test this process, he selects Han to be frozen against the protests of Fett, who fears he will lose his bounty. Vader hands the frozen Han over to Fett, who intends to leave for Tatooine to deliver Han to Jabba the Hutt and claim the bounty on Solo. Lando, who was forced into cooperating with the Empire, initiates an escape and frees Leia and the others. They then try to save Han but are too late and unable to stop Fett as he departs on his ship. They fight their way back to the Falconand flee Cloud City.
After arriving at Cloud City, and engaging in a brief confrontation with Boba Fett, Luke encounters Vader. The two engage in a lightsaber duel that leads them over the city’s central air shaft where, as his mentors warned, Luke proves to be no match for Vader who severs Luke’s right hand, causing him to lose his weapon. After Luke refuses to join Vader against the Emperor, Vader says to Luke, “I am your father.” Humiliated, and horrified by the truth, Luke intentionally falls off the bridge, and is pulled into an air shaft. He is ejected beneath the floating city, but is able to grab onto an antenna. He makes a desperate telepathic plea to Leia, who senses it and persuades Lando to return for him in the Falcon. After Luke is brought on board, they are chased by TIE fighters but R2-D2 reactivates the Falcon‘s hyperdrive, allowing them to escape.
Later, aboard a medical frigate in the Rebel fleet, Luke’s severed hand is replaced with a robotic prosthetic. Lando and Chewbacca set off for Tatooine in the Falcon in order to find Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett to save Han. As the Falcon departs, Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO gaze out on the galaxy and await word from Lando.
- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker: A Jedi in training, who is powerfully connected with the Force.
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo: A smuggler and Captain of the Millennium Falcon.
- Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa: A leader of the Rebel Alliance, the former Princess of the destroyed planet Alderaan.
- Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian: Administrator of Cloud City and an old friend to Han Solo.
- Anthony Daniels as C-3PO: A humanoid protocol droid in the Rebel Alliance.
- David Prowse as Darth Vader: A warrior of the dark side of the Force and the Emperor’s second-in command. The character’s voice is provided by James Earl Jones.
- Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca: A Wookiee and loyal friend to Han Solo.
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2: An astromech droid in the Rebel Alliance and long-time friend to C-3PO. He also portrays a GONK power droid in the background.
- Frank Oz as Yoda: The wise, centuries-old Grand Master of the Jedi, who is Luke’s self-exiled Jedi Master living on Dagobah. Oz was assisted by several other performers, including Kathryn Mullen, David Barclay, Wendy Froud, Wendy Midener and Deep Roy.
- Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett: A bounty hunter, hired by the Galactic Empire. Jason Wingreen provided Fett’s voice in the film’s original theatrical cut and the 1997 Special Edition. In the 2004 and 2011 special editions, Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and all his clones including Commander Cody in Revenge of the Sith, replaced Wingreen as Fett’s voice. Bulloch also makes a cameo appearance as the Imperial officer who grabs Leia when she tells Luke to avoid Vader’s trap with John Mortondoubling as Fett in this scene.
- Several different actors portray the Emperor: The evil ruler of the Galactic Empire and Darth Vader’s powerful Sith Master, who appears via hologram. Clive Revill originally provided the voice of the Emperor, while Marjorie Eaton portrayed the Emperor’s physical form, filmed under heavy makeup with superimposed chimpanzee eyes. Ultimately they were replaced by Ian McDiarmid, who portrayed the character in later films, for the 2004 Special Edition and subsequent releases.
- Alec Guinness appears briefly as Obi-Wan Kenobi‘s Force-ghost: Luke’s deceased mentor, who guides him to Yoda.
After the release of Star Wars, ILM grew from being a struggling company and moved to Marin County, California. The Empire Strikes Back provided the company with new challenges. Whereas Star Wars mostly featured space sequences, The Empire Strikes Back featured not only space dogfights but also an ice planet battle opening sequence and elements of cities that floated among the clouds. For the battle scenes on the ice planet Hoth, the initial intent was to use bluescreen to composite the Imperial walkers into still-shots from the original set. Instead, an artist (Michael Pangrazio) was hired to paint landscapes, resulting in the Imperial walkers being shot using stop motion animation in front of the landscape paintings. The original designs for the AT-ATs were, according to Phil Tippett, “big armored vehicles with wheels”. Many believe the finished design was inspired by the Port of Oakland container cranes, but Lucas denied this.
In designing the Jedi Master Yoda, Stuart Freeborn used his own face as a model and added the wrinkles of Albert Einstein for the appearance of exceptional intelligence. Sets for Dagobah were built five feet above the stage floor, allowing puppeteers to crawl underneath and hold up the Yoda puppet. The setup presented communication problems for Frank Oz, who portrayed Yoda, as he was underneath the stage and unable to hear the crew and Mark Hamill above. Hamill later expressed his dismay at being the only human character on set for months; he felt like a trivial element on a set of animals, machines, and moving props. Kershner commended Hamill for his performance with the puppet.
Within three months of the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas had recovered his $33 million investment and distributed $5 million in bonuses to employees. The film grossed $10,840,307 on its opening weekend in limited release. It earned $209,398,025 during its first 1980 run in the United States and about 450 million worldwide. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold more than 70 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run. When The Empire Strikes Back returned to cinemas in 1997, it grossed $21,975,993 on its first weekend of re-release. As of 2007, the film has grossed $290,475,750 domestically and $538,375,067 worldwide. 35 years after the film’s initial release, it re-entered the UK box office at number 9 grossing $470,000 from June 4–7, 2015.
Darth Vader was ranked as the third-greatest film villain of all time in the American Film Institute‘s 2003 list of the 100 greatest heroes and villains, and Wizard magazine selected the ending of The Empire Strikes Back as the greatest cliffhanger of all time.
The line “No, I am your father” is often misquoted as “Luke, I am your father.” The line was selected as one of the 400 nominees for the American Film Institute‘s 100 Years… 100 Movie Quotes, a list of the greatest American film quotes. Yoda‘s statement to Luke Skywalker, “Try not! Do, or do not. There is no try”, was also a nominee for the same list by the AFI.
The film was selected in 2010 to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry. It is unclear whether a copy of the 1980 theatrical version or the 1997 Special Edition has been archived by the NFR, or indeed if any copy has been provided by Lucasfilm and accepted by the Registry.
In the 2014 Empire Magazine list, “The 301 Greatest Movies of All Time” voted by fans, The Empire Strikes Back was named as the greatest film ever made.
The musical score of The Empire Strikes Back was composed and conducted by John Williams, and it was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at a cost of about $250,000. In 1980, the company RSO Records published this film’s original musical score as both a double LP album and as an 8-track cartridge in the United States. Its front cover artwork features the mask of Darth Vader against a backdrop of outer space, as seen on the advance theatrical poster for the film.
In 1985, the first Compact disc (CD) issue of the film score was made by the company Polydor Records, which had absorbed both RSO Records and its music catalog. Polydor Records used a shorter, one compact-disc edition of the music as their master. In 1993, 20th Century Fox Film Scores released a special boxed set of four compact discs: the Star Wars Trilogy: The Original Soundtrack Anthology. This anthology included the film scores of all three members of the original Star Wars Trilogy in separate CDs, even though there was significant overlap between the three (such as the Star Wars theme music).
In 1997, the record company RCA Victor released a definitive two-CD set to accompany the publications of all three of the Special Editions of the films of the Star Wars Trilogy. This original limited-edition set of CDs featured a 32-page black booklet that was enclosed within a protective outer slip-case. The covers of the booklet and of the slip-case have selections from the poster art of the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. All of the tracks have been digitally re-mastered supposedly for superior clarity of sound.
RCA Victor next re-packaged the Special Edition set later on in 1997, offering it in slim-line jewel case packaging as an unlimited edition, but without the packaging that the original “black booklet” version offered.
In 2004, the Sony Classical Records company purchased the sales rights of the original trilogy’s musical scores—primarily because it already had the sales rights of the music from the trilogy of prequels: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. Hence in 2004, the Sony Classical company began manufacturing copies of the film-score CDs that RCA Victor had been making since 1997, including the one for The Empire Strikes Back. This set was made with new cover artwork similar to that of the film’s first publication on DVD. Despite the digital re-mastering by Sony Classical, their CD version made and sold since 2004 is essentially the same as the version by RCA Victor.
Video games based on the film have been released on several consoles. Additionally, several Star Wars video games feature or mention key events seen in the film, but are not entirely based upon the film. In 1982 Parker Brothers released Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600 games console, which featured the speeder attack on the AT-ATs on Hoth. The arcade game Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back followed in 1985. The game features familiar battle sequences and characters played from a first-person perspective. Specific battles include the Battle of Hoth and the subsequent escape of the Millennium Falcon through an asteroid field. A conversion was released in 1988 for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, BBC Micro, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga.
In 1992, JVC released the LucasArts-developed video game also titled Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. The player assumes the role of Luke Skywalker and maneuvers through Skywalker’s story as seen in the film. In 1992, Ubisoft released a version for the Game Boy. Like its previous incarnation, it follows the story of Luke Skywalker. Super Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was developed for the console Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) by LucasArts and was released by JVC in 1993. The SNES game is similar in spots to the 1991 NES release, and is on a 12-megabit cartridge.