The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back

Synopsis of Movie

“If you only knew the power of the dark side...”

The darkest of the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back is considered by many fans to be the best. The cool vehicles, exciting chases and climactic battles of the first film were all present, but Empire went beyond the “Good Rebels vs. Bad Empire” story into complicating shades of gray.

Officially the fifth episode in a planned nine-part series (later dropped to six), The Empire Strikes Back opens at a dark time for the Rebellion. The Death Star was destroyed, but Darth Vader survived and has committed himself to crushing the Rebellion. Luke, Leia, Han and the rest are hiding out at a new base on the ice planet Hoth. Luke ventures out across the tundra and gets clobbered by a Yeti-like Wampa. While semi-conscious, Luke receives a message from the dead-but-not-departed Obi-Wan Kenobi, who tells Luke to seek out Jedi master Yoda in the Dagobah system.

Han rescues his young friend and gets him back to base, but an Imperial probe droid has tipped Vader off to the Rebels’ location. A wave of armored AT-AT walkers storms the base, forcing the Rebels to flee. Luke and R2-D2 take off for Dagobah, while Han, Leia, Chewie and C3P0 deal with a broken hyperdrive motivator, which prevents them from blasting away in hyperspace. The roguish pilot takes the Millenium Falcon through a dangerous asteroid field, finding a seemingly safe haven in a large asteroid’s cave.

On Dagobah, Luke crash lands in a swamp and runs across a green, troll-like creature. Luke tries to get rid of the pesky little fellow, but the creature reveals himself to be 900-year-old Yoda. After some convincing from the spirit of Obi-Wan, Yoda agrees to train the headstrong young apprentice.

Back in space, Han has launched back into the asteroid field, but the Imperial TIE Fighters are still on his tail. He finds a new hiding spot in plain sight, and once things calm down, he takes off for temporary refuge in old pal Lando Calrissian’s Cloud City. After a seeming betrayal, Han, Leia, Chewie and Threepio are led into the clutches of Vader. Luke senses their peril and leaves his training prematurely, against Yoda and Obi-Wan’s advice. The young Jedi-in-training arrives in Cloud City too late to save one of his friends, instead finding himself in mortal combat with Vader, from whom he learns a painful truth about his past.

The Empire Strikes Back ended on a fairly dark note, setting up the final installment in this trilogy, Return of the Jedi, three years later. None of this unpleasantness, of course, stopped the legions of Star Wars fanatics from crowding theaters across the country when The Empire Strikes Back opened in the summer of 1980. It had been three years since the first installment, and the Force was still with George Lucas’ creation, pushing the new film onto the list of all-time moneymakers.

For this second (or fifth) installment, Lucas turned over writing and directing duties to Lawrence Kasdan and Irvin Kershner, respectively, choosing instead to oversee things as story writer and executive producer. The success of the first film also allowed his team at the newly-christened Industrial Light and Magic to create even more impressive special effects than those found in the first film. And again, sales of Star Wars merchandise skyrocketed, as AT-AT walkers and Snowspeeders topped every kid’s “must-have” toy list.

The 1997 Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back added a few more shots of the Wampa, threw in some windows in Cloud City and altered a few lines of dialogue, but this remained the least changed of the three films. In the minds of many, it had the least room for improvement.

Movie Release History

1977 - Star Wars
1980 - The Empire Strikes Back
1983 - Return of the Jedi
1999 - Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Movie Sub Categories


Movie Studio

Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox


Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill
Captain Han Solo Harrison Ford
Princess Leia Organa Carrie Fisher
Lando Calrissian Billy Dee Williams
C-3PO Anthony Daniels
Darth Vader David Prowse
Darth Vader (voice) James Earl Jones
Chewbacca Peter Mayhew
R2-D2 Kenny Baker
Jedi Master Yoda Frank Oz
Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi Alec Guinness
Boba Fett Jeremy Bulloch
Lieutenant Sheckil Jeremy Bulloch
Lobot John Hollis
Ugloste Jack Purvis
Wampa Snow Creature Des Webb
Performing Assistant for Yoda Kathryn Mullen
Emperor Palpatine (voice) Clive Revill
Admiral Piett   Kenneth Colley
General Maximillian Veers   Julian Glover
Admiral Crane Ozzel  Michael Sheard
Captain Lorth Needa   Michael Culver
Imperial Officer   John Dicks
Captain Bewil  Milton Johns
Imperial Officer  Mark Jones
Imperial Officer  Oliver Maguire
Imperial Officer  Robin Scobey
General Carlist Rieekan  Bruce Boa
Zev Senesca (Rogue 2)  Christopher Malcolm
Wedge Antilles (Rogue 3)   Denis Lawson
Derek 'Hobbie' Klivian (Rogue 4)   Richard Oldfield
Dack Ralter  John Morton
Wes Janson / AT-AT Driver  Ian Liston
Major Bren Derlin  John Ratzenberger
Cal Alder   Jack McKenzie
Romas 'Lock' Navander   Jerry Harte
Tamizander Rey   Norman Chancer
Trey Callum   Norwich Duff
Tigran Jamiro  Ray Hassett
Toryn Farr  Brigitte Kahn
Wyron Serper Burnell Tucker

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