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The Empire Strikes Back

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The Empire Strikes Back
. This poster shows a montage of scenes from the movie. Dominating the background is the dark visage of Darth Vader; in the foreground, Luke Skywalker sits astride a tauntaun; Han Solo and Princess Leia gaze at each other while in a romantic embrace; Chewbacca, R 2-D 2, and C-3PO round out the montage.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Irvin Kershner
Produced by Gary Kurtz
Screenplay by
Story by George Lucas
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Peter Suschitzky
Edited by Paul Hirsch
Distributed by 20th Century Fox1
Release dates
  • May 17, 1980 (1980-05-17) (Washington, D.C.)
  • May 21, 1980 (1980-05-21) (United States)
Running time
124 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18–33 million[2][3]
Box office $534.1–538.4 million[2][4]

The Empire Strikes Back (also known as Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) is a 1980 American epic space opera[discuss] film directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film's story and serving as executive producer. The second release in the Star Wars franchise, it was produced by Gary Kurtz for Lucasfilm Ltd. and stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Frank Oz.

The film is set three years after Star Wars. The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous Darth Vader and the Emperor Palpatine, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader chases a small band of Luke's friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and others—across the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda. When Vader captures Luke's friends, Luke must decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save them.

Following a difficult production, The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980. It received mixed reviews from critics initially but has since grown in esteem, becoming the most critically acclaimed chapter in the Star Wars saga; it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.[5][6][7][8] It became the highest-grossing film of 1980 and, to date, has earned more than $538 million worldwide from its original run and several re-releases. When adjusted for inflation, it is the 12th-highest-grossing film in North America.[9] A sequel, titled Return of the Jedi, was released in 1983.

In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."


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. Princess Leia leads a contingent including Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in a new base on the icy planet Hoth. The Imperial Fleet, led by Darth Vader, continues to hunt for Rebels’ new base by dispatching probe droids across the galaxy.

While investigating a potential meteor strike, Luke is ambushed by a monstrous wampa. He manages to escape from its cave with his lightsaber, but soon suffers from the snowy wasteland temperatures. The spirit of his late mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, instructs him to go to the Dagobah system to train under Jedi Master Yoda. He is found by Han, who uses the warmth of his dead tauntaun for shelter and brings him back to base to recover.

On patrol, Han and Chewbacca discover the asteroid is actually a probe droid, which alerts the Imperial Fleet to the Rebels’ location. The Empire launches a large-scale attack, using gigantic AT-AT Walkers to capture the base. Han and Leia escape on the Millennium Falcon with C-3PO and Chewbacca, but their hyperspace drive malfunctions. They hide in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia grow closer. 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 he reluctantly accepts Luke as his pupil.

After evading the Imperial Fleet, Han sets a course for Cloud City, a floating gas mining colony in the skies of the planet Bespin run by Han's old friend, Lando Calrissian. Unknowingly, the Millennium Falcon has been tracked by Boba Fett; shortly after they arrive, Lando leads the group into a trap and they are handed over to Darth Vader. Vader plans to use the group as bait to lure out Luke with the intent of capturing him alive and presenting him to his master, the Emperor. During his intensive training on Dagobah, Luke sees a premonition of Han and Leia in pain and, against Yoda's wishes, leaves to save them.

Vader reneges on his agreement with Lando and takes Leia into custody. He intends to hold Luke in suspended animation via carbon freezing, and as a test freezes Han in a block of carbonite. He hands the frozen Han over to Fett, who intends to leave for Tatooine to deliver Han to Jabba the Hutt to claim a bounty. Lando, who was unwillingly forced into cooperating with the Empire, initiates an escape and frees Leia and the others. They try to save Han but are unable to stop Fett from departing, and flee Cloud City in the Falcon.

Luke arrives at Cloud City and falls into Vader's trap. 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 and his nemesis severs his right hand, causing Luke to lose his father's weapon. After Luke refuses to join Vader against the Emperor, Vader reveals that he is Luke's father as he tries to coerce him. Horrified, Luke throws himself down the air shaft. He is ejected beneath the floating city and makes a desperate telepathic plea to Leia, who senses it and persuades Lando to return for him in the Falcon. R2-D2 repairs the Falcon‍ '​s hyperdrive, allowing them to escape the Imperial Fleet and a now-despondent Vader.

Some time later aboard a Rebel medical frigate, Luke is fitted with a robotic prosthetic hand, as Lando and Chewbacca set off in the Falcon to find Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett in order to save Han. As the Falcon flies off, Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO look on and await their contact.

Cast and characters[edit]

Oz was assisted by several other performers, including Kathryn Mullen, David Barclay, Wendy Froud, and Deep Roy.[10]
  • Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter who has gained infamy throughout the galaxy and worked in the past with Darth Vader, who now assigns him to hunt down the Millennium Falcon and transport Han to Jabba the Hutt. Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice in the film's original theatrical cut and the 1997 Special Edition. In the 2004 special edition, Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and Commander Cody in Revenge of the Sith, replaced Wingreen as Fett's voice to create better continuity between the original and prequel trilogies.
Bulloch also makes a cameo appearance as the Imperial officer who grabs Leia when she tells Luke to avoid Vader's trap.
Morton also doubled for Boba Fett in one scene.


George Lucas, writer/director of the first film, decided to only executive produce this film

George Lucas' 1977 film Star Wars exceeded all expectations in terms of profit, had a revolutionary effect on the film industry, and had an unexpected resonance as a cultural phenomenon. Lucas hoped to become independent from the Hollywood film industry by financing The Empire Strikes Back himself with $33 million from loans and the previous film's earnings, going against the principles of many Hollywood producers never to invest one's own money.[15] Now fully in command of his Star Wars enterprise, Lucas chose not to direct The Empire Strikes Back because of his other production roles, including overseeing his special effects company Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and handling of the financing. Lucas offered the role of director to Irvin Kershner, one of his former professors at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.[16] Kershner was known for smaller-scale, character-driven films, but had more recently directed the intense true-life drama Raid on Entebbe (1977) and the 1978 thriller Eyes of Laura Mars. Kershner initially turned Lucas down, citing his belief that a sequel would never meet the quality or originality of Star Wars. He called his agent, who immediately demanded that he take the job.[15] Lucas also hired Leigh Brackett and later Lawrence Kasdan to write the screenplay based on his original story.[15] Brackett completed her draft in February 1978 before dying of cancer; Lucas wrote the second before hiring Kasdan, who had impressed him with his draft for Raiders of the Lost Ark.[17]


Lucas hired science fiction author Leigh Brackett to write Star Wars II with him. They held story conferences and, by late November 1977, Lucas had produced a handwritten treatment called The Empire Strikes Back. The treatment is similar to the final film, except that Darth Vader does not reveal he is Luke's father. In the first draft that Brackett would write from this, Luke's father appears as a ghost to instruct Luke.[18]

Brackett finished her first draft in early 1978; Lucas has said he was disappointed with it, but before he could discuss it with her, she died of cancer.[19] With no writer available, Lucas had to write his next draft himself. It was this draft in which Lucas first made use of the "Episode" numbering for the films; Empire Strikes Back was listed as Episode II.[20] As Michael Kaminski argues in The Secret History of Star Wars, the disappointment with the first draft probably made Lucas consider different directions in which to take the story.[21] He made use of a new plot twist: Darth Vader claims to be Luke's father. According to Lucas, he found this draft enjoyable to write, as opposed to the yearlong struggles writing the first film, and quickly wrote two more drafts,[22] both in April 1978. He also took the script to a darker extreme by having Han Solo imprisoned in carbonite and left in limbo.[23]

This new story point of Darth Vader being Luke's father had drastic effects on the series. Michael Kaminski argues in his book that it is unlikely that the plot point had ever seriously been considered or even conceived of before 1978, and that the first film was clearly operating under an alternate storyline where Vader was separate from Luke's father;[24] there is not a single reference to this plot point before 1978. After writing the second and third drafts of Empire Strikes Back in which the point was introduced, Lucas reviewed the new backstory he had created: Anakin Skywalker was Ben Kenobi's brilliant student and had a child named Luke, but was swayed to the dark side by Emperor Palpatine (who became a Sith and not simply a politician). Anakin battled Ben Kenobi on the site of a volcano and was wounded, but then resurrected as Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Kenobi hid Luke on Tatooine while the Republic became the Empire and Vader systematically hunted down and killed the Jedi.[25]

With this new backstory in place, Lucas decided that the series would be a trilogy, changing Empire Strikes Back from Episode II to Episode V in the next draft.[22] Lawrence Kasdan, who had just completed writing Raiders of the Lost Ark, was then hired to write the next drafts, and was given additional input from director Irvin Kershner. Kasdan, Kershner, and producer Gary Kurtz saw the film as a more serious and adult film, which was helped by the new, darker storyline, and developed the series from the light adventure roots of the first film.[26]


The Imperial AT-AT walkers at the Battle of Hoth were created using models and a new stop motion animation technique developed by Phil Tippett for The Empire Strikes Back. When making Dragonslayer (1981) Tippett called it "go motion". Landscape paintings (by Mike Pangrazio) were used as backgrounds to enhance the scenery.

After the release of Star Wars, ILM grew from being a struggling company and moved to Marin County, California.[15] 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 was hired to paint landscapes, resulting in the Imperial walkers being shot using stop motion animation in front of the landscape paintings.[15] 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.[27]

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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[15][30]


Filming began in Norway, at the Hardangerjøkulen glacier near the town of Finse, on March 5, 1979. Like the filming of Star Wars, where the production in Tunisia coincided with the area's first major rainstorm in fifty years, the weather was against the film crew. While filming in Norway, they encountered the worst winter storm in fifty years. Temperatures dropped to −20 °F (−29 °C), and 18 feet (5.5 m) of snow fell.[15] On one occasion, the crew were unable to exit their hotel. They achieved a shot involving Luke's exit of the Wampa cave by opening the hotel's doors and filming Mark Hamill running out into the snow while the crew remained warm inside.[15] Mark Hamill's face was scarred in a motor accident that occurred between filming of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Despite reports to the contrary, the scene in which Luke gets knocked out by the Wampa was not added specifically to explain this change to Hamill's face. Lucas admitted that the scene "helped" the situation, though he felt that Luke's time fighting in the rebellion was sufficient explanation.[30]

The production then moved to Elstree Studios in London on March 13,[17] where over 60 sets were built, more than double the number used in the previous film.[15] A fire in January on Stage 3 (during filming of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining) forced the budget to be increased from $18.5 million to $22 million, and by July the budget increased $3 million more. Filming finished by mid-September.[17]

One memorable exchange of dialogue was partially ad-libbed. Originally a scene in which Princess Leia professed her love to Han Solo, with Han replying "I love you too." Harrison Ford felt the characterization was not being used effectively, and Kershner agreed. After several takes, the director told the actor to improvise on the spot, and Ford changed Solo's line to "I know."[15]

During production, great secrecy surrounded the fact that Darth Vader was Luke's father. The film includes a brief image of Vader with his mask off, facing away from the camera. For the original viewers of the film, this scene made it clear that Vader is not a droid.[30] Like the rest of the crew, Prowse—who spoke all of Vader's lines during filming—was given a false page that contained dialogue with the revelatory line being "Obi-Wan killed your father."[15][31][32] Hamill did not learn of the plot point until just before the scene was filmed, astounding the actor; Kershner advised him to ignore Prowse's dialogue and "use your own rhythm". Until the film premiered, only Lucas, Kershner, Hamill, and James Earl Jones knew what would really be said; Jones' initial reaction to the line was, "He's lying!"[15] Coincidentally, according to The San Francisco Examiner in the late 1970s, David Prowse mentioned during a fan gathering in Berkeley, California a possible plot for the third film in which Vader would be revealed as Luke's father, and that both Luke and Vader would survive for "Star Wars IV".[33]

To preserve the dramatic opening sequences of his films, Lucas wanted the screen credits to come at the end of the films. While this practice has become more common over the years, this was a highly unusual choice at the time. The Writers and Directors Guilds of America had no problem allowing it on Star Wars, back in 1977, because the writer-director credit (George Lucas) matched the company name, but when Lucas did the same thing for the sequel it became an issue because Lucas had his last name on the start of the film (Lucasfilm), while the director and the writers had theirs on the end. They fined him over $250,000 and attempted to pull Empire out of theaters. The DGA also attacked Kershner; to protect his director, Lucas paid all the fines to the guilds. Due to the controversy, he left the Directors and Writers Guilds, and the Motion Picture Association.[15]

The initial production budget of $18 million[2] was 50% more than that of the original. After the various increases in budget, The Empire Strikes Back became one of the most expensive films of its day and after the bank threatened to pull his loan, Lucas was forced to approach 20th Century Fox. Lucas made a deal with the studio to secure the loan in exchange for paying the studio more money, but without the loss of his sequel and merchandising rights. After the film's box office success, unhappiness at the studio over the deal's generosity to Lucas caused studio president Alan Ladd, Jr. to quit. The departure of his longtime ally caused Lucas to take Raiders of the Lost Ark to Paramount Pictures.[15]


Like its predecessor, The Empire Strikes Back draws from several mythological stories and world religions. It also includes elements of 1930s film serials such as Flash Gordon, a childhood favorite of Lucas', that similarly featured a city afloat in the sky.[34][35]


The world premiere of The Empire Strikes Back was held on May 17, 1980, at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. (as a special Children's World Premiere event). The film had a Royal Premiere in London three days later, and a series of other charity benefit premieres were held in numerous locations on May 19 and 20. The film went on to official general release in North America and the U.K. on May 21, 1980. The first wave of release included 126 70 mm prints, before a wider release in June 1980 (which were mostly 35 mm prints).[36] During the initial theatrical run in Europe and Australia, the short film Black Angel by Star Wars art director Roger Christian was shown before the feature.[37]

Though the film was simply titled The Empire Strikes Back in its original promotional materials, the film still started with the title Star Wars on-screen which was followed by the opening crawl that gave the film's subtitle as Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, causing some surprise among cinema goers at the time as the original Star Wars film had not been given an episode number or subtitle for its first release in 1977.[38] However, Episode IV: A New Hope was added to its opening crawl from its 1981 re-release onwards. Like A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back was rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America, and certificate U in the United Kingdom. This original version was released on Capacitance Electronic Disc in 1984[39] and on VHS and Laserdisc several times during the 1980s and 1990s.[citation needed]

Special Edition[edit]

The 1997 theatrical release poster of the new Special Edition version of the film (art by Drew Struzan)

As part of Star Wars‍ '​s 20th anniversary celebration in 1997, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi were digitally remastered and re-released along with the original Star Wars under the campaign title Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. Lucas took this opportunity to make several minor changes to the film. These included explicitly showing the Wampa creature on Hoth in full form, creating a more complex flight path for the Falcon as it approaches Cloud City, digitally replacing some of the interior walls of Cloud City with vistas of Bespin, and replacing certain lines of dialogue. A short sequence was also added depicting Vader's return to his Super Star Destroyer after dueling with Luke, created from alternate angles of a scene from Return of the Jedi. Most of the changes were small and aesthetic; however, some fans believe that they detract from the film.[12] The film was also resubmitted to the MPAA for rating; it was again rated PG, but under the Association's new description nomenclature, the reason given was for "sci-fi action/violence."[40]

Home media[edit]

DVD release

The Empire Strikes Back was released on DVD in September 2004, bundled in a box set with A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, and a bonus disc of extra features. The films were digitally restored and remastered, with additional changes made by George Lucas.[12] The bonus features include a commentary by George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher, as well as an extensive documentary called Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy. Also included are featurettes, teasers, trailers, TV spots, still galleries, video game demos, and a preview of Revenge of the Sith.

For the DVD release, Lucas and his team made changes that were mostly implemented to ensure continuity between The Empire Strikes Back and the recently released prequel trilogy films. The most noticeable of these changes was replacing the stand-in used in the holographic image of the Emperor (with Clive Revill providing the voice) with actor Ian McDiarmid providing some slightly altered dialogue. With this release, Lucas also supervised the creation of a high-definition digital print of The Empire Strikes Back and the original trilogy's other films. It was reissued in December 2005 as part of a three-disc "limited edition" boxed set that did not feature the bonus disc.[41]

The film was reissued again on a separate two-disc Limited Edition DVD for a brief time from September 12, 2006, to December 31, 2006, this time with the film's original, unaltered version as bonus material. It was also re-released in a trilogy box set on November 4, 2008.[42] There was controversy surrounding the initial release, because the DVDs featured non-anamorphic versions of the original films based on LaserDisc releases from 1993 (as opposed to newly remastered, film-based high definition transfers). Since non-anamorphic transfers fail to make full use of the resolution available on widescreen televisions, many fans were disappointed with this choice.[43]

Blu-ray release

On August 14, 2010, George Lucas announced that all six Star Wars films in their Special Edition form would be released on Blu-ray Disc in Fall 2011.[44] On January 6, 2011, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced the Blu-ray release for September 2011 in three different editions.[45]

Although unconfirmed, it was reported on August 16, 2014, that Disney/Lucasfilm plan to release the unaltered original trilogy on Blu-ray in 2015 prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which will be released to theaters on December 18, 2015.[46]

Digital release

On April 7, 2015, the Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital releases of the six released Star Wars films via and Vudu. Disney offered the films via its Disney Movies Anywhere digital service, except for Episode IV, whose digital distribution rights are still held by Fox.[47][48]


Box office[edit]

The Empire Strikes Back premiered at a limited number of theaters, and those all in large metropolitan areas because it was first released only on 70 mm film, for which only the largest and most prosperous film theaters had projectors. It was many weeks later that the film was released on standard 35 mm film for other film theaters in North America and around the world.

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.[15] 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. 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.[2] 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.[49]

Critical response[edit]

The Empire Strikes Back received mixed reviews from critics upon its initial release. For example, Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote a largely negative review.[50] Judith Martin of The Washington Post criticized the film's "middle-of-the-story" plot, which she claimed had no particular beginning or end.[51] However, this was a concept that Lucas had intended.[30]

In retrospect, fans and critics alike have widely come to consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the franchise's best film.[52] On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Empire Strikes Back currently holds a 95% approval rating, from a total of 81 reviews, making it the Star Wars saga's highest-rated episode.[52] Rotten Tomatoes summarizes: "Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels."[52] Bob Stephens of The San Francisco Examiner described The Empire Strikes Back as "the greatest episode of the Star Wars Trilogy" in 1997.[53] Roger Ebert described the film as the strongest and "most thought-provoking" film of the original trilogy.[54]

Chuck Klosterman suggested that while "movies like Easy Rider and Saturday Night Fever painted living portraits for generations they represented in the present tense, The Empire Strikes Back might be the only example of a movie that set the social aesthetic for a generation coming in the future."[55]


At the Academy Awards in 1981, The Empire Strikes Back won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing, which was awarded to Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Greg Landaker, and Peter Sutton.[56] In addition, this film received the Special Achievement Academy Award for Best Visual Effects that was awarded to Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, and Bruce Nicholson. Composer John Williams was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Score, and Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, and Michael Ford were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Production Design.[57]

In addition, John Williams was awarded the British Academy Film Award for his compositions: the Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music. The Empire Strikes Back also received British Academy Film Award nominations for Best Sound and Best Production Design.

Williams was also nominated for a Grammy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his musical score of the film.[57]

The Empire Strikes Back received four Saturn Awards, for Mark Hamill as Best Actor, Irvin Kershner for Best Director, Brian Johnson and Richard Edlund for Best Special Effects, and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film.

The Empire Strikes Back won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. The film was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.[58]

The Empire Strikes Back was awarded the Golden Screen Award in Germany.[citation needed]


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,[59] and Wizard magazine selected the ending of The Empire Strikes Back as the greatest cliffhanger of all time.[60]

The most well-known line of The Empire Strikes Back – "No, I am your father" – is often misquoted as "Luke, I am your father."[61] 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.[62] Yoda's pointed 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.[62]

The film was selected in 2010 to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry.[63][64] 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.[65][66]

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.[67]

American Film Institute lists


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.[68] 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,[69] 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).[70]

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.[71]

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.[72]

Other media[edit]


A novelization of the film was released on April 12, 1980, and published by the company Del Rey Books. The novelization was written by Donald F. Glut, and it was based on the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett, and George Lucas.[73]

This novelization was originally published as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. However, the later editions have been renamed Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back to conform with the change in the titles of the Star Wars saga. Like the other novelizations of the Star Wars Trilogy, background information is added to explain the happenings of the story beyond that which is depicted on-screen.[citation needed]

Comic book adaptation[edit]

Main article: Star Wars (comics)

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back which was written by Archie Goodwin and illustrated by Al Williamson and Carlos Garzon. It was published simultaneously in four formats: as a magazine (Marvel Super Special #16),[74] an oversized tabloid edition (Marvel Special Edition Featuring Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back),[75] as a serialized comic book, and as a pocket book (paper-backed book).[76] In the paperback and tabloid versions, which were published first and for which early concept designs were the only available art reference, Yoda was given a quite different appearance than in the films: Yoda is thinner, he has long white hair, and he has purple skin, rather than green skin. For the magazine and serialized comic book editions, there was enough time for the artwork featuring Yoda to be revised extensively, and his appearance was changed to match that in the film.

Comic book historians and industry professionals have remarked that Marvel's Star Wars comics published in the years before The Empire Strikes Back include plot points similar to those later used in the film. However, the film's makers have not acknowledged receiving any inspiration from the comic books.[77]

Book-and-record set[edit]

Lucasfilm adapted the story for a children's book-and-record set. Released in 1980, the 24-page Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back read-along book was accompanied by a 33⅓ rpm 7-inch gramophone record. Each page of the book contained a cropped frame from the film with an abridged and condensed version of the story. The record was produced by Buena Vista Records.

Video games[edit]

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.[78] 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.[79] A conversion was released in 1988 for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, BBC Micro, Atari ST and Commodore Amiga.[80]

In 1992, JVC released the LucasArts-developed video game also titled Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console.[81] 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.[82] 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.[83]

Radio adaptation[edit]

Main article: Star Wars (radio)

A radio play adaptation of The Empire Strikes Back was written by Brian Daley, and was produced for and broadcast on the National Public Radio network in the U.S. during 1983. It was based on characters and situations created by George Lucas, and on the screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan. Its director was John Madden, with sound mixing and post-production work done by Tom Voegeli.[citation needed]

Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, and Anthony Daniels carried forward their roles as the voices of Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, and C-3PO. respectively. The actor John Lithgow presented Yoda's voice. This radio play was designed to last for five hours of radio time, usually presented in more than one part.[84] Radio agencies estimate that about 750,000 people tuned in to listen to this series radio play beginning on February 14, 1983.[85] In terms of the canonical Star Wars story, this radio drama has been given the highest designation, G-canon.[86][87]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Theatrical and home media distribution rights will be transferred from 20th Century Fox to the Walt Disney Studios in May 2020.[88] The digital distribution rights belong to Disney, as Lucasfilm retained the film's digital distribution rights prior to its acquisition by Disney.[48]

Works cited[edit]

  • ——— (2008) [2007]. "The Secret History of Star Wars" (3.0 ed.). 
  • Bouzereau, Laurent (1997). The Annotated Screenplays. Del Rey. ISBN 0-345-40981-7. 


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Arnold, Alan. Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of Making the Empire Strikes Back. Sphere Books, London. 1980. ISBN 978-0-345-29075-5

External links[edit]