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'Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back' (1980)

Essential Information

By

Yoda and Luke

Yoda teaches Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on Dagobah the ways of the Force.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

What The Empire Strikes Back is About

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was the sequel to Episode IV: A New Hope and the second Star Wars film ever made. The story begins with the Rebel Alliance on their new secret base, the ice planet Hoth. When the Empire invades, Han Solo and Princess Leia escape, with Darth Vader and a cadre of bounty hunters in close pursuit. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker must travel to Dagobah to find Yoda, an ancient Jedi Master, and begin his Jedi training.

Releases of The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back premiered in theaters on May 21, 1980, three years after A New Hope. The remastered and altered Special Edition version was released on February 21, 1997, only a month after the Special Edition release of A New Hope. Two DVD releases have been made: an Original Trilogy boxed set in September 2004, which featured further changes from the Special Edition version, and an original theatrical cut in September 2006.

Cast and Crew of The Empire Strikes Back

Written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, with a story by George Lucas. Directed by Irvin Kershner. Cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia Organa), Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian), Frank Oz (Yoda), Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), David Prowse (Darth Vader), James Earl Jones (Darth Vader (voice)), Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Michael Culver (Captain Needa), John Hollis (Lobot).

Origins of The Empire Strikes Back

Although George Lucas knew from the beginning that the story he wanted to tell was too big for one film, The Empire Strikes Back was not a certainty until after the great popular success of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (for a while, the highest grossing film of all time). Lucas saw this success as an opportunity to become more independent from Hollywood, financing The Empire Strikes Back using the profits from A New Hope. This backfired, however; when the film went over budget -- it was one of the most expensive films of its day -- Lucas had to make a deal with 20th Century Fox to secure a loan.

Key The Empire Strikes Back Characters

In addition to the Big Three -- Han, Luke and Leia -- and their sidekicks (R2-D2, C-3PO and Chewbacca), The Empire Strikes Back introduces some notable new characters. Yoda, a small green alien, takes over from Obi-Wan Kenobi (who makes a few appearances as a Force ghost) as Luke's elderly mentor and Jedi tutor. Lando Calrissian, Han's old smuggling buddy turned governor of Cloud City, is the first character of color in Star Wars and soon becomes a major player in the Rebellion. The Empire Strikes Back also introduces Boba Fett, who made his first appearance in the Star Wars Holiday Special, to the big screen. Though his character isn't really fleshed out in the film, his popularity exploded; he is a major character in several Expanded Universe stories, and Episode II: Attack of the Clones explores his backstory.

Flavor of The Empire Strikes Back

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was the first Star Wars film to show the episode number in its original title scroll ("Episode IV" was added to A New Hope for later video releases). This change firmly establishes it as part of a story that is much larger than the one film that came before it. As the middle film in a trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back is darker than both A New Hope and The Return of the Jedi; several important revelations are made, and the story ends with our characters in big trouble, the Empire having temporarily won. Although it met with mixed feedback after its premiere, many fans now consider The Empire Strikes Back to be the best film of the Original Trilogy.

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