With all of the hype surrounding the highly anticipated release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many forget to look back and remember the films that transformed Star Wars into the phenomenon it is today. Star Wars first came out in 1977 and took the world by storm. During a time of political and global instability, Star Wars gave people the escape they needed to a galaxy far, far, away. Naturally, a sequel had to be made to continue this epic storyline. People wanted to know what happened to farm boy turned hero Luke Skywalker, fuzzball Chewbacca, dashing Princess Leia, scoundrel Han Solo, and the Dark Lord Darth Vader. However, as everyone knows, the sequel usually ruins the franchise with a few exceptions (The Godfather 2 and Terminator 2: Judgment Day). On May 21, 1980, exactly 35 years ago, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back was released. A sequel that not only continued the Star Wars franchise, but solidified it as the greatest sci-fi saga of all time. Here are several reasons why I consider Empire Strikes Back to be the greatest Star Wars film of the saga.
1. The Imperial March
It’s one of the most iconic pieces of musical scores to ever be in film. Whether or not you have seen Star Wars or not, hearing this soundtrack immediately makes you think of Darth Vader and the Imperial Fleet. The Empire Strikes Back is the first time we hear this piece of music in the Star Wars saga. It is played at the perfect moment, as a fleet of Star Destroyers are eclipsed by Darth Vader’s personal Star Destroyer as he continuously searches for the Rebels. Throughout the remainder of the film and continuous Star Wars films we hear variations of this march that will always send a shiver down our spines.
Small, green, speech problem, full of wisdom, these words only begin to describe the amazement that comes with Jedi Master Yoda. In Empire Strikes Back, young Luke Skywalker is sent to Dagobah to seek out Yoda, a Jedi Master to continue his training. Naive Luke expects to find a great warrior when he stumbles upon a small green creature. However, this small green creature teaches Luke and viewers all over the world what it truly means to be a Jedi and a person in general. Yoda didn’t simply teach Luke to lift his ship out of the swamp or how to fully use the Force. Rather, Yoda taught us all how to live. He passed along messages of philosophy and wisdom that have stayed with viewers for the past 35 years. Whenever someone asks me who my inspiration is, my first answer is Yoda. His impact on the saga was so great that he was seen in future Star Wars films and many episodes of the Clone Wars animated series. However, nothing will come close to seeing him for the first time in the Empire Strikes Back.
3. Boba Fett
Whether or not he died during Return of the Jedi, Boba Fett is simply a badass. The epitome of a shoot first ask questions later type of person. As one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to track down the Millennium Falcon, Boba Fett is decked out in full Mandalorian Armor and he has a freaking jetpack!! He single handedly tracks down the Millennium Falcon, assists in the capture of Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO, and takes Han Solo frozen in carbonite back to Jabba the Hutt for a massive payday. Despite not having much dialogue, this guy was able to do in a little over an hour what the Empire had been trying to do for who knows how long. And to make it even more badass, the main line of dialogue he’s remembered for is “He’s no good to me dead.” If that doesn’t scream badass then I don’t know what does. Public appeal for Boba Fett has been so high since Empire Strikes Back that rumors are circulating about a Boba Fett film being made as part of the Star Wars Anthology series. Fingers crossed that Boba did find his way out of that Sarlaac Pit.
4. The Empire Really Does Strike Back
So many films have the cheesy ending where the good guys beat the bad guys and/or the guy gets the girl. Everyone is happy at the end and there is peace and joy. Empire Strikes Back broke that tradition in every possible way. Here was a film where the bad guys actually win in basically every scenario. The Rebels are driven away from their base on Hoth by the Empire. The hero in Han Solo is frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. Luke is brutally beaten by Darth Vader and loses his hand in the process. C-3PO is blasted to bits and is barely able to be put back together again. Our band of heroes are beaten down while the forces of the Empire walk away victorious. It’s the victory by the Empire that makes this movie the best in the saga. We feel for our heroes. We want them to overcome this defeat and rise up to defeat the Empire. The last shot of the film shows Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO starting off into the galaxy, symbolizing that there is still hope. This movie shows everyone that no matter what happens, no matter how badly you are beaten, there is and will always be hope for victory.
5. I Am Your Father
It shocked movie goers everywhere. If the Internet was as operable as it was today, it would have broken the Internet. Four words uttered by Darth Vader that changed the franchise and sent a massive shockwave throughout popular culture. After Darth Vader cuts off Luke’s hand, he confesses that Obi-Wan never told Luke what actually happened to his father. Darth Vader then says to Luke, “I am your father.” Like the rest of the world, Luke is in complete shock of this revelation. He screams in anger, shock, and horror before falling into a bottomless chamber. It was these four words that solidified Empire Strikes Back as being the best film in the Star Wars saga. No revelation has ever carried as much weight as Vader’s paternal confession. Those four words set up numerous storylines that paved the way for Expanded Universe novels and the prequel trilogy of films, which focus more on young Anakin Skywalker’s fall to becoming Darth Vader. Even 35 years later, those four words still echo throughout the ears of every geek and Star Wars fan.
To Another 35 Years
As a Star Wars fan, Empire Strikes Back will always be at the very top of my movie list. It was the first film I downloaded when Star Wars went digital. It is a film that has everything. It set the tone for the rest of the saga and opened so many more doors for geeks and fanboys to explore as they made the Star Wars universe their own. Happy Birthday Empire Strikes Back. Here’s to another 35 years of wonder.