10 Reasons Why The Empire Strikes Back is the Best Star Wars Film

Hmmm, uncomfortable Frank Oz's hand is.
Hmmm, uncomfortable Frank Oz's hand is. | Source

Why the Empire Rules

If you ask a Star Wars fan what his or her favorite chapter of the saga is and the most likely answer you will receive is The Empire Strikes Back. And if that person is a real geek then the reply will be: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Why does this episode get all the love besides being absent of furry little Ewoks and the hopeful assumption that the reviled Jar Jar Binks is long dead? Well, since the internet loves lists here are ten.


1. It is the darkest of the original trilogy.

Sure, every movie that comes out these days is a "DARKER take", but Empire was dark before dark was cool. The Rebels get creamed at the Battle of Hoth, Luke faces his dark side, loses his hand, and unintentionally reconnects with his estranged father, Han gets frozen in carbonite, the Millennium Falcon is on the fritz, and even poor C-3PO gets blown up. Overall it is a bad time for the good guys, which makes for great drama. As Dante from Clerks observed: “It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings.”

2. Darth Vader is in charge.

Governor Tarkin held “Vader's leash” in A New Hope and Emperor Palpatine takes full command in Return of the Jedi. But Vader is truly the central villain in Empire, and all his officers cower in fear. No whining or going on about how he doesn’t like sand.

3. Yoda appears and schools Luke in the true nature of the Force.

When Jedi Master Yoda is introduced, we see a funny, mischievous side that was absent in the prequels. And when he trains Luke he explains it as the mysterious, mystical energy field that it is supposed to be: “…for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you! Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Even between the land and the ship.” Not a single mention of midichlorians and blood cells. Space magic is all the explanation we need.

Oh, and this scene:

4. Han and company are constantly on the run

Han Solo and Chewie show composure under pressure since the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon fails. (Three times to be exact). The Empire relentlessly pursues them, but Han manages to improvise enough to outmaneuver and hide effectively…for a while. These scenes had the sharpest dialogue to boot. Speaking of which…

5. There's never a dull moment.

There are moments in Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, and especially The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones where the pacing tends to drag. Wooden dialogue tends to creep in. Not so with Empire. The pacing is brisk and the dialogue cheese free. There’s never a time where you ask “Where the hell is the action?” This is primarily due to the direction of Irvin Kershner. Unlike George Lucas, who is more of a visionary and skilled with technical aspects, Kershner is more of an “actor’s director” who focuses more on character. He also allowed more room for improvisation, like Harrison Ford’s famous response to Leia’s “I love you” with “I know.”

I never wanted throw pillows more than this moment.
I never wanted throw pillows more than this moment. | Source

6. Sexual Innuendo

Han: “Don’t get excited!”

Leia: “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.”

Han: “Sorry, sweetheart. Haven’t got time for anything else…”

Hot.

7. Best lightsaber duel in the original trilogy.

Sure, the highly choreographed twirls and flips of the duels in the prequel trilogy look nice, but what it lacked was intensity and emotional impact. The techniques in the duel between Luke and Vader look rudimentary in comparison. Knowing Luke trained for like a few days (?) makes this fight more suspenseful. Lightsaber battles seem to happen nearly every five minutes in the prequels but this one battle at the film's climax make it more special.

8. Boba Fett has badass lines. (It’s all in the delivery)

In retrospect, Boba Fett is pretty overrated. I mean, what does he really do in the movie besides look and sound intimidating? Yeah, he tracks Han to Bespin and stuff but he's a bounty hunter, that's his job. He's the mysterious silent type but when he did speak, it was very Clint Eastwood like. “Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold.” and “What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.” Pretty badass. In Jedi his only line is: “What the? Aaaarrgggh!!” Not so much..

9. Lando has a moral quandary.

Do you screw your friends over for the “greater good?” Apparently so, as Lando makes a deal with the Empire that he later regrets. Good guys and bad guys were clear cut up to this point, but Lando’s tough choice adds greater tension and conflict. He later redeems himself, of course.

10. The Big Reveal (Well- known SPOILER AHEAD!)

Only George Lucas, Mark Hamill, and a handful of the crew were aware of Luke’s true lineage. Even James Earl Jones thought Vader was lying. To this day it is still a powerful dramatic moment. And the proper quote is “No, I am your father,” not “Luke, I am your father.”


Do you agree with this list? Discuss below!

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Comments 10 comments

embitca profile image

embitca 8 years ago from Boston

I agree with every word. Empire will always be my favorite of the entire series.

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Gilbert M. profile image

Gilbert M. 8 years ago from California Author

Thanks, I appreciate it.


J_Eds profile image

J_Eds 8 years ago from Blackpool

Yep, this is indeed a fantastic film! But I love all three original ones. The new ones just don't cut the mustard...


Gilbert M. profile image

Gilbert M. 8 years ago from California Author

J_Eds: I actually like them in this order: 5,4,3,6,2,1.


Boba Fett 6 years ago

I have to agree. It is also the first movie where I appeared, as long as you don't count the Holiday/Christmas special...


ellahall2011 profile image

ellahall2011 5 years ago

I love all the Star Wars Series.


Jack 4 years ago

I love each of the STAR WARS films, and I've gotta admit that I agree with the overall consensus about EMPIRE being the best one. My complete ranking goes:

V , III IV , II , VI ,I


Anate profile image

Anate 2 years ago

Empire Strikes Back is an excellent movie, and it is probably the best of the series. Return of the Jedi does have one major thing over it. The climax of Return of the Jedi with Luke declaring himself a Jedi like his father before him is in my opinion one of the best climaxes in cinematic history.


Peter Reed 10 months ago from England, UK

I love this Hug and completely agree! Love Empire Strikes Back.


Moe 10 months ago

I prefer the ones with the new cast of kirk and McCoy. They will always be my favorite StarWars. This list is forgetting the Romulans and klinks. They are both pretty dark races and add a lot of intensity to any movie for sure.

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