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Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on September 16, 2016
Poster art by Tom Jung
Poster art by Tom Jung

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back was directed by Irvin Kershner and premiered on May 17th, 1980. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz and Alec Guinness. Screenplay by Leigh Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan. Music by John Williams. 124mins.

After the rebel base on Hoth is attacked by the Empire, Luke flies to Dagobah where he is trained in the Jedi arts by Yoda. Meanwhile Han and Leia journey to the planet Bespin, to visit Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian.

A sequel was inevitable after Lucas hit the jackpot with Star Wars (1977) he had plans for a series of 9 movies and this was to be the middle trilogy, Lucas would later change his mind and turn it into a 6 episode saga.

Warning! This article contains plot spoilers.

Luke: I'll never join you!
Vader: If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Vader: No. I am your father.
Luke: No. That's not true. That's impossible!
Vader: Search your feelings, you know it to be true!
Luke: Noooo!

Mark Hamill (1951-) / Luke Skywalker

Born in Concord, California, Mark Hamill’s films include – Star Wars (1977), The Big Red One (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Slipstream (1989), Sleepwalkers (1992), Village of the Damned (1995), Wing Commander (1999) and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001)

Leia: Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder!
Han: Who's scruffy-looking?

Harrison Ford (1942-) / Han Solo

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Harrison Ford's films include - American Graffiti (1973), Star Wars (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Blade Runner (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Witness (1985), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), Patriot Games (1992), The Fugitive (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Air Force One (1997), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) and Cowboys & Aliens (2011).

Han: Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a goodbye kiss?
Leia: I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee.
Han: I can arrange that. You could use a good kiss.

Carrie Fisher (1956-) / Princess Leia Organa

Born in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Carrie Fisher’s films include – Shampoo (1975), Star Wars (1977), The Blues Brothers (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The Burbs (1989), When Harry Met Sally (1989), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2000), Charlie’s Angel’s Full Throttle (2003) and Sorority Row (2009).

Lando: I've just made a deal that'll keep the Empire out of here forever.

Billy Dee Williams (1937-) / Lando Calrissian

Born in New York City, Billy Dee Williams films include – Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Mahogany (1975), The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976), Nighthawks (1981), Return of the Jedi (1983), Batman (1989 as Harvey Dent) and Fanboys (2009).

Yoda: (To Luke) A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!

Frank Oz (1944-) / Voice of Yoda

Born in Hereford, England, Frank Oz has directed – The Dark Crystal (1982), The Muppet’s Take Manhattan (1984), Little Shop of Horrors (1986), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), What About Bob? (1991), Housesitter (1992), Bowfinger (1999), The Score (2001), The Stepford Wives (2004) and Death at a Funeral (2007).

Jeremy Bulloch (1945-) / Boba Fett

Born in Leicestershire, England, Jeremy Bulloch’s films include – Summer Holiday (1963), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Return of the Jedi (1983), Octopussy (1983) and Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Julian Glover (1935-) / General Veers

Born in London, England, Julian Glover's films include - Tom Jones (1963), Quatermass and the Pit (1967 as Colonel Breen), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), Antony and Cleopatra (1972), Juggernaut (1974), For Your Eyes Only (1981 as Kristatos), Cry Freedom (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989 as Walter Donovan), King Ralph (1991), Troy (2004) and The Young Victoria (2009).

Kenneth Colley (1937-) / Admiral Piett

Born in Manchester, England, Kenneth Colley’s films include – The Jokers (1967), The Blood Beast Terror (1968), The Music Lovers (1970), Juggernaut (1974), Mahler (1974), Lisztomania (1975 as Chopin), Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979 as Jesus), Firefox (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Rainbow (1989)

It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy.

Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth.

The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space….

- Episode V - opening title roll -

George Lucas decided to produce the next Star Wars film himself and finance it with some of his own money, he chose not to direct it bringing in one of his teachers at USC, Irvin Kershner (1923-2010), to direct one of the most anticipated films in history.

Kershner won a Best Director Saturn Award for The Empire Strikes Back, his other films include – A Fine Madness (1966), The Flim-Flam Man (1967), Return of a Man Called Horse (1976), Raid on Entebbe (1976), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Never Say Never Again (1983) and Robocop 2 (1990).

64 sets were built for Empire at Elstree studios. Filming started in March 1979 and ended in September, a glacier in Norway was used for scenes on the ice planet.

Instead of the usual space battles Lucas wanted a land battle for his new film, set on the ice planet of Hoth. Imperial Walkers, four-legged war machines were created for the snow battle, also known as AT-ATs (All Terrain Armored Transport).

Award-winning visual effects supervisor Phil Tippett used a stop-motion animation technique called Go-Motion to animate the walkers for the sequence.

Smaller two-legged walkers could be glimpsed during the battle, they were the AT-STs (All Terrain Scout Transport) they would be featured more prominently during the forest battle on Endor in Return of the Jedi (1983).

Emperor: The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.
Darth Vader: If he could be turned, he will become a powerful ally.
Emperor: Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?
Darth Vader: He will join us or die, my master.

In the original 1980 version of The Empire Strikes Back the emperor was voiced by actor Clive Revill. Make up legend Rick Baker’s wife Elaine was made up as the face of the emperor.

Yoda was created by British make up artist Stuart Freeborn, basically an elaborate muppet which was operated and voiced by Frank Oz.

The only time C-3PO shared a scene with Darth Vader in the entire saga is during the carbon freezing scene in Empire.

In the scene where Mark Hamill pulls a snake out of his spaceship on Dagobah the snake bit him just after being assured that it was quite harmless.

Hamill was involved in a bad car accident before filming begun on Empire and had to have reconstructive surgery on his face. The scene at the beginning of Empire where the Wampa hits him and knocks him out was written into the script to explain the change in his facial features.

Harrison Ford came up with the line “I know” after Leia tells Han she loves him, the original line was "Just remember that, Leia, because I'll be back,” which sounds like something Arnold Schwarzenegger would say.

C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han: Never tell me the odds.

During the Millennium Falcon’s flight through the asteroid field ILM used a potato as one of the asteroids.

Darth Vader’s super star destroyer was 3.8 kilometers in length and is named “Executor”.

Darth Vader was ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s 50 Greatest Movie Villains list, No.1 was Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter and no.2 Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates.

There was great secrecy surrounding the revelation that Darth Vader was Luke’s father, only a handful of people knew, among them Mark Hamill and James Earl Jones. Even the actor playing Darth Vader was given a false page of script to read, David Prowse in that scene tells Luke “Obi-Wan killed your father!” which was later dubbed by James Earl Jones with the correct line. Jones initial reaction was that Vader must be lying to Luke.

The line “No, I am your father!” was among the nominated lines which didn’t quite make the AFI’s 100 greatest quotes list.

Yoda’s line “Try not! Do, or do not, there is no try.” was also nominated.

Empire was nominated for 4 Oscars, winning for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound, the other nominations are for Best Music (John Williams) and Best Art Direction.

It won Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Director, Best Actor (Mark Hamill) and Best Special Effects, voted for by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA.

John Williams score won a Grammy award for Best Motion Picture Score.

Chosen for preservation by the National Film Registry in 2010 for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant".

The Empire Strikes Back’s original production budget was $18m and ended up costing $25m, twice as much as the first film. It was the biggest film of 1980 earning $183m at the U.S. box office, Empire’s current worldwide total is $538m.

The Special Edition of The Empire Strikes Back was release in 1997, it grossed $67m in the U.S. There were fewer changes to the visual effects this time round. Noteworthy were the effects for Cloud City which was opened up visually.

Lines of dialogue were altered in the Special Edition, the worst offender was changing Vader’s line “Bring my shuttle!” to the far less lovely “Alert my Star Destroyer to prepare for my arrival”, which could have been worse I suppose, it could have been “Alert my orbiting Star Destroyer ‘Executor’ to prepare for my imminent arrival and there’d better be a hot cup of cocoa standing by, or else! Now where did we park that shuttle?”

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is regarded by many film fans as the best movie in the Star Wars Saga and that rarity, a sequel which is as good if not better than the original.

My personal preference leans towards the 1977 original but admittedly Empire was an excellent follow up. And thanks to a cliffhanger ending it was to be three years before we moviegoers saw Han Solo rescued, Vader’s redemption and the Empire defeated.

Poster art by Roger Kastel
Poster art by Roger Kastel
Poster art by Noriyoshi Ohrai
Poster art by Noriyoshi Ohrai
Poster art by Boris Vallejo
Poster art by Boris Vallejo

The Critic’s Wrote –

“It is technically even more proficient, has virtually the same ingredients and bursts forth into a world that still seems ripe for its special blend of nostalgically simple story-telling and complicated technology. If George Lucas wants to go on and on . . . there seems no good reason yet why anything should stop him.” (The Guardian)

“As the successor to Star Wars it is every bit as visually astounding, fast-moving, noisy, swashbuckling and unbelievable as its parent.” (Sunday Telegraph)

“By far the most imaginative part of the Star Wars trilogy. This middle, bridging film is chained to an unresolved plot and doesn’t have the leaping, comic-book hedonism of the 1977 Star Wars, but you can feel the love of movie magic that went into its cascading imagery.” (Pauline Kael)

“A lifeless copy of Star Wars propelled chiefly on the momentum of that earlier film.” (Cinefantastique)

"The level of invention and the special effects are as high as ever and, for once, a sequel is as enjoyable and exciting as the original.” (Alan Frank)

"Confession: When I went to see "The Empire Strikes Back" I found myself glancing at my watch almost as often as I did when I was sitting through a truly terrible Michael Caine movie called "The Island." The Empire Strikes Back" is not a truly terrible movie. It's a nice movie. It's not, by any means, as nice as "Star Wars." It's not as fresh and funny and surprising and witty, but it is nice and inoffensive and, in a way that no one associated with it need be ashamed of, it's also silly." (Vincent Canby, New York Times)

"The best of the three Star Wars films and the most thought-provoking, after the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story." (Roger Ebert)


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    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thank you Mary, your comment and kind words are most appreciated.

      This is one film series that will probably never be remade or rebooted, not in our lifetimes anyway. And why should they when there is a wealth of new stories that they can tell in the Star Wars universe?

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      Yet another excellent hub. I love the photos you used and the quotes you added throughout. You truly provide a wealth of information on a great movie.

      The entire saga will never be equaled. Nothing will ever touch young and old with such imagination and heart as Star Wars.

      Voted up and interesting.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks for commenting rabbit75, always appreciated.

      I agree, that first Star Wars trilogy is one of the best trilogies ever made. Just because its space opera doesn't make it less important than a trilogy of gangster films, love stories or western movies.

      The first Star Wars film did include Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness, they are pretty good actors. Hamill and Fisher were still novices in movies at the time. Hamill found his calling as a voice artist in animation.

      Thanks for posting.

    • rabbit75 profile image


      7 years ago

      The Empire has to be my favorite from the first Star Wars Trilogy, only because the acting in the first Star Wars (with the exception of Harrison Ford) was ubber terrible.

      In Empire the acting got a little better and by Jedi the cast really seemed to home in on the characters. I also like Empire better than Jedi because it was one of the first movie EVER where the bad guys come out on top all the way until the end.

      I thought that was cool, and gave the series the needed drama. Great lens as always Steve. I enjoyed being brought back to memory lane with the Empire Strikes Back.

      The first Star Wars trilogy is absolutely one of the few trilogies in which every film stacks up with each other. One of the best, if not the best, classic trilogies in film...ever!

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Hi Bruce, good to see you again, thanks for the comment, votes, kind words and anecdote, much appreciated.

      I watched the trilogy a couple of weeks ago which got me in the mood to produce these hubs. Good to read children still enjoy these movies, they've become beloved fantasy classics like The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins, if only Lucas would stop messing about with them.

      I'm just finishing off Episode VI, should be ready in a couple of hours. 300 photos and screenshots to sift through.

      Thanks for posting amigo.

    • Cogerson profile image


      7 years ago from Virginia

      First of awesome hub on a awesome movie. do I have some vivid memories of this movie. I was 10 when Star Wars blew me away in 1977. I could not wait until Empire opened in 1980. Wow was I mad when the movie ended with Luke losing his hand, Han being left in a frozen state and the Dark Side winning. I could not believe that I would have to wait another 3 years for the next an adult I have come to realize the genius of ending the movie the way Lucas did...probably the greatest cliffhanger ever.

      Sadly it seems that by the time Jedi came out, I had gone from a open-eyed 10 year old to a 16 year with a license who thought Jedi was just another Muppet movie. For my money parts 1(Star Wars) and 2(Empire) are the best of the bunch. Lots of great pieces of trivia and as always get photos....your last two hubs have me thinking I should rewatch them yet again. My five year old loves the Star Wars movies, so she is always asking to watch one of the movies. Looking forward to Jedi....thanks for another winning movie hub series....voted up voted awesome voted interesting. Job well done.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks for that bit of info Flora. All I knew about Lady Sings the Blues was that Diana Ross played Billie Holiday.

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      Regarding BDW-I did not necessarily mean his music career was in the movies. It wasn't, though you can see him singing in the video "Voices That Care." He sings jazz when he sings.

      However, he was in some musical films where he himself wasn't singing. The biggest example of this is Lady Sings The Blues about Billie Holliday. He didn't sing, but ther was singing in it, so of course I've seen it... :)

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks for the comment, info and preferences Flora, always appreciated.

      I didn't know Billy Dee Williams was a singer, I've only seen him in Empire, Jedi, Batman and Nighthawks.

      Never been much of a Muppet fan, Yoda is about the only muppet I can watch without switching channels. :)

      I may do a celebrity snapshot hub in the near future and post candid shots of stars old and new, including more from Star Wars.

      That Kastel poster is a fan favourite, they call it the 'Gone With the Wind' poster. :)

      Thanks for posting.

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      I have just left a comment on your episode IV hub because of a fellow costar of Mr. Cushing. It was the best place to put it in your list of hubs on your profile page.

      Looking at the actors in this episode V film I have yet to discuss on your and Cogerson's hubs, I see a couple names that interest me: Billie Dee Williams and Frank Oz.

      Williams I know more of a singer than as an actor. The films of his that I've seen are related to music, and he had some music hits when I was growing up.

      Frank Oz is very important to my childhood because of The Muppets. I love The Muppets and sesame street as they USED to be. Not as they are now.

      I have also seen Oz's films you mention: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, What About Bob? and Death at a Funeral.

      I see there are more cast members still alive than are dead. Good to hear since this was made in my lifetime.

      I notice there is a Bond link in the actor who played Fett as well as a Monty Python link wit hthe actor who played Veers.

      My favourite photos are the behind the scenes photos, in particular Oz working Yoda in a colour photograph.

      My favourite poster is the montage poster by Kastel next to the critics comments.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks alung12, appreciate the comment. The Empire Strikes Back is probably the best film of 1980, I can't even remember any other 1980 films... um Heaven's Gate?

    • alung12 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have to comment, I'm a massive fan of Star wars and The Empire Strikes Back is one of best films from 1980 Iv'e seen along with Stand By Me.

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Hi Flora, thanks for commenting. Yes Luke and Leia kissing was interesting after the revelation in the next film. Poor Luke sure had the hots for her too, oh well. :)

      Thanks for popping in, take care, enjoy your weekend.

    • profile image

      Flora Breen Robison 

      7 years ago

      Hi, Steve. I have a meeting in 30 minutes, so I cannot take the time to read this now. But I wanted to stop by and say I'm glad this is published and I will read it this weekend in detail. Again, I will be focusing on the artwork only as well as talking about my familiarity with the actors. Sadly, I know all the spoilers already even though I have yet to see the film. Rats. (If you aren't sure which "secret" plot line I mean I know already , I referring to the reason why the photo of Luke and Leia kissing holds some irony, shall we say...)

    • Steve Lensman profile imageAUTHOR

      Steve Lensman 

      7 years ago from Manchester, England

      Thanks DS Duby, appreciate the comment and vote. :)

    • DS Duby profile image

      DS Duby 

      7 years ago from United States, Illinois

      Great article a little long winded but otherwise very interesting. I give it an awesome thumbs up.


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