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

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Critic Consensus: 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.

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Movie Info

The second entry in George Lucas' Star Wars trilogy finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the green-as-grass hero from the first film, now a seasoned space warrior. Luke's Star Wars cohorts Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are likewise more experienced in the ways and means of battling the insidious Empire, as represented by the brooding Darth Vader (body of David Prowse, voice of James Earl Jones). And, of course, "The Force," personified by the ghost of Luke's mentor Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), is with them all. Retreating from Vader's minions, Luke ends up, at first, on the Ice Planet Hoth, and then the tropical Dagobah. Here he makes the acquaintance of the gnomish Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), whose all-encompassing wisdom comes in handy during the serial-like perils of the rest of the film. Before the film's open-ended climax, we are introduced to the apparently duplicitous Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and are let in on a secret that profoundly affects both Luke and his arch-enemy, Vader. Many viewers consider this award-winning film the best of the Star Wars movies, and its special-effects bonanza was pure gold at the box office.

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Cast

Mark Hamill
as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford
as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher
as Princess Leia Organa
Alec Guinness
as Ben `Obi-Wan' Kenobi
David Prowse
as Darth Vader
Billy Dee Williams
as Lando Calrissian
Peter Mayhew
as Chewbacca
James Earl Jones
as Darth Vader
Jeremy Bulloch
as Boba Fett
John Hollis
as Lobot, Lando's Aide
Jack Purvis
as Chief Ugnaught
Des Webb
as Wampa Snow Creature
Kathryn Mullen
as Performing Asst. for Yoda
Clive Revill
as The Emperor
Kenneth Colley
as Admiral Piett
Julian Glover
as Gen. Veers
Michael Sheard
as Admiral Ozzel
Michael Culver
as Capt. Needa
John Dicks
as Other Imperial Officer
Milton Johns
as Other Imperial Officer
Mark Jones
as Other Imperial Officer
Oliver Maguire
as Other Imperial Officer
Bruce Boa
as Gen. Rieekan
Denis Lawson
as Wedge (Rogue 3)
Richard Oldfield
as Hobbie, Rogue 4
John Morton
as Dak, Luke's Gunner
Ian Liston
as Janson, Wedge's Gunner
John Ratzenberger
as Maj. Derlin
Jack McKenzie
as Deck Lieutenant
Jerry Harte
as Head Controller
Norman Chancer
as Other Rebel Officer
Norwich Duff
as Other Rebel Officer
Ray Hassett
as Other Rebel Officer
Brigitte Kahn
as Other Rebel Officer
Burnell Tucker
as Revel Officer
Ralph McQuarrie
as General McQuarrie
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News & Interviews for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Critic Reviews for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

All Critics (93) | Top Critics (26)

This is a respectable sequel to Star Wars but not as good.

Apr 27, 2018 | Full Review…

The Empire Strikes Back is the ultimate in fantasies, a visual wonder and a movie that should be recommended highly if only because it makes you feel good.

Dec 15, 2015 | Full Review…

Despite a couple of drawbacks, the Empire Strikes Back is an immense amount of fun -- big and splashy and breathtaking in its display of cinematic genius by a huge group of marvelously talented people.

Dec 14, 2015 | Full Review…

Another richly imaginative, engrossing and spectacular motion picture from the redoubtable George Lucas.

Jun 29, 2015 | Full Review…

The Empire may not top Star Wars, but it certainly makes one look forward to whatever new surprises George Lucas and his band of cinematic wizards can conjure up for us.

Jun 29, 2015 | Full Review…

It is technically even more proficient [than Star Wars], 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.

Jun 29, 2015 | Full Review…
Guardian
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Not only the best of the franchise, but one of the greatest films ever made. It is simply without flaws.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

A darker, more mature, and more sophisticated Star Wars than the original. That doesn't necessarily make it a better film, but it does make for a more involving plot. That's really the biggest improvement from A New Hope to Empire. The expanded universe and characters really increased the drama and stakes. Other improvements like the special effects, acting, and set design really bring this universe to life. There's also better action sequences, including a rousing finale between Luke and Darth Vader. Vader's increased role in the film is a welcome highlight as well. He's absolutely the driving force of the series. Empire showed exactly how to craft a sequel to improve on an already excellent beginning. Unfortunately, Return of the Jedi would be a step down.

Josh Lewis
Josh Lewis

Super Reviewer

Startling relationships, dark pasts, and high-octane space battles surround this brilliant sequel to the beloved "Star Wars" film, "A New Hope." The first half of this film is more of the same, with a few new characters and a much better screenplay; However, the second half surpasses it's predecessor in every way. Filled with amazing twists and brilliant dialogue, "Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back" is arguably better than the original, which is almost impossible for me to decide between, because it is part of a saga that doesn't feel distant from the first at all. With great direction, fantastic writing, and visuals, that, for 1980's is spectacular. Fantastic filmmaking all around!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Before I start I should let everyone know that this is my favorite film of all time. So I will probably be gushing for most of the following paragraphs. It's such a rarity for a sequel to be a better film than the original. The Bride of Frankenstein was probably the first. Recently The Dark Knight comes to mind. When it comes to The Empire Strikes Back that idea that a follow up could be a better film than the first one is expanded to another level entirely. Once again, the film is sprinkled with visions of the past on top of an already nostalgic ride. The first act of the film follows out heroes from the first film being beaten by the evil Empire at their home base on the remote ice world of Hoth. Scattered for most of the film Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) along with their sidekicks attempt to outwit not only the Empire, but bounty hunters working for the Empire and Solo's debtor Jabba The Hutt. Meanwhile Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) travels to a swamp world known as Dagobah to train with the Jedi master Yoda (Frank Oz). All the while Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones) is working to capture Skywalker and turn him to the dark side as an ally. Amazingly, director Irwin Kerschner and writer Lawrence Kasdan are able to squeeze more adventure out of the franchise in this installment. The film hits the ground running and doesn't let up for the next two hours as a race across the galaxy, with slow down during Luke's training that keep the audience engaged by the small Jedi master. There is a balance throughout the film of adventure, romance, intrigue, and tragedy. No spoilers, but this film does not end as happily as the last. Like a typical second act, it throws its characters in the worst possible scenario leaving the audience wanting to see if their heroes can get out of this one. The question that will always be debated as long as cinema and Star Wars is relevant is whether Empire is superior to Star Wars. As an upgrade in storytelling and effects it truly is. Instead of milking the film and the mega franchise it created, Empire builds on the mighty foundations set by that film from the summer of 1977. The age old pieces of building a second adventure that plunges their heroes in danger is as old as fiction is itself. In a nutshell, we were introduced to these characters in Star Wars. The Empire Strikes Back is the film in which we learned to love them, with all their little quirks and all. This film is an unexpected triumph that really cemented the entire franchise into popular culture. Yes, it's my favorite film. Yes, I do consider it a masterpiece.

Chris Garman
Chris Garman

Super Reviewer

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