Star Wars Episode V

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back Star Wars Movie Poster
Released
Directed by
Irvin Kershner
Produced by
Gary Kurtz
Screenplay by
Music by
John Williams
Starring
Mark Hamill
Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher
Billy Dee Williams
Anthony Daniels
David Prowse
James Earl Jones
Kenny Baker
Peter Mayhew
Frank Oz

The Empire Strikes Back (later retitled Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) is the second film in the original Star Wars Trilogy and is the fifth episode in the Star Wars Saga.

Following a difficult production, The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980, and initially received mixed reviews from critics, although it has since grown in esteem, becoming one of the most popular chapters in the Star Wars saga and one of the most highly rated films in history. It earned more than US$538 million worldwide over the original run and several re-releases, making it the highest grossing film of 1980. When adjusted for inflation, it is the 12th highest grossing film in history.

The film is set three years after Star Wars. The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous Darth Vader and the Emperor, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader chases a small band of Luke's friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and others—across the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda. When Vader captures Luke's friends, Luke must decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save them.

In 2010, The Empire Strikes Back was selected for preservation in the United States' National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."

Despite their victory over the Galactic Empire with the destruction of the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has suffered setbacks; the Empire's forces have driven the rebels into hiding, forcing some of them to establish a hidden base on the bleak, remote ice planet Hoth. Darth Vader, having become obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, has multiple probe droids dispatched throughout the galaxy; one of these lands on Hoth. While patrolling near the base, Luke tells Han Solo that he is going to be late returning to base camp because he is going to investigate a meteor that had crashed nearby (really the Imperial probe droid). While searching, Luke is attacked and knocked unconscious by a Wampa. Back at the base, Han Solo announces his intention to leave the Rebellion to pay off a debt to Jabba the Hutt (much to Princess Leia's displeasure). When Luke does not return that evening, Han decides to travel through the icy wastelands of Hoth to find his friend. Luke, meanwhile, has been trapped by the Wampa and manages to slice off its arm with his lightsaber in order to escape. Escaping from the creature's lair, Luke begins to succumb to the freezing cold and collapses. The spirit of his late mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, appears before him and instructs him to go to the planet Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda (Frank Oz).

Han manages to find Luke in time and uses the body of his own Tauntaun (which died due to exposure) to provide a shelter for Luke. They are rescued the following morning by a search team sent from Echo Base. Meanwhile, an Imperial probe droid locates the Rebel base on Hoth and is able to report to the Imperial Fleet before Han Solo and Chewbacca can stop or destroy it. An attack on the discovered base is ordered by Vader while the Rebels prepare to evacuate and disperse. The Imperial forces eventually overpower the Rebels using gigantic AT-AT Walkers (All Terrain Armored Transports) and capture the base. Han and Leia escape on the Millennium Falcon with C-3PO and Chewbacca when Leia's escape route is cut off, but they are unable to enter hyperspace because of technical difficulties. They evade pursuit in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia begin to grow closer to each other. Frustrated at having lost the Millenium Falcon, Vader turns to several notorious bounty hunters, including Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch), to assist in locating the Falcon. Meanwhile, Luke escapes from Hoth with R2-D2 and crash lands on Dagobah, where he meets Yoda. After a relatively brief period of intensive training, Luke has premonitions of Han and Leia in pain and of his possible fall to the dark side of the Force. Against Yoda's advice, Luke leaves to save his friends, promising to return to complete his training. As they watch Luke depart, the spirit of Obi-Wan laments that Luke is their last hope. Yoda disagrees and reminds Obi-Wan that there is another.

Having escaped the Imperial forces, but unaware that they are being tracked by Boba Fett, Han's party sets a course for Cloud City, a floating gas mining colony in the skies of the planet Bespin, which is run by Han's old friend Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). Shortly after they arrive at Cloud City, Lando turns them over to Vader to be used as bait in a trap for Luke. Lando then reveals to Han and Leia that he was forced to betray them to prevent the occupation of his city by the Empire.

Vader intends to hold Luke in suspended animation via carbon freezing, and selects Han as a test subject for the process. Before Han is frozen in the carbonite freezing chamber and taken to Jabba the Hutt, Leia professes her love for him; Han replies, "I know". Vader gives Han's hibernating form to Boba Fett, who plans to present this "prize" to Jabba the Hutt. Later, Lando helps Leia and the others escape, insisting that there is still a chance to save Han. Unfortunately, Boba Fett makes off with Han just before they are able to confront him, forcing them to make an escape on the Falcon.

Meanwhile, Luke arrives at Cloud City and falls into Vader's trap. Luke and Vader engage in a lightsaber duel, which leads them over the central air shaft of Cloud City. Vader gains the advantage and severs Luke's right hand, disarming him. With Luke cornered, Vader tempts Luke with the offer to rule the galaxy alongside him, making the revelation that he is in fact Luke's father. Horrified, and in disbelief, Luke plunges down the air shaft until he reaches a tube system that ejects him onto an antenna attached to the underbelly of the floating city. He makes a desperate telepathic plea to Leia, who senses Luke's distress from aboard the Falcon and persuades Lando to return for him. Its hyperdrive finally functional (thanks to timely repairs by R2-D2), the Falcon escapes. Luke is taken aboard a Rebel medical frigate and fitted with an artificial hand. As Luke, Leia, R2-D2 and C-3PO look on from the medical center at the galaxy, Lando and Chewbacca set off on a journey to free Han, who is being kept on Tatooine at Jabba the Hutt's palace.