Top 365 Films – #018 – Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Top 365 Films - Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes BackDIRECTED BY: Irvin Kershner

STARRING: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz, Jeremy Bulloch, Alec Guinness, Denis Lawson, Clive Revill, Julian Glover, Kenneth Colley, Michael Sheard, Michael Culver, John Ratzenberger, Bruce Boa and John Morton

BUDGET: $18m

EARNED (Worldwide): $538.4m

AWARDS: Oscar for Best Sound



After the rebels have been brutally overpowered by the Empire on their newly established base, Luke Skywalker takes advanced Jedi training with Master Yoda, while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke.


Following up from the events of ‘A New Hope’, three years have passed since the destruction of the Death Star and the Galactic Empire overpowers the Rebel Alliance from their base on Yavin IV, driving them to the icy planet of Hoth. Soon the Imperial Fleet finds them and The Empire launches a large-scale attack. Escaping the battle leads to are group being separated, as Luke with R2-D2 heads off to the planet Dagobah to find Jedi Master Yoda while Darth Vader pursues him and Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO try to flee the galaxy from the Empire.


It’s considered by some to be the best in the Star Wars saga and if I’m perfectly honest….I’d agree with that point of view. The Empire Strikes Back goes deeper into the mythology of the force while also showing us just how menacing The Empire truly is not only with the epic Battle of Hoth opening act, but their relentless pursuit of the Millennium Falcon even through an asteroid field. Even worse is seeing that the films most menacing figure, Darth Vader, actually answers to someone above him added a great element to what was to come in the original trilogy’s conclusion, Return of the Jedi. Speaking of great additions there’s probably none more memorable than adding Jedi Master Yoda to the story, giving exposition to force mythology whilst belittling Luke at almost every turn (from ‘Do… or do not. There is no try.’ to when Luke says he’s won’t fail him and that he isn’t afraid ‘You will be. You… will… be.’ to finally ‘That is why you fail.’) he brings humour to proceeds also whilst being important in moving the story forward. Probably the most important additions behind the scenes was George Lucas having someone in to director rather than himself this time in Irvin Kershner and also having Lawrence Kasdan on board to do the screenplay as well, giving the film a darker tone which seemed to set a trend for future trilogies/franchises, have a light-fun first instalment, go dark in the second. The action sequences still kind of hold up from the Battle of Hoth to the asteroid chase, it builds the relationship between Han and Leia that everyone had bought into thanks to this instalment and give us cinematic history in the final act showdown between a somewhat cocky yet out of his depth Luke against Darth Vader who toys with him at the beginning then drops the mother of all cinematic bombshells on him and ends on a bummer note as Luke is in bed shape and Han isn’t in great shape himself. The performances amongst the cast are great as the characters are developed more, with Hamill coming into his own in the role of Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford sharing great chemistry together as Leia and Han. Cinematically there’s some great moments here, from when Luke comes across ‘Vader’ on the swamp planet of Dagobah and beheads him and then he sees the face underneath the mask, to the way the scene is set as he confronts Vader in Cloud City. Let’s not forget John Williams brilliant score once again, including the iconic addition of The Imperial March.


FAVOURITE SCENE: All seems well in Cloud City as Lando Calrissian greets Han and company. He invites them for a meal and as the door opens they (and we) see Darth Vader. What happens? Han shoots first. Sure it may be for nothing and we don’t get to see possibly the most awkward dinner scene ever but I always love that moment.

FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.

Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.’

DID YOU KNOW?: The shots where Luke uses his Jedi powers to retrieve his lightsaber from a distance were achieved by having Mark Hamill throw the lightsaber away and then running the film in reverse. During the filming of the Battle of Hoth, the Echo Base troops were actually Norwegian mountain-rescue skiers. In exchange for participation in the film, Lucasfilm made a donation to the Norwegian Red Cross. At 30, Episode V has the lowest body count of the entire Star Wars saga. When Mark Hamill was having trouble with the Dagobah scenes with Yoda, Frank Oz brought in Miss Piggy to make him laugh. When shooting on location in Finse, Norway, a fierce snow storm hit the hotel where the cast and crew were staying. This would have normally halted filming, but director Irvin Kershner thought these weather conditions were an excellent opportunity to film the scene where Luke wanders through the snow after escaping the Wampa cave. He did this by sending Mark Hamill outside into the cold, while he and the cameraman stayed and filmed inside the hotel’s front hall.


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