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Movie Review: "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back"

Theatrical Release: 6/20/1980

Theatrical Release: 6/20/1980


Although the Rebellion was successful in destroying the Death Star, the Empire is still alive and well. They still have vast resources, seemingly endless Star Destroyers, and Darth Vader (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) is on the hunt for what is left of the Rebellion. The Rebels have gathered on the remote ice planet of Hoth and have set up operations there. Unfortunately, it is only a matter of time before Darth Vader and his fleet are able to track them down.

Meanwhile, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) has still not paid a large debt that he owes Jabba the Hutt. He has been essential to the Rebellion, but if he does not pay his debt soon, Jabba will surely put a massive bounty on his head, one that will be impossible to outrun. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has also been essential to the Rebellion, but Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) has given him a mission. He has advised Luke to locate an old Jedi Master to complete his Jedi training, but Darth Vader is closer to tracking down the Rebel base than anyone realized.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Han & Leia (+8pts)

Yoda's Personality (-1pts)

Luke & Yoda (+8pts)

Time (-2pts)

Darth Vader & Bespin (+8pts)

Fishy Lando (-1pts)


Pro: Han & Leia (+8pts)

I really enjoyed the evolving relationship between these two characters. Han very obviously wanted to be with Leia (Carrie Fisher) romantically, and Leia seemed to want the same thing, but she also seemed reluctant, as she was focused on the Rebellion and her role in it. The chemistry between the two actors made this romance feel very natural. They made it easy to root for the potential relationship, and their attitudes provided a relatable and personal story in this epic space-fantasy. Their interactions with one another were captivating, and their banter was really entertaining. These two characters had a lot of personality on their own, and they worked even better together.


Con: Yoda's Personality (-1pts)

This is just me being really nit-picky, as I struggled to come up with three issues I had with this movie. That being said, while I get what the filmmakers were going for here, I thought Yoda’s personality could have been handled a little better. I get that the filmmakers were going for a reveal, and I get that the character was putting on an act before he was ready to reveal himself. However, the pre-reveal Yoda and the post-reveal Yoda just felt like completely different characters.

The two versions just did not blend very well. It was as if a switch was suddenly flipped, causing the character to behave completely different than he did before. If you watch this movie for the first time, and have not seen the prequels, this may not even bother you. However, if you have seen this movie before or if you have seen the prequels already, then the pre-reveal Yoda will feel somewhat out-of-character.


Pro: Luke & Yoda (+8pts)

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduced us to the Force in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, but Yoda (Frank Oz) made the Force feel so much bigger, and I liked the character a lot. He was silly at times, but he was wise and very powerful in the ways of the Force. With Obi-Wan, Luke had only scratched the surface with his knowledge of the force. Now it was time for Luke to learn from the best. Yoda had a wise monk sort of philosophy, and it was interesting to see the character’s mentor relationship with Luke.

The chemistry between these two characters was a testament to the fantastic job by the filmmakers, and by Mark Hamill. Even though you could tell that Yoda was a puppet, the way that the filmmakers pulled it off—with an assist from Mark Hamill’s performance—made me believe in the character. Luke was the eager student hoping to learn the ways of the force as quickly as possible, so that he could get back to the Rebellion. Yoda was the stern teacher trying to teach Luke patience, while also teaching him the ways of the Force. I really liked these two characters together, and I enjoyed learning more about the Force, so I naturally enjoyed every moment of Luke’s time on Dagobah.


Con: Time (-2pts)

The filmmakers could have done a better job of clarifying how much time Luke spent on Dagobah. Was he there for a day, a week, a month, or even more? Yoda had been adamant that Luke was “too old” to begin training. This implied that Jedi training would have been easier to someone who was younger and therefore more easily influenced, but it also implied that this training would take time. I understood that Darth Vader was simply toying with him, but defining how long Luke had been training with Yoda would have made me more invested in the climax. Keeping both the length of Luke’s training and the length of the training necessary to be “ready" unclear, the filmmakers made Luke’s chances unclear as well.


Pro: Darth Vader & Bespin (+8pts)

The Cloud City on Bespin was an interesting city to see explored. I liked seeing what Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) were up to, and I enjoyed meeting the charismatic new character of Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), which left me wanting to know more about him and his history with Han Solo. While Luke was on Dagobah, this was what the rest of the protagonists were up to. I found it all really entertaining, and it culminated in the iconic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.

The duel was emotionally driven, it involved two iconic characters, and the presence of Darth Vader commanded the screen. It all led to an epic reveal that—while Luke's reaction felt over-the-top—was arguably the most iconic scene in all of Star Wars, a franchise full of iconic scenes. The climax of this movie was not an action filled climax. While there was plenty of action to keep the viewer entertained, the climax of this movie was all emotion, and I was totally invested in it.


Con: Fishy Lando (-1pts)

This was another really minor issue, but I never really trusted Lando Calrissian. I bought that he and Han had history, and I liked all of that, but I always got the impression that he was hiding something. He just always felt a little fishy, which made me feel like it was only a matter of time before he would turn on the main group. I never truly trusted him, and Leia never did either, so this was probably what the filmmakers were going for, but I thought this character would have been more effective if the viewer thought there was even the slightest chance that he was on the protagonists' side.

Grading Scale






























Grade: A+ (95pts)

Of all of the movies in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back was arguably the best one. It further developed Han and Leia's relationship, and it focused on their incredibly relatable dynamic with one another. It also introduced Yoda, and we got to see Luke's training on Dagobah, which was as entertaining as it was interesting. Then there was all the stuff that the rest of the protagonists were up to at Cloud City on Bespin, which was entertaining in its own right. Everything built toward a climactic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The duel was emotional, it was personal, it was epic, and it led to a massive reveal that is still—after about forty years—one of the most iconic moments in cinema history. The movie had a few very minor issues, but I liked this movie a lot, as have many other fans of the franchise, and every Star Wars movie since this one has been trying to recapture this movie's magic—with some coming a lot closer than others.

Best of the Star Wars Franchise



Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back



Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi



Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope



Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens



Rogue One: A Star Wars Story



Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith



Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker



Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi



Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones



Solo: A Star Wars Story



Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace



Sam Shepards from Europe on December 09, 2019:

Still my favorite star wars movie of all time and I don't think it will be replaced anytime soon.