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

Updated on May 31, 2020
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There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

Theatrical Release: 6/20/1980
Theatrical Release: 6/20/1980 | Source


Although the Rebellion was successful at destroying the Death Star, the Empire is still alive and well. They still have vast resources, seemingly endless Star Destroyers, and Darth Vader 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 (David Prowse and James Earl Jones) 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 him, 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 so that Luke can complete his Jedi training. However, Darth Vader is closer to tracking down the Rebel base than anyone realized.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The Pros
The Cons
Han & Leia (+8pts)
Yoda's Personality (-1pts)
Luke & Yoda (+8pts)
Time (-2pts)
Darth Vader & Bespin (+8pts)
Fishy Lando (-1pts)
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.

Pro: Han & Leia (+8pts)

I really enjoyed the evolving relationship between these two characters. Han very obviously wants to be with Leia romantically, and Leia seems to want the same thing, but she is reluctant to go along with it. She is focused on the Rebellion and her role in it, and seems to not like the fact that she wants to be with Han. It was an interesting dynamic that I enjoyed watching.

The chemistry between the two actors made this romance feel very natural. They made it easy to root for the potential relationship, and provided a very relatable and personal story to this epic space-fantasy. Their interactions with one another were simply captivating, and their banter was really entertaining. These two characters had a lot of personality on their own, but they worked even better together, with personalities that complemented each other really well.


Con: Yoda's Personality (-1pts)

This is just me being really nit-picky, as I struggled to find three issues that 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. If you are watching 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 have seen the prequels, then the pre-reveal Yoda will feel somewhat out-of-character. Fortunately, this was a very minor issue, and I will get into everything that I liked about the character in the next section of this review.


Pro: Luke & Yoda (+8pts)

Obi-Wan Kenobi introduced us to the Force in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, but everything with Yoda in this movie made the Force feel so much bigger. I liked the character of Yoda quite a bit. He was silly at times, but was very wise and very powerful in the ways of the Force. Luke really only scratched the surface with his knowledge of the force during his time with Obi-Wan. Now it is time for Luke to learn from the best. Yoda was very clearly powerful, and extremely knowledgeable in the ways of the Force. He had a wise monk sort of philosophy, and it was interesting to see the character’s chemistry with Luke.

The chemistry between these two characters is a testament to the fantastic job by the filmmakers, and by Mark Hamill. Even though you could tell, visually, that Yoda was a puppet, the way that the filmmakers pulled it off and Mark Hamill’s performance made me believe in the character. I just really liked the dynamic between these two characters. Luke was the eager student, hoping to learn the ways of the force quickly so that he could get back to the Rebellion. However, Yoda was the stern teacher trying to teach Luke patience in addition to teaching him the ways of the Force. I really liked these two characters, and their dynamic with one another, as well as learning more about the Force, so I really ate up every moment of Luke’s time on Dagobah.


Con: Time (-2pts)

This is another pretty minor issue, but it makes a difference when looking at the plot of the movie, as well as its climax. 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 in that Luke was “too old” to begin training. This implied that Jedi training may be easier to someone who is younger and therefore more easily influenced, but it also implied that this training takes time.

I understand that Darth Vader was simply toying with him, but defining how long Luke had been training with Yoda would have gone a long way in making the film’s climax even more impactful. If he had not been there long, it would have increased the sense that Luke was not ready. On the other hand, if he had been there long, it would have made it feel like Luke had a chance at victory (albeit a small one). Keeping both the length of Luke’s training and the length of training necessary to be “ready" unclear, the filmmakers made Luke’s chances unclear as well, which in turn made the climax a bit less impactful than it could have been. Fortunately, the filmmakers made up for this in other ways.


Pro: Darth Vader & Bespin (+8pts)

Cloud City on Bespin was an interesting city to see explored. I liked seeing what Chewbacca and C-3PO 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 his history with Han Solo. While Luke was on Dagobah, this is what the rest of the primary protagonists were up to, and I found it all really entertaining. Then there was the climactic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, which was simply excellent.

I will keep this point vague, because this involves one of the biggest spoilers in the history of spoilers. The scene was emotionally driven, 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 a little 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 emotional, but I was totally invested in it.


Con: Fishy Lando (-1pts)

This is another really minor one, and I mean really minor, 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 turned on the main group of protagonists. I never truly trusted him, although Leia never did either, so that is probably what the filmmakers were going for. However, I thought this character would have been more effective if the viewer had trusted him fully.

Grading Scale


Grade: A+ (95pts)

Of all of the movies in the Star Wars franchise, Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back is arguably the best one. It sees the development of Han and Leia's relationship, and their fantastic dynamic with one another. It also sees the introduction of Yoda, and Luke's training on Dagobah, which was as entertaining as it was interesting. Then there was the entertaining stuff that the rest of the protagonists were up to at Cloud City on Bespin.

All of this led to a climactic duel between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, which was what this entire movie was building toward. The duel was emotional, it was personal, it was epic, and it led to a massive reveal that is still (after almost forty years) one of the most iconic moments in cinema history. The movie had a few very minor issues, and it honestly took me some time to come up with some of them. However, any issues that I had with this movie were incredibly minor. 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


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    • Sam Shepards profile image

      Sam Shepards 

      7 months ago from Europe

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


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