Skip to main content

10 Reasons Why "The Empire Strikes Back" Is the Best Star Wars Film

Hmmm, uncomfortable Frank Oz's hand is.

Hmmm, uncomfortable Frank Oz's hand is.

Why the Empire Rules

If you ask a Star Wars fan what his or her favorite chapter of the saga is, the most likely answer you will receive is The Empire Strikes Back. And if that person is a real geek then the reply will be Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Why does this episode get all the love despite being absent of furry little Ewoks? Well, here are 10 reasons why.

1. It Is the Darkest of the Original Trilogy

Sure, every movie that comes out these days has a darker take, but Empire was dark before dark was cool. The rebels get creamed at the Battle of Hoth, Luke faces his dark side, loses his hand, and unintentionally reconnects with his estranged father. Han gets frozen in carbonite, the Millennium Falcon is on the fritz, and even poor C-3PO gets blown up. Overall, it is a bad time for the good guys, which makes for great drama. As Dante from Clerks observed, “It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings.”

2. Darth Vader Is in Charge

Governor Tarkin held Vader's leash in A New Hope and Emperor Palpatine takes full command in Return of the Jedi. But Vader is truly the central villain in Empire, and all his officers cower in fear. No whining or going on about how he doesn’t like sand.

3. Yoda Appears and Schools Luke in the True Nature of the Force

When Jedi Master Yoda is introduced, we see a funny, mischievous side that was absent in the prequels. When he trains Luke he explains the Force as the mysterious, mystical energy field that it is supposed to be; “…for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us, and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you! Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere! Even between the land and the ship.” Not a single mention of midi-chlorians and blood cells. Space magic is all the explanation we need.

4. Han and Company Are Constantly on the Run

Han Solo and Chewie show composure under pressure since the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon fails (three times to be exact.) The Empire relentlessly pursues them, but Han manages to improvise enough to outmaneuver and hide effectively…for a while. These scenes had the sharpest dialogue to boot. Speaking of which…

5. There's Never a Dull Moment

There are moments in Return of the Jedi, Revenge of the Sith, and especially The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones where the pacing tends to drag. Wooden dialogue tends to creep in. Not so with Empire. The pacing is brisk and the dialogue is cheese-free. There’s never a time where you ask “Where the hell is the action?” This is primarily due to the direction of Irvin Kershner. Unlike George Lucas, who is more of a visionary and skilled with technical aspects, Kershner is more of an actor’s director who focuses more on character. He also allowed more room for improvisation, like Harrison Ford’s famous response to Leia’s “I love you” with “I know.”

I never wanted throw pillows more than this moment.

I never wanted throw pillows more than this moment.

6. Sexual Innuendo

Han: “Don’t get excited!”

Leia: “Captain, being held by you isn’t quite enough to get me excited.”

Han: “Sorry, sweetheart. Haven’t got time for anything else…”


7. Best Lightsaber Duel in the Original Trilogy

Sure, the highly choreographed twirls and flips of the duels in the prequel trilogy look nice, but what it lacked were intensity and emotional impact. The techniques in the duel between Luke and Vader look rudimentary in comparison. Knowing Luke trained for like a few days (?) makes this fight more suspenseful. Lightsaber battles seem to happen nearly every five minutes in the prequels but this one battle at the film's climax makes it more special.

8. Boba Fett Has Badass Lines (It's All in the Delivery)

In retrospect, Boba Fett is pretty overrated. I mean, what does he really do in the movie besides look and sound intimidating? Yeah, he tracks Han to Bespin and stuff but he's a bounty hunter, that's his job. He's the mysterious silent type but when he did speak, it was very Clint Eastwood-like. “Put Captain Solo in the cargo hold” and “What if he doesn’t survive? He’s worth a lot to me.” Pretty badass. In Jedi, his only line is “What the? Aaaarrgggh!!” Not very badass...

9. Lando Has a Moral Quandary

Do you screw your friends over for the greater good? Apparently so, as Lando makes a deal with the Empire that he later regrets. Good guys and bad guys were clear cut up to this point, but Lando’s tough choice adds greater tension and conflict. He later redeems himself, of course.

10. The Big Reveal (Well-Known Spoiler Ahead!)

Only George Lucas, Mark Hamill, and a handful of the crew were aware of Luke’s true lineage. Even James Earl Jones thought Vader was lying. To this day it is still a powerful dramatic moment. And the proper quote is “No, I am your father,” not “Luke, I am your father.”

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Reelrundown

Do you agree with this list? Discuss below!


Clone Commando: Boss on April 16, 2020:

This is Epic

me on January 25, 2020:

i like this website it is helping me with my homework

Daniel on July 30, 2019:

I think the best lightsaber battle in the original trilogy is on the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi.

Moe on February 02, 2016:

I prefer the ones with the new cast of kirk and McCoy. They will always be my favorite StarWars. This list is forgetting the Romulans and klinks. They are both pretty dark races and add a lot of intensity to any movie for sure.

Peter from England, UK on January 25, 2016:

I love this Hug and completely agree! Love Empire Strikes Back.

Joseph Ray on September 04, 2014:

Empire Strikes Back is an excellent movie, and it is probably the best of the series. Return of the Jedi does have one major thing over it. The climax of Return of the Jedi with Luke declaring himself a Jedi like his father before him is in my opinion one of the best climaxes in cinematic history.

Jack on May 01, 2012:

I love each of the STAR WARS films, and I've gotta admit that I agree with the overall consensus about EMPIRE being the best one. My complete ranking goes:

V , III IV , II , VI ,I

ellahall2011 on August 22, 2011:

I love all the Star Wars Series.

Boba Fett on August 05, 2010:

I have to agree. It is also the first movie where I appeared, as long as you don't count the Holiday/Christmas special...

Gilbert M. (author) from California on April 25, 2008:

J_Eds: I actually like them in this order: 5,4,3,6,2,1.

J_Eds from Blackpool on April 25, 2008:

Yep, this is indeed a fantastic film! But I love all three original ones. The new ones just don't cut the mustard...

Gilbert M. (author) from California on April 18, 2008:

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Emma from Boston on April 16, 2008:

I agree with every word. Empire will always be my favorite of the entire series.

Welcome to Hubpages!

Related Articles