Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
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The Empire Strikes Back (1980), (aka Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) is considered to be one of the most appealing and powerful films in the Star Wars saga - with a superior and more complex plotline (with two parallel storylines), more developed characters (with a burgeoning romance between two sparring leads) and better acting, increasingly-sophisticated special effects, a consistently-even tone of darkness (i.e., Luke's near-death on Hoth, the defeat and retreat of the Rebels, Luke's vision of his own face in Vader's helmet and his aborted Jedi training, the severing of Luke's hand, and Solo's frozen encasement in carbonite), and a compelling and shocking conclusion that ended with an unresolved cliff-hanger (Han's capture by bounty hunters, and the uncertain nature of Luke's heritage).

The film was generally less beloved and less of a crowd-pleaser than its predecessor for some of those very qualities. It took three years for Lucas to develop this second film - another astounding cult film about "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." from 20th Century Fox, that opened first on May 21, 1980.

The film, shot on location in Norway (for the Hoth planet scenes), and in studios in England, continued to advance special-effects technology to a degree unseen before (i.e., the Imperial-Walkers, the Cloud City, etc.). With the first Star Wars film, this second entry in the saga ultimately helped to resurrect the financial viability of the science-fiction genre, a category of films that was considered frivolous and unprofitable, and it further enforced the phrase "May the Force be with you" into common usage. The budgeted production (of about $18 million) from the TCF/LucasFilm production company, mostly made in Britain, was based upon Lucas' recollections of Saturday afternoon matinees, serials, and comic strips, usually with cliff-hanging endings.

The mythological tale of space-age heroism (fighting Evil for the sake of Good) featured an assortment of both memorable characters from the first film and new ones, including a benevolent ex-Jedi Knight appearing in visions (Guinness) after a deadly duel with the dark lord, an on-the-run Princess Leia (Fisher) of the peace-loving Rebel Alliance, two comical robotic droids (R2-D2 and C-3PO), a self-interested smuggler/mercenary space-pilot (Ford), his beastly creature - a co-pilot named Chewbacca (a Wookiee), a traitorous but then helpful leader of Bespin's Cloud City Lando Calrissian (Williams), an idealistic young boy (Hamill) who becomes trained in the righteous, Zen-like ways of the Force by wizened Jedi master Yoda (voice of Frank Oz) in the swamps of Dagobah, and the dark forces of the Empire led by evil Lord Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones/David Prowse).

The second blockbuster film was the second film in the second trilogy, since Lucas had plans for another prequel trilogy (three more films). In its Special Edition release in 1997, a few segments in this film were enhanced or changed, including Luke's encounter with a Wampa creature on Hoth, an altered version of the appearance of the Emperor in a hologram, and the footage of the Falcon's arrival at Cloud City, plus an enhanced soundtrack with digital surround-sound.

Two prequels in a second trilogy were released in 1999 and 2002, with a third in mid-2005. The prequels focused on how the father of Luke Skywalker (Anakin Skywalker) succumbed to the dark side of the Force and became the evil Darth Vader:

See Greatest Film Series Franchises - The Star Wars Films
Star Wars Film Titles
(chronological order)
Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Original Theatrical Version:
121 minutes

George Lucas With a production budget of $11 million, grossed $1.5 million in its limited opening weekend, and grossed $307 million (domestic) and $775 million (worldwide), eventually earning $461 million (lifetime domestic gross); nominated for 10 Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness)), winning six (in technical categories - Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects); and winner of a Special Achievement award for Sound Effects; Star Wars: Special Edition (1997) earned almost $36 million in its opening weekend, and soon topped E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) as the all-time domestic box-office champ (for awhile).
Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Original Theatrical Version:
124 minutes

Irvin Kershner, George Lucas (exec-producer) With a production budget of $18 million, grossed $4.9 million in its limited opening weekend and grossed $209 million (domestic), $290.5 million (lifetime domestic gross), and $538 million (worldwide); nominated for 3 Academy Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Score), winning one (Best Sound); winner of Special Achievement award for Visual Effects; famous for Darth Vader's line: "No, I am your father" and the severing of Luke's hand; set three years after the events in the 1977 film and considered by many to be a superior sequel to Episode IV. It was the highest grossing (domestic) film of 1980, besting comedy 9 To 5 (1980) in second place at $103 million.
Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

originally titled Revenge of the Jedi)

Original Theatrical Version:
134 minutes

Richard Marquand

With a production budget of $32.5 million, grossed $23 million in its opening weekend, and overall $252.6 million (domestic), $309.3 million (lifetime domestic gross), and $475 million (worldwide); nominated for 4 Academy Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Original Score, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing), winning none; winner of Special Achievement Oscar for Visual Effects; set single and opening-day box office records; the most under-rated of the segments of the Star Wars saga. It was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 1983, besting second place Terms of Endearment (1983) at $108 million.

Best scene: the speeder bike chase.

Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

133 minutes

George Lucas
(22 years after his original directorial effort)
With a production budget of $115 million, grossed $28.5 million in its first day of showings, and reached the $100 million level in a record five days; grossed $64.8 million in its opening weekend, and $431 million (domestic), $474 million (lifetime domestic gross) and $1,022 million (worldwide); nominated for 3 Academy Awards (Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects), winning none; set 32 years before the original Star Wars films; introduced the young Darth Vader as 9 year old boy Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), and his future love interest - slightly older Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman); also introduced CGI clumsy sidekick Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best). It was the highest-grossing (domestic) film of 1999, besting second-place The Sixth Sense (1999) at $293.5 million. It was the highest-grossing film (unadjusted for inflation) of the entire Star Wars saga, and the 4th highest-grossing (domestic) film of all-time (to date).

Best scenes: the pod race through the Tatooine desert, and the epic lightsaber duel.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)

142 minutes

George Lucas With a production budget of $115 million, grossed $80 million in its opening weekend (May, 2002); opened six months later in about 60 IMAX theatres; grossed $302.2 million (domestic), eventually earning $310.7 million (domestic lifetime gross), and $649.4 million (worldwide); nominated for only one Academy Award (Best Visual Effects), without a win; shot on Digital Video using a new 24-frame, High-Definition, Progressive scan camera; the title Attack of the Clones is a misnomer - the clones don't attack, but come to the defense of the Jedi; set 10 years after Episode 1, with Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) now a 19 year-old Padawan (apprentice Jedi knight) to Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). It had stiff competition in 2002, against # 1 highest-grossing (domestic) film Spider-Man (2002) at $403.7 million, and # 2 film, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) at $340 million.

Best scenes: the breathtaking aerial chase through the asteroid field, and the light-saber duel between the good Yoda and the evil Count Dooku (Christopher Lee).
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

140 minutes

George Lucas With a production budget of $113 million, grossed $108 million in its opening weekend (May, 2005); released on the 28th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, and the first of the films to receive a PG-13 rating; grossed $380.3 million (domestic) and almost $849 million (worldwide); nominated for only one Academy Award (Best Makeup), without a win; showed how Luke Skywalker's father, Anakin (Christensen), went from a Jedi apprentice to the galaxy-crushing villain Darth Vader. The Sith was the evil sect that corrupted Anakin by drawing him into the dark side of the Force - the cosmic power and living energy field that balanced the universe. It was the # 1 highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2005, besting second-place The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) at $291.7 million. It was the # 2 highest-grossing (worldwide) film of 2005, just behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) at almost $897 million.

Best scene: the opening space battle.
Star Wars saga to be released on Blu-Ray, box-set   Fall of 2011
All six Star Wars episodes will be post-converted to 3-D   Expected theatrical releases are one per year, starting in 2012 with Episode I (in story-order). (schedule variable, depending on its success).
Hardware Wars (1977) Ernie Fosselius A 13-minute, low-budget short film (or faux trailer), parodying the original Star Wars (1977), and one of the pioneering fan films. It opened with kitchen appliances substituted for spaceships (a steam iron fought against a toaster). It also replaced the two robots with 4-Q-2 (similar to The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man) and Arty-Deco (a vacuum cleaner), and Chewbacca looked like the Sesame Street character Cookie Monster (now named "Chewchilla, the Wookie Monster). The light-saber of Fluke Starbucker was a flashlight.
Spaceballs (1987) Mel Brooks A satirical parody film of Star Wars, with fractured names for the characters and locales: Planet Druidia, Princess Vespa (Leia), Prince Valium, Dot Matrix (droid C3-PO), Dark Helmet (Darth Vader), Pizza the Hutt (a mafia boss), Barf (Chewbacca), Yoghurt (wise alien sage Yoda), the Spaceball One flagship (the Death Star), and Schwartz (the Force).
Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) Kevin Smith A romantic comedy. Desperate to make money, Zack Brown (Seth Rogen) proposed to film a pornographic version of Star Wars, titled Star Whores, co-starring with his roommate Miri (Elizabeth Banks). Light-up sex toys took the place of light-sabers.
TV, and Animated
The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978) Steve Binder, David Acomba (uncredited) One of the first official Star Wars spin-offs. A notoriously bad, two-hour variety TV special for Thanksgiving season that aired on CBS-TV on November 17, 1978 - it featured the original cast members (Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, C-3PO - Anthony Daniels, Chewbacca - Peter Mayhew) and guest stars including Bea Arthur, Art Carney, Harvey Korman, Diahann Carroll, and the rock group Jefferson Starship. The incomprehensible plot involved Han Solo with his Millennium Falcon getting Chewbacca home to his family for celebration of the Wookiee holiday - called "Life Day." The first 15 minutes of the special were entirely in Wookieese without subtitles! The rest of the film involved long musical numbers and variety performances, including an animated cartoon that introduced bounty hunter Boba Fett of The Empire Strikes Back, and the end song - Fisher hideously singing the "Life Day" song. Lucas reportedly ordered no further airings and destruction of the master videos (so there would be no video/DVD release), while the bootlegged, poorly-dubbed video was circulated among fans for years.

The Muppet Show

February 21, 1980 TV episode (4th season)

  In 1980 (February 21), an episode (# 89) of the syndicated TV show in its fourth season (episode 16) featured major cast members of Star Wars as guests. Mark Hamill played both Luke Skywalker in space and his earth-bound 'cousin' Mark Hamill, affectionately loved by Miss Piggy (portraying Princess Leia). The Star Wars crew hijacked the Swine Trek, and faced off against Dearth Nadir (Gonzo) holding Chewbacca prisoner.

Family Guy (2007-2011)

Three Trilogy Spoofs:

  • Blue Harvest (2007)
  • Something, Something, Something Dark Side (2009)
  • It's a Trap (2011)
  • Seth MacFarlane Family Guy: Blue Harvest (2007) was the (6th) season premiere show of the Fox-TV animated show Family Guy which first aired on September 23, 2007. It was an hour-long spoof authorized by Lucas (to celebrate Star Wars' 30th anniversary) composed of CG-animating over previously-filmed live action shots, with the show's characters appearing in Star Wars (1977) roles, and the use of the musical score from the film. Over the next four years (2007-2011), the show created its own 'trilogy' of the original films with scene-by-scene make-overs featuring the Family Guy cast as Star Wars characters. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) was parodied in Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Dark Side (2009), airing first on December 22, 2009 as the season finale of the 8th season of the show. Family Guy: It's a Trap (2011) was a spoof of Return of the Jedi (1983), serving as the finale of the 9th season of the show airing on May 22, 2011.
    Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) Dave Filoni A feature-length, CGI-animated science-fiction film that served as the official pilot episode, and as an introduction to the TV series of the same name (see below) that premiered only a few months later. It was the first animated theatrical film for the Star Wars franchise.
    Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008- )   A half-hour, computer-animated TV series (each season had 22 episodes) that premiered on the Cartoon Network in the fall of 2008. It was expanded from the earlier 2-D animated series of Clone Wars 3-minute shorts. Events took place between the Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) films, and featured some of the original characters (e.g., Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Padme Amidala, Mace Windu, Count Dooku) with new characters. Produced jointly by Lucas's company LucasFilm, Warner Bros and Turner Broadcasting. Plans were for five seasons.

    The first six "Star Wars" films grossed about $2.2 billion (domestic) and about $4.26 billion (worldwide) at the box office, while taking in at least double that amount from merchandise sales.

    The 20th Century Fox film set box-office records and was a critical success (many reviewers considered it superior to the original film) - it grossed $4.9 million in its limited opening weekend and grossed $209 million (domestic) and $538 million (worldwide), eventually earning $290.5 million (domestic lifetime gross). However, all of the appealing Star Wars films were criticized for encouraging a boom in spectacular (but sometimes drab) special-effects laden blockbusters (with thin plot lines) for decades after. Prophetically, a few years later, the Soviet Union became the 'Evil Empire' during the Presidency of Ronald Reagan, and Reagan proposed a strategic space-defense program (or SDI - Strategic Defense Initiative), dubbed "Star Wars" in November 1985 by the media.

    It was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Score), winning one (Best Sound). It was also the winner of a Special Achievement award for Visual Effects.

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