Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

In director Irvin Kershner's superior sci-fi saga - it was the second film of the series (in the original trilogy), the series' first sequel, and the fifth film in terms of chronology. Again, it told a mythological tale of space-age heroism (fighting Evil for the sake of Good). It documented the continuing struggle of the evil Dark Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse/voice of James Earl Jones) against the Rebel Alliance, supported by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), feisty Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and cynical mercenary captain of the Millennium Falcon Han Solo (Harrison Ford).

It was set three years after the events of the first film (Episode IV), and considered by many to be superior to its predecessor. With the first Star Wars film in 1977, 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.

It was definitely a superior and more complex plotline (with two parallel storylines) than the first film - with more developed characters (with a burgeoning romance between two sparring leads) and better acting, increasingly-sophisticated special effects, and a consistently-even tone of darkness (i.e., Luke's near-death on Hoth, the defeat and retreat of the Rebels across the galaxy pursued by Darth Vader and bounty hunter Boba Fett, Luke's vision of his own face in Vader's helmet and his aborted Jedi training, the severing of Luke's hand by his own father - Darth Vader!, and Solo's frozen encasement in carbonite). It also featured 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).

This second blockbuster Star Wars entry was the highest grossing (domestic) film of 1980, besting comedy 9 To 5 (1980) in second place at $103 million. With a production budget of $18 million (that rose to $30.5 million), it grossed $4.9 million in its limited opening weekend and grossed $209 million (domestic), $290.5 million (lifetime domestic gross), and $538.3 million (worldwide). It was nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Art Direction, Best Score), winning one (Best Sound), and it also was honored with a Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects.

  • the opening prologue scroll told about the episode: "It is a dark time for the Rebellion. Although the Death Star has been destroyed, Imperial troops have driven the Rebel forces from their hidden base and pursued them across the galaxy..."; it was three years since the destruction of the Death Star; idealistic youth Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and other freedom-fighting rebels (including Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford)) had fled to the bleak and frigid planet of Hoth and were hiding in a large ice cave; probe droids were being deployed to Hoth by the evil Imperial leader and Dark Lord Darth Vader (David Prowse/voice of James Earl Jones) to discover the Rebels' whereabouts
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) On the Planet Hoth

Luke on His Snow Lizard Mount

Luke Hung Upside-Down in the Wampa's Cave

The Wampa Snow Creature
  • Luke Skywalker entered riding across the cold and lonely ice plain of the planet Hoth on his Tauntaun (snow lizard), investigating the area for probes; soon after, a monstrous, giant Wampa ice monster or snow creature (Des Webb) towered over him, swatted him with a big white claw and knocked him unconscious
  • inside the Rebel base (an ice cave), Han's Wookiee co-pilot Wookiee Chewbacca or "Chewie" (Peter Mayhew) was overseeing repairs on the damaged freighter ship the Millennium Falcon; Han told Rebel Force leaders that he would be leaving soon, to pay off a debt to Jabba the Hut from a previous smuggling operation, due to bounty hunters on his trail; during a frosty goodbye with Princess Leia, she seemed to express romantic feelings for him, and he challenged her to give him a goodbye kiss: "Afraid I was gonna leave without giving you a good-bye kiss?" She retorted: "I'd just as soon kiss a Wookiee" to which he quipped: "I can arrange that! You could use a good kiss" - they both stormed away from each other
  • before Han left, he went on a rescue mission to locate Luke when he didn't return on schedule; meanwhile, Luke found himself hanging upside-down in the Wampa's cave; by using the Force, Luke was able to retrieve his light-saber, activate it and cut himself free, and then with one swing, he amputated the Wampa's right arm and then fled into the frigidly-cold exterior; outside, Luke was about to die from hypothermia when in a vision, he heard Ben 'Obi-Wan' Kenobi (Alec Guinness) instruct him to become the Rebellion's only hope: "Luke, Luke...You will go to the Dagobah system...There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi master who instructed me"; afterwards, Han found Luke and saved him from freezing to death, and the two were rescued and returned to the base the next morning, where Luke received medical attention to rejuvenate him from his wounds
  • an Imperial probe droid that had been dispatched by Darth Vader to locate the hidden Rebels was destroyed, but it was feared that it had still been able to notify the Empire of their location; plans were made to evacuate the Rebel base, and to reroute all power to the energy shields and to prepare for a ground assault; Darth Vader appeared as commander of the Imperial Fleet on board the Executor traveling through space with Imperial Star Destroyers and TIE fighters alongside; upon learning about the droid's findings, Vader set his sights on Hoth; Imperial Star Destroyers began to approach Hoth, but then Vader was dismayed to learn that the rebels were alerted to their presence, and had set up defenses and planned a full-scale evacuation; Vader was determined to make sure none of the Rebel fleet escaped from the planet
  • the Rebels' exterior ground troops prepared to defend the main generator that powered the energy shield; on the planet's surface, Luke and other pilots on small Rebel Alliance Snow-Speeders were readied on Hoth's ice fields for the ground assault against gigantic, tall, four-legged, mechanized, lumbering armored machines of Imperial destruction called Snow-Walkers (or AT-ATs) that were spitting laser-fire; although Luke led valiant efforts to topple the tall Snow-Walkers or blow them up, the Rebels faced tremendous Imperial fire-power
  • the Imperial stormtroopers began to overtake the devastated Rebel Command Center, and the energy force-field protecting the generator was destroyed; after final repairs to the Falcon were completed, Han Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO and the Princess lifted off and escaped; in his own X-Wing-fighter, Luke took off (with R2-D2 (voice of Kenny Baker)) but set his course elsewhere toward the Dagobah system, as instructed by Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • when the hyperdrive of Han Solo's freighter ship the Millennium Falcon malfunctioned, he outmaneuvered pursuing Imperial Star Tie Fighters/Destroyers in a thrilling near-suicidal flight through a dense asteroid field; it was a dizzying chase sequence with the Millennium Falcon escaping four TIE fighters while darting between giant tumbling boulders, diving into the canyon-like depths of one of the large asteroid craters, and taking refuge in a long cave-tunnel on the crater's far side
  • in his X-Wing fighter, Luke crash-landed into a boggy, swampy and tropical Dagobah, but was uninjured (along with an undamaged R2-D2); after leaving his downed and submerged fighter plane, Luke with R2-D2 set up camp; he met up with the wise, but dimunitive Jedi Master Yoda (voice of Frank Oz), who would continue to train him in the righteous, Zen-like ways of the Force, and to learn to be a Jedi knight; Yoda appeared as an aged, wizened, greenish fellow with large bright eyes and pointy ears
  • meanwhile during the conflict and skirmishes, there was a brief glimpse of the back of the Dark Lord's scarred head as his helmet was put into place, as he ordered the Falcon to be found
  • in the unstable environment of the cave-tunnel during repairs on the Millennium Falcon, Leia admitted that Han was all right when he didn't spitefully call her "Your Worship," or act like a "scoundrel" - Han responded: "You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life"; after she quipped back: "I happen to like nice men," he claimed to the contrary that he was a "nice man" and coaxed a kiss from her as she mildly protested, but reciprocated
  • Darth Vader discussed conditions with the ominous commanding ruler of the galaxy, Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) hidden by a dark robe, who appeared as a giant blue hologram; the Emperor warned Vader: "There is a great disturbance in the Force...We have a new enemy, the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker....He could destroy us....The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi"
  • Luke took a while to realize that the small greenish imp was Yoda himself, who was uncertain that Luke was trainable; he accused Luke of being a dreamer of adventure, and one who was reckless and impatient
  • during a search for the hidden Falcon conducted by TIE fighters, it was soon revealed that the freighter was in fact within a giant space worm's gullet, where it was almost ingested and chewed up by the creature's enormous teeth; it snapped at the craft with its jaws as the vessel escaped from its cavernous innards
  • during Luke's arduous training to learn the ways of the Jedi Knights and the Force, he entered an underground cave where Yoda urged Luke to enter its dark side and "domain of evil" - he found himself face-to-face with Darth Vader!; in a dream sequence foreshadowing Luke's future light-saber duel or "battle" against the dark force of his main adversary (Darth Vader), he failed during light-saber combat; during this initial light-saber duel in a cave, Luke cut off the dream figure's head, but his own face was revealed in Vader's severed black helmet on the ground; it meant he was not yet ready to face Vader
  • meanwhile, Darth Vader had called in the galaxy's most notorious bounty hunters to find the Millennium Falcon, including Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch)
  • in the muddy bog, Luke's first attempt to levitate his submerged X-wing fighter failed miserably; when Luke lost hope, Yoda demonstrated his own belief in the Force and its power and gently raised the ship from the bubbling slime and guided it gently to dry land
  • Han was able to evade the Imperial fleet's pursuit, and proceed to the panoramic floating, small gas-mining colony of Cloud City ruled by Solo's old friend and supposed-ally Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) on the planet Bespin - "a card player, gambler, scoundrel"; Han didn't realize he was being pursued by one vessel - the ship of bounty hunter Boba Fett was silently trailing the Falcon; unfortunately, Darth Vader had already arrived and was awaiting them
  • as the group was led into the citadel, the golden droid C-3PO (voice of Anthony Daniels) mistakenly walked through a doorway into a restricted area and was blown apart by a blaster
  • back with Yoda, Luke had a fearful, visionary premonition of Han and Leia in pain and in danger in the "city of the clouds"; despite Obi-Wan's and Yoda's protestations that he shouldn't leave prematurely, Luke abandoned his training (to be a fully-trained Jedi knight) and flew off in order to rescue them
  • in the Cloud City on Bespin, Luke's fears were proven correct; Lando betrayed his old friend Han - admitting that he had no other choice but to turn him over to Vader's stormtroopers and to bounty hunter Boba Fett
  • during imprisonment, C-3PO was put back together by Chewbacca - but the droid was reconstructed at first with his head on backwards!
  • Han was also imprisoned and tortured, and Vader ultimately planned to have Boba Fett take him to Jabba the Hut to turn him in; he was also scheming to use Solo and Leia as bait, in order to set a trap for Skywalker in the Cloud City - correctly predicting that Luke would come to their rescue; Vader was preparing a carbon-freezing facility to be used to immobilize Skywalker (to freeze and transport Luke undamaged to the Emperor), but first, his intention was to test the freezing chamber on Solo to see if the process was safe and not fatal
  • Princess Leia kissed Han as he was about to be dipped in a carbonite-freezing chamber - she confessed in their romantic goodbye: "I love you" to which he replied: "I know"; moments later after Han was encased in carbonite, big mechanical tongs extracted the thick metal block from the pit and it was laid flat on the platform - showing Han's body and facial imprint; Calrissian declared that Solo was still alive and had survived the freezing process ("and in perfect hibernation"); Vader turned Han over to bounty hunter Boba Fett who soon after took off (taking Han to Jabba the Hut to collect the bounty on him)
Romantic Words Between Leia and Han Before Han Was Placed Into a Carbonite-Freezing Chamber

A Romantic Kiss

Leia: "I love you"

Han: "I know"
  • as Luke flew into Cloud City and suspected that it was a "trap," Lando attempted to redeem himself by alerting his men to surprise-ambush the Imperial stormtrooper guards that were holding him and the others hostage; the guards were overtaken, and the Princess, Lando, Chewie and C-3PO were freed, but it was too late to save Han who had already been taken away by Boba Fett; soon after, however, the Rebel group made their way to the Millennium Falcon and escaped
  • in the large carbon-freezing chamber in the Cloud City colony, in an exciting duel-showdown sequence, the Sith Lord Darth Vader and Luke were pitted against each other with their activated light-sabers; Vader threatened and wished to convert Luke to the Dark Side: ("Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker"), but Luke was able to use the Force to dodge and deflect objects hurled at him; Vader predicted Luke's defeat again: ("You are beaten. It is useless to resist. Don't let yourself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did"), Luke struck back with a vicious lunge and hit Vader in the upper arm
  • however, Luke's right hand was struck at the wrist with one swing from Darth Vader's saber, and his hand was amputated; as Luke retreated, Vader offered an outstretched arm and entreated: "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realize your importance....Join me, and I will complete your training"; Luke refused and then was told: "Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father"; Luke glared back: "He told me you killed him"
The Light-Saber Duel/Showdown: Luke vs. Darth Vader

Saber Lunges During the Light-Saber Duel

Loss of Luke's Right Hand

Vader: "No, I am your father"
  • and then Vader emotionlessly announced the greatest and most startling revelation of the entire film series - a stunning moment of revelation of a surprise relationship: "No, I am your father" (a much misquoted line)
  • Luke gave a horrified reaction to the idea that Vader was his father, Anakin Skywalker: "No! No! That's not true. That's impossible"); Vader urged and promised: "You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way"
  • with no other alternative, the distraught Luke stepped off the platform and fell into the chasm; he tumbled down the air shaft and was ejected beneath the floating city, where he held onto a Cloud City weather vane
  • Luke's cries for help were sensed by Leia, who persuaded the surviving group in the Falcon to immediately return to Cloud City; amidst TIE fighters and a complete evacuation, they found the battered Luke hanging underneath the City, maneuvered the ship perfectly underneath him, and opened the top hatch as he dropped into the Falcon; they retreated from TIE fighters and suddenly jumped into light-speed following R2-D2's fix of the hyperdrive
  • the rebel forces were assembled in another distant part of the galaxy, where on a medical frigate, Luke's hand was treated and replaced with a bionic prosthetic; on the Falcon with Chewie as he departed, Lando communicated that he would begin a search for Jabba the Hutt and the bounty hunter - to find Han Solo; later, Lando would plan to meet up with Luke at a rendezvous point on Tatooine; Luke's final words to Lando were: "May the Force be with you"
  • the final, evocative shot was of Luke, Princess Leia, and the two droids C-3PO and R2-D2 at a wide viewport on a Rebel cruiser ship watching Lando Calrissian departing after takeoff with Chewbacca in the Falcon in their quest to rescue the imprisoned Han, and to confront Jabba the Hutt and bounty hunter Boba Fett

Opening Scroll

AT-AT Walkers During the Imperial Assault Battle Against the Rebels on the Planet of Hoth

Luke in His Alliance Snow-Speeder Attacking AT-AT Walkers During Battle of Hoth

Han and the Group in the Falcon Flying into an Asteroid Field

Luke's Flight Toward Dagobah with R2-D2

Luke with R2-D2 After Crash-Landing in Swamp

Luke Meeting Yoda on the Tropical Planet of Dagobah

Darth Vader (voice of James Earl Jones) Revealing a Scarred Head

During Falcon Repairs in the Cave-Tunnel, a Romance Developed Between Leia and Han

The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid / voice of Clive Revill) Warning Darth Vader About a Threatening "Young Rebel"

The Giant Space Worm Almost Ingesting the Millennium Falcoln

Dream Sequence: Luke's Face in Vader's Severed Helmet

Luke Abandoning His Training With Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi

Darth Vader and Boba Fett Already on Cloud City

Han, Chewie and Leia Betrayed by Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) to Vader

After Being Blasted Into Pieces, Robotic Droid C-3PO Was Reconstructed by Chewie Putting His Head On Backwards

Han Encased in Carbonite

Luke Fitted With a Bionic Right Hand

Evocative Ending Image


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