Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back shocked audiences in 1980 as a darker middle chapter to the Original Trilogy.
Considered one of the greatest movies of all time and regularly one of many fans’ favorites of the franchise, The Empire Strikes Back has so much to offer in Star Wars. Here are 45 reasons to love The Empire Strikes Back.
In contrast to the desert world of Tatooine in A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back opens on the planet of Hoth. The icy world is a different biome presenting dangerous new challenges for the heroes.
2. The Probe Droid
As the movie opens, a series of probe droids launch from an Imperial Star Destroyer. The sequence follows the droid until it crashes and rises ominously from the snow of Hoth, signaling the coming danger.
Tauntauns are one of the most adorable mounts in the franchise. The trusty steads of Luke and Han might meet horrific fates, but it did lead to one of the more unique pieces of Star Wars merchandise: the tauntaun sleeping bag, complete with lightsaber zipper and intestine-designed insides.
4. Han and Leia Bickering
In the hallways of Echo Base, Han and Leia bickering is some fantastic bantering and flirting. Han needs to leave the Rebel base for everyone’s protection with a bounty from Jabba the Hutt over him, and Leia doesn’t want him to go as he’s a great leader.
It’s all cover for their true feelings that emerge throughout the movie.
5. Han Searches for Luke
Han’s character arc in The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most compelling parts of the movie. While he might be a scoundrel, he also has a strong moral compass and loves his friends.
When he hears that Luke hasn’t returned to base and is lost in the ice of Hoth, Han drops all of his plans to run away to search for his friend.
6. Luke Escapes the Wampa Cave
The Wampa is now one of the iconic creatures of the franchise, but it was a terrifying new critter when the movie debuted. Luke must use all of his Jedi skills to Force pull his lightsaber to him to escape from the layer of the beast.
7. Leia Closes the Shield Doors
In one of the subtle moments on Echo Base, Leia showcases the weight of leadership. Han and Luke are still missing on Hoth as night falls. For the good of all the people stationed on the base, Leia must make the painful decision to seal the blast doors for the evening before they all freeze.
It’s a move that traps Han and Luke outside, but one that a leader like Leia must make. Carrie Fisher’s acting is excellent in the scene.
8. Obi-Wan Calls Luke
Luke escapes from the wampa layer but isn’t out of danger. Lost far from the base, he collapses in the snow. At this moment, the ghost of Obi-Wan Kenobi calls to him, telling him to seek out the great Yoda on Dagobah.
9. Han Saves Luke
As Obi-Wan’s ghost vanishes, Han appears in the specter’s place just in time to save Luke. Han’s poor tauntaun meets a grizzly fate, but its sacrifice saves Luke long enough for Han to set up their shelter.
10. Scruffy-Looking Nerf Herder
After Luke is saved and on his way to recovery, Leia tries again to convince Han to stay with the rebels. Han jokes to Luke that Leia has feelings for him. Leia snaps back with one of the great Star Wars insults, calling him a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder!”
11. The Executor
Darth Vader’s flagship, the Executor, is a behemoth of a starship. The sheer size of the vessels dwarfs Star Destroyers, making them look like tiny X-wings. With its unique design, the Executor is one of the standout ships of Star Wars.
12. Vader’s Meditation Chamber
The introduction of Vader’s Meditation Chamber has become an engaging location for storytelling with Darth Vader’s character. Books and comics would continue to explore its uses as it is one of the few places Vader can safely remove his helmet.
13. Leia Commands the Troops
As the Empire closes in on Echo Base, Leia stands in the center of the pilots issuing evacuation orders. The princess commands the room showing why she is one of the leaders of the Rebellion.
14. The Battle of Hoth
As one of the memorable battles of the franchise, the Battle of Hoth is a fantastic sequence. The binocs shot of the AT-ATs emerging out of the fog, revealing massive walkers, is chilling.
The ingenuity of the rebels fighting with snowspeeders and cables vs. the mechanical might feels like a David vs. Goliath battle. Goliath wins this brawl with Vader invading Hoth, resulting in a massive loss for the Rebellion. It is fantastic to watch for audiences as it’s a thrilling action set piece.
15. General Veers
General Maximilian Veers has become a classic Star Wars side character, thanks to avid fans. The bucket helmet-wearing baddie is one of the more memorable side villains in the Original Trilogy.
16. Wedge Antilles
One hero who is a significant player throughout the Original Trilogy and makes a triumphant return in The Rise of Skywalker is Wedge Antilles. Whether it’s an X-wing or the T-47 airspeeders, Wedge is considered one of the best for a reason, as he shows off his leadership and skills in the Battle of Hoth.
17. The Falcon Escapes Hoth
Despite the ship needing repairs, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO race through the remnants of Echo Base to get to the Millennium Falcon. Darth Vader and his stormtrooper move in.
Thanks to some quick thinking and Han giving his vessel a good smack in the cockpit, the Falcon is up and running, and the heroes escape.
18. Hiding In the Asteroid Field
The escape from Hoth is short-lived as Han and the crew must face off against several Star Destroyers and Tie Fighters. Nearby is an asteroid field. Han zooms into the rocky fray despite the danger until he spots a gap wide enough to take shelter in.
Dagobah is a fantastic new location after the deserts of Tatooine and the ice of Hoth. The set decoration of the swamp planet is so meticulously crafted that the audience can practically feel the humidity coming off the screen. The entire world is in a great location, from the bog to Yoda's hut.
20. Maskless Vader
As Admiral Piett informs Darth Vader that the Imperials have located the Falcon in the asteroid field, he and the audience catch a glimpse of Vader without his helmet. The brief look at the scarred back of the head hints at Vader’s past and that there is a man, not a machine, under the mask.
21. Meeting Yoda
Yoda appears before Luke playing the delightful role of a local trickster. He badgers Luke with jokes, digs through Luke’s supplies, and smacks R2-D2 around with his cane. The deceptive tactic is Luke’s first test from the wise Jedi master.
It’s a fun comedy bit where it’s clear Frank Oz is having a great time puppeteering his character.
22. Han and Leia Kiss
While the Millennium Falcon hides inside an asteroid, Han and Leia’s bantering comes to a head as they work on repairs. Drawing close, still throwing light insults at each other, Han swoops in for the couple’s first kiss… which promptly gets interrupted by C-3PO to kill the mood.
23. Emperor Palpatine
When Vader receives word his master is calling, the audience gets their first look at Emperor Palpatine, the big bad of Star Wars. The later versions of the movie would have Ian McDiarmid edited into the footage. Luke is a threat to the Sith Lords.
Palpatine reveals the young Jedi is the son of Anakin Skywalker, ordering Vader to either bring his son to the Dark Side or destroy the young man.
24. Yoda Reveals Himself to Luke
Luke follows Yoda back to his cottage, becoming more frustrated and losing his patience. It’s here that Yoda begins to speak to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke gasps, realizing that the trickster jerking him around was Yoda the entire time.
Star Wars is not known for its jump scares, but the first look at the mynocks is one of them. The critters look to feed on the Falcon’s electricity, needing to be chased off from the ship.
26. The Exogorth
In a surprise twist that only the incredible mind of George Lucas could come up with, the Millennium Falcon is not hiding inside an asteroid. It’s actually an exogorth, a massive space slug creature. The Falcon has to make a daring escape before the slug eats the heroes!
27. Luke’s Training
Despite his reservations, Yoda agrees to train Luke in the ways of the Jedi. These training scenes are where some of the most famous lines in the franchise come from these moments. The wise words of Yoda still ring true for fans today.
28. The Dark Side Cave
During Luke’s training, he must enter the Dark Side cave on Dagobah. There, he sees a vision of himself facing Vader. Except when he defeats the Darth Lord, the cave reveals that Luke is behind Vader’s mask, signaling that he will become Vader if he falls to the Dark Side.
29. The Bounty Hunters
On the bridge of the Executor, a menagerie of scum and villainy is brought together under Darth Vader's orders. These bounty hunters would become iconic characters like Boba Fett, Bossk, IG-88, and Dengar.
30. Han’s Sneaky Escape
As Han pilots the Falcon to escape the Empire’s clutches, it appears he vanished instantly. In reality, he didn’t run; Han parked the Millennium Falcon on the back of a Star Destroyer where the Empire’s sensors couldn’t spot the vessel.
31. Yoda Lifts the X-Wing
In a single scene, as the Jedi master lifted Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp, Yoda taught Luke two important lessons. The first was with the power of the Force; the wielder's size didn’t matter. The second was his line, “Do or do not, there is no try.”
32. Tracked By Boba Fett
Han thinks it’s tricky to sneak away from the Star Destroyer by floating away when the ship dumps its trash. He doesn’t realize that the bounty hunter Boba Fett is familiar with the tactic and follows them to Cloud City.
33. Cloud City
Cloud City on Bespin is another gorgeous, unique new location introduced in the movie. Hovering in the planet's atmosphere, Cloud City invokes classic Sci-Fi imagery.
34. Lando Calrissian
Lando is a fascinating character to enter in the third act, but he becomes one of the team's most influential members. He is the very definition of a scoundrel as he turns over Han to the Empire.
But it’s revealed that the Empire had already occupied Cloud City before Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO arrived. Lando had to make the best choices for his people while negotiating with an all-powerful Sith Lord for Han’s life.
While he doesn’t speak in the movie, Lobot’s presence is crucial. He is Lando’s right-hand man and friend who helps protect the citizens of Cloud City. The character is fascinating when explored in books and comics, which examine his past and love interest.
36. Luke Debates Yoda and Obi-Wan
When Luke senses Han and Leia are in danger, he wishes to leave Dagobah to help them, and Yoda and Obi-Wan both advise him against it. The masters warn there is no way that Luke could face Darth Vader at his current skill.
Refusing to ignore his friends, Luke hops in his X-wing with R2-D2 and leaves Dagobah.
37. There Is Another
Setting up one of the big reveals of Return of the Jedi, Yoda mentions to Obi-Wan that another Jedi could be trained.
It was a mystery at the time this film debuted. With the reveal of Leia being Luke’s sister in the next move, the setup and foreshadowing for Leia are well executed throughout The Empire Strikes Back.
38. Dinner with Vader
Lando guides the heroes through the halls of Cloud City to lead them to dinner. But as the doors open, Darth Vader and Boba Fett await them on the other side. Han makes a valiant attempt to shoot the villain, but he’s no match for the Sith Lord and the Force.
39. Lando Negotiates for Leia and Chewbacca
After Han is tortured, Lando comes to him, Leia, and Chewbacca in their jail cell. He negotiated for Leia and Chewbacca to stay in his care. Lando is in a no-win situation; this is the best negotiation he can do.
40. I Love You/I Know
Han’s luck runs out. Boba Fett arrives to collect his bounty for Jabba the Hutt, and Vader wants to test the carbonite freezing mechanism to set a trap for Luke. Han is the test subject. In his last act, he kisses Leia again. She cries after him, “I love you!” Han smirks and replies, “I know.”
41. Luke Battles Vader
The lightsaber battle between Luke and Vader is the ultimate lightsaber duel. The ups and downs of the battle span different locations on Cloud City, leading up to a reveal that changes everything.
Luke has no chance to win, and it’s a bitter loss as he realizes he is no match for the skill and power of the beast that is Darth Vader.
42. Lando Springs His Trap
The heroes are not all lost. As the Empire leads away Leia and Chewbacca as prisoners, Lando and Lobot swoop in with their own soldiers to capture the Imperials. Lando frees his allies and calls for the citizens of Cloud City to evacuate to give them a chance to flee to safety.
43. I Am Your Father
After “May the Force be with you,” the reveal of Vader telling Luke, “I am your father,” is probably the most well-known dialogue in all of Star Wars, and it is the bombshell moment that changed everything audiences knew about the series.
44. Leia Senses Luke
With the knowledge from Yoda that there is another possible Jedi to train, audiences get their first real hint that there is more to Leia than they thought. Luke is injured and beaten, and he desperately calls out to Leia. And across the Force, she hears him and guides Lando and Chewbacca to rescue him.
In Return of the Jedi, it’s revealed that she, too, is a Skywalker. Leia is Force sensitive, and this moment is one of the first significant indications of her abilities.
45. Lando and Chewbacca Search for Han
While The Empire Strikes Back ends the darker middle chapter of the Original Trilogy as the heroes suffer major losses, the film still has a hopeful ending. Lando and Chewbacca team up in the Millennium Falcon to track down where Han has been taken to rescue him.
Luke, now recovered, watches with Leia as they fly away to set the stage for events for Return of the Jedi.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.