Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Today is the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It’s revered as a classic among science fiction moviegoers and the film still holds up to today as a fan-favorite entry in the franchise!

Empire Strikes Back

The return to a galaxy far, far away

The second installment of the Skywalker Saga is held in high regards by the Star Wars community of fans. The success of the 1977 movie was unprecedented and no one knew what to expect out of the highly anticipated sequel. Would the first movie be a one-time success? How could the movie studio ever hope to achieve another cinematic box office hit? It’s hard to imagine the skepticism today, but the 1980 movie proved its merit when it premiered in movie theaters on May 21, 1980.

The movie introduced creative new worlds and creatures for us to see on screen. The frozen planet of Hoth showed us how powerful the Wampa creatures were after one ambushed Luke Skywalker. Also, the battle at Echo Base on Hoth showed us an unforgettable fight between the Rebels and Imperial forces. The AT-AT is still one of our favorite Star Wars based vehicles!

Yoda, Bounty Hunters, and Lando

This film introduced a ton of new characters and alien creatures. For starters, movie audiences were first introduced to Yoda, a Jedi Master who would help train Luke in the movie. After seeing the fearsome Darth Vader and hearing about the Clone Wars, you were led to believe the Jedi would be powerful warriors. But Yoda broke that predicted stereotype and showed how there are other qualities more important to the Jedi code. His quirky nature and signature speech pattern captivated audiences.

Lando Calrissian is another noteworthy addition. He enters the story during the third act of Empire Strikes Back. We learn he was the original owner of Han’s ship the Millennium Falcon. Lando showed us a different plant with the cloud city of Bespin. We also saw a different side of life in the galaxy with how the Empire forced its will against Lando and the residents of Bespin.

Let’s not forget the bounty hunters. Even though they played a small role in the movie, the cast of bounty hunters were great for Star Wars toy lines. Both kids and adult collectors enjoyed the addition of bounty hunters to the Star Wars universe. Boba Fett played the strong, silent type and proved to be popular after his live action debut.

Empire Strikes Back

Lastly, we must discuss the lasting effect this movie had on pop culture. The first Star Wars movie showed us a hope-filled fairy tale where good triumphs over evil. The Empire Strikes Back served as a wake-up call that the bad guys are capable of winning, too.

The darker tones and suspense of this movie surprised viewers in 1980. Han and Leia professed their love for each other only for him to be frozen in carbonite. Han’s uncertain fate left fans wondering what his fate would be in the third installment. The reveal about Darth Vader being the father of Luke Skywalker is still one of the most shocking moments in movie history. It gave us a new perception to both characters and their unique relationship.

The movie is currently available on the Disney+ streaming service if you want to watch the movie this weekend. Tell us your favorite part of The Empire Strikes Back in the comments!

Photo Credit: Star Wars and Disney

Kevin Koszola