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HISTORY

       The main title card is preceded by the statement: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....” The Empire Stikes Back was the second installment in the Star Wars series, and its prologue explains events that unfolded since the conclusion of its precursor, Star Wars (1977, see entry): “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. Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…” The prologue heading “Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back” introduced audiences to the non-sequential timeline of the series, as noted in a 19 May 1980 Time article, leading Lucas to explain that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were centerpieces in a nine-part narrative; only two characters were planned to continue their roles throughout the series, robots “R2-D2” and “C-3PO.”
       On 22 Jun 1977, HR announced that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. was negotiating with executive producer George Lucas for a sequel to Star Wars, which had been released one month earlier to record-breaking revenues surpassing $13 million. Referring to the picture as Star Wars 2, a 12 Oct 1977 Var reported that preproduction was scheduled to begin one year later, in ... More Less

       The main title card is preceded by the statement: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....” The Empire Stikes Back was the second installment in the Star Wars series, and its prologue explains events that unfolded since the conclusion of its precursor, Star Wars (1977, see entry): “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. Evading the dreaded Imperial Starfleet, a group of freedom fighters led by Luke Skywalker has established a new secret base on the remote ice world of Hoth. The evil lord Darth Vader, obsessed with finding young Skywalker, has dispatched thousands of remote probes into the far reaches of space…” The prologue heading “Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back” introduced audiences to the non-sequential timeline of the series, as noted in a 19 May 1980 Time article, leading Lucas to explain that Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were centerpieces in a nine-part narrative; only two characters were planned to continue their roles throughout the series, robots “R2-D2” and “C-3PO.”
       On 22 Jun 1977, HR announced that Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. was negotiating with executive producer George Lucas for a sequel to Star Wars, which had been released one month earlier to record-breaking revenues surpassing $13 million. Referring to the picture as Star Wars 2, a 12 Oct 1977 Var reported that preproduction was scheduled to begin one year later, in Nov 1978, for an anticipated start date in Jan 1979. A 1 Mar 1978 Var article, which noted that preproduction would be delayed until summer 1979, confirmed that Lucas had finalized a deal with Twentieth Century-Fox, and the three principal actors in Star Wars, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher, were contracted to reprise their roles. However, Lucas intended to finance the $10 million unnamed sequel independently through Lucasfilm Limited, with Twentieth Century-Fox serving only as distributor. Director Irvin Kershner was hired to direct his first science-fiction picture based on his “insights into human relationships,” according to production notes in AMPAS library files, and principal photography was planned to begin in Africa and Europe within six months. A 16 May 1980 NYT article added that Kershner was one of Lucas’ film professors at the Univeristy of Southern California (USC).
       According to the 19 May 1980 Time article, Star Wars had grossed approximately $400 million by the time The Empire Strikes Back began development. Although Lucas’ percentage participation netted $51 million, he siphoned away much of his fortune in cash rewards for cast and crew. Time explained that Lucas had secured talent for Star Wars by wagering one quarter of his profits as “points,” or percent-shares in the picture’s income. For example, Alec Guiness was paid an additional $2,880,000 in accordance with his “points” agreement. Other actors, such as Carrie Fisher, were not initially awarded points, but Lucas voluntarily supplemented their salaries; Fisher was paid an extra $320,000. Lucas also gave crew and staff members another fraction of 1%, which resulted in anywhere from to $6,400 to $64,000 per recipient. Because of these contributions, Lucas was left with approximately $12 million after taxes; he used nearly the entire sum as collateral for a $22 million loan to make The Empire Strikes Back. Lucas told Time that he kept only $50,000, for “living expenses.” While a 16 May 1979 Var article estimated the final budget at between $15-20 million, Kershner reported a total cost of $26 million in a 10 Apr 1997 letter to New Times.
       Despite Lucas’ Star Wars contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, he retained film rights to all twelve stories in his “Adventures of Luke Skywalker” series, as noted in the 1 Mar 1978 Var. The first adaptation of the Star Wars sequel was scripted by prolific science-fiction novelist and screenwriter Leigh Brackett, who was known for her work on The Big Sleep (1946, see entry) and Rio Bravo (1959, see entry). However, Brackett died of cancer several weeks after completing the sequel’s first draft, according to her 24 Mar 1978 LAT obituary. Lawrence Kasdan, who had recently adapted another George Lucas story for the upcoming production Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, see entry), was hired to replace Brackett shortly after her death; The Empire Strikes Back marked his first theatrically released feature film.
       By the beginning of 1979, the sequel had been titled The Empire Strikes Back, as first noted in a 3 Jan 1979 Var news item, which listed a secondary working title of Star Wars Two. A 6 Mar 1979 DV column reported that principal photography began 5 Mar 1979 in Finse, Norway, despite the interference of blizzards and avalanches. The production was scheduled to continue filming for up to two weeks before moving to EMI Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, England, for an additional fifteen weeks. However, Kershner told the 16 May 1980 NYT that filming actually began at Elstree in Sep 1978, six months before location work began in Norway. A 24 Jan 1979 fire at Elstree’s Stage 3, which was being used at the time for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980, see entry), caused delays in returning to the studio.
       According to production notes, a first unit crew officially started work at Elstree by 12 Mar 1979. The studio’s existing eight soundstages, which were all used for Star Wars, did not provide enough space, so a new building was added to the facility. Its foundation was set before winter 1978 in preparation for the shoot, but bad weather delayed construction. Upon its completion in May 1979, the so-called “Star Wars” stage became one of the largest studio facilities in the world at the time, measuring 250 feet long, 122 feet wide, and forty-five feet high.
       Meanwhile, maritime engineers constructed a full-sized, forty-ton model of the Millenium Falcon at a hangar in Pembroke Dock, Wales. The prop was divided into sixteen parts and moved by a convoy of trucks to Elstree Studios, where it was outfitted with “compressed air pads” to float above the stage like a hovercraft.
       By early summer 1979, a second unit crew was hired to hasten production, with Star Wars production designer John Barry as second unit director. On 1 Jun 1979, just two weeks after joining The Empire Strikes Back, Barry collapsed on set and died soon after, as noted in his 5 Jun 1979 Globe and Mail obituary. Producer Gary Kurtz briefly took over Barry’s role until Harley Cokliss was hired as a replacement.
       According to the 19 May 1980 Time article, the set was shrouded in secrecy. To prevent the shooting script from being publicized, several actors had access only to their own lines, and David Prowse performed the role of “Darth Vader” with “dummy lines,” since the character’s voice was later overdubbed by the uncredited James Earl Jones. Prowse told Time that he remained oblivious to the film’s actual story throughout production, with no concept of events in the narrative before or after he appeared onscreen. He also reported that the filmmakers were “really paranoid, about security.”
       The completion of principal photography in fall 1979 was met with months of post-production special effects work centered at Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic, which had moved from Van Nuys to San Rafael, CA, in 1978.
       During production, The Empire Strikes Back marked several first-time marketing ventures. On 16 Apr 1979, Publishers Weekly reported that the novelization rights to The Empire Strikes Back, and a companion book, The Making of the Empire Strikes Back, were sold “for the highest amount paid for a license in England” to that time, $420,000. The same day, a 16 Apr 1979 HR news item announced that Twentieth Century-Fox broke an industry record by bidding the picture to exhibitors thirteen months before its 25 Mar 1980 release date. Although thirteen U.S. states had recently outlawed “blind bidding,” in which exhibitors agreed to rent a picture without viewing it, Twentieth Century-Fox received theater-owner guarantees of approximately $26 million, according to a 12 May 1979 LAT brief.
       On 8 Jun 1979, Var reported that music manager Robert Stigwood was working with Lucas on the film’s soundtrack, and Mick Jagger had been approached to compose the score, but one week later, a 15 Jun 1979 HR news item announced that Star Wars composer John Williams was set to reprise his role for The Empire Strikes Back.
       The picture opened 21 May 1980, nearly three years to the day after the debut of its predecessor, to general acclaim and vast marketing. As reported in the 25 Mar 1980 LAHExam, many Los Angeles, CA, theaters screened the picture twenty-four hours straight on its Wednesday opening, earning nearly $1.4 million, and audiences camped out in lines for up to ten hours to gain admittance. The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood ran the picture for 144 consecutive hours, according to the 21 May 1980 DV. By 10:30 p.m. Friday, 23 May 1980, the film had grossed $3,731,953 nationally, breaking house records in 125 of the 127 theaters in which it opened, as noted in the 25 May 1980 DV. A 21 May 1980 HR news item reported that the opening also coincided with new, record-high ticket sale prices in Los Angeles: $5.50 at theaters and $3.50 at drive-ins.
       In a 12 Jun 1980 Rolling Stone interview, Lucas announced his plan to filter income from The Empire Strikes Back into a professional filmmaking retreat, think-tank, and studio on the 2,000 acres of land he recently purchased in Lucas Valley, CA.
       On 16 Jan 1996, DV announced that Twentieth Century-Fox and George Lucas were planning to reissue a special edition of the picture, although a deal had not yet been confirmed. Lucas had used updated technology to “punch up” Star Wars with visual effects, and he wished to do the same for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi (1983, see entry), the third film in the original Star Wars series. A 21 Feb 1997 HR review of the reissued The Empire Strikes Back declared it: “unquestionably the best installment of [the]… trilogy and arguably the crowning achievement of the fantasy-adventure genre reinvented in the 1970s and ‘80s by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.”
       The Empire Strikes Back was followed by Return of the Jedi (1983, see entry), as well as a trilogy of prequels, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999, see entry), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002, see entry), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005, see entry). In addition, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was released in 2008, and as of Dec 2013, the Walt Disney Company was in pre-production for Star Wars: Episode VII with the three stars of Star Wars, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford cast in their original roles. J. J. Abrams was set to direct the picture for a projected release date in 2015.
       The Empire Strikes Back was nominated for two Academy Awards in the following categories: Art Direction and Music (Original Score). It received an Academy Award for Sound, as well as a Special Achievement Award for special visual effects artists Brian Johnson and Richard Edlund, effects director of photography (miniature and optical effects unit) Dennis Muren, and optical photography supervisor (miniature and optical effects unit) Bruce Nicholson. AFI named "Darth Vader" as the number three villain in their "100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains" list.

      End credits include the following location information: “Photographed on the Hardangerjøkulen Glacier, Finse, Norway, and at EMI-Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, England.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
6 Mar 1979.
---
Daily Variety
12 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
21 May 1980.
---
Daily Variety
25 May 1980
p. 1, 21.
Daily Variety
16 Jan 1996.
---
Globe and Mail
5 Jun 1979
p. 16.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Jun 1977.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 May 1980
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
21 May 1980
p. 1, 17.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Feb 1997
p. 6, 20.
LAHExam
25 Mar 1980.
---
Los Angeles Times
24 Mar 1978
Section G, p. 12.
Los Angeles Times
10 Mar 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 May 1979.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 May 1980
p. 1.
New Times
10 Apr 1997.
---
New York Times
16 May 1980.
---
New York Times
21 May 1980
p. 25.
Publishers Weekly
16 Apr 1979.
---
Rolling Stone
12 Jun 1980.
---
Time
19 May 1980.
---
Variety
12 Oct 1977.
---
Variety
1 Mar 1978
P. 3, 146.
Variety
3 Jan 1979.
---
Variety
16 May 1979.
---
Variety
8 Jun 1979.
---
Variety
14 May 1980
p. 14.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Starring
as
Starring
as
Co-starring
as
Co-starring
as
Co-starring
as
Co-starring
performing
+

PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir, Studio 2d unit
Dir, Studio 2d unit
Dir, Loc 2d unit
Prod supv
Prod mgr, Loc 2d unit
Asst prod mgr
1st asst dir
Asst dir, Studio 2d unit
Asst dir, Loc 2d unit
Asst dir, Loc 2d unit
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir, Studio 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Prod
Exec prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, Studio 2d unit
Dir of photog, Loc 2d unit
Matte photog consultant
Op cam
Op cam
Op cam, Loc 2d unit
Asst cam
Asst cam
Asst cam, Loc 2d unit
Asst cam, Loc 2d unit
2d asst cam
2d asst cam
2d asst cam, Loc 2d unit
2d asst cam, Loc 2d unit
Dolly grip
Dolly grip
Dolly grip, Loc 2d unit
Gaffer
Rigging gaffer
Lighting equip and crew from
Still photog
Aerial cam system by
Aerial cam, Wesscam Camera Systems
[Aerial cam] asst, Wesscam Camera Systems
Helicopter supplied by
Pilot, Dollar Air Services Limited
Cloud plates photographed with Astrovision by
Gaffer
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Des consultant and conceptual artist
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Sketch artist
FILM EDITORS
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Negative cutting
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Const mgr
Draftsman
Draftsman
Draftsman
Draftsman
Draftsman
Modeller
Modeller
Modeller
Chief buyer
Const storeman
Prop master
Prop supv
Prop dressing supv
Head carpenter
Head plasterer
Head rigger
Supv rigger
Standby rigger
Standby stagehand
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward supv
Ward mistress
MUSIC
Orig mus copyright ® 1980
Mus rec
Supv mus ed
Mus rec at
Denham, England
SOUND
Prod sd
Sd boom op
Prod maintenance
Sd des and supv sd eff ed
Re-rec
Re-rec
Dial ed
Dial ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Foley ed
Foley ed
Foley asst
Foley asst
Sd eff rec
Rec tech
Rec tech
Rec tech
Dolby consultant
Re-rec at
Los Angeles, California
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec visual eff
Spec visual eff
Opt coord
Mechanical eff supv, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Loc unit supv, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Senior eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Senior eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Robot fabrication and supv, Prod and mechanical ef
Robot fabrication and supv, Prod and mechanical ef
Eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff tech, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff eng, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff eng, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Elec eng, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Electronics consultant, Prod and mechanical eff un
Model const, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff asst, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff asst, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff asst, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff secy, Prod and mechanical eff unit
Eff dir of photog, Miniature and opt eff unit
Eff cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Eff cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Cam op, Miniature and opt eff unit
Cam op, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt photog supv, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt printer op, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt line-up, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt coord, Miniature and opt eff unit
Laboratory tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Labratory tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Laboratory tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Art dir-Visual eff, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst art dir, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stop motion anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stop motion anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stop motion tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stop motion tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Matte painting supv, Miniature and opt eff unit
Matte artist, Miniature and opt eff unit
Matte artist, Miniature and opt eff unit
Matte photog, Miniature and opt eff unit
Addl matte photog, Miniature and opt eff unit
Matte photog asst, Miniature and opt eff unit
Matte photog asst, Miniature and opt eff unit
Modelshop foreman, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Chief model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Model maker, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim and rotoscope supv, Miniature and opt eff uni
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Anim, Miniature and opt eff unit
Visual eff ed supv, Miniature and opt eff unit
Eff ed, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst eff ed, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst eff ed, Miniature and opt eff unit
Apprentice ed, Miniature and opt eff unit
Prod admin, Miniature and opt eff unit
Prod secy, Miniature and opt eff unit
Prod assoc, Miniature and opt eff unit
Prod accountant, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst accountant, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst accountant, Miniature and opt eff unit
Asst accountant, Miniature and opt eff unit
Prod asst, Miniature and opt eff unit
Transportation, Miniature and opt eff unit
Still photog, Miniature and opt eff unit
Lab asst, Miniature and opt eff unit
Electronics systems des, Miniature and opt eff uni
Systems programming, Miniature and opt eff unit
Electronic eng, Miniature and opt eff unit
Electronic eng, Miniature and opt eff unit
Electronic eng, Miniature and opt eff unit
Spec project coord, Miniature and opt eff unit
Equip eng supv, Miniature and opt eff unit
Des eng, Miniature and opt eff unit
Machinist, Miniature and opt eff unit
Machinist, Miniature and opt eff unit
Draftsman, Miniature and opt eff unit
Spec projects, Miniature and opt eff unit
Supv stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Stage tech, Miniature and opt eff unit
Miniature pyrotechnics, Miniature and opt eff unit
Miniature pyrotechnics, Miniature and opt eff unit
Miniature pyrotechnics, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt printer component manufacturer, Miniature and
Cam and movement des, Miniature and opt eff unit
Spec optics des, Miniature and opt eff unit
Opt printer component eng, Miniature and opt eff u
High speed cam movements, Miniature and opt eff un
Ultra high speed cam, Miniature and opt eff unit
Addl opt eff
Addl opt eff
Addl opt eff
Addl opt eff
Spec visual eff prod at
Marin County, California
MAKEUP
Make-up and spec creature des
Chief make-up artist
Make-up artist
Make-up artist
Chief hairdresser
Yoda fabrication
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Casting
Casting
Casting
Asst to prod
Asst to dir
Asst to exec prod
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Set cost controller
Loc accountant
Unit pub
Asst pub
Snow vehicles supplied by
R2 bodies fabricated by
Spec assistance from
Supv stagehand
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt double
Stunt double
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
DETAILS
Series:
Alternate Titles:
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars 2
Release Date:
21 May 1980
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 21 May 1980
Production Date:
5 March--fall 1979 in Norway and England
Copyright Claimant:
Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
13 June 1980
Copyright Number:
PA72282
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo™
Color
Rank Film Laboratories®
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®; Prints by Deluxe®
Duration(in mins):
124
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
26034
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

During an intergalactic civil war, freedom fighters Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia battle against an evil empire. Imperial dictator Darth Vader is intent on finding young Luke, and sends exploratory robot “droid” probes into space, to discern the boy’s whereabouts. When the droids crash into the frozen planet Hoth, the secret location of a rebel base, the insurgents mistake the event for a meteorite shower, and Luke is sent to investigate. On his mission, Luke is knocked unconscious by a predatory Wampa creature. Meanwhile, back at rebel headquarters, Han Solo reports that he is being hunted by a former creditor, Jabba the Hut, and must abandon the base to protect its security. When Leia objects to Han’s departure, he chides her for being secretly in love with him, but she recoils at the notion and the two separate on bitter terms. Before Han leaves, however, he learns from droid C-3PO that Luke is missing. As Han searches for his friend in a blizzard, Luke awakens in the Wampa’s cave, conjures the metaphysical power of “the Force,” and assumes his novice faculties as a budding Jedi knight to escape. Back at rebel headquarters, Leia reluctantly agrees to close the outpost’s shield doors for the night. As Luke nears death in the blizzard, he envisions his former Jedi mentor, Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi, who orders the boy to travel to the Dagobah System and seek instruction from the universe’s senior Jedi master, Yoda. Just then, Han saves Luke and uses his friend’s lightsaber to cut open the stomach of his dead, bipedal “tauntaun.” The men take shelter in the ... +


During an intergalactic civil war, freedom fighters Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia battle against an evil empire. Imperial dictator Darth Vader is intent on finding young Luke, and sends exploratory robot “droid” probes into space, to discern the boy’s whereabouts. When the droids crash into the frozen planet Hoth, the secret location of a rebel base, the insurgents mistake the event for a meteorite shower, and Luke is sent to investigate. On his mission, Luke is knocked unconscious by a predatory Wampa creature. Meanwhile, back at rebel headquarters, Han Solo reports that he is being hunted by a former creditor, Jabba the Hut, and must abandon the base to protect its security. When Leia objects to Han’s departure, he chides her for being secretly in love with him, but she recoils at the notion and the two separate on bitter terms. Before Han leaves, however, he learns from droid C-3PO that Luke is missing. As Han searches for his friend in a blizzard, Luke awakens in the Wampa’s cave, conjures the metaphysical power of “the Force,” and assumes his novice faculties as a budding Jedi knight to escape. Back at rebel headquarters, Leia reluctantly agrees to close the outpost’s shield doors for the night. As Luke nears death in the blizzard, he envisions his former Jedi mentor, Ben “Obi-Wan” Kenobi, who orders the boy to travel to the Dagobah System and seek instruction from the universe’s senior Jedi master, Yoda. Just then, Han saves Luke and uses his friend’s lightsaber to cut open the stomach of his dead, bipedal “tauntaun.” The men take shelter in the animal’s corpse for the night, and are picked up by a search and rescue operation the following morning. Back at the base, the rebels detect an Imperial frequency. Han and his tall, hairy Wookiee companion, Chewbacca, destroy Darth Vader’s probe droid, but the rebels realize their outpost has been discovered and prepare to evacuate. Meanwhile, Darth Vader navigates his Stardestroyer toward the Hoth System and deploys a fleet of armored Imperial walkers to conduct ground battle. Boarding fighter planes, Luke and his colleagues are unable to defend the base; Luke’s gunner is killed and he is forced to crash land. Back at rebel headquarters, Han is given clearance to leave in his spaceship, the Millenium Falcon, but he lingers, realizing that the station is threatened with imminent destruction. Just as Darth Vader takes over the rebel stronghold, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO narrowly escape in the Millenium Falcon. Outside, Luke watches his friends speed away, then pilots his own spaceship, navigated by droid R2-D2, and heads toward the Dagobah System. He crash-lands in a remote swamp. Meanwhile, the Millenium Falcon malfunctions and is unable to activate its light speed hyper drive. Han evades attackers by steering through an asteroid field and hiding the ship in a cylindrical rock crevice. There, the crew struggles to repair the spacecraft, and Han and Leia kiss. Han soon realizes that he mistakenly landed the Millenium Falcon inside the belly of an enormous worm, and the rebels escape through the creature’s clenching jaws. Back in the Dagobah System, Luke is startled to find an aged troll-like creature, who reveals himself to be Yoda. Despite Yoda’s observation that Luke is too impatient and bitter to become a Jedi, he agrees to begin training the young man. Yoda warns that “the Force” can be wielded for evil as well as good, and that the dark side is seductive. However, Luke will know the difference between the opposing forces if he is at peace with himself and understands that Jedis never use power aggressively. Feeling a chill in the air, Luke confronts a vision of Darth Vader; Luke beheads the enemy with his lightsaber, only to see his own face appear in his opponent’s mask. Elsewhere, on the Imperial Stardestroyer, Darth Vader orders his starfleet to follow the Millenium Falcon. Darth Vader’s evil master, the Emperor, announces that Luke is the son of Anakin Skywalker, and will threaten the Empire if he becomes a full-fledged Jedi. Vowing to lure Luke over to “the dark side,” Darth Vader devises a trap. He hires bounty hunters to track down the Millenium Falcon, forcing Luke to come out of hiding and defend the lives of his friends. Meanwhile, Han navigates toward the Cloud City metropolis of a former associate and fellow-gambler, Lando Calrissian, who wields control over the Tibanna gas mine near planet Bespin. Back in the Dagobah System, Yoda orders Luke to telepathically lift his sunken fighter plane from the swamp in which it crashed, but Luke loses faith in his abilities, and fails. When Luke complains that the mystical ideals of “the Force” are impossible to attain, Yoda raises the spaceship himself. In time, Luke’s skills improve, but he is startled by a premonition that Han and Leia are in grave danger. He vows to rescue them, but Yoda warns that Luke will destroy the rebel movement if he ends his training too soon. An apparition of Obi-Wan Kenobi cautions Luke that he will soon be tempted by evil; Luke will have to battle Darth Vader alone. Ignoring the advice of his masters, Luke embarks on his rescue mission with a promise to return to Yoda. When Obi-Wan mutters that the boy was the last hope of the universe, Yoda professes: “There is another.” Meanwhile, Han reunites with Lando, and the two men cordially bicker over ownership of the Millenium Falcon, leaving Leia suspicious. Shortly after the rebels’ arrival, Lando betrays them to Darth Vader and they learn of the scheme to entice Luke. Darth Vader plans to carbon-freeze the boy for his transport back to the Emperor, and tests the dangerous congealing device with Han as an experimental subject. Leia declares her love for Han, and kisses him farewell. Han’s frozen body is handed over to the bounty hunters, who leave the city to claim their pending rewards. Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO are detained by stormtroopers, but Lando secretly rescues them, promising to help save Han. Meanwhile, Luke lands his spacecraft in the Cloud City and confronts Darth Vader. The two battle with lightsabers and Luke impresses the evil leader by controlling his fear. However, Darth Vader advises Luke to unleash his anger, because hatred is the only force strong enough to kill one’s enemies. Darth Vader unhinges part of the space station, causing Luke to be sucked out of the room. As Luke clings to a railing above an abyss and pulls himself to safety, his friends dodge gunfire in another part of the city; the rebels recover R2-D2 and escape in the Millenium Falcon. Luke continues to battle Darth Vader, who severs Luke’s lightsaber-bearing hand. Defenseless, the boy backs away to another perch above the abyss. Darth Vader invites Luke to embrace the power of evil and declares himself Luke’s long-lost father. Choosing between certain death or reuniting with the parent he always wished to know, Luke plummets into the void and lands inside a chute. He slides through the outskirts of the floating Cloud City and clings for life in outer space, calling aloud for Obi-Wan and Leia. Inside the Millenium Falcon, Leia hears Luke’s voice and insists on turning the ship around to save her friend. Meanwhile, Darth Vader returns to his Stardestroyer and orders the Millenium Falcon captured. Speaking telepathically to his son, Darth Vader tells Luke that their union is “destiny.” Just as the Stardestroyer places the Millenium Falcon in its magnetic “tractor beam,” R2-D2 fixes the spaceship’s hyper drive and it blasts into light speed to escape the Imperialists. At a rebel space station, Luke is outfitted with a new hand as Lando and Chewbacca set out to save Han. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.