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Movie Review: Star Wars: Episode V: the Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Natalie is a writer who works at her local library. She enjoys writing reviews, watching anime and TV shows, and playing video games.

Star Wars: Episode V: the Empire Strikes Back theatrical poster.

Star Wars: Episode V: the Empire Strikes Back theatrical poster.

Quick Info

Directed By: Irvin Kershner
Written by: George Lucas
Studio: LucasFilm, formerly 20th Century Fox
Released: January 6, 2011 on blu-ray, September 12, 2006 for DVD
Runtime: 124 minutes
Availability: On DVD and Blu-Ray, buy on Amazon or at your local store, streaming on Disney+

Story Summary

Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) continues the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia Organa and the Rebel Alliance as they continue to resist the evil Empire and Darth Vader, who has become obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker after he destroyed the Death Star in the previous movie.

Meanwhile, Han and Leia are pursued by Darth Vader as they attempt to escape after evacuating Hoth.

The Writing Is Solid

This is a great movie and it was very well written despite being set in a science fiction universe where people don’t talk like we do. The main characters all get development, especially Luke, who is sent by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force Ghost to seek out the aged Jedi Master named Yoda who lives in the Dagobah System.

He doesn’t always make the right decisions and that makes him a great character, he has flaws and makes mistakes, but he learns from them in the end.

Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader for the first time.

Luke Skywalker confronts Darth Vader for the first time.

It’s One of the Better Middle Installments for a Film Trilogy

Although this is a fantastic science fiction film and surpasses the original Star Wars film in every way possible, it is still a middle installment and it has to keep you interested while still setting up the third installment and while still surpassing the first film and being at least as good.

While many film trilogies do have a major problem with falling flat in the middle installment, Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) doesn’t have the problems that many middle films tend to have, such as having too much filler to pad out the time so you can get to the third film.

This movie does do almost everything right when it comes to sequels. It builds on the first movie without taking a nosedive when it comes to the writing and the acting.

This movie is everything great about Star Wars and more. It’s why it’s many fans’ favorite installment of the Original trilogy.

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back - Trailer

The Visual Effects Are Still Good

Star Wars is one of my favorite science fiction franchises; I just enjoy it more than Star Trek, which I could never get into. I think the story’s good, even though it’s a really old movie. The special effects are still good, but what makes this movie entertaining is that it’s not about the special effects,

Although thanks to George Lucas’ many edits and revisions there has been a lot of CGI inserted into the films. I’m not a Star Wars purist who has to have the original versions of the films unchanged I do understand why fans are annoyed with the many changes George has made since I didn’t buy the Original Trilogy on blu-ray after seeing a video of more of George’s new edits and I didn’t like all of them so I’m sticking with my original trilogy that first came out on DVD because it has fewer edits.

Reader Poll:

Luke Skywalker prepares to duel Darth Vader.

Luke Skywalker prepares to duel Darth Vader.

The Acting Is Great

The actors are very good, I can’t complain about anyone in the cast. They all do a great job reprising their roles. There are new additions to the cast, like Frank Oz and Billy Dee Williams are excellent additions as Yoda and Lando Calrissian. James Earl Jones gives a stunning vocal performance as Darth Vader while David Prowse did all the physical acting, he’s good too.

I’ll give a special mention to Frank Oz who did all the puppeteering for the Yoda puppet because unlike the Prequel Star Wars trilogy, Yoda was not created in a computer, so while his movements are limited due to the technology Frank Oz did a great job with puppeteering Yoda as well as voicing him.

Mark Hamill also gave a great performance but he’s the one who sells to the audience that Yoda is a living, breathing creature and not a puppet and you really have to get into the character you’re playing if you can convince an audience that a puppet is a living creature on screen.

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Harrison Ford is also fantastic in this movie although he’s gone on to play roles that audiences love him for, we all have a special place in our hearts for his role as Han Solo. While this isn’t the best performance he’s ever given, it’s still one that all his fans love whether they’re major Star Wars fans or not. He did a great job in this role and I love his performance.

The late Carrie Fisher did a great job in her performance as well. She definitely improved in her acting and she was pretty good, at least she dropped her unintentional British accent and remained with a consistent tone of voice in the film.

The late Peter Maythew did a great job in his performance as Chewbacca. He was entertaining in both his mannerisms and voice acting with all his Chewbacca noises.

Billy Dee Williams is also great as Lando Calrissian. I liked his performance as a complicated character and he did a great job. He’s one of the few things I’m actually looking forward to in Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker {2019).

Overall, the cast is really great and I love them in these films. George Lucas put together a bunch of great actors that delivered a fantastic science fiction film.

Star Wars- The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)

The Soundtrack Is Great

John Williams’ soundtrack for this film is fantastic. All the music flows together so well and I enjoy hearing the music for the movie. Although I’m more partial to the Star Wars Prequel films’ music because those films were my first exposure to Star Wars, I did watch the Original Trilogy on VHS shortly after watching Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999).

The soundtrack is a wonderful score that compliments the film and adds new pieces to the music which keep the soundtrack fresh.

It’s a great soundtrack that’s worth buying if you buy and collect soundtracks. It is available on iTunes, AmazonMusiuc, and CD.

The Empire's AT-AT Walkers attacking the Rebel base.

The Empire's AT-AT Walkers attacking the Rebel base.

The Film’s Pacing Feels Uneven

The pacing of this film can feel uneven because there are long lulls of no action and just quiet drama scenes, and while the action scenes are great, the slow pacing can make the film drag a little. It’s not too bad, but it can feel too slow at times.

Overall, This Is a Fantastic Star Wars Film

Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is an excellent entry into the Star Wars franchise that most fans love as the best Star Wars film. It surpasses the original while adding more layers to the story and keeping the audience entertained with new interesting characters and more world-building.

The film is a fantastic sequel and while not perfect, it’s still a lot of fun and entertaining.

Quick Summary

What Works:What Doesn't Work:

Great story, world-building, and characters

The pacing can be low in some scenes

Excellent character growth


Great visual effects


Great acting


Great soundtrack


My Grade: A+

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is a great movie that’s fun and entertaining and is a really great science fiction adventure story. I think that it is still a great movie to watch and is a lot more entertaining than the flashy movies that are out now and are all about “oh look at what I can do with CGI!”, this movie proves that you don’t need fancy special effects to tell a good story and the fight scenes are still very well done and I enjoy watching this movie.

The original Star Wars Trilogy was George Lucas’ finest work, and even though the Prequel Trilogy isn’t as good, I still enjoy the first six Star Wars movies. But if you like Star Wars or if you’re looking for a good science fiction movie to watch, I highly recommend the original Star Wars Trilogy, Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is still an excellent movie and it’s a movie that you definitely should see. It’s well worth your time and money.

As for which version to buy, I would try to buy the first DVD release of the Original Trilogy films as it’s the one with the least amount of George Lucas Edits but if you want the uncut versions you might want to see if they’re up for sale on eBay, they might be expensive though, but it’s worth it to spend the money.

My Rating:

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Mikey Karlovsky on July 28, 2019:

Greatest Star Wars movie of all time!

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