In 1977, George Lucas’s epic space-opera trilogy, Star Wars, would forever change the history of cinema. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, is the second film of the series telling the story of Luke Skywalker who joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a copy pilot, a Wookie, and two droids to help save the galaxy from Darth Vader and his Empire’s Death Star, a moon-sized space station capable of destroying entire planets.
Retroactively, the movie became known as “Episode 5” in the Skywalker Saga; the franchise would later add a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy, two anthology films, and various spin-off TV series.
Lucas hired Leigh Brackett to write the sequel before personally outlining the saga as a whole and finishing the film’s script himself. In this particular chapter, Vader relentlessly pursues Luke’s friends including Han Solo and Princess Leia, while Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda. When Vader captures Luke’s friends, Luke must decide whether to complete his training and become a Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save them.
Star Wars is not only well respected by critics and its rabid fans, but Lucas’ creation has grossed a grand total of $9,307,186,202 and has spawned countless merchandise lines, video games, park rides, and more. The story of the Skywalkers is still rolling out more than 40 years later; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters in December.
Want to continue following the Skywalker adventure? With Disney+ you can exclusively stream Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and most other Star Wars movies today.
How to Stream ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ – Exclusively on Disney+
The Empire Strikes Back is one of the fan-favorite Disney original movies that will be streaming exclusively on Disney’s new subscription streaming service, Disney+.
You can sign up for a 7-day free trial of Disney+ HERE, which will allow you to stream The Empire Strikes Back and hundreds of other movies and shows on your computer, phone, tablet, smart TV or streaming device. If you extend past the free trial, the service costs $6.99/month. You may also opt for this discount bundle of Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99/month.
- 1. Sign up for Disney+ here
- 2. Go to Disneyplus.com or download the Disney+ app on your device
- 3. Log in using your information
- 4. Search for “Empire Strikes”
- 5. Tap on The Empire Strikes Back
- 6. Tap the PLAY button
Disney+ also boasts a vast library of Disney-owned movies and series — plus several new original series coming soon. The service includes unlimited downloads so you can watch offline whenever and wherever you want. The list of compatible devices and smart TVs includes iPads, Apple TV, Amazon devices, Amazon Fire TV, Android, Chromecast, Roku, PS4, and Xbox One.
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’: Overview
Release Date: May 21, 1980
Creators: Story by George Lucas, Screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, Directed by Irvin Kershner
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Peter Mayhew
Synopsis: After the Rebels are overpowered by the Empire on the ice planet Hoth, Luke Skywalker begins Jedi training with Yoda while his friends are pursued by Darth Vader.
How Long Is ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’?
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has a runtime of 124 minutes.
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ Plot
The adventure continues in this Star Wars sequel—the second film released in the franchise, but the fifth episode of the Skywalker Saga. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the Imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda. Only with the Jedi master’s help will Luke survive when the dark side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse).
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ Cast
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Luke Skywalker is a farmboy who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest Jedi the galaxy has ever known. Along with his friends Princess Leia and Han Solo, Luke battles the evil Empire, discovers the truth of his parentage, and eventually ends the tyranny of the Sith. Before Star Wars, Hamill had guest roles in TV series like The Partridge Family, The Bill Cosby Show, and General Hospital.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Han Solo grew up on the mean streets of Corellia and eventually joined up with Luke Skywalker to become one of the heroes of the Rebel Alliance. As captain of the Millennium Falcon, Han and his co-pilot Chewbacca believe in the cause of galactic freedom and the fight against the Empire. Harrison Ford became an A-list actor appearing in movies like The Fugitive, What Lies Beneath, Witness, and all of the Indiana Jones movies.
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Princess Leia Organa is one of the Rebel Alliance’s greatest leaders, with experience on the battlefield and an undying dedication to ending the tyranny of the Empire. It’s revealed that she’s the sister of Luke Skywalker. She proves herself as one of the galaxy’s great heroes. Fisher, an actress, comedian, and writer, sadly passed away in 2016 but will appear in the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She also had parts in films like Scream 3, The Blues Brothers, Drop Dead Fred, and The ‘Burbs.
Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi
A legendary Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi is a noble man and who is gifted in the ways of The Force. In A New Hope, he guides Luke Skywalker as a mentor. Guinness played Colonel Nicholson in the movie The Bridge On the River Kwai and is known for his many other collaborations with David Lean. Some of those films included Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and Lawrence of Arabia.
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
C-3PO is a droid programmed and built by the heroic Jedi Anakin Skywalker. He is fluent in more than seven million forms of communication. Along with R2-D2, he plays a key role in organizing the Rebel Alliance in A New Hope. Actor Anthony Daniels is the only actor to appear in all of the episodic films in the series. Daniels was the voice of Legolas in the animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and has appeared on various British dramas such as Prime Suspect starring Helen Mirren.
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
A resourceful droid, R2-D2 saved his friends from many dangerous spots serving Padmé Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, and Luke Skywalker over the course of the franchise. He forms an unlikely but enduring friendship with the fussy C-3PO in the series’ first film. Another accomplished English actor, Baker also starred in The Elephant Man, Time Bandits, Willow, Flash Gordon, Amadeus, and Labyrinth.
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Chewbacca is a Wookiee warrior and one of the rebel heroes. He’s Han Solo’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon and eventually helps the Alliance restore freedom to the galaxy. Mayhew played the character in all of his live-action appearances from A New Hope to 2015’s The Force Awakens. Mayhew passed away in April of this year.
David Prowse and James Earl Jones as Darth Vader
Though he was once a heroic Jedi Knight, Darth Vader is the original trilogy’s big bad. He was seduced by the dark side of the Force becoming a Sith Lord and leading the Empire’s quest to eliminate the Jedi Order. The villainous Vader was played physically by David Prowse and voiced by James Earl Jones, the latter of whom is known for his other voice acting stints such as The Lion King and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Billie Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Lando Calrissian is the administrator of Cloud City and an old acquaintance of Han’s. He betrays the group to Darth Vader who plans to use the group as bait to lure out Luke, but later Lando has a change of heart. Aside from Star Wars, Williams’ credits include Lady Sings the Blues (1972), Mahogany (1975), Nighthawks (1981), and Batman (1989), in which he portrayed Harvey Dent, aka Two-Face.
Frank Oz as Yoda
Jim Henson Company all-star Frank Oz joined the franchise as Yoda, a wise, centuries-old Jedi Master, who is self-exiled on Dagobah. Oz was assisted by several other performers including Kathryn Mullen, David Barclay, Wendy Froud, and Deep Roy. Oz is best known for being the main puppeteer behind Miss Piggy, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Animal, Sam the Eagle, and Fozzie Bear.
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ Songs and Soundtrack
Like its predecessor, the score of The Empire Strikes Back was composed and conducted by John Williams, and was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. The soundtrack, in its first iteration, was released on May 16, 1980. It was released in the U.S. as a 75-minute double LP five days before the film’s premiere; the first CD release ran only half the length of the vinyl set.
The full tracklist for the film soundtrack is:
1. “Star Wars (Main Theme)”
2. “Yoda’s Theme”
3. “The Training of a Jedi Knight”
4. “The Heroics of Luke and Han”
5. “The Imperial March (Darth Vader’s Theme)”
6. “Departure of Boba Fett”
7. “Han Solo and the Princess”
9. “The Battle in the Snow”
10. “The Asteroid Field”
11. “The City in the Clouds”
12. “Rebels at Bay”
13. “Yoda and the Force”
14. “The Duel”
15. “The Magic Tree”
16. “Lando’s Palace”
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ at the Box Office
The Empire Strikes Back earned a worldwide total of $538,375,067 at the box office according to Box Office Mojo. Fifty-four percent of its earnings was stateside, reeling in $290,475,067 throughout the course of its run.
These numbers include its gross during a re-release the year after. In July 31, 1981, fans were treated to an encore theater run which brought in $26.5 million. It hit theaters again in November of 1982 bringing in $14.5 million. Fans seemingly couldn’t get enough Star Wars.
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ Reviews – What the Critics Said
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back received an overwhelmingly positive reception when it debuted in 1980. That positivity continues to this day with every new release; the original trilogy is often revisited to compare to the latest Skywalker Saga sequels.
Bob Thomas of the Associated Press wrote, “The Empire Strikes Back Displays the same soaring imagination that made Star Wars a filmmaking classic; most other space movies seem clunky and earthbound in comparison.”
The Los Angeles Times agreed calling it, “another richly imaginative, engrossing and spectacular motion picture from the redoubtable George Lucas.”
“Topping the most successful act in show business history is an impossibility, of course. But that’s the challenge facing everyone who worked on The Empire Strikes Back. They have succeeded to an altogether remarkable extent,” wrote George Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Unsurprisingly, the film holds a 95 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the site writing, “Dark, sinister, but ultimately even more involving than A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back defies viewer expectations and takes the series to heightened emotional levels.”
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ Trailer
In addition to a sampling of scenes taken from the movie, the trailer features footage that was cut from the final film including a kiss between Luke and Leia and C-3PO removing a warning sticker from a door in the Rebel base on Hoth. Oddly enough, the voiceover in the trailer is provided by none other than Harrison Ford himself.
‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ Trivia: 5 Fast Facts
1. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ Was Chosen To Be Preserved by the Library of Congress
In 2010, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was selected to be preserved by the Library of Congress as part of its National Film Registry. Thirty-five-millimeter reels of the 1997 Special Edition were initially presented for preservation because of the difficulty of transferring from the original prints, but it was later revealed that the Library possessed a copyright deposit print of the original theatrical release.
2. The American Film Institute Named Darth Villain One of the Greatest Villains of All Time
Darth Vader was ranked as the third-greatest film villain of all time in the American Film Institute‘s 2003 list of the 100 greatest heroes and villains. The only two characters to edge the Sith Lord out? Norman Bates and Dr. Hannibal Lecter.
3. Yoda’s Original Name Was Buffy
In Lucas’ earliest outlines, Luke meets a supernatural entity named Buffy, also known as Bunden Debannen. According to Wired, here’s how Lucas described it: “Buffy very old — three or four thousand years. Kiber crystal in sword? Buffy shows Luke? Buffy the guardian. ‘Feel not think.’”
Luke was originally set to become “the human Buffy.” In later drafts, Lucas thought of Yoda as a kind of small frog, and Yoda had a full name: Minch Yoda.
4. A Real-life Car Wreck for Hamill Almost Changed the Script
Mark Hamill was injured in a car accident in 1977 forcing the actor to endure some facial reconstruction. For a while, Lucas planned on including a sequence where Luke’s face is damaged and later patched up by a droid. An on-set picture exists showing a droid bandaging Luke’s face but this side-story was ultimately cut from the movie.
5. Kubrick Put the Filming of ‘Empire’ in Jeopardy
Technically, it wasn’t his fault. Empire shared studio space with The Shining, until a huge fire burned down Stage 3 at Elstree Studios and destroyed many of Kubrick’s sets. Empire had to give up some of its own studio space to the Kubrick film which was going way over schedule. “Timewise, it is doubtful the picture will recover,” one crewmember wrote at the time.
What Other Star Wars Movies Can You Stream on Disney+?
At the time of writing this, here are all of the Star Wars movies on Disney+:
Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI: Return of the JEDI
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story