Star Wars is 60 per cent drama and 40 per cent comedy, though, and the sprawling narrative reflects that. Until the very end when his body is frozen in carbonite, Han Solo’s mad dash from the Empire with C-3P0, Chewbacca and Leia in tow is essentially a long chase skit, with the Millennium Falcon falling apart as it tears through the galaxy while every one of his companions berates him for the ship’s failures. Likewise, there’s a surreal workplace comedy aspect to the unending shortfalls of Darth Vader’s Imperial lieutenants, who, in a perceptively dark turn, are strangled by their superior and replaced by the man standing next to them.
This is the Star Wars picture that encapsulates every positive within the saga – you have the debut of the religiously worshipped Boba Fett (unless you count the abominable Holiday Special, which we don’t), the unexpected betrayal of Lando Calrissian as well as a beautiful range of locations, from the blanket whiteness of Hoth to the piercing dusk surrounding Cloud City. It’s Star Wars firing on all cylinders, towering above every other sci-fi movie over each aspect of its production.
The reputation of the movie among fans supports the idea that Empire is the greatest sci-fi film ever made. I believe it’s incredible that a movie designed to make its audience feel uncomfortable and to leave huge questions unanswered can accumulate such a prestigious reputation among the Star Wars collective, but such is the genius of its execution.
I’ve had frequent discussions about the merits of each Star Wars picture, as I’m certain you, the reader, have. For a long time, I thought the original Star Wars was the best sci-fi film ever created – a smart person once said that the beauty of A New Hope is its ability to portray an entire universe just out the corner of your eye. While this is true and important, I believe The Empire Strikes Back lends the Star Wars series something far more crucial to its reputation and longevity: credibility. This is Star Wars’, and by extension, sci-fi’s finest hour, an audacious venture into fascinating territory for one of history’s most assured commercial successes.
To find out more about this exciting phase in SciFiNow’s forum feature, hit the link and check out the other movies that made our shortlist. Clue: Battlefield Earth is not one of them.
Don’t forget to log on to our forums to discuss the films on our shortlist, and to read any of the other articles in this series as they are written, click on the title below.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Planet Of The Apes
ET The Extra-Terrestrial
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
2001: A Space Odyssey
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This article originally appeared in the print edition of SciFiNow issue 41 by Samuel Roberts. To buy a copy of the magazine or subscribe, go to www.imagineshop.com, or call our subscriptions hotline on +44 (0) 844 844 0245.