Arguably the best of all the Star Wars films, it couldn’t have had a tougher act to follow, but follow it it did. Here, we rank the 10 greatest moments in The Empire Strikes Back…
10) “Something’s not right because now I can’t see!”
C3PO gets a pretty raw deal in The Empire Strikes Back, spending most of the movie getting insulted, pushed around and switched off, with his ordeal culminating in getting blown to pieces and nearly melted down in Cloud City. Luckily, Chewbacca has another string to his bowcaster: droid repair. Aside from the comedy value at Chewie chuckling at accidentally putting his head on backwards, it shows of the camaraderie between the Rebels. 3PO may irritate him on a regular basis, but he’s still willing to go all out to help him out.
9) “I was just trying to help!”
Lando may be trying to make amends for his betrayal, but it’ll take more than that to get him off the hook. Having released Chewie’s hands from his bindings, the first think he does his attempt to throttle Calrissian, despite the latter’s protests. As well as being another nice little character moment, it teaches us a couple things: firstly, that Lando isn’t as duplicitous as we first thought, and secondly, don’t mess with Chewbacca. Ever.
8) “My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is”
Up until this point, the only Jedi we had seen were humans or humanoids, so when Luke is informed of a great Jedi master living in solitude on the planet Dagobah, we assume it’ll be a formidable presence. Therefore, when we come across the diminutive, chuckling green alien, we write him off – until it turns out that this is actually Yoda. One of the strengths of the original trilogy was that almost every major scene opened up the universe in some way, and this is definitely the case here.
7) “You have failed me for the last time, Admiral”
Cut off from Grand Moff Tarkin’s leash, Vader is free to terrorise the crew of his fleet, starting with the hapless Admiral Ozzel. After his blunder in alerting the Rebels to his presence, thus giving them the time to put up a shield and force the Empire into embarking on a costly ground assault, Vader decides to take matters into his own hands, relieving Ozzel of his post via long-distance Force choke and simultaneously using the opportunity to promote Captain Piett to the rank of Admiral. Now that’s ruthless.
6) “Steady girl, what’s the matter? You smell something?”
The Empire Strikes Back begins in a pretty unconventional way, if you think about it, pitching the hero straight back into mortal peril. Even though there shouldn’t really be any tension – come on, the hero of the saga isn’t going to get killed off in the first act – but there still is, especially considering how long it’s dragged out, and as we see more and more of his friends reacting to his absence, we start to get worried for him. Luckily, it turns out Luke’s learned a bit in the time since A New Hope, using his telekinesis to retrieve his lightsaber and chop off the unseen (at least in the original cut) Wampa’s arm.
5) “We’re in trouble”
Another of Star Wars‘ strengths is the way is its commitment so some form of ‘realism’; everything feels lived in and grubby, like an actual world should. As it turns out, this commitment extends to the Millennium Falcon having ‘car trouble’, with much of the film centering around attempts to fix the misfiring ship. This drama leads to one of the best scenes in the film, as Han and Chewbacca attempt to fix the Falcon while simultaneously bickering and attempting to avoid the Imperial fleet and navigate an asteroid field.
4) “You must unlearn what you have learned”
Luke may be taking on all of Yoda’s vital lessons, but he fails all the big tests – initially, at least. The first of which being when he goes into the mysterious cave, ignoring Yoda’s instructions to leave his lightsaber behind, where he comes across what appears to be Darth Vader. After decapitating him all too easily, it becomes clear that this is just a vision: in killing in actor, he’ll become just like his quarry. Knowing what we do now about his heritage, it’s more than a little heavy on the foreshadowing on the front, but hey, we weren’t to know that.
3) “Rogue Group, use your harpoons and tow cables. Go for the legs. It might be our only chance of stopping them”
Yavin and Endor might be more important skirmishes in the grand scheme of things, but Hoth is undeniably the better spectacle. As the nigh-on unstoppable AT-AT walkers lumber towards the shield generator, laying waste to everything in their path, it falls on Luke and the Rogue squadron to stop them, harrying and buzzing around them. But there’s not going to be another underdog battle here: outnumbered and outmatched, all they can hope for is to delay the Imperials while the transports escape – and Han and Chewbacca squabble over repairing the Falcon while all hell breaks loose around them. Thus, it is here that The Empire Strikes Back truly lives up to its name, beginning with a crushing defeat for the Rebels that leaves their Forces scattered.
2) “No, I am your father”
Spoiler alert. Honestly, we wish we could go back and watch this scene again, unaware of what was about to transpire. In any case, with Luke defeated and his life hanging by a thread, Vader delivers another hammer-blow by revealing his true importance. Aside from the big revelation, this is the moment that also enables us to see how different Luke is from his father: while Anakin caved in to temptation, Luke instead chooses death over the Dark Side.
1) I love you” “I know”
Undoubtedly the most powerful moment in the entire saga. Facing his likely death, Han keeps his cool while everyone around him loses it (notably Chewie, going apeshit while lobbing Stormtroopers around the chamber), before delivering one of the best improvised lines of all time. In truth, it’s hard to justify exactly why this scene is so great; it just is. Even after multiple rewatches it still retains its powerful, and Chewie’s anguished roars as Han is lowered into the pit get us every time.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be released in cinemas on 17 December 2015. Read our bumper Force Awakens special in issue 113 of SciFiNow, on sale now. You can download our Complete Manuals to the Original Trilogy and Expanded Universe from GreatDigitalMags.com.