The Empire Strikes Back premiered forty years ago, this week. FORTY years ago. I was ten years old and could not wait to see it and though I remember having to wait a couple of weeks to see it in the theaters, I’m told I saw it opening weekend. What I do remember correctly, however, is the line of people waiting to see it. I saw it a couple of more times after that and the lines were just as long. On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth), I talked about some of my other Empire memories here and here. So, on the 40th anniversary of my original viewing (which is actually tomorrow but today is Saturday so…sue me), I present to you my Top Ten favorite things about The Empire Strikes Back:
#10 Tauntaun sleeping bags – I mean, Tauntauns were cool creatures but the coolest thing about them was the Tauntaun sleeping bag. A friend of mine in sixth grade had one. I thought it was the coolest thing. How many times did we reenact that Hoth scene from the movie?
#9 The introduction of the AT-AT – despite being completely impractical, they’re still some of the coolest, most menacing battle vehicles ever introduced.
# 8 Extended lightsaber action – the first time Luke fires up a lightsaber in the original movie, I was hypnotized. Then all we got was the truncated battle between Vader and Obi-Wan and, in all honesty, it was a little weak. This time around, the saber action was on point including Luke’s hand being cut off and flying away instead of just disappearing like Obi-Wan did.
#7 Yoda – Just, Yoda. No other name. Almost 900 years old. No home world. Unknown species. Only one of his kind. Master of the Force. I mean, wut?
#6 Boba Fett – The Boba Fett action figure was a special mail-in figure that came out almost a year before the movie. The mysterious character introduced us to the Mandalorian warriors which eventually gave us our new favorite Star Wars show, The Mandalorian.
#5 The Imperial March – Darth Vader is probably my favorite character from the Star Wars universe. Outside of the movie’s main title theme, “The Imperial March” (aka “Darth Vader’s Theme”) is the most recognizable piece of music from any of the Star Wars movies (or the cinematic universe, as a whole. It’s used by high school and collegiate bands everywhere during football season. Let’s be honest though…the whole soundtrack is pretty amazing. John Williams is as important to this franchise as anything is.
#4 “I know.” – Han’s reply to Leia’s “I love you.” One of the best one liner scenes in cinema history. My wife and I received a wedding gift based on this scene from a friend of ours who’s a Star Wars nerd, just like me.
#3 “No, there is another.” – I mean WHAT? Yoda’s reply to Ben’s lament that Luke is their last hope left everyone wondering what in the world that little green muppet was talking about. I remember sitting in the theater and being shocked. Oh, but wait, little E…it would get even more shocking.
# 2 A cliffhanger – the original Star Wars was shot and released as if there wouldn’t be another movie. Empire set up the next installment and left you wondering how long you’d have to wait for answers (three LONG years, is the correct answer). Unlike the first movie, this didn’t resolve in a good way for our heroes who are left scattered and defeated.
# 1 “I am your father.” – Probably the biggest reveal in a movie. Ever. I mean, Tiny Eric almost folded up in his theater seat when that scene happened. I had so many questions! AND NO ANSWERS. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHY AM I SCREAMING?
Like some of my original action figures, I sent off for other Empire-based mail order items around that time. One of which I found in my parents’ attic recently. This poster is as old as the movie and, to this day, is still one of my favorite images. When I found it, ten-year-old Eric inside of me got a little weepy. I had forgotten all about it.
Empire is – and probably will forever be – my absolute favorite Star Wars movie. Not just of the original trilogy; of all eleven (I’m counting Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story) and is the only one I can watch over and over and not get sick of. Even though it doesn’t resolve in the end, I think the movies dark tone is why I like it so much. it’s the most complete of all the Star Wars movies from character development to story to new characters and soundtrack.
Have a great long weekend, folks. I’m off to settle in for another viewing of The Empire Strikes Back.