Did you know that The Empire Strikes Back had its 30th birthday recently It’s true—it’s been three decades now since the movie first hit theaters, and it seems like we still haven’t fully digested all of the pop-cultural implications of the Star Wars saga (probably because Lucas will slap the Star Wars logo on just about anything these days, but I digress). Empire is widely considered to be the best of the Star Wars flicks, and rightly so; here’s five reasons why it’s still an awesome cinematic experience.
1. Character, character, character
Of all the Star Wars movies, Empire is far and away the one that gets you attached to the characters. Well, attached in a good way. There’s plenty of character development here: Han and Leia’s budding romance, Luke grappling with becoming a Jedi, the roguish Lando Calrissian. A New Hope gave us a world, Empire made us care about it.
2. The Battle of Hoth
A New Hope was Lucas raising the bar for technical wizardry; the Death Star battle alone had already permanently redefined special effects in cinema. And then along came Empire, with its cornucopia of snowspeeders, AT-ATs and AT-STs. The bar had just been raised that much higher. Plus, it gave us the Bacon AT-AT.
3. The Tauntaun
Of all the fauna Lucas introduced to us in Empire, the Tauntauns are by far the most memorable (sorry Mynocks). When it snowed when you were a kid, did you ever pretend that your suddenly-wintry backyard was Hoth, and you were Han Solo roaming the desolate tundra on your trusty Tauntaun steed? I know I certainly did. “I thought they smelled bad… on the outside!” And it was the inspiration for perhaps the greatest sleeping bag ever conceived.
This one kinda goes without saying. Remember when Yoda used to be a whimsical puppet instead of a jacked-up CGI ninja? “A great warrior? Wars not make one great!”
5. The good guys lose
For a series that started off at such a lighthearted—almost campy—clip, Empire concludes on a fearsomely dark note. Han captured by Boba Fett. Luke abandons his training with Yoda to confront Darth Vader. He’s utterly defeated at Vader’s hands, and then gets one of his own chopped off. Oh yeah, and he finds out that the embodiment of evil in the Star Wars universe is his father. By all appearances, our heroes are utterly defeated.