May 12, 1980: The Empire Strikes Back is released

30 years ago today, The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest sequels of all time was released as part of one of the greatest movie franchises of all time. It was the darkest movie of the original trilogy, but it is usually listed as the most popular of the Star Wars films among fans. The movie started 3 years after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader was obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, and tracked him along with the Rebel Alliance on the planet ice planet Hoth. While patrolling near the base, Luke is attacked and captured by an ice creature called a Wampa. The you see Luke use the force to free himself. He then saw a vision of his friend and mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi who told Luke to go to the Dagobah system to train to become a jedi under a Jedi Master called Yoda.

He is rescued by Han Solo, and it isn’t long before a great battle on Hoth begins. The rebels escaped from the evil empire, and Luke and R2-D2 go their separate ways from Han, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO.

We are introduced to one of the most popular characters of the franchise – Yoda. He was a green puppet who was voiced by Frank Oz.
While Yoda was training Luke, Darth Vader was looking for Luke’s friends to capture them and draw out Luke.

He blackmails another new popular character in Cloud City – Lando Calrissian, Han’s best friend, played by the smooth Billy Dee Williams – and is able to capture Han, Leia and Chewie.

Luke senses that his friends are in danger and leaves his training early, so that he can rescue them. As he is leaving, Obi-Wan and Yoda are talking, and Obi-Wan said, “That boy is our last hope.” And then Yoda replied with the bombshell – “No. There is another.”

Han is frozen in carbonite, so that Darth Vader could confirm that the freezing process worked before he tried it on Luke. Han survived, and was taken to gangster Jabba the Hutt by another new Star Wars character – Boba Fett, who is a fan favorite.

Luke and Darth Vader battle it out in a light saber duel. Vader cornered Luke, chopped off Luke’s hand, and then dropped another series bombshell by telling Luke that he was Luke’s father. And that he wanted Luke to join him to destroy the Emperor, and rule the galaxy as father and son. Rather than surrender, Luke jumped down the pit that he was standing over, and was eventually rescued by Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca. The movie ended with Lando and Chewie leaving to go find Han Solo.

Even though the movie was dark, with Han being captured, Luke getting his hand cut off, and C-3PO being shot into pieces (then being put back together), this is considered by many to be the best Star Wars movie.

At the time, people were wondering who Yoda was talking about when he said there was another. People were guessing that Princess Leia was Luke’s sister, but nobody knew for sure at the time. And nobody was certain if Darth Vader was really Luke’s father, or if he was just saying that to trick him.

We had to wait three long years for The Return of the Jedi, to come out. And then we finally found out that Luke and Leia were brother and sister (and forever scar you when you see them kiss in The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars. And we also found out that Darth Vader wasn’t lying, and was actually Luke and Leia’s father.

UPDATE: 5/24/10 – Check out The Empire Strikes Back Commentary
from the ForceCast

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