11. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

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Movie: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

Release Date: May 21, 1980

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Frank Oz.

Tag Lines: “The Adventure Continues…”

“The Star Wars saga continues.”

“The battle continues…”

Relevance: ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,’ the sequel to ‘Star Wars’ (see 27. Star Wars) was released in the late Spring of 1980. Unlike its predecessor, it did not receive critical acclaim immediately from critics. However, audiences didn’t care. They lined up to see the movie in droves and it eventually became the highest grossing film of that year. It also managed to receive four Academy Award nominations, winning two and was re-released in theaters in both 1981 and 1982 as well as a Special Edition re-release in 1997. It has since been hailed, retrospectively, as the best film in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise and one of the greatest films ever made. It’s the second highest grossing sequel of all time and the thirteenth highest grossing film ever in North America. Luckily, I was able to see it in theaters, but unfortunately it did take me awhile.

If you have been keeping up with my blog, you know my ‘Star Wars’ story. If you are not up to speed, check out the link above. In short, although I knew of ‘Star Wars,’ I did not see the first film until it played on HBO in February of 1982. I was instantly hooked. By that time, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was already released in theaters, twice, and I was starting to collect any and all ‘Star Wars’ toys and memorabilia I could get my hands on. Thankfully the movie was again re-released in theaters in the Fall of 1982. My Aunt (technically my cousin, although you already know that if you have read my blog) took me and her two sons to see it. I was already a fan of the story, but after seeing ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ on the big screen, I became obsessed.

Listen, I loved ‘Star Wars,’ but I really loved ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ From the Fall of 1982 through all of 1983, ‘Star Wars’ was my life. I played with my “guys” all of the time. I would recreate scenes from the movies or create new stories and act them out for hours and hours at a time. Yoda, C-3P0 (with removable limbs), Han, Luke, Leia and the entire gang were my best friends. The movie came to HBO shortly after I saw it in the theater and was watched incessantly. It wasn’t just me either. My entire family absolutely adored the movie and they were just as obsessed about the story as I was. Although, they didn’t play with the toys like I did. Their loss. My mom and dad loved the movie so much that when ‘Return of the Jedi’ was released in theaters in May of 1983, they took me and a friend to see it. ‘Star Wars’ was more than just a few movies, it was a pop culture phenomenon and one that’s still as exciting today as it was back then.

It goes without saying that I have owned the original ‘Star Wars’ trilogy on VHS as soon as it was humanly possible. I then purchased the Special Edition version on VHS, then the DVD’s then the Blu-Ray’s of every singly film. I guess you can say I’m a fan. I have loved every single one of them in my own special way and have kept up to date with all TV shows and side story films that have been released. In 1997, right before I went to see the Special Edition of ‘Star Wars’ in theaters, my first and only son was born. There are many rumors floating about why I named him the way I did. Most of those stories revolve around ‘Star Wars.’ If you haven’t guessed by now, his name is Lucas. Some said I named it after Luke Skywalker. Others thought I named it after George Lucas. Some even thought that I named him Luke so I could say, “Luke, I am your father.” (That’s actually a misquote as it is, “No. I am your father.”) Because of that my son got a Luke Skywalker lightsaber on his first birthday and has been associated with the films ever since. Thank goodness he loved them like I did. (Now if you want the real story behind his name check out 319. Lucas.)

There is just something about the ‘Star Wars’ galaxy that brings out the kid in me, no matter how old I get. There are very few other movie franchises that achieve this, with only ‘Harry Potter’ coming to mind. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ just so happens to be my favorite in the ‘Star Wars’ world. It was so operatic, moving and exciting and literally took my breathe away. Maybe it was because it was technically the first one I saw on the big screen, although I think it’s just because it was and is a kick ass film. The force is strong with this one.

Today’s Thoughts: “Impressive. Most impressive. Obi-Wan has taught you well. You have controlled your fear. Now, release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me.”

‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ is another rare movie that my son and I agree upon. He will even say once in awhile that, like me, it is his favorite in the saga, although he flip flops between this and ‘Episode III.’ Nonetheless, he is a fan and I normally would have watched the film with him today, but he had to work. So, once again alone, curled up in a blanket with a cup of coffee, I watched today’s film, this time happening long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

George Lucas is quite the genius and created a world like no other. Forty years later, this film is just as exciting, dramatic and funny as it was back in the 1980’s. The characters are wonderful and beautifully portrayed by Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. The creatures and effects (although some are a little dated) are still quite spectacular to watch. No matter how old I get, I still get chills every time that John Williams score starts at the beginning of a ‘Star Wars’ movie. It will never, ever get old.

‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ is a rip roaring adventure that is fun for the entire family, both young and old. I know many people do not like ‘Star Wars’ movies. That is something I will never completely understand. I always encourage them to watch ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ because in my opinion it is the best. It also happens to be the highest sequel to appear on my list of most influential movies and a great prelude to my top ten favorite movies of all time starting tomorrow.

Awards: Academy Award for Best Sound, Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton (winner), Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects, Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Bruce Nicholson (winner), Academy Award for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Norman Reynolds, Leslie Dilley, Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, Michael Ford (nomination), Academy Award for Best Music, Original Score, John Williams (nomination), Golden Globe for Best Original Score – Motion Picture, John Williams (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Music, John Williams (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Production Design/Art Direction, Norman Reynolds (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Sound, Bill Varney, Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton (nomination), National Film Registry (2010), Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan (nomination).

Ways to Watch: Disney +, Hulu, Sling TV, YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, Amazon Prime, iTunes, TBS, TNT, DVD Availability.

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