I wasn’t alive when The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters in 1980. In fact, I wouldn’t even know it existed until more than a decade later. But once I did, it was probably this film that pulled me into a lifetime of Star Wars fandom.
Not many films are remembered 10 years after their initial release. In fact, when you stack the movies that do hold a place in peoples’ hearts that long versus the ones that are largely forgotten in a few years, I would wager you would have a lot more forgotten films than remembered ones. Certainly, an even lower percentage of films get a widespread celebration of their 40th anniversary.
But Star Wars is no ordinary film franchise. It’s the exception to the rule in so many ways. And within that, Empire is probably the standout among a group of standouts. For all the amazing things that Star Wars accomplished three years prior, Empire really cranked that up a few notches. After all, when you think of Star Wars in pop culture references, what’s the one line that always gets mentioned? Oh yeah, that “I am your father” line from this movie.
For all that praise I’ve heaped on it in these opening paragraphs, it didn’t start off as a hit. Critical response was pretty divided initially, but time has been good to this one. I know so many parallels are drawn between this and The Last Jedi, and maybe something similar will happen down the road with that movie. But even if it does, there will only ever be one Empire.
What makes it stand out so much? Is it the music? I’m listening to the soundtrack as I write this, and some of my favorite music from any Star Wars film comes from this movie. I mean, “The Imperial March” debuted in this movie. What more do you need to know?
Is it that twist at the end? Or maybe even Yoda’s hint that there’s another final hope? This was the first time we realized that things were more connected than we ever imagined. Luke’s father isn’t dead after all! This is the twist we want to preserve any time we introduce someone new to the franchise, if we are lucky enough to find someone not familiar with it already.
Is it the iconic lines and dialogue sprinkled throughout? “Do or do not. There is no try.” “I love you…I know.” “I’d just as soon kiss a Wookie.” There are so, so many that I’d effectively just be re-writing the script if I went on. The point, though, is that when you talk about quotable movies, The Empire Strikes Back is up there with the best.
The truth is probably somewhere in between all of this, or maybe a culmination of it all. If it were easy to describe what makes a movie iconic, then everyone would be able to make iconic movies. Maybe some of it is a right place, right time thing, or in Empire‘s case it could be that it gets better with time.
Whatever it is, Empire has all of those intangibles. It checks all of the boxes. We like to celebrate or remember the anniversaries of special events. It’s a very human thing to do for some reason – to take time once a year to remember what we love. Today is that one special time when we can honor The Empire Strikes Back for forty years of memories and being the movie that so many of us hold so dear.
Hopefully you get a chance to watch The Empire Stirkes Back sometime today, or get to listen to the soundtrack, or get to talk about it with a friend or fellow fan, or get to watch a special feature or two, or maybe all of the above. A 40th anniversary only comes around once, after all.
What are your favorite moments from The Empire Strikes Back? What makes it special for you? What are your plans to celebrate today? Let us know in the comments below, or on any of our social media pages!