Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (also known as The Empire Strikes Back) is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner, produced by Gary Kurtz, and written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, with George Lucas writing the film's story and serving as executive producer. Of the six main Star Wars films, it was the second to be released and the fifth in terms of internal chronology.
The film is set three years after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous Darth Vader, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader chases a small band of Luke's friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and others—across the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda. But when Vader captures Luke's friends, Luke must decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save his comrades.
Following a difficult production, The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980, and initially received mixed reviews from critics, although it has since grown in esteem, becoming the most critically acclaimed chapter in the Star Wars saga and one of the most highly-rated films in history. It earned more than $538 million worldwide over the original run and several re-releases, making it 1980's highest-grossing film. When adjusted for inflation, it is the twelfth-highest-grossing film in the U.S. and Canada as of 2012.
The film begins with an opening crawl explaining that three years after destroying the Death Star, the Rebel Alliance has suffered setbacks in their struggle against the Galactic Empire.Princess Leia now leads a contingent that includes Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in a hidden base on an icy planet of the Hoth system. A probe droid, one of many sent by Darth Vaderthroughout the galaxy in hopes of finding Luke and the other rebels, lands on Hoth. Luke goes to investigate but is ambushed by a monstrous, furry wampa. While Han Solo searches for him, Luke frees himself from the wampa's cave with his lightsaber but soon succumbs to the freezing temperatures of the snowy wasteland. The spirit of his late mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, appears before him and instructs him to go to the planet Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda. Han manages to find Luke and uses the warmth of his dead tauntaun mount to keep him alive while they wait to be rescued.
Just as Luke recovers, the Imperial fleet, having been alerted to the location of the Rebel base by the probe droid, launches an attack using gigantic AT-AT Walkers. The Rebels mount a strong defense, and Luke brings down a walker single-handedly after his fighter is disabled, but the base is nonetheless captured. Han and Leia escape on the Millennium Falcon with C-3POand Chewbacca, but their hyperspace drive malfunctions, and they must hide in an asteroid field. Luke escapes with R2-D2 in an X-wing fighter and crash lands on Dagobah. He is soon found by the diminutive Yoda, who at first pretends to be a simple swamp inhabitant in order to test Luke's patience. After conferring with Obi-Wan's spirit, Yoda accepts Luke as his pupil.
Han and Leia end their bickering and grow closer, but their courtship is interrupted when they must flee a giant asteroid worm. They avoid capture again by attaching the Millennium Falcon directly to the side of a Star Destroyer in Vader's fleet. Frustrated at having lost them, Vader turns to several notorious bounty hunters, including Boba Fett. Meanwhile, Luke begins a brief period of intensive training, during which his power in the Force grows exponentially. He suffers a setback when he fails a test and sees the vision of his own face inside Darth Vader's helmet. Then he becomes troubled by premonitions of Han and Leia in pain and despite Yoda and Obi-Wan's disapprovals, he leaves to save them promising to return to complete his training.
Having escaped detection, Han lets his ship float away with the star destroyer's garbage and sets a course for Cloud City, a floating gas mining colony in the skies of the planet Bespin. Boba Fett secretly follows the Millennium Falconto the planet Bespin and arrives just before Han and Leia. Bespin is run by Han's old friend Lando Calrissian, but shortly after they arrive he turns them over to Vader to prevent the takeover of his city. Over Lando's objections, Vader uses them as bait to bring Luke into his trap.
Vader intends to hold Luke in suspended animation and selects Han as a test subject for the process. Han and Leia profess their love for each other, after which Han is frozen in a block of carbonite. Reneging on his deal with Lando, Vader gives Han's hibernating form to Boba Fett, who plans to present this "prize" to Jabba the Hutt who put a price on Han's head for not paying a debt that he previously owed to Jabba. Lando frees Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO, Chewbacca chokes Lando for betraying Han and Leia tells him that they do not need their help, but they are too late to stop Fett from escaping with Han, forcing them to flee in the Millennium Falcon without him. Lando then orders an evacuation of the now taken over city.
Meanwhile, Luke has arrived at Cloud City, as Vader planned. Luke and Vader engage in a lightsaber duel that leads them over the central air shaft of Cloud City. Vader severs Luke's right hand, disarming him, and reveals that he did not kill Luke's father, but actually is Luke's father. Horrified by this fact, Luke refuses Vader's offer to rule the galaxy at his side, choosing instead to throw himself down the air shaft. He slides through a tube system and is ejected but catches onto an antenna under the floating city. He makes a desperate telepathic plea to Leia, who senses it and persuades Lando to return for him. When its hyperdrive is finally repaired by R2-D2, the Millennium Falcon escapes. Aboard a Rebel medical frigate, Luke is fitted with a robotic artificial hand. As Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO look on from the medical center, Lando and Chewbacca set off in the Millennium Falcon to rescue Han from Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt.
- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker: A commander in the Rebel Alliance, leader of the Rogue Squadron, and Jedi-in-training. After having a vision of his old mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke—along with his droid R2-D2—sets out to find Yoda on Dagobah.
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo: A mercenary smuggler who initially aided the Rebellion in exchange for money but has since accepted a ranking position within the Rebel Alliance. Although he intends to leave the rebels to go and pay off a debt to a gangster, Jabba the Hutt, he is trapped on Hoth by the Imperial blockade.
- Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa: A high-ranking official in the Rebellion chain of command.
- Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian: Calrissian is the Baron Administrator of Bespin's Cloud City. He is a long-time friend of Han Solo and former captain of the Millennium Falcon.
- Anthony Daniels as C-3PO: C-3PO is Princess Leia Organa's protocol droid.
- David Prowse as Darth Vader: Vader, a Sith Lord and a loyal agent of Emperor Palpatine, is obsessed with finding Luke Skywalker, the young rebel who destroyed the Death Star. His search brings him to Hoth, where he orders the blockade of the ice planet. It is also revealed in the film that he is actually Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker. James Earl Jones provided Darth Vader's voice. He is the film's main antagonist.
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2: R2-D2 is Luke Skywalker's astromech droid.
- Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca: Chewbacca is Han Solo's Wookiee copilot and close friend.
- Frank Oz as Yoda: Yoda is a self-exiled Jedi Grand Master, who lives on Dagobah.
- Jeremy Bulloch as Boba Fett: A bounty hunter, Fett has gained infamy throughout the galaxy and is hired by Darth Vader to hunt down the Millennium Falcon. Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice in the film's original theatrical cut and the 1997 Special Edition. Bulloch also makes a cameo appearance as the Imperial officer who grabs Leia when she tells Luke to avoid Vader's trap. In the 2004 special edition, Temuera Morrison, who played Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones and Commander Cody in Revenge of the Sith, replaced Wingreen as Fett's voice to create better continuity between the original and prequel trilogies.
- Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi: Kenobi was killed by Darth Vader in the Death Star in A New Hope, but his "death" allowed him to become one with the Force, giving him the ability to appear as a spirit and give guidance to his former student, Luke Skywalker.
- Denis Lawson as Wedge Antilles: Wedge is a pilot in the Rebel Alliance, who flew with Luke Skywalker at the Battle of Yavin. In the Battle of Hoth, he pilots one of the speeders in the Rogue Squadron and is the first to bring down an AT-AT. In the closing credits, as with A New Hope, Denis Lawson's name is misspelled "Dennis".
- Clive Revill as the voice of Emperor Palpatine: Palpatine, the Galactic Empire's ruler, is displeased with the loss of the Death Star and consequently lists the Rebel Alliance as a top priority for his military forces. He is particularly interested in "the offspring of Anakin Skywalker", and orders Vader to convert the boy to the dark side of the Force. While Clive Revill voiced the Emperor, Elaine Baker, the wife of Rick Baker, appeared as Palpatine's physical form in the film's original theatrical cut and the 1997 Special Edition with superimposed chimpanzee eyes.Ian McDiarmid, who portrayed Palpatine in Return of the Jedi as well as in the prequel trilogy, replaced both Baker and Revill as Palpatine in the 2004 DVD version, with filming taking place during the principal photography of Revenge of the Sith.
Actor John Ratzenberger, best known as Cliff Clavin from the TV series Cheers and the voices of many characters from Pixar's animated films, has a small part as deck officer Major Bren Derlin. Character actor Treat Williams portrayed several background characters, including a trooper in the Hoth rebel base and a trooper in Cloud City.