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The Empire Strikes Back Review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    The storyline is more interesting and ambitious, the characters -- little more than appealing types in the original -- are allowed to grow and develop, the special effects are more mature, and the tone is deliciously dark and downbeat. [Special Edition]

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    The storytelling is the series' best, with a zingy balance of drama, humor, and Deep Thoughts (in a screenplay by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, directed with confident exuberance by Irvin Kershner). [Special Edition]

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The best of three Star Wars films, and the most thought-provoking. After the space opera cheerfulness of the original film, this one plunges into darkness and even despair, and surrenders more completely to the underlying mystery of the story. It is because of the emotions stirred in Empire that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    It balances bloodshed with charm, spectacle with childlike glee. It's a near flawless movie of its kind.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 8+

The best of the original series, but the most intense, too.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this atmospheric sci-fi classic features some intense moments of dark emotional content, along with a few very jarring scenes that are not so much violent as they are psychologically jarring. The romantic content is significantly increased from the first movie in the series, although it still remains at a flirtatious level with just a few moments of relatively tame kissing. This is the movie where the six-film series gains most of its emotional and thematic depth, and while it's a rousing adventure told superbly, it's also the darkest and most intense of the six films.

  • Families can talk about how they have been impacted by the heavy merchandising for this film and the others in the series. Do you think movies are over-merchandised? Are there too many products on sale to promote movies? Can you think of some movies that seem created primarily to sell toys and other products?
  • How is the tone of this movie different from the first one? Do you think this is a better film than the first? Why are sequels usually worse than the original?

The good stuff
  • educationalvalue true1

    Educational value: A large section of the film depicts a training session in which the lead character is educated on the ways of the series' "religion," which is really a kind of moral code and way of parsing the difference between good and evil.

  • message true4

    Messages: The film provides strong positive messages around the ideas of always trying ones best (or rather, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."), avoiding the temptations of evil, and remaining loyal to friends.

  • rolemodels true3

    Role models: Characters demonstrate such positive traits as loyalty, bravery, problem solving under extreme duress, and sacrificing one's own needs and wants for the sake of others. This is the first time a character of color is introduced.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence and scariness: The violence is primarily centered around sci-fi battles in space and characters using blasters and laser swords. However, this film amps up the psychological violence, especially centered around the lead character and his interactions with the dark forces that have overtaken the universe. Sequences such as an encounter with the villain in a cave, a character being placed into a deep-freeze chamber, and the final sword battle are all dark, scary, and packed with emotional weight. The film ends with a well-known moment of extreme violence, emotional turmoil, and parental abandonment that will have a powerful impact on young viewers.

  • sex false1

    Sexy stuff: Two of the main leads in the film engage in a love-hate flirtatious relationship over the course of the film, culminating in a few relatively chaste kisses. A few moments of veiled sexual innuendo, but not anything that would be apparent to children.

  • language false1

    Language: There is very little iffy language; some banter/name-calling, and the word "hell" is used once.

  • consumerism false3

    Consumerism: As the second film released in a series, this film's development was driven at least in part by merchandising opportunities, primarily toys and other products for children. Even decades after the film's release, these products remain widely available.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Not an issue