It’s often called “the greatest Star Wars film of all time,” but the reality is, there are plenty of things wrong with The Empire Strikes Back, the fifth instalment of the so-called Skywalker Saga. In this film, the infamous “I am your father” line is uttered by Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker to his son, Luke Skywalker, thereby sending the Jedi Padawan into a tailspin (of course, it didn’t help that his father cut off his hand in the process, but…).
That, and the Han-Leia love story coming to life, were the two best parts of Empire. Despite the nerdy proclamations, those two things are the only good things about the film. (We’ll pause while the fandom collects itself from the massive coronary everyone had at the same time.)
Without further ado, here’s a list of reasons why The Empire Strikes Back is actually the worst Star Wars film in the galaxy.
15. Lando Calrissian, Space Shaft
Before you panic, know this: we like Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams in the original films, and soon to be played by Donald Glover in the upcoming Han Solo Star Wars stand-alone film). We think he’s the perfect foil to the aforementioned Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford), and we love the fact that he went from bad guy to good guy in the blink of an eye. But, in The Empire Strikes Back, he’s also portrayed as a space analogue of every blaxploitation film that came before it. And while it’s not overtly racist to have the sole black character in the galaxy portrayed as a space pimp, it’s not exactly not racist, either. In fact, Lando Calrissian raises a bigger question: where are all the people of color in the galaxy, anyway?
14. Darth Vader, In General
Wait – there’s something wrong with Darth Vader, the quintessential bad guy, even before Hayden Christensen shot his badassery straight to hell with a depiction of the whiniest Vader in the world? Yes, as a matter of fact there is – and it’s one of the hardest errors to admit. Everything that happens in The Empire Strikes Back – from beginning to end – is due to Darth Vader, and in modern movie-making, that idea just doesn’t work. For some reason, it works in Empire – in no small part thanks to the fact that Empire is also a stand-alone movie, in that you don’t need to have seen the film before, or after, in order for it to make sense – but the fact is, it shouldn’t. It can be easily argued that Vader is too much of a badass in this film.
13. The Empire “Winning”
At the beginning of the film, during the opening crawl of The Empire Strikes Back, we’re informed that the evil Galactic Empire – with Darth Vader as the sidekick of the Emperor Palpatine – is “winning” battles across the galaxy, thus causing the Rebels to “flee.” But that, in and of itself, is a contradiction: if the Empire was really winning, there wouldn’t be Rebels scattered across the galaxy, ready to mount a defense wherever they land. What’s more, it’s important to note that, despite all the battles that the Empire mounted, not a single one involved an aerial attack – they just took to the planet Hoth and unleashed AT-AT’s. It wasn’t until the end of the film that we actually saw a space attack – when Leia was leaving Bespin with an injured Luke – and that lasted the all of 120 seconds. So much for the “winning” Empire.
12. Han Solo’s Reason For Leaving Hoth
At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, one of the first things we see is Han Solo telling the Rebellion Generals that he has to leave, forcing Leia to run after him to beg him to stay. When she asks him why he won’t stay after he promised her that he would, he informs her that when they ran into a bounty hunter on a strange planet, he changed his mind about wanting to stay.
Aside from the fact that most Star Wars fans wouldn’t know the planet he’s referring to unless they’d read the movie novelizations (and there was no Twitter back in the early 1980s to give away spoilers), we have to remember that three years passed between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. If the bounty hunter in question (whose name we never learn, though many speculate it’s Boba Fett) really wanted to get a hold of Han Solo, he would have done it a long time ago. Why would Han Solo risk his freedom now?
11. Luke Skywalker Killing The Wampa, Then Running Out Of The Cave Into Subzero Temperatures
Most people don’t realize this, but the so-called “Wampa” scene in The Empire Strikes Back – the one where Luke was captured by a snow creature on Hoth, then shoved in ice upside down – was written in at the last minute for another reason: Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke Skywalker, was in a bad accident in between filming A New Hope and this film, and that caused his face to be severely disfigured when he went through the windshield. Hamill required extensive surgery on his face, which is why he looks very different in Empire. So, we understand that a last-minute addition wouldn’t be perfect in terms of flow or detail, but one thing doesn’t make sense: when Luke kills the Wampa by cutting its arm off, he runs out of the cave into the freezing cold. Why wouldn’t he just stay in the cave to prevent hypothermia, thereby necessitating a bath in Bacta when he was finally discovered by Han Solo?
10. Darth Vader’s Not-So-Certain Certainty
All throughout The Empire Strikes Back, we see Darth Vader tracking Luke Skywalker, and doing so in a rather creepy way. (Of course, if you were hanging around David Prowse, the actor who plays Darth Vader [while James Earl Jones provides his voice], you already knew why: because Prowse spilled the beans about Vader and Luke being father and son. Guess that’s why he’s not allowed at conventions anymore…) When the Imperial officer informs Vader that they found something that indicates there’s a Rebel base on Hoth, Vader informs the officer that he’s “certain” that Skywalker is there with them. Now, we later learn that Vader/Anakin Skywalker was supposed to be the most powerful Jedi that ever existed, but even at this point in the story, we realize that Vader is really Force-sensitive. If he was so certain that Skywalker was on Hoth all along, why did it take them so long to find him, and why did he send the Imperial officers out on a search mission? What was the point?
9. That Stupid Hyperdrive
There’s always something wrong with hyperdrives in the Star Wars universe, and The Empire Strikes Back is no different. Apparently, the hyperdrive is always being blown on the Millennium Falcon, preventing our heroes from going into hyperspace when they seem to need it the most. While evading an asteroid blast after leaving Hoth, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C3PO find themselves in a mess because, again, the stupid hyperdrive. Threepio, the foppy British know-it-all, tells Han Solo what’s wrong with the hyperdrive, but Han doesn’t listen because he’s dodging asteroids. When our heroes finally get to safety, Han tells the crew that he’s going to shut the ship down, but he won’t shut Threepio down because he needs him “to talk to the hyperdrive.” Han, old buddy, he just told you what was wrong with the thing – why don’t you listen to him?
8. “I Have No Doubt That This Is The Offspring Of Anakin Skywalker.”
Emperor Palpatine is the baddest of all bad guys in The Empire Strikes Back, which is why some of his proclamations are nothing if not strange and unusual. The first time we see him in the original trilogy, Vader is kneeling before his hologram, where he is informed that the boy who destroyed the Death Star “is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker,” and he has no doubt about it. First of all, that’s a very weird thing to say to someone who actually is Anakin Skywalker, considering that of all people, Palpatine would know that Vader and Anakin Skywalker are one and the same. But more importantly, this isn’t some shocking proclamation, considering that Luke’s last name is Skywalker. Who else would he be the son of?
7. Vader Was Revealed To Be Luke’s Father Before The Battle On Bespin – He Just Ignored It
The Empire Strikes Back was the first place where we, as fans, saw Yoda for the first time. Yoda, as we know, exiled himself to the Dagobah system after he failed to bring down Palpatine, and it is here that Luke finds him ensconced in solitude. Yoda, eventually, trains Luke to be a Jedi, and during his training, he’s sent into a cave to confront the Dark Side of the Force. While in the cave, Luke comes face-to-face with a proxy of Darth Vader. The duo engage in a brief lightsaber battle that ends with Luke cutting off Vader’s head. When Vader’s head tumbles to the ground, it explodes and reveals Luke Skywalker’s face behind the mask. If that wasn’t an obvious symbol of Luke being a part of Vader, biologically, nothing would have been. And yet, good old Luke – clueless farm boy — is oblivious to this sign that’s as subtle as a jackhammer.
6. Chewie Wasting Time With Trust Issues
We understand Chewbacca’s loyalty to Han Solo – truly we do – but, in The Empire Strikes Back, he pulls a move so off-character that even we don’t recognize it. The events leading up to the point where Chewie is choking Lando are, really, worthy of the choke: Lando sells out his own friend, Han Solo, to the Empire, where he’s tortured and frozen in carbonite. But then, when Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO are taken into custody by the Empire, Lando puts his life on the line to get them out of custody and bring them to safety so they can rescue Han Solo. That, alone, makes him worthy of the Rebels’ trust – so why does Chewie waste time with “trust issues” (even getting Leia to tell Lando that they don’t trust him) and choking Lando? If nothing else, Lando has proven to have a wealth of information – so why try to kill him?
5. Luke Almost Immediately Accepts That He’s Vader’s Son
Look, it’s really emotionally healthy to accept truth, even if it isn’t a truth you don’t necessarily like, or don’t want to accept. But one of the biggest flaws in The Empire Strikes Back is that Luke almost immediately accepts the fact that Darth Vader is his father. He doesn’t question the validity of it – he doesn’t question the motive behind the reveal – he just accepts it, and accepts it so much that he begins telepathically communicating with his father when he leaves Bespin. Again, that’s the opposite of emotionally healthy, and it’s the opposite of reality: why would someone accept such a heinous truth so quickly, and why would someone begin telepathically communicating with someone who, just moments ago, chopped off their hand?
4. Han Covering C-3PO’s Mouth To Make Him Stop Talking
We’re back on Hoth again for this little wrong-doing: in The Empire Strikes Back, C-3PO seems to run his mouth constantly, so much so that, in fact, he becomes annoying. At one point, while the Rebels were on Hoth, C-3PO ran his mouth so much that Han Solo actually covered it in an attempt to get him to shut up. But that really only works in humans, not in robots. Since when has covering a port on a computer (which is, essentially, what droids are) gotten it to stop working? But somehow, covering a droid’s mouth is enough to get him to shut up? Who knew?
3. Speeders Not Being Able To Work Because Of The Cold – Then Working Again
Yes, we get it: life on Hoth is miserable, and everyone is always cold because of the ice and the snow. However, in The Empire Strikes Back, one of the biggest problems is that things work sometimes, then don’t work other times. The most obvious example of this is the speeders, which Han Solo asks to use at the beginning of the Luke Skywalker rescue mission, necessitating him to use a Tauntaun. Yet, minutes later, the speeders were back up and running again as though nothing happened. We get that sometimes things need priming in the snow, but really, what gives? Was this just another attempt to throw Han Solo off the path of rescuing Luke Skywalker, or is this just another plot hole?
2. Fake Snow
You would think that this wouldn’t be necessary, but in The Empire Strikes Back, one of the biggest flaws in the film is all the fake snow in the Rebel base. In fact, it’s obvious that the snow is fake in the scene where Han and Leia are trying to escape from the base after the Empire lands and invades the base, destroying everything in its wake. The reason production decided to use fake snow, however, is innocuous: because they were afraid that there wouldn’t be enough real snow for the production. It doesn’t make sense, though: the Hoth scenes were filmed in Norway, which isn’t exactly a tropical paradise.
1. Tauntauns Freezing Before They Reach The First Marker
In The Empire Strikes Back, one of the most memorable lines in the film is a Rebel soldier screaming to Han Solo that his tauntaun will freeze before he reaches the first marker (to which Solo retorts, “then I’ll see you in Hell!”). But this doesn’t make any sense: tauntauns are native to Hoth and, presumably, have adjusted to the harsh temperatures of the ice planet. How did they “freeze” before they reached the first marker? If anything, who should have frozen to death was none other than Han Solo, who was out all night in the cold.