Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, probably the single greatest event in the history of nerddom. STAR WARS might have been new and cool and funny and fresh, but EMPIRE was all that AND sad and tragic and shocking and filled with the kind of terror and awe that the greatest storytelling inspires. From the frozen beauty of an icy horizon studded with AT-ATs, to the steaming green swamp where Luke Skywalker begins his archetypal but unique hero’s journey, to the crimson horror of the carbon freezing chamber, to the primal red and blue of the final battle between Luke and Vader, no SF blockbuster has ever captured the imagination so cleanly and completely. It was grown up in an unself-conscious way that nothing to do with Star Wars would ever be again. (Almost certainly because it was the last one that producer Gary Kurtz would in involved with; after EMPIRE, it was George Lucas all the way.)
Empire made it okay to be a nerd who quoted a green hand puppet, and led the way to our complete takeover of world culture.
And then came the Ewoks and betrayal, disappointment and the knowledge that nothing was ever going to be as good as you hoped it would be. Talk about growing up and fast. “Don’t do it, Luke! It’s a trap!”
Below we present a few of the iconic stills, each one burned into the collective unconscious like a laser hologram. Also, some less well-known pictures from BlueHarvest.net.
Peter Mayhew, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and Ewan MacGregor at a special screening this week of ESB at the Arclight in Hollywood.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.