The Empire Strikes Back, also known as Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner and written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, based on a story by George Lucas. The second installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, as the sequel to Star Wars (1977), is the second film in the franchise to be produced, and the fifth episode of the "Skywalker saga". The story is set three years after the events of the first film, as the Galactic Empire hunts the scattered Rebel Alliance throughout the galaxy. While Darth Vader relentlessly pursues Luke Skywalker's friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca—Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda to prepare himself for his upcoming confrontation with Vader.
The film is produced by Lucasfilm. The ensemble cast includes Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. Following the success of Star Wars, Lucas hired Brackett to write the sequel; following her death in 1978, he outlined the Star Wars saga as a whole and wrote the next draft himself, before hiring Kasdan. Lucas chose not to direct due to his obligations at Industrial Light & Magic and handling the financing, and passed the duty to Kershner, his former professor. Filmed from March to September 1979, The Empire Strikes Back faced a difficult production that included actor injuries, the death of writer Leigh Brackett, a set fire, and fines from the Writers and Directors Guilds of America. The initial budget was $18 million but ballooned to $33 million by the time production concluded, making it one of the most expensive films ever made at the time.
The Empire Strikes Back premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 1980, and was released in the United States on May 21, 1980. The film became the highest-grossing film of 1980 with $440 million. Initially being met with mixed critical reviews, it is now hailed by many as the best film in the Star Wars saga and one of the greatest films ever made. The film has grossed over $550 million worldwide from its original run and several re-releases. Adjusted for inflation, it is the second-highest-grossing sequel of all time and the thirteenth highest-grossing film of all time in North America. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".
The Empire Strikes Back had a significant impact on filmmaking and popular culture, being regarded as a rare example of a sequel that transcends the original. The climax, in which Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father, is often cited as one of the greatest plot twists in film history. The final installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, followed in 1983.
Three years after the destruction of the Death Star,[b] the Imperial fleet, led by Darth Vader, dispatches probe droids across the galaxy to locate the Rebel Alliance led by Princess Leia.
One such probe locates the base on the ice planet Hoth. While investigating the probe, Luke Skywalker is captured by a Tampa but escapes using the Force and his lightsaber. As Luke starts succumbing to hypothermia, the Force spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke's deceased mentor, instructs him to go to the swamp planet Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda. Han Solo discovers Luke and insulates him against the weather until they are rescued the next morning.
Alerted to the Rebels' location, the Empire launches a large-scale attack using AT-AT walkers to capture the base, forcing the Rebels to evacuate. Han and Leia escape with C-3PO and Chewbacca on the Millennium Falcon, but the ship's hyperdrive malfunctions. They hide in an asteroid field, where Han and Leia grow closer amidst the tensions. Vader summons several bounty hunters, including Boba Fett, to locate the Falcon.