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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Although this film is meant to entertain, not educate, 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.
The film provides strong positive messages around the ideas of always trying your best (or rather, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."), avoiding the temptations of evil, and remaining loyal to friends. Major themes include perseverance and courage.
Positive Role Models
Characters demonstrate such positive traits as loyalty, bravery, self-control, 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.
Violence & 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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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.
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There's banter/name-calling and the word "hell" is used once.
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Products & Purchases
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.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Empire Strikes Back is an atmospheric sci-fi classic that 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. 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. 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 series gains most of its emotional and thematic depth, and while it's a rousing adventure told superbly, it's among the darkest and most intense of the films. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
By many opinions, this is the very best in the Star Wars series. To 1980 audiences (who did not have the benefit of The Phantom Menace and its follow-ups) it was a breathtaking surprise, a hugely entertaining mix of sci-fi spectacle, fantasy, and funny robots.
George Lucas did not direct, but handed the reins to a time-proven but relatively unsung director named Irvin Kershner, who delivered a space spectacle that is true to the Joseph Campbell mythology and fairy-tale wonder of the first Star Wars Episode IV. But The Empire Strikes Back stands apart from the rest in terms of mature, straight-ahead storytelling. It's significant as the only Star Wars feature that doesn't have a big "cantina" scene in which the filmmakers overindulge in cramming the frame with all the wacky aliens they can.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.