A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Intended to entertain, not educate.
Luke Skywalker successfully resists giving in to the dark side of the Force, and he repeatedly asserts that there is still good remaining in his father, the diabolical Darth Vader. Both the roguish Han Solo and Lando Calrissian end up in heroic leadership roles. The Empire is composed entirely of white males, while the rebels are a blend of genders, races, and species.
Positive Role Models
Clear line between good and bad. Many characters demonstrate courage. Luke's struggle with negative emotions and his ultimate success at remaining positive and on the side of good is a good example of self-control.
Violence & Scariness
Explosions of spacecraft and ground weapons. Light-saber fighting results in loss of limbs. Speedy airborne craft slam into trees, and soldiers are shot down by blaster fire, and one Ewok dies. Robots and pig-like aliens are dismembered and devoured in Jabba the Hutt's dungeons. Jabba is strangled slowly by a chain.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Scantily-clad harem girls dance suggestively in the lair of Jabba the Hutt, including Princess Leia. Princess Leia wears a skimpy bikini.
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Products & Purchases
Though there is nothing in the film itself, there was an Empire of toy tie-ins and cartoon spin-offs.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
None, unless you count the hookah pipes in Jabba's place.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are two versions of The Return of the Jedi, the original 1983 release (on VHS and Laserdisc) and a later one on DVD to which George Lucas added enhanced special effects -- some of the aliens are obvious puppets, others are obvious CGI. Both feature abundant fantasy violence, from spaceship dogfights and light-saber duels to guerrilla-style war waged with primitive weapons by the cute Ewoks (which is played largely for laughs, though one Ewok is shown dead). Robots and pig-like aliens are dismembered and devoured in Jabba the Hutt's dungeons. Jabba is strangled slowly by a chain. Deaths of prominent characters in the series, including a peaceful one in bed for Master Yoda and a more dramatic exit (and funeral pyre) for Anakin Skywalker. Scantily-clad harem girls dance suggestively in the lair of Jabba the Hutt, including Princess Leia. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This is a properly triumphant finale, filled with action -- and yet, coming after the best and emotionally richest chapter, The Empire Strikes Back, a slight disappointment. The Return of the Jedi concluded the mighty Star Wars saga -- at least until Disney brought back the franchise with The Force Awakens -- that George Lucas conceived. It's a film series that changed movie history and raised the bar for special effects, science-fiction wonderment, blockbuster earnings, and movie marketing. If only the filmmakers put as much imagination into the main plotline as they did in the film's lengthy opener. Still, making the fight for the souls of the two Skywalkers as important as the Rebels vs. the Empire is a nice bit of dramatics, as is the idea of Luke struggling to avoid feelings of anger and revenge that might lure him to the dark side.
You can see the infatuation with visual gimmickry, cute/silly aliens and robots, plotlines apparently written to be video-game ready, and a disinterest in good acting; a toymaker mentality that continued when Lucas picked up the storyline again in prequels beginning with The Phantom Menace. While each individual stage of the finale is thrilling, cutting back and forth among the scenes disrupts the overall flow of the film.
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.