On May 21, 1980, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back made its theatrical debut. To celebrate the classic film’s landmark 40th anniversary, StarWars.com presents “Empire at 40,” a special series of interviews, editorial features, and listicles.
One of the great things about Star Wars is that it inspires endless debates and opinions on a wide array of topics. Best bounty hunter? Most powerful Jedi? Does Salacious Crumb have the best haircut in the saga? In that spirit, StarWars.com presents From a Certain Point of View: a series of point-counterpoints on some of the biggest — and most fun — Star Wars issues. In this installment, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, two StarWars.com writers choose what they believe to be the best scene in the film.
Yoda’s explanation of the Force is the finest scene, says Jamie.
There are a few exceptionally difficult questions in life that likely have no definitive answer and are better left as hypotheticals. What do you want to be when you grow up? Which of your children do you love more? What’s the best scene in The Empire Strikes Back?
Yet here we are.
When I was first asked this question, I thought, “Oh, this is easy! It’s that scene. No wait, it’s that scene. No… hmm… maybe it’s that other scene. Well, shoot…”
In the end, I decided the best scene in The Empire Strikes Back is…Yoda’s “size matters not” speech to Luke.
In 1980, Star Wars fans weren’t weighed down with decades of lore about the Jedi. We weren’t intimately aware of the Force, its power, and its limitations. If we wanted to dig deep into the Force and learn “what gives a Jedi his power,” we were at a loss. We didn’t have libraries of Star Wars books and comics to read, almost a dozen films, and countless hours of animation to watch.
We had a single film that toyed with some cool ideas.
And then we met Yoda: this weird little puppet who was nothing like Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker yet was supposed to be an all-powerful Jedi.
He may have spoken with broken grammar, but he became an immediate favorite — and showed why he’s wisest of the Jedi — because of what he said, not how he said it.
Indeed, this one scene (a mere three minutes or so) gave us several of the franchise’s most quoted, and most meaningful, lines:
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
“Size matters not.”
“My ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
With just a few words — and then his triumphant display of doing what Luke could not by lifting the X-wing out of the swamp — Yoda (and the screenwriters) pulled back the curtain, put a spotlight on the Force, and showed us all what it really means to be a Jedi.
Yoda’s monologue here remains the most poignant and profound scene not just in The Empire Strikes Back but in the entire saga. It’s this scene that defines Luke’s journey and eventually comes full circle in The Last Jedi. It’s this scene that helps define the paths we’d later see Anakin, Rey, Ben, and Ahsoka travel. It’s this scene that forms the basis for dozens of stories told in the Star Wars universe.
In short, it’s this scene that makes the movie… and Star Wars as a whole. (Plus, John Williams’s soaring score over the scene definitely doesn’t hurt.)
Nope. The asteroid field is the absolute best scene, says Kelly.
Adventure. Excitement. A Star Wars fan does crave these things, and the asteroid field scene in Empire delivers thrills and so much more! A high-speed chase among the stars, comedic beats, unforgettable music, and… a space potato? Apologies to Yoda’s sage wisdom and Darth Vader and his galaxy-shattering revelation, but the asteroid field is the single best scene in The Empire Strikes Back.
It’s a few of our favorite rebels against four Star Destroyers, some TIE fighters, and a whole lot of asteroids, plus one very broken hyperdrive in a scene that’s perfectly Star Wars. Green laser bolts burst from the TIE fighter cannons as the Millennium Falcon weaves between the massive starships. And that’s just the start of four minutes of show-stopping action. The Falcon never returns fire, but Han Solo still manages to give the Imperials on board the Star Destroyers a good scare.
C-3PO delivers more of his trademark comic relief and an iconic line: “The odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field are 3,720 to 1!”
And Han Solo’s response encapsulates just why we love him so much: “Never tell me the odds!”
When the Falcon goes into the asteroid field, the thrills ratchet up even more. TIE fighters careen off massive rocks into fiery explosions. You might have once heard that some of those asteroids are actually just vegetables thrown into the scene by the clever visual effects crew, and… it’s true. All of it. The asteroids in the very distance are indeed potatoes, confirmed special effects artists Steve Rawley and Lorne Petersen in an official behind-the-scenes featurette.
On its own, the scene is already astounding, but add in John Williams’ score, and the result is simply extraordinary. The score grabs you like a Force choke as the ominous Imperial March kicks the heart-pounding sequence off — and it never lets you go. Just like the Falcon, “The Asteroid Field” swoops and soars. Strings played with dizzying speed, energetic horns, and crashes of cymbals make you feel like you’re right in the middle of the asteroid field yourself as the rebels make their narrow escape.
All of this magic both on screen and behind the scenes combines for an unforgettable scene that’s quintessentially Star Wars. In a film filled with unforgettable moments, the chase among the asteroids stands out above the rest.
Do you agree with Jamie or is Kelly right? Maybe they’re both wrong! Let us know in the comments.
Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He’s also a contributor to GeekDad and runs The Roarbots, where he focuses on awesome geeky stuff that happens to be kid-friendly. On top of that, he cohosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates geek culture by talking to people who create it. With two little ones and a vast Star Wars collection at home, he’s done the unthinkable: allowed them full access to most of his treasure from the past 30 years, opening and playing with whatever they want (pre-1983 items excluded).
Kelly Knox is a Seattle-based freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.
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