Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back ending explained

Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, and Anthony Daniels as C-3PO in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980).. © Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

While Star Wars as a whole is always regarded as the best of the best when it comes to legendary films in pop culture, there are a few standouts in the franchise — and The Empire Strikes Back is one of them.

The film is the first Star Wars sequel, coming out in 1980, and acts as the fifth episode in the Skywalker saga.

It continues the story of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo, who all continue their efforts in the Rebel Alliance after their successful destruction of the Death Star in the previous movie.

The Empire Strikes back ending recap

As we fast forward to the end of the film, the heroes find themselves on Cloud City. There, Darth Vader has the heroes cornered. Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, and bounty hunter Boba Fett takes him away on his ship, Slave I, to be delivered to Jabba the Hutt. Leia and Chewbacca are set to be captured by the Empire, but Lando Calrissian sets them free. And Luke Skywalker arrives after sensing that his friends are in danger, having just come from Dagobah to train with Jedi Master Yoda.

When he arrives, Luke duels with Darth Vader. And Vader reveals that shocking truth to our protagonist, “I am your father.” In the fight, Luke’s hand is sliced off. And after all that, Luke makes his escape by jumping off from the platform he was on — later being rescued by Leia and the gang in the Millenium Falcon. The story ends with Chewbacca and Lando flying off in the Falcon and Luke, Leia and the droids watching over them. So, why exactly did these events happen in the ending?

The Empire Strikes back ending explained

First, let’s clarify how everyone got to Cloud City in the first place. Leia, Han, Chewbacca and the droids had all escaped together from Hoth after the Imperials discovered their base.

From there, they were being pursued by the Empire, eventually evading them for a little while. But, the clever Darth Vader sent bounty hunters on them. And it was Boba Fett who found them and saw Han would be heading to visit his old friend Lando to seek refuge. Informing Vader, the Sith was able to get there first, and threaten Lando and the safety of his people if he didn’t turn the Rebels over.

Luke, as mentioned before, had come back from training with Jedi Master Yoda. That direction, of course, was given to him by the late Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, who had appeared to him via spirit form.

But back to Cloud City. When frozen, Han was to be delivered to Jabba the Hutt on Tatooine — as we know the scoundrel always has some debt to pay to someone. And so, this is where the characters are headed when we see them on their ships in the last moments of the movie.

Now, though, for the final moment with Luke and Vader. This is one of the most epic reveals in movie history. Though, the twist is so widely known now (it’s been 40 years, after all) that it’s hardly even a twist at all for some first-time watchers these days.

Still, Luke never saw this reveal coming. He was told by Obi-Wan that Darth Vader “betrayed and murdered his father.” And in a way, that was the truth — knowing that “Vader” had killed his old self, Anakin Skywalker, the moment he chose to go to the Dark Side. Naturally, the reveal was hard for Luke to cope with, but we don’t see him come to terms with that revelation in this movie. He deals with this more in the following movie, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

And thus, the movie ends the cliffhanger that leaves you asking “what happens next?”. And the following events in Return of the Jedi bring the original trilogy to a close in an interesting way.

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