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The Force Is Still Strong with Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

It’s an older movie, but it checks out.



Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

A long time ago, in a galaxy . . . well, only forty years ago. Yep, forty whole years since Star Wars: Return of the Jedi hit cinema screens. But unlike some seemingly lesser titles, it would be wrong to say that this is a movie which has aged like fine wine.

It was good then, and it’s good now.

From a Certain Point of View

Of course, we all know it as Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, but how about . . . Revenge of the Jedi? That was the movie’s original working title, after all. But of course, a true Jedi doesn’t take revenge, do they? Hence why Lucas canned that term and reused it for Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith many years later, which seems much more appropriate.

And yet, if there’s one thing that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is about, it’s exactly that – revenge. The Jedi revenge against the diabolical Sith, the Rebels’ revenge against Imperial oppression, Vader’s revenge against his twisted Master, and the galaxy’s revenge against the force gripping it for the past two decades.

The Emperor’s Coming Here?

Are the words uttered to Darth Vader by a rather terrified-looking Moff Jerjerrod – the Imperial general responsible for overseeing the construction of the second Death Star.

That’s because until Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the Emperor is at best a distant, shadowy figure. And with only passing mentions in Star Wars: A New Hope and a brief Zoom call appearance in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, nobody really has much to go on. Instead, we spend two movies with Vader as the ultimate baddie. Now everybody gets to see the bigger boss. The villain behind the villain.

And when we see him, boy is he evil. So evil, in fact, that the guy practically makes Vader look like a stage monkey. And because audiences in 2023 are already well-acquainted with both him and the prequels, we know with hindsight just how powerful the Emperor is. But to viewers in 1983, to suddenly see bolts of lightning flying from the fingertips of this frail old man must have been terrifying to say the least.

More than just a Sith Lord, he’s the Sith Lord of Sith Lords.

Image: NME

We Are Quite Safe from Your Friends Here

One other thing that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi does so well is show how it’s the little people (i.e. non-Force users) that count. The Emperor raves about how he has it all planned out. Yet despite his best calculations, he forgets the teddy bears on Endor. Yep, and who doesn’t love seeing the Ewoks (with a little outside help, admittedly) get the upper hand on the Imperial legion stationed on the moon – apparently the Emperor’s “best troops”.

And remember, it isn’t Luke who fires that fateful shot into the Death Star reactor this time, but instead a certain Wedge Antilles and a scruffy Lando Calrissian. And although an important figure now, it’s worth recalling that Luke actually started out as a discontented farm boy on Tatooine (albeit one with the high midi-chlorian count genes of Anakin Skywalker).

Image: twentieth century fox film corp

Falls Short of The Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi certainly has all the action that we see in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (generally considered the best of all Star Wars movies). Heck, even the deleted scenes are golden, particularly the one with Moff Jerjerrod being ordered by the Emperor to blow up Endor and hesitating to make the decision, showing a rare human side to the Imperials.

Why, then, isn’t it as good?

Mainly because, in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the stakes are high and the future of the characters (and the Rebellion) hang in the balance, whereas this is the finale where we all know that, whatever mishaps may occur along the way, the heroes are surely going to win out.

Secondly, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back introduced a whole host of new planets and environments (Hoth, Dagobah, Bespin), whereas the only new planet here is Endor. Plus, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back has the plot twist of all plot twists: Luke finding out Vader is his father. Whereas the plot twists here (the Emperor springing a trap for the Rebel fleet, and Leia being Luke’s sister) simply don’t compare. Even if Vader does redeem himself by sending the Emperor tumbling down that chute.


Sure, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi might still play second fiddle to its immediate predecessor. But quite frankly, any of the Original Trilogy is still worth a re-watch forty years later.

Michael is a plucky wordsmith and all-around pop culture enthusiast who believes that games and films are more than just a casual pastime and deserve to be thought and written about. Most of them, anyway! When he’s not working, writing, or out hiking in nature, he also enjoys old black-and-white horror films, matching his dark sense of humor.