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1980 Movie Reviews – The Empire Strikes Back

by Sean P. Aune | May 21, 2020May 21, 2020 11:28 am EDT

Welcome to an exciting year-long project here at The Nerdy. 1980 was an exciting year for films giving us a lot of films that would go on to be beloved favorites and cult classics. It was also the start to a major shift in cultural and societal norms, and some of those still reverberate to this day.

We’re going to pick and choose which movies we hit, but right now the list stands at nearly three dozen.

Yes, we’re insane, but 1980 was that great of a year for film.

The articles will come out – in most cases – on the same day the films hit theaters in 1980 so that it is their true 40th anniversaries. All films are also watched again for the purposes of these reviews and are not being done from memory. In some cases, it truly will be the first time we’ve seen them.

This time around it’s May 21, 1980, and we’re off to see The Empire Strikes Back!

Quick side note: Since we launched this series this year, we’ve discovered that Vintage Video Podcast is doing the exact same project with two differences: First, it’s audio (naturally), and second, they are doing every major film. We’ve listened to a couple of episodes and it’s fun checking off their thoughts against my own. Check them out over at Vintage Video Podcast.

1980 Movie Project - The Empire Strkes Back - 01

The Empire Strikes Back

In 1977, cinema changed. We had never seen anything quite like Star Wars, and it made money for ages. It became the highest-grossing film of all time, but sequels weren’t as common in the late 1970s as they are today. But when a Star Wars sequel was announced, everyone lost their collective minds, even if we didn’t have any idea what shape it would take.

As May 21, 1980 approached, we learned that it would be called The Empire Strikes Back, and we started getting tantalizing teases as to the new characters and vehicles we would see. Articles started also mentioning that George Lucas had plans for a total of nine films and that this was actually Episode V, my eight-year-old mind was blown.

I saw Empire Strikes Back a total of nine times in the theater. I would have seen it more if it had been possible. (Thanks to a local theater wanting to display Star Wars toys, they borrowed my collection in trade for me getting in to see it for free an unlimited number of times) It was everything I wanted and more.

The Empire Strikes Back, at the time, felt like a game-changing movie, little did we know the benchmark it was sitting. The twist of the Darth Vader revelation is a touchstone of cinematic history that has become the punchline to jokes to other films trying to capture some of that gut-punch feeling audiences felt at the revelation.

George Lucas and his team had found some way to up their game and make not only one of the greatest sequels ever made, but an entry that cemented the Star Wars brand for years to come. While other Star Wars films have been good for various reasons, no film has ever quite caught the magic of the first expansion to the franchise.

And who would have ever thought that a puppet would become one of the most popular new characters ever?

The Empire Strikes Back is an amazingly important film even if you aren’t a Star Wars fan. It set a bar that may have tried to emulate, and few have succeeded.

1980 Movie Reviews will return on May 23 with The Shining!


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Sean P. Aune

Sean Aune has been a pop culture aficionado since before there was even a term for pop culture. From the time his father brought home Amazing