The Empire Strikes Back (also known as Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back) is a 1980 American epic space opera film directed by Irvin Kershner. Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan wrote the screenplay, with George Lucas writing the film’s story and serving as executive producer. The second release in the Star Wars franchise, it was produced by Gary Kurtz for Lucas film Ltd and stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Frank Oz.
The film is set three years after Star Wars. The Galactic Empire, under the leadership of the villainous Darth Vader and the Emperor Palpatine, is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While Vader chases a small band of Luke’s friends—Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, and others—across the galaxy, Luke studies the Force under Jedi Master Yoda. When Vader captures Luke’s friends, Luke must decide whether to complete his training and become a full Jedi Knight or to confront Vader and save his friends.
Following a difficult production, The Empire Strikes Back was released on May 21, 1980. It received mixed reviews from critics initially but has since grown in esteem, becoming the most critically acclaimed chapter in the Star Wars saga; it is now considered one of the greatest films ever made. It became the highest-grossing film of 1980 and, to date, has earned more than $538 million worldwide from its original run and several re-releases. When adjusted for inflation, it is the 12th-highest-grossing film in North America. In 2010, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”