Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (originally released as Return of the Jedi) is a 1983 American epic space opera film directed by Richard Marquand and written by George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan. It is the third film released in the Star Wars saga, and the sixth in terms of the series’ internal chronology. It is the first film to use THX technology.
The film is set approximately one year after Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The evil Galactic Empire, with the help of the villainous Darth Vader, is building a second Death Star in order to crush the Rebel Alliance. Since Emperor Palpatine plans to personally oversee the final stages of its construction, the Rebel Fleet launches a full-scale attack on the Death Star in order to prevent its completion and kill Palpatine, effectively bringing an end to the Empire. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker, a Rebel leader and Jedi Knight, struggles to bring Vader, who is his father and himself a fallen Jedi, back from the Dark Side of the Force.
The film was released in theaters on May 25, 1983, receiving mostly positive reviews. The film grossed over $475 million worldwide. Several home video and theatrical releases and revisions to the film followed over the next 20 years. It was the last Star Wars film released theatrically until Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace began the prequel trilogy in 1999.
Luke Skywalker initiates a plan to rescue the frozen Han Solo from the crime lord Jabba the Hutt (Larry Ward) with the help of Princess Leia, Lando Calrissian, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. Leia infiltrates Jabba’s palace on Tatooine disguised as a bounty hunter and releases Han, but Leia is captured and enslaved and Han is detained. Luke arrives a week later and allows himself to be captured. After surviving an attempted feeding to the Rancor, Jabba sentences Luke and Han to be executed by the Sarlacc. Luke breaks free, retrieving his newly-constructed lightsaber from R2-D2 and a large battle erupts; in the ensuing chaos, Leia strangles Jabba to death, Han inadvertently knocks Boba Fett into the gaping maw of the Sarlacc and Luke, escaping with his allies, destroys Jabba’s sail barge. While Han and Leia rendezvous with the other Rebels, Luke returns to Dagobah, only to find that Yoda is dying. With his last breaths, Yoda confirms that Darth Vader is Luke’s father and that Luke must confront him again to become a true Jedi Knight; he also mentions “another Skywalker”. The spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi reveals that the “other Skywalker” Yoda spoke of is Luke’s twin sister, whom Luke discovers is Leia. Obi-Wan then tells Luke that he must confront Vader once more to defeat the Galactic Empire after confirming that Vader was originally Anakin Skywalker.
The Rebel Alliance learns that the Empire has been constructing a new Death Star. In a plan to destroy the new weapon, Han leads a strike team to destroy the battle station’s shield generator on the moon Endor, allowing a squadron of starfighters to enter the incomplete superstructure and destroy the station from within. Returning from Dagobah, Luke joins the strike team along with Leia and the others. The strike team travels to Endor in an Imperial shuttle; Vader senses Luke’s presence on the shuttle, but lets them through so that they will be ambushed by the Imperial forces lying in wait on Endor. Sensing Vader’s presence, Luke fears he is endangering the mission by his presence.
On Endor, Luke and his companions encounter a tribe of Ewoks and form a partnership with them. Later, Luke confesses to Leia that she is his sister, that Vader is their father and that he is leaving to confront him, thinking that there is still good in him. Luke surrenders to Imperial troops, so that they will bring him to Vader. He unsuccessfully tries to convince Vader to turn from the dark side, but Vader takes Luke to the Death Star to meet Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), his Sith master and leader of the Empire.
Luke learns that the Death Star is fully operational and set to destroy the Rebellion once and for all. On Endor, the Rebels are captured by Imperial forces, but a surprise counterattack by the Ewoks allows the Rebels to launch an attack. Meanwhile, Lando leads the Rebel fleet in the Millennium Falcon to the Death Star, only to find the station’s shield is still up and the Imperial fleet waiting for them. Palpatine tempts Luke to give in to his anger and join the dark side of the Force. Luke and Vader engage in a lightsaber duel. Vader discovers that Luke has a sister and – suggesting she would turn to the dark side – Luke snaps and severs Vader’s right hand, disarming him. Realizing that this would lead to his father’s fate, Luke refuses Palpatine’s offer to join him, proclaiming that he is a Jedi, and Palpatine attacks him with Force lightning. Unable to see Palpatine kill his son, Anakin Skywalker reemerges from within Vader and throws Palpatine down a reactor shaft to his death, but is mortally wounded by Palpatine’s lightning. The redeemed Anakin Skywalker (Sebastian Shaw) asks Luke to remove his mask and tell Leia that there was good in him after all; he then dies, finally at peace.
On Endor, the strike team, with the help of the Ewoks, defeats the Imperial forces and destroys the shield generator, allowing the Rebel fleet to launch a final assault on the Death Star. Lando leads the remaining ships deep into the station’s core and destroys the main reactor. Luke escapes on an Imperial shuttle with his father’s body before the Death Star explodes, while Lando escapes in the Falcon. On Endor, Han tells Leia that he knows she loves Luke and offers to step aside; she tells him that Luke is her brother and kisses him. That evening, Luke returns to Endor and cremates his father’s body and armor on a funeral pyre. As the Rebels celebrate the end of the Empire, Luke sees the spirits of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and a redeemed Anakin Skywalker proudly watching over them.
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First Published: Jan 16, 2012 – Last Updated: Mar 12, 2013