Star Wars fans the world over can now unite and scream a massive “I told you so!” at anyone who ever doubted their belief that the sci-fi fantasy is cinematic genius, because the fifth installment of the franchise, The Empire Strikes Back, has now officially, and rightfully, been named the best film ever by an Empire Magazine poll. The first one the magazine has conducted in six years saw the Godfather trilogy topple from the number one spot as fans overwhelmingly voted in the 1980’s Star Wars film. Creator and director of the films, George Lucas, claimed the reason people preferred the fifth movie in the series was because it was darker than the rest. He also said it was a “privilege” that hundreds of thousands of fans chose The Empire Strikes Back as their film favorite for the poll.
The popularity of the films, set in a galaxy far, far away, is even more impressive given the pretty hefty competition they were up against. Star Wars managed to beat cult classics like Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, the comic book franchise The Dark Knight and cinema heavy weight The Lord of the Rings. Also entering the top ten list below Lucas’ phenomenally successful films, were Inception, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Indiana Jones trilogy) and the ultimate classic thriller, Jaws. The Empire Strikes Back is the middle film of the original three which Lucas created. It follows the infamous Darth Vadar as he attempts to capture the rebel alliance which Luke Skywalker and his friends have formed against the Empire. One of the most parodied line of any film ever is also at the center of the fast paced plot in this film, which could be another reason why it proved more popular than its counterparts with fans in the Empire poll. The film had a difficult production period, with many of the scenes needing some ingenuity in terms of direction and special effects as floating cities, ice planet battles and complex space battle sequences. Initially however, reviews were mixed upon its release and many people seemed to prefer the first film. Yet it has grown in popularity and esteem over time and remains a firm favorite with sci-fi fans the world over, even becoming the highest grossing film of 1980.
Many have speculated that the reason for the film coming out on top is because of the high anticipation of the latest installment of the Star Wars series, which is currently in production and being shot by J. J. Abrams. The news that the original cast, including Harrison Ford (as Han Solo), Mark Hamill (as Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fischer (as Princess Leia), has stoked the excitement of fans everywhere. Details of the plot have been kept firmly under wraps though to ensure heightened anticipation among followers of the franchise. However, regardless of the reason behind the turnaround in fans affections, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back beat out over 300 other cinematic contenders to be named the best film ever in what many will view as the rightful result. As an unexpected cultural phenomenon, Star Wars fans can sit back with smug smiles as the series once again proves able to constantly unseat expectations and remain enduringly popular despite much more sophisticated competition.
Commentary by Rhona Scullion