If you were to make a list from best-to-worst, what would be the greatest Star Wars movie ever made? While the rest of the list is hotly debated on internet forums, most agree that The Empire Strikes Back is the definitive Star Wars film. Of course, every great movie starts with a great screenplay. In this article, we will break down The Empire Strikes Back plot, and analyze its characters, scenes and dialogue. 

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Lawrence Kasdan Headshot StudioBinder
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WHO WROTE THE empire strikes back SCRIPT?

Written by Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas

Leigh Brackett was a screenwriter and science-fiction author known for her work on The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back. She died from cancer in 1978. While the majority of her The Empire Strikes Back script wasn’t used, George Lucas honored her memory by giving her a writing credit. 

Lawrence Kasdan is a screenwriter known for his work on The Big Chill, Silverado, and Wyatt Earp. He made revisions on The Empire Strikes Back script. 

George Lucas is a screenwriter, director and graduate from the USC School of Cinema. He is known for his work on American Graffiti, the Indiana Jones franchise and is the creator of Star Wars



Here is the story structure for The Empire Strikes Back screenplay:


Luke is scouting a nearby crash site when a wampa attacks him. Han is about to leave Leia and the Rebels so he can pay off Jabba the Hutt. He finds out Luke is missing and sets off on a rescue mission instead. 

Inciting Incident

After barely surviving his encounter, the ghost of Ben Kenobi appears before Luke Skywalker. He tells Luke to go to the Dagobah system. Han Solo finds and rescues Luke from the deathly cold, but not before discovering an Imperial probe had found the Rebel base. 

Plot Point One

The Empire attacks the base. Despite a heroic battle, Imperial walkers overwhelm the Rebels, forcing them to flee. Luke splits off from the others and heads to Dagobah. Han, Chewie and Leia escape in the Millennium Falcon.

Rising Action

Luke arrives on Dagobah, looking for a Jedi named Yoda. His X-Wing sinks into the swamp, stranding him. He meets an old coot that turns out to be Yoda. Meanwhile, the Millennium Falcon is chased through an asteroid field by the Empire. 


Darth Vader and the Emperor want to capture Luke Skywalker and turn him to the Dark Side. As Luke trains with Yoda, he encounters a vision of Darth Vader with his own face. Yoda pulls the X-Wing out of the swamp using the Force. The Millennium Falcon narrowly escapes a giant slug and the Empire, but bounty hunter Boba Fett is close behind.

Plot Point Two

While meditating, Luke has a vision of his friends being tortured. He decides to abandon his training in order to confront Darth Vader. Han and the others arrive on Bespin. They are betrayed by Lando Calrissian and captured by Darth Vader and Boba Fett. 

Build Up

Han is tortured mercilessly. Leia watches as the man she loves is frozen in carbonite. Fed up with the bad deal he made, Lando helps Leia and the others fight the Empire. Luke arrives on Bespin and squares off with Darth Vader. 


Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have an epic lightsaber duel. Vader makes Luke look like an amateur and cuts off his hand. Trying to turn Luke to the Dark Side, Vader reveals that he is his father. Leia and Chewie fail to rescue Han from Boba Fett.


Luke uses the force to communicate with Leia. He is rescued and given a robotic hand. They stare into space, uncertain of what the future holds. 

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The Empire Strikes Back Characters

The Empire Strikes Back characters 

The Empire Strikes Back script does something expertly that the best sequel films struggle to do; character development. In the screenplay for A New Hope, Lucas did a great job of establishing our heroes and villains. But The Empire Strikes Back takes them to deeper, more emotional levels. 

If Luke is to stand any chance of defeating Darth Vader, he must become a Jedi. This new quest brings Luke to the swamps of Dagobah, where Yoda teaches him the ways of the Force.

Luke’s training eventually brings him to a mysterious cave. We imported The Empire Strikes Back script into StudioBinder's screenwriting software so we could examine this scene. Pay attention to the emotional impact on Luke.  

Luke and the Cave  •  Read the Entire Scene

Luke is confused by this moment. Unbeknownst to him and the audience, this is foreshadowing a potentially dangerous future for Luke. The true impact of this is felt in the third act when Luke confronts Vader.

He discovers that his father isn’t dead — but he just so happens to be one of the most evil men in the galaxy. 

If the Dark Side can turn Luke’s father, what chance does Luke have?

The antagonist, Darth Vader, also grows as a character. On the surface, he appears to be the “standard villain.” But we get a glimpse at his true motives in his brief conversation with the Emperor.

Vader and the Emperor

Vader and the Emperor

Fearing the return of the Jedi, the Emperor orders Vader to destroy Luke. Vader suggests turning Luke to the Dark Side instead. This is more than just a power play, it’s Vader’s way of protecting his son.  

Of course, a great script also develops its secondary characters. Han Solo and Princess Leia grow, not just as characters, but as a couple. Much like in A New Hope, at first their relationship is combative yet flirtatious.

As they journey together, they grow closer and eventually kiss. Just as Han is about to be frozen in carbonite, Leia finally proclaims, “I love you.”  Han, who is suave even when he’s in mortal danger, simply replies “I know.”

Han and Leia

Han and Leia

Special effects, fan service and nostalgia are great, but they can’t replace characters and their arcs. The Empire Strikes Back script is a reminder where the real storytelling takes place. 

The Empire Strikes Back Difficult Choices

Characters making decisions

Nothing creates drama and sympathy more than difficult choices. The Empire Strikes Back plot forces its characters into lose-lose situations. During his training, Luke has a vision of the future where Han and Leia are being tortured by the Empire. Fearing for his friends' lives, he confronts his mentors. 

Luke Makes a Tough Decision  •  Read the Whole Scene

If Luke confronts Vader, he will be risking his own life or worse: being turned to the Dark Side. But if he doesn’t, his friends will surely die. No matter what Luke does, he will lose. The stakes couldn't be higher and the end result will be dramatic storytelling at its finest. 

Another character forced to make a tough decision is Lando. The Empire arrives on Bespin before our heroes. Vader backs Lando into a corner and forces him to choose between Cloud City and its people, or his friends. 

Lando’s Deal

Lando choses selfishly and betrays Han. Fortunately, he redeems himself in the end and rescues Leia and Chewie.

A great script will force its characters into situations where hard decisions have to be made. Hard decisions raise the stakes of the story and keeps the audience invested in the characters. 

The Empire Strikes Back Quotes

The Empire Strikes Back quotes

The Empire Strikes Back script is full of great dialogue and memorable moments. It also has one of the most shocking and famous lines in all of cinematic history. 

During their climatic clash, Vader severs Luke’s hand and corners him. Rather than deal a finishing blow, Vader reveals something that is far more excruciating for Luke. 

Vader reveals the truth to Luke

“No. I am your father.” Luke tries to deny it, but everything adds up. His natural affinity with the Force, his undeniable destiny, and the vision in the cave. Rather than accept the Dark Side, Luke willingly throws himself into the reactor shaft. 

I am your father

Here are a few of the best lines from the greatest Star Wars movie. 

  • “I thought they smelled bad on the outside!” 

  • “Why, you stuck up,...half-witted... scruffy-looking ...nerfherder!”

  • “Never tell me the odds!” 

  • “The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.”

  • “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

  • “This deal's getting worse all the time.” 

  • “I know.”

The Empire Strikes Back Boba Fett

The Empire Strikes Back has Boba Fett

Is he an important character to the plot? No.

Does he do much more than say a few irrelevant lines and stand around looking cool? No.

Did he single-handedly spawn a legacy of fandom and merchandising, including action figures, comic books, video games and now his own spinoff series? Yes.

Boba Fett

Boba Fett

Ignoring the Christmas special, The Empire Strikes Back brought us the first cinematic appearance for Boba Fett. What more needs to be said?


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The Empire Strikes Back stands the test of time as arguably the best Star Wars film ever made. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like Star Wars: A New Hope, Revenge of the Sith, and Alien in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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