Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)

star wars return of the jedi poster 1983 movie
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 1/10

Still a fun movie

Feels like a bit of a step back from the greatness of Empire

Movie Info

Movie Name: Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi

Studio: Lucasfilm

Genre(s): Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): May 25, 1983

MPAA Rating: PG

star wars return of the jedi preincess leia slave costume jabba the hutt bib fortuna c-3po carrie fiesher

…and with one costume, fan boys are born!

The Empire has the Rebels on the run, but the Rebels are about to turn the table.  First, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) must be rescued from Jabba the Hutt.  It is up to C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Kenny Baker), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to free him but freeing Han may only be part of the problem.  Luke sets out on a quest to free his father Darth Vader (David Prowse voiced by James Earl Jones and portrayed by Sebastian Shaw) from the Dark Side but the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) has his own plans for Luke.  As a new Death Star looms on the horizon, a mission on the forest moon of Endor could be the Rebellion’s last hope.

star wars return of the jedi r2-d2 wicket ewok

Listen Wicket…you’re threatening my merch contracts!!!

Directed by Richard Marquand with a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas, Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi (sometimes called Star Wars VI:  Return of the Jedi or Star Wars—Episode VI:  Return of the Jedi) was originally titled Star Wars:  Revenge of the Jedi and followed Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back from 1980.  Both David Lynch and David Cronenberg were considered for the directing.  The film won an Academy Award for Special Achievement in Visual Effects and nominations for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Score.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2021.

Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi came out at the height of my childhood.  Getting to see the movie was my “kindergarten graduation”, and though it is the weakest of the original trilogy, it does hold a soft spot.  It is goofy and somewhat anticlimactic after the greatness that was The Empire Strikes Back…attempts to fix the movie in the “Special Edition” just made it worse.  Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi is a bit of a letdown but was a warning for the prequels.

star wars return of the jedi darth vader unmasked

Luke to celebrate my return from the Dark Side, I’ve prepared a little ditty on my harmonica!

One problem is a trend that continued in the prequel movies is that it just doesn’t feel as dark as The Empire Strikes Back.  Characters like the super cuddly Ewoks (originally intended to be Wookies) might bite the bullet, but they also provide a lot of comic relief.  One of the original endings had Han dying and Luke going off alone…a much better idea in my opinion than the mega-happy Ewok ending (and something essentially done in the next film in the story).

Lucas claims that the whole series is about the rise and fall of Darth Vader and that he had planned his prequels earlier.  This allegedly is why the movie becomes about the redemption of Darth Vader but it seems a bit forced in this movie (before the release of the prequels which makes the themes of this movie make more sense).  The idea that Luke could succumb to the darkness is a more interesting idea, and the idea of the son replacing the father is more compelling than the crusty old Darth Vader deciding to turn against the Emperor (it also seems that it is kind of the themes of the new sequels).

star wars return of the jedi ending cast

With that, our heroes ride into the sunset…until they didn’t.

While the special effects of Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi continued to be innovative in 1983, Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi did suffer a lot of changes in the 1997 releases.  The Max Rebo Band number was make completely over-the-top, the Sarlac was made into more than just a big pit, the goofy Ewok music was replaced, and added scenes with celebrations around the Empire celebrating the fall were added (I prefer the goofy Ewok music to this).  An even bigger change occurred in 2006 when Hayden Christiansen who played Anakin in the prequels replaced Sebastian Shaw’s ghost form at the end of the film).  This is kind of a rude slight to the actor and wasn’t well received by fans.

Return of the Jedi might not be a great film, but it is still part of my childhood.  If you were to fairly compare it with the other movies it might actually rank closer to Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith, but I think it stands up a bit better than those prequels (especially before he tweaked it).  The movie ended the series at the time though The Ewok Adventure and The Ewoks:  The Battle for Endor were released on TV.  In 1999, Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace (the first of the prequels) was released and in 2015, Star Wars—Episode VII:  The Force Awakens was released.

Related Links:

Star Wars—Episode I:  The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars—Episode II:  Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars—Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Solo:  A Star Wars Story (2018)

Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story (2016)

Star Wars (1977)

Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars:  The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars:  The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The Ewok Adventure (1984)

Ewoks:  The Battle for Endor (1985)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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