Study Guide

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back Quotes

  • Spirituality

    LUKE: I'm looking for a great warrior.
    YODA: Ah, a great warrior. War does not make one great.

    This is Yoda's first lesson for Luke: Being a Jedi isn't all about swashbuckling and adventure. As a relatively young dude, Luke still craves excitement and danger, but he's going to need to get that in check to become a legit Jedi.

    LUKE: I don't know what I'm doing here. We're wasting our time.
    YODA: (aside) I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.

    Luke's impulsiveness becomes an immediate obstacle to his training. With its Zen-like focus on passivity and peacefulness, the Jedi Order requires a more down-to-earth, humble perspective for its trainees.

    YODA: For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi [...] A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.

    In other words, Yoda is an O.G. In addition, this passage re-emphasizes the monastic nature of the Jedi. Though it might seem like all fun and games and lightsabers right now to Luke, the reality is far simpler—and perhaps more boring.

    LUKE: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
    YODA: You will know. When you are calm, at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

    The distinction between the dark and light sides of the Force is a key tenet of Jedi spirituality. The light side of the Force represents patience and passivity; the dark side represents anger and fear. Although it's obvious that the light side of the Force is the better of the two, the movie suggests that the optimal state of these two powers is when they are in balance.

    LUKE: But tell me why I can't.
    YODA: No, there is no why.

    Yoda's sayings often sound like kōans, Zen Buddhist parables that typically use illogical statements to illustrate spiritual truths. Here, Yoda is using a sort of circular logic to emphasize Luke's need for faith.

    YODA: That place is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.
    LUKE: What's in there?
    YODA: Only what you take with you.

    Luke's experience in the cave is an important point in his spiritual journey for many reasons. First, it shows him that he's still far from being the perfect Jedi that Yoda wishes him to be. Second—and perhaps most importantly—it shows him that he's "taking" quite a few negative feelings with him everywhere he goes, like his anger, fear, and over-emotionality.

    LUKE: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
    YODA: No, no different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.

    The concept of "unlearning what you have learned" is ripped straight from the tenets of Zen Buddhism. In the religion, as in this scene, this concept is used to illustrate both that our assumptions limit us, as well as the idea that there are complex spiritual forces (or, in this case, Force) at work beneath the physical world.

    YODA: No. Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

    This statement echoes Yoda's previous statement that "there is no why." Once again, he uses strange, circular logic to highlight Luke's lack of faith.

    YODA: Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between this land and that ship.

    Here, Yoda adds to our understanding of the Force by likening it to a "luminous" substance that binds together all living beings. In addition, he also illustrates the conflict between the spirit and the body, which can be found in practically every major religion, from traditional Native American spiritual practices to Christianity to Buddhism.

    LUKE: I don't believe it.
    YODA: That is why you fail.

    This is Luke's main failure during his Jedi training—he relies on logic, rather than faith. Interestingly, this training ends on a decidedly dark note, with Yoda and Obi-Wan worried that Luke is falling prey to the dark side.

  • Friendship

    REBEL SOLDIER: Sir, the temperature's dropping too rapidly.
    HAN: That's right. And my friend's out in it.
    REBEL SOLDIER: Your Tauntaun'll freeze before you reach the first marker.
    HAN: Then I'll see you in Hell.

    Ah, Han Solo, we'd expect nothing less from you. This is a great place to start because it shows how tight Han and Luke have gotten since the events of the first film. Although Han originally pegged Luke as a chump he could milk for cash, he now sees him as a friend worth risking his life for.

    HAN: How are you feeling, kid? You don't look so bad to me. In fact, you look strong enough to pull the ears off a Gundark.
    LUKE: Thanks to you.
    HAN: That's two you owe me, junior.

    The first time Han saved Luke, by the way, is when he swooped in at the end of A New Hope to protect Luke while he took down the Death Star. Context aside, this passage further highlights the close bond between Han and Luke, which in many ways mirrors a typical big bro/little bro relationship. It's kind of adorable.

    C-3PO: R-2, you take good care of Master Luke now, understand? And do take good care of yourself. Oh, dear, oh, dear.

    Although we're going to focus on humans for most of this section (sorry, Chewie), we would be remiss if we didn't mention the bond between C-3PO and R2-D2. Because this pair of droids served as the audience's gateway into the Star Wars universe in A New Hope, their separation emphasizes how scattered our heroes have become.

    HAN: We go back a long way, Lando and me.
    LEIA: Can you trust him?
    HAN: No. But he has no love for the Empire, I can tell you that.

    Han and Lando are old pals, so Han assumes that his buddy will have his back. Of course, we all know what ends up going down, but Han probably should've seen this one coming—once a scoundrel, always a scoundrel.

    LUKE: I saw a city in the clouds.
    YODA: Friends you have there.
    LUKE: They were in pain.

    Luke cuts his Jedi training short after having a premonition of his friends in danger. Interestingly, Yoda sees this as a bad thing—it shows that Luke still has an emotional attachment to other people, which is against the Jedi code.

    LUKE: I can't keep the vision out of my head. They're my friends. I've got to help them.
    YODA: You must not go!
    LUKE: But Han and Leia will die if I don't.

    The Jedi are more like monks than warriors, so it's no surprise that Yoda opposes Luke's decision to leave. More than that, he argues that Luke's attachment to his friends leaves him susceptible to the dark side of the Force, as his love for them could easily lead to fear, which could lead to anger—and we all know where that ends up.

    OBI-WAN: It is you and your abilities the Emperor wants. That is why your friends are made to suffer.
    LUKE: And that is why I have to go.

    Although Luke can sense that his friends' capture is a trap set by Vader, he doesn't hesitate one second to put his life at risk for them. That might go against his Jedi training, but he could never live with himself if he let them die.

    OBI-WAN: Patience.
    LUKE: And sacrifice Han and Leia?
    YODA: If you honor what they fight for, yes!

    That's cold-hearted, man—where's the warm-and-cuddly Yoda we all know and love? Although we tend to think of the Jedi as representing pure goodness, they often lack empathy towards the plights of individuals.

    LEIA: Do you think that after what you did to Han we're going to trust you?
    LANDO: I had no choice.

    After betraying our heroes, Lando double-double-crosses the Empire and joins the good guys once again. Of course, he'll need to prove his friendship to Leia and Chewie before he can even hope to make things right.

    LANDO: When we find Jabba the Hut and that bounty hunter, we'll contact you.
    LUKE: I'll meet you at the rendezvous point on Tatooine.
    LANDO: Princess, we'll find Han. I promise.

    Although the protagonists were scattered for most of the film, The Empire Strikes Back closes with the whole crew reunited, with Lando serving as a well-mustachioed replacement for Han. In addition, this scene establishes that Han's rescue will be a focal point in Return of the Jedi, again showing the importance of friendship in the Star Wars series.

  • Fate vs. Free Will

    BEN: You will go to the Dagobah system.
    LUKE: The Dagobah system?
    BEN: There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me.

    Man, we wish our mentors would appear to us in trippy dream sequences. It would make picking out outfits way easier. Jokes aside, the ball is now in Luke's court—he now must make the decision to either follow fate or defy it.

    LUKE: There's nothing wrong, R-2, I'm just setting a new course. We're not going to regroup with the others. We're going to the Dagobah system.

    Although the film spends a lot of time talking about "fate" and "destiny," it must be noted that Luke makes the choice to go to Dagobah. He could have easily ignored Ghost Obi-Wan's advice and gone about his merry, lightsaber-swinging way, but he decides to take his fate into his own hands.

    LUKE: There's something familiar about this place.

    When Luke first comes on Dagobah, he can't shake the feeling that he's been there before, which further emphasizes the idea that his arrival was destiny.

    EMPEROR: We have a new enemy—Luke Skywalker. [...] He could destroy us.
    VADER: He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.
    EMPEROR: The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

    The Emperor must not have read many Greek tragedies because if he had he would've known that trying to bypass fate through murder and general villainy always backfires. In addition, Vader's reluctance to accept the implications of the Emperor's prophecy subtly foreshadows the revelation that he is Luke's father.

    YODA: It is the future you see.
    LUKE: The future? Will they die?
    YODA: Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.

    This is important, as it's our first indication that fate isn't exactly—well—fated. Think of it like forecasting a hurricane: It's pretty easy for meteorologists to figure out a range of possible paths for a storm, but it's a lot harder to narrow it down to one.

    LUKE: I can't keep the vision out of my head. They're my friends. I've got to help them.
    YODA: You must not go!
    LUKE: But Han and Leia will die if I don't.
    OBI-WAN: You don't know that. Even Yoda cannot see their fate.

    Despite Yoda and Obi-Wan's vehement protestations, Luke refuses to abandon his friends to Vader. Once again, this represents Luke actively taking his fate into his own hands, ignoring prophecies and destinies and all of that hogwash and simply focusing on the here and the now. Sounds like a Jedi to us.

    YODA: Told you, I did. Reckless is he. Now matters are worse.
    OBI-WAN: That boy is our last hope.
    YODA: No. There is another.

    This certainly changes things, doesn't it? While most people interpret this scene as referring to Leia (although there is debate over whether Leia was intended to be Luke's sister at the time of Empire's release), the important part is that it once again upends the concept of fate—or at least complicates it.

    VADER: Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker. Obi-Wan knew this to be true.

    Here's a pro-tip from the experts at Shmoop: If a seven-foot-tall, armor-wearing machine man starts rambling about destiny while trying to stab you with a laser sword, he's probably trying to sell you a bill of goods.

    VADER: You do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training.

    Like Yoda and Obi-Wan, Darth Vader is convinced that Luke is destined to change the galaxy—the only difference is that Vader wants to use this for his own benefit. Still, a critical viewer might argue that Yoda and Obi-Wan are no different.

    VADER: Luke. You can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.

    If Yoda and Obi-Wan were right about Luke's immaturity, then he would've taken this offer, right? How is Luke able to refuse? In the end, the film argues that, although we all must confront destiny, that doesn't mean we don't have a choice. In the words of another great alien-killer: "It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings."

  • Hate

    VADER: If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally.
    EMPEROR: Yes, he would be a great asset. Can it be done?
    VADER: He will join us or die, my master.

    Vader and the Emperor are pretty much hatred embodied. Here, this gruesome twosome is finally realizing that Luke Skywalker poses a threat—and that their only hope for defeating him is to turn him to the dark side.

    YODA: Much anger in him, like his father.
    OBI-WAN: Was I any different when you taught me?
    YODA: He is not ready.

    Here, we see that Luke—like his father, and like Obi-Wan—is a bit more passionate than Yoda would like. While passion can be great in many contexts, it can also be twisted towards negativity, as we see with Vader.

    YODA: Beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression [...] Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight.

    Although the dark side isn't necessarily stronger than the light side, it is a lot easier to access—all you have to do is think nasty thoughts. This leads to an almost addictive relationship that doesn't end until you're entirely consumed by hatred.

    LUKE: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
    YODA: You will know. When you are calm. At peace. Passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.

    According to Yoda, a Jedi must always be in control of his or her emotions in order to keep from straying to the dark side. As it happens, Luke has a hard time with this. It's not like he doesn't have any reason to be angry—Vader massacred his entire family in the previous film, after all—but it's still a flashing warning sign for the future.

    YODA: That place is strong with the dark side of the Force. A domain of evil it is. In you must go.
    LUKE: What's in there?
    YODA: Only what you take with you.

    Luke faces his greatest challenge yet in the cave and... fails. The key to this passage is Yoda's claim that the only thing that's in the cave is "what you take with you," which indicates that the shocking scene that follows (which we'll discuss in detail shortly) is some sort of reflection of Luke's inner turmoil.

    YODA: Your weapons, you will not need them.
    [Luke shakes his head no]

    This is the first test, and Luke straight-up bombs: His fear leads him to hold on to his lightsaber. As a wise muppet once said: "Fear is the path to the dark side."

    [Luke decapitates a manifestation of Darth Vader in a mystical cave on Dagobah. The head explodes to reveal Luke's own face beneath the helmet.]

    This striking image (which scared the Ewoks out of us when we were kids) represents Luke's hatred and anger towards Vader, which could lead him down the same dark path as the Sith Master if left unchecked. Of course, it also foreshadows the later revelation that Vader is Luke's dad.

    OBI-WAN: This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the dark side of the Force.
    YODA: Yes, yes. To Obi-Wan you listen. The cave. Remember your failure at the cave.

    Both Obi-Wan and Yoda can see that Luke is in trouble, but they're unable to convince him to remain on Dagobah and complete his training. Luke is still too emotional—too angry—and they worry that this will make him rife for conversion to the dark side. Let's just hope that Luke was taking notes during Decapitation 101.

    VADER: Obi-Wan has taught you well. You have controlled your fear, now release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me.

    On some level, it seems like Vader would be totally cool with Luke killing him. After all, this would represent the young Skywalker fully giving in to his hatred towards Vader and, by proxy, turning to the dark side of the Force. Like father, like son.

    VADER: You are beaten. It is useless to resist. Don't let yourself be destroyed as Obi-Wan did.

    Luke does resist, though, choosing to throw himself to near-certain death instead of giving in to his hatred. That's an important moment for him. Although he failed the trial in the cave, he's managed to stay true to the Jedi code and the light side of the Force.

  • Love

    LEIA: Han, we need you.
    HAN: We?
    LEIA: Yes.
    HAN: And what about what you need?

    Oh, just kiss already, you two. Unfortunately, we're going to have to wait some time for that to happen, as the first half of the film is steeped deep in some classic will-they-won't-they tension.

    HAN: Come on, you want me to stay because of the way you feel about me.
    LEIA: Yes, you're a great help to us. You're a natural leader.

    Although Han tries to come across like a cool customer, he's clearly shaken by Leia's refusal to admit that she likes him. Needy much? Sure, Leia is obviously hiding her feelings for this hunky smuggler, but he must really love her to keep banging his head up against that wall.

    C-3PO: It's Princess Leia, sir. She's been trying to get you on the communicator.
    HAN: I turned it off. I don't want to talk to her.

    See what we mean? Han tries to exude a devil-may-care attitude, but it's obvious that the dude has fallen head-over-heels for Princess Cinnabon. We can't blame him, either—there's nothing more attractive than a powerful lady.

    HAN: I must have hit pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh, kid?
    LEIA: Why, I guess you don't know everything about women yet.
    [Leia kisses Luke]

    First off, we have to throw out the obligatory "Gross! Incest!" even though by all accounts George Lucas hadn't decided that Luke and Leia were siblings by the time of Empire's release. Second, this is the most blatant case of a lady protesting too much that we've ever seen.

    LEIA: Why are you still here?
    HAN: I heard the command center had been hit.
    LEIA: You got your clearance to leave.
    HAN: Don't worry. I'll leave. First I'm going to get you to your ship.

    Besides showing Leia's dedication to the Rebel cause, this exchange shows Han's dedication to Leia. He might turn off his communicator when she gets on his nerves, or get cranky when she doesn't give him attention, but he'll always have her back when the chips are down.

    HAN: You like me because I'm a scoundrel. There aren't enough scoundrels in your life.
    LEIA: I happen to like nice men.
    HAN: I'm a nice man.

    Leia is a princess, so she spends most of her life with political big-wigs and other Very Serious People. In other words, she doesn't know anyone like Han. Although this might make her hesitant at times, it's the same thing that drew her to him in the first place.

    LEIA: I don't trust Lando.
    HAN: Well, I don't trust him, either. But he is my friend. Besides, we'll soon be gone.
    LEIA: And then you're as good as gone, aren't you?

    Even in the face of serious danger, Leia shows concern about Han leaving. This represents a big leap forward for their relationship, as it's the first time Leia admits (or, at least, kind of admits) that she'd be personally affected by Han's departure.

    [Han has just been tortured]
    LEIA: Why are they doing this?
    HAN: They never even asked me any questions.

    After Lando's betrayal, Leia is reminded why she fell for Han in the first place. Although he's always ready with a sarcastic quip, he's also incredibly determined, loyal, and resilient.

    HAN: Chewie, this won't help me. Save your strength. There'll be another time. The princess, you have to take care of her.

    Although Han is literally about to be frozen into metal so he can be turned over to a giant slug-man, he still puts Leia's life ahead of his own. What a scoundrel, right? If that's not evidence of true love, then we don't know what is.

    LEIA: I love you.
    HAN: I know.

    This might be our favorite line in movie history. Not only does it represent Leia finally admitting her feelings towards Han, but it also sees him responding in the most Han Solo-like way imaginable.

  • Family

    YODA: Why wish you become a Jedi?
    LUKE: Mostly because of my father, I guess.
    YODA: Ah, your father. Powerful Jedi was he.

    Now that's some tasty dramatic irony. At this point, all Luke knows about his dad is what Obi-Wan told him—that he was a great warrior and an exceptional pilot. Kid's got a big surprise in store.

    YODA: Much anger in him, like his father.

    Seriously, guys—there's going to be a lot of dramatic irony in the section. This quote alludes not only to the revelation of Luke's parentage, but also to his own struggles with anger.

    [Luke decapitates a manifestation of Darth Vader in a mystical cave on Dagobah. The head explodes to reveal Luke's own face beneath the helmet.]

    Although you could easily interpret this scene metaphorically—as a representation of Luke's struggle with anger—it raises a few questions. Does Luke already realize, on some level, that Vader is his dad? That would certainly explain why he accepts the claim so readily. What do you think?

    OBI-WAN: That boy is our last hope.
    YODA: No. There is another.

    While there's a lot of debate over the nature of this line, the most common interpretation is that it references Leia, who Luke doesn't yet realize is his sister. The Skywalker family tree is so messed up that it looks like a Rancor attacked it.

    VADER: Your destiny lies with me, Skywalker. Obi-Wan knew this to be true.

    You know, Vader could just be trash-talking here, but he might have a point. After all, why would Obi-Wan lie about the fate of Anakin Skywalker if he wasn't worried about Luke heading down the same path?

    VADER: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
    LUKE: He told me enough. It was you who killed him.
    VADER: No. I am your father.

    Here it is, folks: the paternity test heard around the world. The idea that Luke—who represents goodness and innocence—and Vader—who represents pure evil—are father and son transforms our understanding of not just this film, but also of A New Hope.

    VADER: Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son. Come with me. It is the only way.

    This makes us feel like Darth Vader cares about Luke more than he wants to admit. In this interpretation, Vader isn't trying to turn Luke to the dark side to protect the Emperor or defeat the Rebels—he's doing it so he can reunite with his son.

    LEIA: Luke...We've got to go back.
    LANDO: What?
    LEIA: I know where Luke is.

    For context, Luke has just telepathically contacted Leia so she can rescue him. This is the film's second subtle hint that these two almost-lovers are siblings, which is explored further in Return of the Jedi.

    [Luke and Vader are on different ships communicating telepathically.]
    VADER: Luke.
    LUKE: Father.
    VADER: Son, come with me.

    What you can't hear in these transcribed lines is Luke's tone of voice: He sounds eager, almost longing. He feels conflicting emotions towards Vader/Anakin because his entire self-image has been built around a false (or, at least, incomplete) image of his father.

    LUKE: Ben, why didn't you tell me?

    Obi-Wan was a father figure for Luke, so it breaks the kid's heart to know that he was lied to. You know, if we didn't know any better (or hadn't seen Return of the Jedi), we might think that this was the perfect setup for a dark side turn...