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Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is widely considered an atypical entry in the Star Wars franchise, but it owes more to The Empire Strikes Back than first perceived. The Last Jedi has been both criticized and lauded for its breaking of Star Wars traditions and subverting audience expectations. Upon its initial release, The Empire Strikes Back was similarly controversial among critics and audiences for its darker tone compared to A New Hope. The Empire Strikes Back, however, has since received a critical reappraisal, with many believing it to be the best movie the Star Wars franchise has to offer.


Despite The Last Jedi‘s reputation for subverting many Star Wars tropes, it is actually far more similar to the original trilogy’s dark middle chapter, The Empire Strikes Back, than many audiences realize. The whole structure of The Last Jedi is seemingly based on The Empire Strikes Back, with the film’s protagonists split up on their own adventures. Both films explore themes of identity, through the characters of Luke and Rey. The ending of The Last Jedi also mirrors that of The Empire Strikes Back, with the villains triumphing over the heroes in both movies. After all, George Lucas stated that the Star Wars movies are like poetry: “they rhyme”​​​​​​. Here is every way that The Last Jedi is actually very similar to The Empire Strikes Back.

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Rey’s Training Mirrors Luke On Dagobah

Mark Hamill in Star Wars The Last Jedi

Rey’s training from Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi mirrors that of Luke’s own Jedi training from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back​​​​​​. Luke tests Rey’s patience at first with his standoffish behavior. Ultimately, he accepts her and begins to train Rey in the ways of the Force. This reflects Yoda’s initial behavior towards a young Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda provokes Luke when they first meet, hiding the fact that he is the legendary Jedi master that Skywalker is seeking. As in The Last Jedi, the master eventually warms to the apprentice and starts to train him as a Jedi.

The similarities continue when Luke and Rey’s training begins. During their training, both Luke and Rey experience visions reflecting the danger of the dark side of the Force. In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke faces a vision of Darth Vader in a cave. The two duel, leading to Darth Vader’s helmet exploding and revealing Luke’s own face behind it. In The Last Jedi, Rey experiences the dark side of the Force in two ways. Firstly, through her connection to Kylo Ren, and secondly in a cave, where she encounters seemingly infinite reflections of herself. She tries to use the cave to discover the identities of her parents, but to no avail, strengthening Rey’s connection with Kylo Ren.

In both The Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi, Luke and Rey cut their training short. Luke leaves Dagobah, much to the chagrin of Yoda, in an attempt to rescue Han and Leia, after receiving a vision of their suffering. Rey abandons her training with Luke in The Last Jedi to try to confront and redeem Kylo Ren, after she discovers that Luke contemplated killing him when he sensed a deep darkness in his former apprentice. As such, it’s clear from both Luke and Rey’s respective Jedi journies that the two movies explore similar themes and plot points.

The Imperials Chasing The Rebels

Star Wars The Last Jedi Space Battle

Another structural connection between The Empire Strikes Back and The Last Jedi is highlighted through their various chase subplots. The Empire Strikes Back has the crew of the Millennium Falcon attempt to outrun a Star Destroyer in an asteroid field. Darth Vader hires six bounty hunters, including Boba Fett, to find the Falcon and capture its crew. The Last Jedi pays homage to this through the subplot of the Resistance being tracked by the First Order, following the evacuation of their base.

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In The Empire Strikes Back, the Millennium Falcon is able to evade the Empire through its small size, but the Resistance ship in The Last Jedi has no such opportunity. Instead, Vice-Admiral Holdo orders surviving members of the Resistance to escape to the planet Crait aboard the ship’s transport vessels, before crashing the ship into the First Order’s flagship at lightspeed as a distraction. The Last Jedi also expands on the chase subplot in The Empire Strikes Back through the addition of Poe Dameron’s mutiny against Holdo following his discovery of her plan. This plot line highlights the fractured nature of the Resistance in The Last Jedi.

The Bad Guys Win In Empire & TLJ

Star Wars the Last Jedi Kylo Ren Overlooks Construction Hanger

In a typical three-act structure, the end of Act Two represents the lowest point for the protagonists of the story. As middle chapters in their respective trilogies, both The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back end with their protagonists at their lowest points. Both movies see their villains ultimately triumph over the Rebellion, before one last stand in the final chapter of their respective trilogies.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo and the rest of the Millennium Falcon crew are betrayed by Han’s friend Lando Calrissian and captured by Darth Vader. Vader uses them as pawns to entrap Luke Skywalker and turn him to the dark side. Although he is unsuccessful in this regard, he still cuts off Luke’s hand and has Han frozen in Carbonite. The rest of the heroes only succeed in escaping to fight another day.

Similarly, The Last Jedi sees Finn and Rose betrayed by codebreaker DJ to the First Order. Rey fails to redeem Kylo Ren, and he kills Supreme Leader Snoke only to declare himself the new Supreme Leader of the First Order. The Resistance is nearly destroyed, with both Vice-Admiral Holdo and Luke Skywalker sacrificing themselves in order to give the survivors enough time to escape. In both movies, the heroes are defeated and only succeed in the sense that some of them live to fight another day. As such, it’s easy to see why each film proved relatively controversial on release.

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Empire & TLJ Both Explore Themes Of Identity


In addition to structure and plot similarities, both The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back explore shared themes of identity. For example, during his training, Luke sees a vision of himself under Darth Vader’s helmet. He is later told that he is Darth Vader’s son, by Vader himself. The vision warns that Luke could fall to the dark side and become everything he wishes to fight against. The father revelation destroys Luke’s idealized belief that his father was purely good. The Empire Strikes Back forces Luke to contemplate his future as a Jedi and his identity, given the revelation about his connection to Vader.

The Last Jedi likewise explores the theme of identity through the character of Rey. She searches for her own identity, through her attempt to find out who her parents were. When she searches for a vision of them in the cave, she only finds images of herself, while Kylo Ren claims that they were “nobodies”. This lack of closure forces Rey, like Luke, to grapple with her own identity. Both Luke and Rey finally discover their own identities when they reject offers from Darth Vader and Kylo Ren, respectively, to rule the galaxy.

The Battle Of Crait Honors The Battle Of Hoth

Star Wars 8 Planet Crait

The Last Jedi‘s climactic battle on Crait honors The Empire Strikes Back‘s opening Hoth battle. Crait initially appears to be aesthetically identical to Hoth, with both planets possessing blinding white surfaces. However, during the battle of Crait, it is revealed that the planet’s crystalline surface hides a layer of striking red beneath. The battle of Crait further references the battle of Hoth through the presence of First Order walkers. These harken back to the iconic AT-ATs the Empire uses on Hoth. As a result of these many connections, and although The Last Jedi can be seen as the most unorthodox Star Wars movie, it actually owes much to The Empire Strikes Back.

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