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Return of the Jedi
. This poster shows a montage of characters from the movie. In the background, Darth Vader stands tall and dark in front of a reconstructed Death Star; before him stands Luke Skywalker wielding a lightsaber, Han Solo aiming a blaster, and Princess Leia wearing a slave outfit. To the right are an Ewok and Lando Calrissian, while miscellaneous villains fill out the left.
Theatrical release poster by Kazuhiko Sano
Directed by Richard Marquand
Produced by Howard Kazanjian
Screenplay by
Story by George Lucas
Starring
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Alan Hume
Editing by
  • Sean Barton
  • Marcia Lucas
  • Duwayne Dunham
Studio Lucasfilm Ltd.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date(s) May 25, 1983 (1983-05-25) (United States)
Running time 132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $32.5–42.7 million
Money made $475.1 million

Return of the Jedi (also known as Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is a 1983 American epic space opera film directed by Richard Marquand. The screenplay is by Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas from a story by Lucas, who was also the executive producer. It is the third installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, the third film to be produced, and the sixth film in the "Skywalker saga". It takes place one year after The Empire Strikes Back. The film stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Frank Oz.

In the film, the Galactic Empire, under the direction of the Emperor, is constructing a second Death Star in order to crush the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Since the Emperor plans to personally oversee the final stages of its construction, the Rebel Fleet launches a full-scale attack on the Death Star in order to prevent its completion and kill the Emperor, effectively bringing an end to his hold over the galaxy. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker, now a Jedi Knight, struggles to bring his father Darth Vader back to the light side of the Force.

Steven Spielberg, David Lynch and David Cronenberg were considered to direct the project before Marquand signed on as director. The production team relied on Lucas' storyboards during pre-production. While writing the shooting script, Lucas, Kasdan, Marquand, and producer Howard Kazanjian spent two weeks in conference discussing ideas to construct it. Kazanjian's schedule pushed shooting to begin a few weeks early to allow Industrial Light & Magic more time to work on the film's effects in post-production. Filming took place in England, California, and Arizona from January to May 1982 (1982-05).

The film was released in theaters on May 25, 1983, six years to the day of the release of the first film, receiving mostly positive reviews. It grossed $374 million during its initial theatrical run, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1983. Several re-releases and revisions to the film have followed over the decades, which has also brought its total gross to $475 million.

Plot

A year after Han Solo's capture, C-3PO and R2-D2 are sent to crime lord Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine in a trade bargain made by Luke Skywalker to rescue Han. Disguised as the bounty hunter Boushh, Princess Leia infiltrates the palace under the pretense of collecting the bounty on Chewbacca and unfreezes Han, but is caught and enslaved. Luke soon arrives to bargain for his friends' release, but Jabba drops him through a trapdoor to be eaten by a rancor. After Luke kills it, Jabba sentences him, Han, and Chewbacca to death by being fed to the Sarlacc, a huge hole in the desert, which is actually a deadly beast. Having hidden his new lightsaber inside R2-D2, Luke frees himself and his friends, and they battle Jabba's men. During the chaos, Boba Fett falls into the Sarlacc after Han inadvertently damages his jetpack, and Leia strangles Jabba to death with her chains. The group destroy Jabba's sail barge and escape.

As the others rendezvous with the Rebel Alliance, Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training with Yoda, whom he discovers is dying. Yoda confirms that Darth Vader, once the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, is Luke's father, and reveals that there is another Skywalker, before vanishing and becoming one with the Force. Obi-Wan Kenobi's Force ghost then tells Luke that Leia is his twin sister, and that he must face Vader again to finish his training and defeat the Empire.

The Alliance learns that the Empire has been constructing a second Death Star under the supervision of the Emperor. As the station is protected by an energy shield, Han leads a strike team which includes Luke, Leia and Chewbacca to destroy the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor; doing so will allow the Rebel Fleet to destroy the Death Star. The team uses a stolen Imperial shuttle to arrive undetected, and encounters a tribe of Ewoks, gaining their trust after an initial conflict. Later, Luke tells Leia that she is his sister, Vader is their father, and that he must confront him. Surrendering to Imperial troops, he is brought before Vader, and fails to convince him to reject the dark side of the Force.

Vader takes Luke to meet the Emperor, who intends to turn him to the dark side, and reveals that his friends and the Rebel Fleet are headed into a trap. On Endor, Han's team is captured by Imperial forces, but a counterattack by the Ewoks allows the Rebels to infiltrate the shield generator. Meanwhile, Lando Calrissian in the Millennium Falcon and Admiral Ackbar lead the rebel assault on the second Death Star, finding its shield still active, and the Imperial fleet waiting for them.

The Emperor reveals to Luke that the Death Star is fully operational and orders the firing of its superlaser, destroying a Rebel starship. He tempts Luke to give in to his anger. Luke attempts to attack him, but Vader intervenes and the two engage in a lightsaber duel. Vader senses that Luke has a sister and threatens to turn her to the dark side if he does not. Enraged, Luke defeats Vader, severing his prosthetic hand. The Emperor entreats Luke to kill Vader and take his place, but Luke refuses, declaring himself a Jedi like his father before him. Furious, the Emperor tortures Luke with Force lightning. Unwilling to let his son die, Vader betrays the Emperor and throws him down a reactor shaft to his death, but is mortally electrocuted in the process. At his last request, Luke removes Vader's mask, and the redeemed Anakin Skywalker dies.

After the strike team destroys the shield generator, Lando leads Rebel fighters into the Death Star's core. While the Rebel fleet destroys the Imperial capital ship, the Executor, Lando and X-wing fighter pilot Wedge Antilles destroy the Death Star's main reactor and escape before the station explodes. Luke escapes in a shuttle with his father's body. On Endor, Leia reveals to Han that Luke is her brother. Luke cremates his father's body on a pyre and reunites with his friends. As the Rebels and the galaxy celebrate the Empire's defeat, Luke sees the spirits of Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin watching over him.

Cast

See also: List of Star Wars characters
  • Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, one of the last living Jedi Knights, trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda; Leia's twin brother, Han's friend and Darth Vader's son who is also a skilled X-wing fighter pilot in the Rebellion.
  • Harrison Ford as Han Solo, captain of the Millennium Falcon who becomes a General in the Rebellion; Luke's friend, and Leia's love interest.
  • Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, the former princess of the destroyed planet Alderaan, who is a leader of the Rebellion, Luke's twin sister, and Han's love interest.
  • Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian, the former Administrator of Cloud City who has become a General in the Rebellion; Han's old friend and the previous owner of the Millennium Falcon.
  • Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, a humanoid protocol droid in the service of the Rebellion and longtime companion of R2-D2.
  • Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, a Wookiee who is Han's longtime friend, co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon, and part of the Rebellion.
  • Kenny Baker as
    • R2-D2, an astromech droid in the service of the Rebellion, loyal to Luke, and longtime companion of C-3PO.
    • Paploo, an Ewok who distracts Scout troopers by hijacking a speeder bike.
  • Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor, the founder and supreme ruler of the Galactic Empire, and Darth Vader's Sith master.
  • Frank Oz as Yoda, a wise, centuries-old Jedi Master of an unknown alien species, who lives in exile on Dagobah and trained Luke.
  • David Prowse as Darth Vader, a powerful Sith Lord, the Emperor's apprentice, and second-in-command of the Empire; Luke and Leia's father.
    • James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader.
    • Sebastian Shaw portrays the unmasked Anakin Skywalker, as well as the character's Force ghost, seen at the end of the film.
  • Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi, the deceased Jedi mentor of Luke, and of his father before him, who continues to guide Luke in his journey as a Force ghost.

Denis Lawson reprises his role as Wedge Antilles, an X-wing pilot in the Rebellion, from the previous two films. Kenneth Colley and Jeremy Bulloch reprise their roles from The Empire Strikes Back as Admiral Piett, the commander of Darth Vader's flagship, the Executor, and bounty hunter Boba Fett, respectively. Michael Pennington portrays Moff Jerjerrod, the commander of the second Death Star. Warwick Davis appears as Wicket W. Warrick, an Ewok who befriends Leia and leads her and her friends to the Ewok tribe. Baker was originally cast as Wicket, but was replaced by Davis after falling ill with food poisoning on the morning of the shoot. Davis had no previous acting experience and was cast only after his grandmother had discovered an open call for dwarfs for the new Star Wars film. Caroline Blakiston portrays Mon Mothma, a co-founder and leader of the Rebel Alliance. Michael Carter plays Jabba the Hutt's aide, Bib Fortuna (voiced by Erik Bauersfeld), while Femi Taylor and Claire Davenport appear as Jabba's original slave dancers.

To portray the numerous alien species featured in the film a multitude of puppeteers, voice actors, and stunt performers were employed. Admiral Ackbar, the commander of the Rebel Fleet during the Battle of Endor, was performed by puppeteer Tim Rose, with his voice provided by Erik Bauersfeld. Nien Nunb, who co-pilots the Millennium Falcon alongside Lando in the film, was portrayed by Richard Bonehill in costume for full body shots, while he was otherwise a puppet operated by Mike Quinn and his voice was provided by Kipsang Rotich. Rose also operated Salacious B. Crumb, whose voice was provided by Mark Dodson. Quinn also played Ree-Yees and Wol Cabbashite. Sy Snootles was a marionette operated by Rose and Quinn, while her voice was provided by Annie Arbogast. Others included Simon J. Williamson as Max Rebo, a Gamorrean Guard and a Mon Calamari; Deep Roy as Droopy McCool; Ailsa Berk as Amanaman; Paul Springer as Ree-Yees, Gamorrean Guard and a Mon Calamari; Hugh Spight as a Gamorrean Guard, Elom and a Mon Calamari; Swee Lim as Attark the Hoover; Richard Robinson as a Yuzzum; Gerald Home as Tessek and a Mon Calamari officer; Phil Herbert as Hermi Odle; Tik and Tok (Tim Dry and Sean Crawford) as Whiphid and Yak-Face; Phil Tippett as the Rancor with Michael McCormick; and Pat Welsh as the voice of Boushh.

Jabba the Hutt was operated by Toby Philpott, David Barclay and Mike Edmonds (who also portrays the Ewok Logray) operated the tail. Larry Ward portrays the Huttese language voice with Quinn, among other roles, controlling the eyes.

Production

Filming

Redwood slope
Redwood forests on private land near Smith's River, California, and at the Chetham Grove section of Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park were used to film the forests of Endor in Return of the Jedi.

Filming began on January 11, 1982, and lasted through May 20, 1982, a schedule six weeks shorter than The Empire Strikes Back. Kazanjian's schedule pushed shooting as early as possible in order to give Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) as much time as possible to work on effects, and left some crew members dubious of their ability to be fully prepared for the shoot. Working on a budget of $32.5 million, Lucas was determined to avoid going over budget as had happened with The Empire Strikes Back. Producer Howard Kazanjian estimated that using ILM (owned wholly by Lucasfilm) for special effects saved the production approximately $18 million. However, the fact that Lucasfilm was a non-union company made acquiring shooting locations more difficult and more expensive, even though Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back had been big hits. The project was given the working title Blue Harvest with a tagline of "Horror Beyond Imagination." This disguised what the production crew was really filming from fans and the press, and also prevented price gouging by service providers.

The first stage of production started with 78 days at Elstree Studios in England, where the film occupied all nine stages. The shoot commenced with a scene later deleted from the finished film where the heroes get caught in a sandstorm as they leave Tatooine. (This was the only major sequence cut from the film during editing.) While attempting to film Luke Skywalker's battle with the rancor beast, Lucas insisted on trying to create the scene in the same style as Toho's Godzilla films by using a stunt performer inside a suit. The production team made several attempts, but were unable to create an adequate result. Lucas eventually relented and decided to film the rancor as a high-speed puppet. In April, the crew moved to the Yuma Desert in Arizona for two weeks of Tatooine exteriors. Production then moved to the redwood forests of northern California near Crescent City where two weeks were spent shooting the Endor forest exteriors, and then concluded at ILM in San Rafael, California for about ten days of bluescreen shots. One of two "skeletal" post-production units shooting background matte plates spent a day in Death Valley. The other was a special Steadicam unit shooting forest backgrounds from June 15–17, 1982, for the speeder chase near the middle of the film. Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown personally operated these shots as he walked through a disguised path inside the forest shooting at less than one frame per second. By walking at about 5 mph (8 km/h) and projecting the footage at 24 frame/s, the motion seen in the film appeared as if it were moving at around 120 mph (190 km/h). Darth Vader's small funeral was filmed at Skywalker Ranch.

Harrison Ford altered some scenes during the shoot, causing Billy Dee Williams to forget some of his lines, which was a source of frustration for Marquand. Marquand and Anthony Daniels also clashed somewhat, leading to the latter recording his ADR with Lucas instead.

Music

John Williams composed and conducted the film's musical score with performances by the London Symphony Orchestra. Orchestration credits also include Thomas Newman. The initial release of the film's soundtrack was on the RSO Records label in the United States. Sony Classical Records acquired the rights to the classic trilogy scores in 2004 after gaining the rights to release the second trilogy soundtracks (The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones). In the same year, Sony Classical re-pressed the 1997 RCA Victor release of Return of the Jedi along with the other two films in the trilogy. The set was released with the new artwork mirroring the first DVD release of the film. Despite the Sony digital re-mastering, which minimally improved the sound heard only on high-end stereos, this 2004 release is essentially the same as the 1997 RCA Victor release.

Post-production

Meanwhile, special effects work at ILM quickly stretched the company to its operational limits. While the R&D work and experience gained from the previous two films in the trilogy allowed for increased efficiency, this was offset by the desire to have the closing film raise the bar set by each of these films. A compounding factor was the intention of several departments of ILM to either take on other film work or decrease staff during slow cycles. Instead, as soon as production began, the entire company found it necessary to remain running 20 hours a day on six-day weeks in order to meet their goals by April 1, 1983. Of about 900 special effects shots, all VistaVision optical effects remained in-house, since ILM was the only company capable of using the format, while about 400 4-perf opticals were subcontracted to outside effects houses. Progress on the opticals was severely delayed for a time when ILM rejected about 30,000 metres (100,000 ft) of film when the film perforations failed image registration and steadiness tests.

Release

RevengeOTJedi
The teaser poster titled Revenge of the Jedi by Drew Struzan

Return of the Jedi's theatrical release took place on May 25, 1983. It was originally slated to be May 27, but was subsequently changed to coincide with the date of the 1977 release of the original Star Wars film. With a massive worldwide marketing campaign, illustrator Tim Reamer created the image for the movie poster and other advertising. At the time of its release, the film was advertised on posters and merchandise as simply Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, despite its on-screen "Episode VI" distinction. The original film was later re-released to theaters in 1985.

In 1997, for the 20th anniversary of the release of Star Wars (re-titled Episode IV: A New Hope), Lucas released the Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition. Along with the two other films in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi was re-released on March 7, 1997, with a number of changes and additions, which included the insertion of several alien band members and a different song in Jabba's throne room, the modification of the Sarlacc to include a beak, the replacement of music at the closing scene, and a montage of different alien worlds celebrating the fall of the Empire.

Title change

The original teaser trailer for the film carried the name Revenge of the Jedi. In December 1982, Lucas decided that "Revenge" was not appropriate as Jedi should never seek revenge and returned to his original title. By that time thousands of "Revenge" teaser posters (with artwork by Drew Struzan) had been printed and distributed. Lucasfilm stopped the shipping of the posters and sold the remaining stock of 6,800 posters to Star Wars fan club members for $9.50.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, released in 2005 as part of the prequel trilogy, later alluded to the dismissed title Revenge of the Jedi.

Home media

Return of the Jedi (1997 re-release poster)
The 1997 theatrical release poster of the new Special Edition version of the film (art by Drew Struzan)

The original theatrical version of Return of the Jedi was released on VHS and Laserdisc several times between 1986 and 1995, followed by releases of the Special Edition in the same formats between 1997 and 2000. Some of these releases contained featurettes; some were individual releases of just this film, while others were boxed sets of all three original films.

On September 21, 2004, all three original films were released in a boxed set on DVD with additional changes made by George Lucas. The films were digitally restored and remastered, and the DVD also featured English subtitles, Dolby Digital 5.1 EX surround sound, and commentaries by George Lucas, Ben Burtt, Dennis Muren, and Carrie Fisher. The bonus disc included documentaries including Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy and several featurettes including "The Characters of Star Wars", "The Birth of the Lightsaber", and "The Legacy of Star Wars". Also included were teasers, trailers, TV spots, still galleries, and a demo for Star Wars: Battlefront.

With the release of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which depicts how and why Anakin Skywalker turned to the dark side of the Force, Lucas once again altered Return of the Jedi to bolster the relationship between the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy. The original and 1997 Special Edition versions of Return of the Jedi featured British theater actor Sebastian Shaw playing both the dying Anakin Skywalker and his ghost. In the 2004 DVD, Shaw's portrayal of Anakin's ghost is replaced by Hayden Christensen, who portrayed Anakin in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. All three films in the original unaltered Star Wars trilogy were later released, individually, on DVD on September 12, 2006. These versions were originally slated to be available only until December 31, 2006, although they remained in print until May 2011 and were packaged with the 2004 versions again in a new box set on November 4, 2008. Although the 2004 versions in these sets each feature an audio commentary, no other extra special features were included to commemorate the original cuts. The runtime of the 1997 Special Edition of the film and all subsequent releases is approximately five minutes longer than the original theatrical version.

A Blu-ray Disc version of the Star Wars saga was announced for release in 2011 during Star Wars Celebration V. Several deleted scenes from Return of the Jedi were included for the Blu-ray version, including a sandstorm sequence following the Battle at the Sarlacc Pit, a scene featuring Moff Jerjerrod and Death Star officers during the Battle of Endor, and a scene where Darth Vader communicates with Luke via the Force as Skywalker is assembling his new lightsaber before he infiltrates Jabba's palace. On January 6, 2011, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment announced the Blu-ray release for September 2011 in three different editions and the cover art was unveiled in May.

On April 7, 2015, Walt Disney Studios, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm jointly announced the digital releases of the six released Star Wars films. Return of the Jedi was released through the iTunes Store, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play, and Disney Movies Anywhere on April 10, 2015.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment reissued Return of the Jedi on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download on September 22, 2019. Additionally, all six films were available for 4K HDR and Dolby Atmos streaming on Disney+ upon the service's launch on November 12, 2019. This version of the film was released by Disney on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray box set on March 31, 2020. The blu-ray and 4k releases feature only the altered version, as the original theatrical version has not been released since the 2006 release, which was only a laserdisc master from 1993.

Marketing

Novelization

The novelization of Return of the Jedi was written by James Kahn and was released on May 12, 1983, thirteen days before the film's release.

Radio drama

A three-hour radio drama adaptation of the film was written by Brian Daley with additional material contributed by John Whitman and was produced for and broadcast on National Public Radio in 1996 (over a decade after the radio adaptations of the first two Star Wars films). It was based on characters and situations created by George Lucas and on the screenplay by Kasdan and Lucas. Anthony Daniels reprised his role from the film as C-3PO, but Mark Hamill and Billy Dee Williams (who lent their voices to the previous radio adaptations) were replaced by newcomer Joshua Fardon and character actor Arye Gross, respectively. Bernard Behrens and Brock Peters reprised their roles as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, respectively. John Lithgow voiced Yoda, and veteran character actor Ed Begley, Jr. played Boba Fett. Ed Asner voiced Jabba the Hutt, speaking only in grunts.

Comic book adaptation

Marvel Comics published a comic book adaptation of the film by writer Archie Goodwin and artists Al Williamson, Carlos Garzon, Tom Palmer, and Ron Frenz. The adaptation appeared in Marvel Super Special #27 and as a four-issue limited series. It was later reprinted in a mass market paperback, as well as collections of Marvel's self-titled Star Wars series.

Book-and-record set

Lucasfilm adapted the story for a children's book-and-record set. Released in 1983, the 24-page Star Wars: Return of the Jedi read-along book was accompanied by a 33⅓ rpm 18-centimetre (7 in) gramophone record. Each page of the book contained a cropped frame from the film with an abridged and condensed version of the story. The record was produced by Buena Vista Records.

Prequels and sequels

A prequel trilogy began with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, released in 1999, and set three decades before the original trilogy. A sequel trilogy began with Episode VII – The Force Awakens in 2015, set 30 years after Return of the Jedi.

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