Despite its indisputably iconic cultural status, Star Wars really isn’t that great. I admit it. Clunky dialogue, equally clunky plots, no real scientific basis for almost any of the technology– you could probably make your own list. If it hadn’t been for the incredible effects and brilliant design work, the series may have died out after A New Hope. Regardless, I am a huge fan of Star Wars. A massive fan. I love Star Wars. And of all the Star Wars movies made so far, my favorite is easily Return of the Jedi. Rarely regarded as any Star Wars fan’s favorite, it’s often billed as the original trilogy’s weakest offering. I wholeheartedly disagree. It could be the repeated viewing when I was a kid. We recorded it off tv one night and it really was the only Star Wars movie I had growing up, so I really can’t deny my bias.
There are some reasons I think you can agree, it’s better than you thought.
1) Freakin’ spaceship battles!
What I love most about Return of the Jedi is the second Death Star run. It took the same basic idea as the first movie and made it– gasp!– exciting! There are, like, a million more ships, a million more ship designs, and the added tension of “Oh, crap! The shield is still up! They’re jamming out signals! The Death Star is operational!” Not to mention Wedge Antilles, greatest fighter pilot in the galaxy, gets a second shot at painting a Death Star on the side of his X-wing.
2) It ties up all the loose ends.
Remember the first time you watched The Empire Strikes Back and it just kind of left you hanging? Well, this resolves not only that movie’s larger plot but also pretty much all the plot threads that began all the way back in A New Hope. Han owes Jabba the Hutt money? Strangle him with a chain! The Empire has you down? Throw the Emperor down the toilet! Luke sets out to be a Jedi like his father? Already know you, that which you require! Maybe it all seems a bit heavy-handed, as if they set out to answer those specific question, but they were resolved, making Jedi potentially the most important Star Wars movie.
3) Lando Freakin’ Calrissian and Admiral Freakin’ Ackbar
These two are the real heroes of Endor. Han, Luke, and Leia have proven their mettle. Lando is coming off a sticky situation where he made a deal with the Empire to betray his best friend. He has a lot more at stake than just defeating the Empire, and when the moment came that the rebels had to either hold out til Han got the shield down or turn tail and run, even in the face of a operational Death Star, Lando led the charge, putting all his chips on his friend having no idea as to whether they were even close to completing their mission.
And Ackbar is clearly a military genius, already in command of the rebel fleet, but had it not been for Jedi, we may never have met him, and we wouldn’t be yelling, “It’s a trap!” randomly at our friends and coworkers if it wasn’t for him.
4) Han Freakin’ Solo.
Okay, so he’s blind through most of the beginning, sulks a little in the middle and at the end, but is he ever more Han Solo than when he’s trying to sneak up on scout troopers and Hotwire the bunker blast door? C’mon!
5) The Redemption of Darth Vader.
Forget the prequels. Forget what you think you know about Star Wars. You must unlearn what you have learned. On its own, the original trilogy’s redemption of Darth Vader becomes the single most important moment in the Star Wars universe. It becomes the single moment the entire series has worked toward, and it’s the emotional payoff the audiences deserves. I admit, there are some rather inauthentic moments along the way, but the end justifies the means.