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When did The Empire Strikes Back become more highly regarded than Star Wars?

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I never saw any of the Star Wars movies as a kid, but I always do remember hearing from most fans that Star Wars was the best of the trilogy.  To be sure, I looked up IMDB's top 250 in 1996, and found that Star Wars was ranked #1, and Empire was ranked #26!  Below is the link to prove it.

 

http://web.archive.org/web/19961219233558/us.imdb.com/top_250_films

 

I looked at more lists, and found that around 2004-2005 is when ESB surpassed Star Wars on the list, and today ESB is the only Star Wars movie on the top ten.  Now I'm sure there were plenty of people in the 1980s and 1990s who considered ESB the best of the trilogy, but it seems like in the 1980s and 1990s Star Wars was considered the masterpiece of the trilogy, with Empire ranked behind it.  Now, in 2010, Empire is widely considered the crowning achievement of the saga.  Has anyone else noticed how opinions on these two films seem to have changed over the years?  I'm curious as to why they've change the way they did.

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It depends who you ask and when.

I remember being blown away by ESB when it first came out and instantly thought it was superior to ANH in every way.

Naturally ESB wouldn't make any sense without ANH but it really raised the bar for me.

Where as my cousin who was two years younger than me though that ESB was frustrating at the time because the Millennium Falcon kept 'breaking down' and the bad guys seemed to win but now he prefers ESB too (though he also likes the PT).

When I took him to see ROTJ in 1983 he thought that was the best one where I thought it was mostly rubbish, he now ranks it between TPM and AOTC.

Fastforward to 1997 and I took my niece to see the SEs and she loved them all pretty much equally.

Around friends of the same age as myself they always thought ESB was the best.

One of them had missed ROTJ and the PT but his nephew, my godson got a lightsaber for his birthday and wanted to see the films.

He couldn't believe how crap they were including ROTJ but the kid loved all of them and really liked The Clone Wars too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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At the time of your link, there were 7174 votes for Star Wars, today there are 320,631.  The sample size is partly what's distorting the numbers and your point.  Also at that time, IMDB was mainly used by movie buffs.  Who most likely agreed that SW represented a shift in the movie going experience.  And that brought out people to the theaters and supported movies as an art form.

Vocally the ESB camp has grown in polls like those, possibly because that's the general populace's opinion.  With Star Wars having a fairly universal appeal.  But for the fans who liked that universe, Empire is best because it continued the story without diminishing the original, and it also promised more stories.  As an entertainment vehicle, the escapism of Empire allowed them to continue being able to separate themselves from normal life for a short time.

With Jedi and the rest of the SW vehicles, providing the rest of the story, and since GL has said that there will be no more theatrical SW movies, the fans have realized it's over and maybe since the ESB time frame represents their high point (the greatest potential for entertainment escapism), that film has aquired the most public appeal.

Because of the 6 film Saga now being the story of Anakin, the camp which only likes Star Wars (ESB's revelation being too much of a coincidence) has more or less bowed out of the debate entirely.  Their removal could be another reason behind the increase of ESB over SW.

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The early 1990s, as far as my study shows.

www.secrethistoryofstarwars.com/originaltrilogyreception2.html

Th signs were starting to show by the late 80s but only in some quarters, but really it is the early 1990s that this becomes widespread, so that by the mid and late 90s it has become a sort of consensus.

The Secret History of Star Wars -- now available on Amazon.com!

"When George went back and put new creatures into the original Star Wars, I find that disturbing. It’s a revision of history. That bothers me."

--James Cameron, Entertainment Weekly, April 2010

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I never considered Empire superior to Star Wars.  I did like it when it was first released and even had a laserdisc of it a few years after that.  After a while, the things that I had never liked about it (Vader as father, Yoda, 3PO silliness) ended up becoming the things that caused me to lose interest.  To me, it felt small and stylized compared to Star Wars.  It was too slick, too formula.  I very much prefer the vast unknown, far away adventure of Star Wars.

originaltrilogy.com Moderator

"Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?”

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Anchorhead said:

I never considered Empire superior to Star Wars.  I did like it when it was first released and even had a laserdisc of it a few years after that.  After a while, the things that I had never liked about it (Vader as father, Yoda, 3PO silliness) ended up becoming the things that caused me to lose interest.  To me, it felt small and stylized compared to Star Wars.  It was too slick, too formula.  I very much prefer the vast unknown, far away adventure of Star Wars.

I agree with you.  Also, the script and acting are noticeably better in SW (esp. Guinness and Cushing).  ESB has lots of cool stuff in it for saga fans, but as a movie, SW can stand up against any film ever made.

"Close the blast doors!"
Puggo’s website | Rescuing Star Wars

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It could depend on the context of how you view the films.

Personally I think SW  is a better film because it could stand alone.

Empire's strength relies on the fact that it is intrinsically the middle part of a 3 part story.If you view ESB this way then it probably is  stonger than SW.

I saw Star Wars in 1977. Many, many, many times. For 3 years it was just Star Wars...period. I saw it in good theaters, cheap theaters and drive-ins with those clunky metal speakers you hang on your window. The screen and sound quality never subtracted from the excitement. I can watch the original cut right now, over 30 years later, on some beat up VHS tape and enjoy it. It's the story that makes this movie. Nothing? else.

kurtb8474 1 week ago

http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=SkAZxd-5Hp8


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zombie84 said:

The early 1990s, as far as my study shows.

www.secrethistoryofstarwars.com/originaltrilogyreception2.html

Th signs were starting to show by the late 80s but only in some quarters, but really it is the early 1990s that this becomes widespread, so that by the mid and late 90s it has become a sort of consensus.

 As a kid who grew up with the OT from 77-83, you either loved or hated ESB back in 1980 for many reasons.

I loved SW in '77 and didn't really like ESB in '80:

-darker tone:  Too much for an 8 year old like myself at the time.

-Good guys losing:  at that age, I didn't want my beloved heroes getting their ass kicked for 2 hours!

-Yoda scenes:  Wow, I thought they were slow and boring at that time

-No ending:  You have to remember in 1980, alot of fans felt sort of cheated because there was no ending.

After 1983, I kinda got out of Star Wars, and probably didn't watch the Trilogy that much in the late 80's.

Fast forward to about 1990, and I remember the OOT being showed on Scifi channel on Presidents Weekend as we were off from school for 4 days.  I am now in Highschool and I remember to this day after watching ESB being totally blown away, and realizing how fucking good it was.  All of the stuff I complained about in 1980 as a kid, were now a positive in 1988.

I still love Star Wars more because you can watch it as a standalone movie and its the only movie you can watch without the context of Lucas's saga.  But I would put SW & ESB in my top 10 favorite movies of alltime.

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While I feel that Empire is technically better in some ways (Irvin Kershner was a master at his craft), the original Star Wars will always be my favorite.  It's the one that started it all, and like we heard already: it stands perfectly well on its own.

Star Wars was the result of a series of miracles that turned into one of the greatest films ever made through a combination of stubborn will, luck, and friends in the right places.  It's a miracle that the film was made at all.  And had George Lucas been able to make exactly the film he wanted to make, with no limitations and no studio pressure, the film might not have been half as good as what we got.

Intense heat and pressure turns carbon into a diamond.  Star Wars was that diamond, while the prequels were simply lumps of coal.

--SKot

Projects:
Return Of The Ewok and Other Short Films (with OCPmovie) [COMPLETED]
Preserving the…cringe…Star Wars Holiday Special [COMPLETED]
The Star Wars TV Commercials Project [DORMANT]
Felix the Cat 1919-1930 early film shorts preservation [ONGOING]
Lights Out! (lost TV anthology shows) [ONGOING]

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I held jealously onto my primacy bias until just last year.  I watched the GOUTs in order, to see how they looked on my new-ish 37" LCD (terrible).

I realized that ESB was just way more entertaining from moment to moment than SW.  (Yes, and that ROTJ kinda sucks.)

SW is ultimately a series of ingenious set pieces.  (Droids; Jawas; Cantina; Compactor; Deactivation of Tractor Beam; Canon-cockpit Tie dogfight; etc.)  As exciting as each set piece is, it's all slightly jarring continuity-wise.

ESB, on the other hand, flows and sweeps with cohesive and compelling perfection.  The performances are genuine, the structure and pacing are quickquickquick but natural.  It's just irresistible and engrossing on a level that SW just had not reached.

I just think it requires appreciation from a more sophisticated perspective than the others, so people typically embrace it with age and wisdom.

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CO wrote:

about 1990, and I remember the OOT being showed on Scifi channel on Presidents Weekend

Here's a blurb from the July 17, 1993 airing which was hosted by Carrie Fisher:

http://articles.latimes.com/1993-07-17/entertainment/ca-13956_1_star-wars

Do you remember if Sci-Fi aired it multiple years? 

 

*Shameless Plug*

About to release a Preservation set of the the 1996 Sci-Fi channel broadcast (hosted by Billy Dee Williams), except now with SW only commercial breaks:

http://noneinc.com/SWUE/SWUE-FAQ.html

http://originaltrilogy.com/forum/topic.cfm/STAR-WARS-THE-ULTIMATE-EXPERIENCE-Is-Forever-One-Last-Time-Television-Trilogy-Preservation-Set-SW-Commercial-Breaks-In-Production/topic/11711/

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none said:

CO wrote:

about 1990, and I remember the OOT being showed on Scifi channel on Presidents Weekend

Here's a blurb from the July 17, 1993 airing which was hosted by Carrie Fisher:

http://articles.latimes.com/1993-07-17/entertainment/ca-13956_1_star-wars

Do you remember if Sci-Fi aired it multiple years? 

 

 I do remember they would show marathons sort of like Spike TV does now, mostly over Holiday Weekends.   I do remember watching a SW marathon sometime in the mid-90's on Christmas Weekend, it was still the originals, so it had to be before 1997.

 

 

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Interesting discussion thus far.  One thing I never mentioned in the OP is age.  I believe if you saw Star Wars at the theaters in 1977, and it blew you away, it will always be your favorite.  I'm not saying this is the case with everyone, but I have uncles and cousins who saw the film during it's theatrical run, and were completely blown away, and as far as they are concerned no Star Wars sequel or prequel can ever top that experience.  On the other hand, if you didn't see Star Wars in 1977, and don't have that nostalgic attachment to it, perhaps you judge the films on which one gave you the most enjoyment.  I'm not saying this is the case for everyone, but I've noticed that most people  between the ages of 18-25, who have no nostalgic  attachment to the 1977 film at all, generally prefer Empire.  Also, that particular age bracket is the one that votes the most on IMDb, which can  perhaps somewhat explain Empire's higher ranking.

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Puggo - Jar Jar's Yoda said:

Anchorhead said:

I never considered Empire superior to Star Wars.  I did like it when it was first released and even had a laserdisc of it a few years after that.  After a while, the things that I had never liked about it (Vader as father, Yoda, 3PO silliness) ended up becoming the things that caused me to lose interest.  To me, it felt small and stylized compared to Star Wars.  It was too slick, too formula.  I very much prefer the vast unknown, far away adventure of Star Wars.

I agree with you.  Also, the script and acting are noticeably better in SW (esp. Guinness and Cushing).  ESB has lots of cool stuff in it for saga fans, but as a movie, SW can stand up against any film ever made.

 

The script I could perhaps see a case for (though I'm an Empire supporter myself), but I always thought the main actors all improved in ESB, especially Hamil and Fisher.

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CO said:

 I do remember they would show marathons sort of like Spike TV does now, mostly over Holiday Weekends.   I do remember watching a SW marathon sometime in the mid-90's on Christmas Weekend, it was still the originals, so it had to be before 1997.

I distinctly remember the first time I saw Star Wars on TV after 1997.

Up to that point, I'd enjoyed the SEs, mainly because it was nice to see the films in a theater and the changes were interesting in a "what if" way.

But then, they were showing Empire on TV.  I was excited and sat down to watch it (even though I owned it on VHS, I still liked to watch them on TV, commercials and all).  But then the wampa scene came ... and it was the Special Edition!  They hadn't said that!  I was sure it was a mistake.  The SEs were for theaters only, right?  And the VHS box clearly marked "Special Edition," right?  They couldn't possibly just pretend the originals never happened!

Oh, how wrong I was...

a trolling bantha

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I was 7 when I saw ANH (as it would later be known as) in 1977.

It was my second ever film at the cinema and I remember during the Death Star run being so far on the edge of my seat I fell off.

As I got up I noticed everyone was leaning forward at the same angle.

When I saw the ANH:SE in 1997 I looked over my shoulder at around the same point and everyone was still leaning forward at the same angle.

Now that's what I call cinema, generations of audiences in italics.

But I preferred ESB from the moment I saw it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6Dp2OfIT_M

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It is regarded as one of the finest pictures ever made in American motion picture history, and there is not a good release on DVD and Blu ray for the film.  its sheer madness and insanity.  But i guess that is okay since Lucas has said it is the worst of all six star wars films.  Probably because it is the one he had the least control over.

“Always loved Vader’s wordless self sacrifice. Another shitty, clueless, revision like Greedo and young Anakin’s ghost. What a fucking shame.” -Simon Pegg.

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I thought TESB was a bit of a snooze fest when I was a kid. As an adult I love the perversity and bravery of following a film like A New Hope with something that seems to be anti-everything that made that film so good.

I think it's bollocks, though, that it was the film with which Lucas was least involved, a myth perpetuated by some who have a grudge against the man. I do understand the grudge but I don't understand the economical tampering with the truth*.

As for why it became so popular in the nineties? Easy. By that decade, us old fans felt that the film, with its mature overtones, somehow justified our obsession with a series of "kids' films". We could hold up TESB to the naysayers (you know, those peculiar people who just don't get Star Wars) and say "No, it really is quite good".

*Someone's going to provide a link now proving that Lucas had very little to do with the film thus putting so much egg on my face.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Viva la difference.

That's some bad hat, Harry
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Puggo - Jar Jar's Yoda said:

Anchorhead said:

I never considered Empire superior to Star Wars.  I did like it when it was first released and even had a laserdisc of it a few years after that.  After a while, the things that I had never liked about it (Vader as father, Yoda, 3PO silliness) ended up becoming the things that caused me to lose interest.  To me, it felt small and stylized compared to Star Wars.  It was too slick, too formula.  I very much prefer the vast unknown, far away adventure of Star Wars.

I agree with you.  Also, the script and acting are noticeably better in SW (esp. Guinness and Cushing).  ESB has lots of cool stuff in it for saga fans, but as a movie, SW can stand up against any film ever made.

I dunno about that. There is a lot of weird delivery for me (Especially on Harrison's part) in Star Wars.

Keep Circulating the Tapes.

END OF LINE

(It hasn’t happened yet)

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I love the OT.  The BEST way to see ROTJ was in 70MM.  I was blown away because of that.  Empire is still my favorite of the 3 but I give all of them equal viewing time.

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Tyrphanax said:

Puggo - Jar Jar's Yoda said:

Anchorhead said:

I never considered Empire superior to Star Wars.  I did like it when it was first released and even had a laserdisc of it a few years after that.  After a while, the things that I had never liked about it (Vader as father, Yoda, 3PO silliness) ended up becoming the things that caused me to lose interest.  To me, it felt small and stylized compared to Star Wars.  It was too slick, too formula.  I very much prefer the vast unknown, far away adventure of Star Wars.

I agree with you.  Also, the script and acting are noticeably better in SW (esp. Guinness and Cushing).  ESB has lots of cool stuff in it for saga fans, but as a movie, SW can stand up against any film ever made.

I dunno about that. There is a lot of weird delivery for me (Especially on Harrison's part) in Star Wars.

 

Any examples?

 

 

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I was too young to see any of the OT in theaters except ROTJ, but a tornado thwarted that. Long, pointless story, that one.

Anyway. As a really young kid, I liked ANH the most exactly because it was so accessible. At closer to 9 or 10, I preferred ROTJ. In all cases, I thought ESB was a bore.

When I was in college, obviously it was all about ESB. And as favorites go, that hasn't changed. But... I dunno. I watch ANH now and I just cherish it. Does that make sense? I just can't take my eyes off the damn thing.

All I really want is each film as it was originally seen and heard in theaters; no fixes, corrections, "improvements" or modifications necessary.

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They're different films that do different things. I don't think you can say one is better than the other as such.

Easterhay said:

*Someone's going to provide a link now proving that Lucas had very little to do with the film thus putting so much egg on my face.

I don't have any links but I do recall George saying over and over that it was Irvin's film first and foremost.