Completing the larger film Lucas planned, this 1983 film closed the door on the Star Wars film series until The Phantom Menace. Lucas still didn't direct, but did involve himself closer in the production this time.The success of the first two films made the success of this one less of a worry. In fact, keeping the budget under control was one of the biggest issues. It turned out that locations were overcharging the production of The Empire Strikes Back, knowing it was the next Star Wars film. So the crew pretended to pitch the film to locations as a B horror movie, "Blue Harvest".Other problems were creative. Lawrence Kasdan wanted a darker ending. Harrison Ford wanted Han to have a Heroic Sacrifice (although that might have rendered the entire arc in Jabba's palace meaningless).After the film came out, critics commended its return to the Lighter and Softer tone of A New Hope but were not as kind to the film's focus on more action than character. Many fans too hated the Ewoks. The film was still a big hit and seen as a fitting conclusion to the saga. If nothing else, it ended the series with a lot of spectacle.
The Return of the Jedi provides examples of:
Acting Unnatural: During the approach to Endor in a stolen Imperial shuttle with a Star Destroyer watching their every move, Han tells Chewbacca: "I don't know... fly casual."
Vader and Luke's verbal duel on Endor. In that scene, Luke shows just how much he has matured in how he can fight with logic and rhetoric against his father with as much skill as with his lightsaber to the point that Vader now has to fend off Luke's mind games.
Vader's funeral pyre at the end, establishing a sense of closure on Luke and his feelings towards his father before going on to the big celebration scene.
Luke and Leia's conversation about their mother where Luke reveals to her that they're brother and sister, and Vader is their father.
Aerial Canyon Chase: Flying into the Death Star, seeing as the Millennium Falcon is a rather skinny ship despite its width, whereas most Imperial fighters are as wide as they are tall.
Vader: If you will not turn to the Dark Side, then perhaps she will. Luke: NEVER!
Animal Motifs: The director's commentary mentions that the window in Palpatine's room on the Death Star - you can see it in the background of this page's image - is designed to resemble a spider's web, because the Emperor is the plotter at the center.
Annoying Laugh: Courtesy of Salacious B. Crumb (He's the tiny monkey-lizard creature that tries to steal 3PO's eyes at one point).
Anti-Villain: Darth Vader essentially became one by the movie's second half. For one thing, it is hinted that his attempts to turn Luke to the Dark Side were as a means of protecting him (the only alternative was to kill him), and when mentioning that it's too late for him to redeem himself, he seems to say it with a tinge of remorse.
Badass Longcoat: While Luke and Leia wear camouflage ponchos on Endor, Han gets a camouflage duster instead.
Bad Boss: Vader implies at one point that Palpatines's even worse than him.
Vader: I hope so, commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.
Mind you, this is one film after he Force-choked the life out of Ozzel and Needa for failing him. Although he could be referencing his decision to let Jerjerrod(who he's having this conversation with) live.
Jabba's love of theatrics backfires with both the Rancor pit and the Sarlacc. In the Rancor's case, the concept is sound but the switch that controls the gate was left within reach of its victims. With the Sarlacc, he insists on executing Luke and company in the most dramatic way possible despite having just seen another Gladiator Games-style demise fail.
Palpatine plans his strategy around breaking the morale of the Rebellion before destroying them utterly, which he sees as a means to the end of turning Luke to the Dark Side. At no point does he take into account the possibility that the Rebels might defeat his inefficiently deployed fleet, nor that Anakin might not like seeing his son tortured to death in front of him.
Bury Your Disabled: Darth Vader, who was a quadruple amputee only able to move and breathe due to cybernetic implants, which were fried because he conducted the Emperor's Force lightning when he pulled him away from Luke.
Characterization Marches On: In the original film, 3PO says, "I'm not much more than an interpreter, and not very good at telling stories." Either he was being modest, or he got better at it in the years between the two films (or actually had some stories to tell), because he does a gripping-enough Ewokese retelling of the entire trilogy so far (complete with sound effects!) that he gets the tribe to fight to the death on the side of the Alliance.
Cool Starship: This entry in the series introduces several new ones; the shuttle Tydirium, the A-Wing, the B-Wing, and various cruisers in the Rebel fleet.
Covers Always Lie: The film's promotional posters showed Luke with a blue lightsaber instead of the green one he wields in the film, and one famous example◊ had the film's scrapped title Revenge of the Jedi. This poster showed Luke with a red lightsaber fighting Vader, who has a blue one, and is quite rare.
Luke and his friends tear through Jabba's guards on the sail barge.
The Imperial navy curbstomps the Rebel fleet until they figure out a strategy to counter-attack.
Luke holds back against Vader for a long time and tries to avoid fighting him, but finally get provoked into an Unstoppable Rage and defeats him.
Dark Is Not Evil: Luke's all-black outfit. Though he does come close to succumbing to the dark side, he remains a pure hero and even becomes the ultimate Big Good by singlehandedly reviving the Jedi order.
David Versus Goliath: The Rebel Alliance in general, but in particular, A-wing vs Super Star Destroyer. As he and his bridge crew watch the thing plummet into the Death Star, Ackbar just flops into his chair, jaw agape, while everyone else cheers.
Distinctive Appearances: The reason why Luke's lightsaber blade is green in the finished cut of the film. In the early stages of rotoscoping, Luke's saber had a blue energy blade. However, his blue lightsaber didn't show up well against the blue sky during the Tatooine sail barge battle. Changing the saber to green fixed the problem. The fact that the green blade is obviously brand-new (unlike the blue one, where it wasn't obvious) also allowed the deletion of an early scene in the film, where we would've seen Luke finishing work on his new lightsaber. Luke's blue saber can still be seen in the original trailers, plus all the poster art for the film.
"Luke, help me take this mask off. Just for once... let me look on you with my own eyes."
Dying Moment of Awesome: During the Battle of Endor, Green Leader aka Arvel Crynyd's fighter gets shot down. As his ship begins to break apart, the pilot manages to crash it clean through the bridge of the Executor, causing it to lose all control and smash into the Death Star.
Jabba forgot to check number 122 when he had his sail barge built: "The gun turrets on my fortress will not rotate enough so that they may direct fire inward or at each other."
Palpatine forgot many of them, but a key one would be 77: " If I have a fit of temporary insanity and decide to give the hero the chance to reject a job as my trusted lieutenant, I will retain enough sanity to wait until my current trusted lieutenant is out of earshot before making the offer."
Face Nod Action: Luke and and a disguised Lando Calrissian just before Luke is to be executed.
"Threepio, you tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden...filth, that he'll get no such pleasure from us!"
Fanservice: Why else would you have Carrie Fisher laying around in a gold metal bikini?
Be Careful What You Wish For: Word Of God says it's because Carrie Fisher had complained about how boring her wardrobe from the two previous films was. She would describe it as "what supermodels will eventually wear in the 7th ring of hell".
Forgot About His Powers: When Leia goes missing it never seems to even occur to him to try to reach her through the Force, the way that he did on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. Instead he recommends a physical search and the use of Artoo's scanners. Given he was half dead on Bespin when he did it, he may not even remember he's able to do it.
Carrie Fisher: What it is, is it doesn't adhere to your body. Boba Fett was standing behind me, and I'm laying there on Jabba the Hutt, and he can see all the way to Florida.
Good Is Not Soft: Farm boy Luke makes his introduction dressed in black Sith-style robes and Force chokes Jabba's guards. This foreshadows the plotline of Vader and the Emperor trying to get him to turn to The Dark Side.
The Hero Dies: Though the hero in question is Anakin, who dies returning to the Light Side.
Heroic Sacrifice: Two. First, the Rebel pilot who rams his fatally damaged craft into the Super Star Destroyer. Second, the more memorable Heel-Face Turn on Vader's part.
Offscreen, but the "many Bothans who died" to give the rebels the information about the location of the Death Star and the fact that the Emperor was personally overseeing construction make the entire movie possible.
Hyperspeed Ambush: The Rebel fleet comes out of hyperspace en masse near the Death Star II in order to surround it and cover the attack squadrons that will fly inside the half-constructed space station to destroy it. The Imperial Fleet appears soon after to trap the Rebel fleet.
Look Behind You: Played for Laughs. In the skiff battle, Chewbacca warns the still half-blind Han that Boba Fett is behind him. He's telling the truth, and when Han whirls around to check, he accidentally strikes Boba Fett's jetpack, causing it to misfire and send him flying off of the skiff.
It's also the same hand Vader cut off Luke, and Luke's wearing a black glove to cover damage to the covering of his prosthetic hand sustained in the barge fight earlier in the film, and Luke finds himself staring at the gloved prosthetic hand when he's got Vader at his mercy. Just in case anyone in the audience didn't get the point.
Luke: Obi-Wan? Why didn't you tell me? You told me Vader betrayed and murdered my father. Obi-Wan: Your father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed. So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view. Luke: A certain point of view? Obi-Wan: Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.
Soon the Emperor shuts up, allowing Vader to taunt Luke, finally unleashing his anger, but when Luke sees that he cut off Vader's hand, which Vader did to Luke in the previous movie, it was Vader who then fixed it for Luke at that time.
No Endor Holocaust: Trope Namer. Word Of God stated that popular Internet fan theories—namely, that the destruction of the Death Star would have caused massive destruction on Endor as well due to the falling debris—are not correct.
No More Lies: Obi-Wan has no choice but to at last tell Luke the real truth on Dagobah.
No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted in that it is heavily implied that the Empire figured out how Luke managed to destroy the first Death Star and redesigned the second one with thick anti-fighter defenses and no two meter wide exhaust port. However, these advnces are negated by tricking the Rebels into attacking when the superstructure is still open enough to allow ships into the interior of the station.
Not So Different: Luke realizes this upon seeing that he cut off Vader's hand the exact same way Vader cut of his hand in the last movie, only to see Vader's hand was already cybernetic. This way enough of a shock that shows him what he would become if he gave in to the Dark Side.
Jerjerrod: [The Emperor] asks the impossible! I need more men! Vader: Then perhaps you can tell him when he arrives. Jerjerrod: (shocked) The Emperor's coming here? Vader: That is correct, Commander. And he is most displeased with your apparent lack of progress. Jerjerrod: We shall double our efforts! Vader: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.
Han when the AT-ST walker approaches him.
Luke as the Emperor shows that he has predicted the entire Rebel plan and outlines how easily he ought to be able to defeat it decisively.
Pet the Dog: The Rancor keeper's inconsolable reaction to Luke killing the monster, although more played for laughs, managed to garner a bit more sympathy than expected. As Roger Ebert said, "Everybody loves somebody."
Palpatine is very giddy when Luke is angry and his torture of Luke is more childish sadism than anger.
Putting the Band Back Together: Twice, actually. The gang reunites on Tatooine to save Han, and later they formally get back together for Han's planned strike against the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor.
Rage Breaking Point: Luke really tries not to let his anger get in the way when he's confronting Vader, but Vader then threatens to take the last of his family from him.
Vader: If you will not turn to the dark side, then perhaps she will.
Shoot the Messenger: Jabba thumps Threepio whenever he translates a response he doesn't like. Also implied in the earlier comment: "We have need of a new protocol droid after his excellency got angry at the last one and disintegrated him."
Shout Out: Word Of God stated that the scene depicting Palpatine's arrival was based on the May Day military marches in Soviet Russia.
Slave Collar: Princess Leia is forced to wear a collar by Jabba the Hutt. At one point he yanks her around by a chain attached to the collar: she later uses the chain to strangle him.
It is a key theme in this movie that Palpatine's arrogance is his weakness. Although he pulls an excellent series of gambits to lure both Luke and the Rebels into his traps, he fails to anticipate his minions not being willing to go along — Vader saves Luke and Moff Jerjerrod (in the novelization and Deleted Scenes) refuses to fire the superlaser at Endor.
Jabba the Hutt. Han offered money instead of his captivity and Jabba refused to listen; when Leia and Luke warned Jabba that they could defeat him, Jabba and his minions did not take them seriously at all. Even when being led to the Sarlacc Pit Luke said "free us, or die." Jabba still refused to listen, and he and his minions still refused to take Luke seriously. Jabba was offered so many warnings, and so many opportunities for alternatives that for him to keep ignoring them made his Karmic Death all the more satisfying.
Spanner in the Works: The Emperor would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling Ewoks, and Chewie's brilliant idea to hijack one of the walkers. That's the real turning point of the ground battle (which trickled down (up?) to the space battle when the generator went up in flames).
Standard Starship Scuffle: The Battle of Endor starts out more as a Battle of Midway-style melee, with snub fighters attacking the enemy capital ships, but once the Death Star cranks up its superlaser the Rebel cruisers have no choice but to go in and engage the Imperial Star Destroyers toe-to-toe so that at least the Death Star can't get a clear shot at them.
Luke, yet again. When we see him for the first time in his Dark Is Not Evil get-up and coolly demands "You will bring Captain Solo and the Wookiee to me", we know right away this is not the same green and reckless Luke from Empire.
While Leia was badass as early as her detention center escape in Episode IV, this movie sees her bluff Jabba with a thermal detonator, choke him to death, and help lead the ground assault on Endor.
Discounting the prequels, R2 takes one as he now has a taser and uses it on that little muppet rat Jabba keeps around, and the Ewok who frees him.
Trap Door: Jabba uses one to drop people into the Rancor pit.
Tribal Carry: When the protagonists are captured by the Ewoks — with the exception of C-3PO, who get a comfortable palanquin chair since they believe he's a god.
Turn the Other Fist: Luke Skywalker seems to turn away from the Emperor's taunting but suddenly swings back to grab his saber and take a slash at Vader, who blocks it.
Under Crank: Used to create the backgrounds for the speeder bike chase.
Underestimating Badassery: Even though he was a powerful crime lord surrounded by a small personal army, Jabba really should've taken Luke a little more seriously. Especially after Luke uttered the words "this is your last chance. Free us, or die."
Even leaving aside the Force, does Jabba really want to pick a fight with the Rebellion given that the Empire can't even decisively defeat the Rebels?
Unstoppable Rage: Luke defeating Vader after he is about to threaten to take Leia away in some way.
Darth Vader: I hope so, Commander, for your sake. The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am.
Villains Never Lie: George Lucas said that the reason Luke sought Yoda to confirm Vader's revelation was because discussing with a psychologist he learned that most people would assume that Vader was lying, and it was all just mind games. Luke needed a respected figure to get proof.
James Earl Jones reports that, when he got the line, his first thought was, "Oh, [Vader's] lying!"
Vine Swing: Chewbacca attacks an AT-ST walker during the battle of Endor by swinging at it on a vine. He even makes a sound similar toTarzan's yell.
Vocal Evolution: Luke's manner of speaking is far more formal and refined compared to the previous two films, tying nicely into his Character Development.
Boba Fett lands face first into Jabba's barge after Han Solo accidentially activates Fett's jetpack in a way almost reminiscient of George of the Jungle.
Important to remember when you're on an ultra fast speeder bike flying through an incredibly thick forest. Also, don't turn around to check behind you, as one of the scout-troopers learned the hard way.
What the Hell, Hero?: Yoda gives this to Luke after confirming that Vader was indeed Luke's father, realizing the only way Luke could have suspected it is if Vader told him, and thus Vader could only have told him if Luke recklessly attacked Vader before his training was completed.
"World of Cardboard" Speech: Luke's declaration to the Emperor that he has become a Jedi. Everything about that sequence was about making Luke angry enough to kill Vader and become the new apprentice to Palpatine, thus demonstrating his skill and maturity by not making the killing blow and refusing to fight anymore his character arc had become complete.
Xanatos-Gambit: Pulled off by the heroes in Jabba's Palace. If Leia succeeds at getting Han out of the palace, Lando can get Chewbacca (and, presumably, C-3PO & R2-D2 out). If Leia is caught - Luke can go in. If Luke is captured, R2-D2 has Luke's lightsaber. Even if Jabba thinks things are going his way, they're really going Luke's.
X-Ray Sparks: Rare non-humorous example. When Vader lifts Palpatine over his head to save Luke, Palpatine inadvertently hits himself, but Vader also conducts it, revealing flashes of his skull, but not the Emperor's.
You Just Told Me: This is how Vader discovers that he has a daughter in addition to a son, and that they are twins. More accurately, he probed Luke's mind while Luke was trying to calm down in the shadows.