The final entry of the original Star Wars trilogy came out in 1983. Richard Marquand shot the movie based on a script from Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas.
Bottom Line Up Front
Return of the Jedi follows Luke Skywalker’s transformation from a young pilot into a full-fledged Jedi. Mastering the ways of the Force and being in control of his feelings, he faces his greatest challenge against his father, Darth Vader, as the Rebel Alliance engages in one last battle for control of the galaxy.
The Battle of Hoth left the Rebel Alliance on the brink of collapse. Defeat by Darth Vader forced Luke Skywalker to reconsider his readiness to be the Jedi he wanted to become. Lando Calrissian joined the Rebel Alliance after the fall of Cloud City to the Empire. He and Chewbacca began to engineer a plan to rescue their old friend Han Solo. Darth Vader’s triumph at Hoth brought about mixed feelings after the conflict with his son. The Sith Lord had failed to capture him as instructed by the Emperor.
Key Characters (Roles and Motivations)
Organa was the last Princess of the destroyed planet of Alderaan. Leia became one of the Rebellion’s leaders and lovers with Han Solo.
Solo is a Rebel Alliance captain and former smuggler. He was captured by bounty hunter Boba Fett due to debts with Jabba the Hutt.
Chewbacca was a Wookiee warrior. He was Han Solo’s best friend and co-pilot in the Millenium Falcon.
A Sith Lord tasked with maintaining order in the galaxy. Vader was the estranged father of Luke Skywalker.
Palpatine, also known as Darth Sidious, was an old Sith Master. He ascended to the post of Galactic Emperor during the Clone Wars.
The Death Star Returns
Darth Vader visited the second Death Star on his shuttle. The Sith confronted the officer in charge, Moff Tiaan Jerjerrod, who listed personnel shortages as the reason for the delays. Upon hearing the Emperor would visit the base soon, the commander reiterated his commitment to meeting his deadlines.
Later, when Emperor Palpatine arrived, he praised Darth Vader for his work in the new Death Star’s construction. The old Sith Lord correctly deduced that his apprentice was still obsessed with finding his son, Luke Skywalker. Palpatine assured Vader that the young Jedi would come to him and that together they could turn him to the dark side of the Force, according to his plan.
Entering Hutt Space
The Rebel Alliance prepared an operation to rescue Han Solo. He had been put on Jabba The Hutt’s throne room as a decorative piece. Luke Skywalker dispatched R2-D2 and C-3PO to the palace in Tatooine.
They showed the guards a message from their owner introducing the two droids as gifts but asking in exchange for the release of Han Solo. Jabba accepted the droids into his palace but refused to part with the frozen smuggler. C-3PO was incorporated as his designated translator, whereas R2-D2 was transferred to Hutt’s luxury barge, the Khetanna.
The Max Rebo Band played one of their sets. Jabba made his slave girl Oola dance for him. When she resisted his advances, the Hutt flung open a trapdoor that released her into the Rancor pit. The monster killed the dancer with one bite.
The party was interrupted once more when bounty hunter Boushh arrived with Chewbacca in tow. The masked man claimed to be delivering the Wookiee in exchange for a bounty of 50000 credits. When Jabba questioned the prize, Boushh threatened the room with a thermal detonator. The two parties reached an agreement, with Chewbacca imprisoned while Boushh stayed in the palace as a guest.
Han Solo’s Rescue
At night, Boushh approached Han Solo in the throne room. He then released him from the carbonite. The bounty hunter revealed his identity as Princess Leia Organa in disguise. They shared a passionate kiss and attempted to escape, but a security detail caught them. Guards threw Solo in a cell with his friend Chewbacca.
Infiltrated as one of Jabba’s guards, Lando Calrissian attempted to usher Leia to safety. She was stopped by one of the Gamorreans, however. The Hutt licked Organa’s face and forced her to become his throne room’s dancer.
While the Hutt court was asleep, Luke Skywalker reached the palace by Mos Espa. Bib Fortuna fell victim to a Jedi mind trick and allowed him in. Jabba’s majordomo woke up his master. Luke demanded that Jabba release Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Chewbacca, but the Hutt refused.
When the Jedi attempted to shoot him, Jabba activated a trapdoor that dropped Skywalker and a guard into the Rancor den. The Gamorrean attempted to escape but the beast devoured him. Luke used a bone found in the pit to jam the Rancor’s mouth open. He then hid among rocks before making a run to its enclosure. Luke activated the gate as the creature pursued him and killed it by crushing its neck.
Skywalker, Solo, and Chewbacca are brought before Jabba The Hutt. He sentenced the three to death inside the Sarlacc in the Dune Sea. Leia was to remain as his slave instead.
Jabba and his minions traveled to the Great Pit of Carkoon aboard his luxury sail barge, with the prisoners and their guards accompanying them on a skiff. Leia watched her friends from the ship’s window before being summoned back to the throne. Jabba forced her to drink from his glass, taunting that she would grow to like him.
By the Sarlacc pit, Jabba commanded the execution but offered a chance for them to beg for their lives. Solo insulted him and refused the pleasure of pleading. Luke threatened the Hutt with death if he did not release his friends but got only laughter in response.
Luke was forced onto the plank from the skiff, hovering by the Sarlacc mouth. He leaped backward and summoned a new lightsaber he had hidden inside R2-D2. The guards lunged towards the prisoners, but Skywalker defeated them with his weapon.
Lando Calrissian fell off the side, attracting the Sarlacc’s attention. The pit monster held onto his leg as Lando grabbed onto a cable. Struggling to see after the carbonite, Han Solo took up the ax of one of the guards. Swinging it around confusedly, he bumped into bounty hunter Boba Fett. The weapon activated his jetpack, leading the Mandalorian to fall into the Sarlacc’s mouth and free Lando of its grasp.
The Princess strangled the crime lord to death and was freed by R2-D2. Luke helped Leia out of the barge using a cable from its sail. Rebels gunned down the vehicle until it exploded and departed after picking up the two droids from the sand.
Return to Dagobah
The Rebels departed Tatooine and left towards the Alliance new assembly area near the planet of Sullust. Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 separated from the group aboard an X-wing to visit Grand Jedi Master Yoda in Dagobah. The young Jedi wanted to resume his training.
Upon arrival, they found Yoda on his deathbed. Luke insisted that he had to complete his studies to become a full-fledged Jedi, the master told him he required no more training. The only thing left for Skywalker was to confront Darth Vader once and for all. Yoda faded away to become one with the Force.
While Luke prepared to depart, he met the ghost of his former mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The old Jedi decided to disclose the story about Skywalker’s father. Anakin Skywalker, he said, was a Jedi Knight who fell to the Dark Side of the Force and effectively became Darth Vader. Kenobi also revealed that Luke had a sibling, Leia. With this knowledge, Skywalker departed to the Rebel Alliance rendezvous point by Sullust.
Aboard the Rebel fleet flagship, the leaders assembled to plan their response to a new threat. They had received information from the Bothan Spynet about the accelerated construction of a new imperial space station, an upgraded design based on the earlier Death Star.
The information delivered detailed the potential vulnerabilities of the target. The report listed the large laser weapon as inoperable. Emperor Palpatine was said to be aboard the second Death Star to oversee its construction around the moon of Endor.
The Rebels decided to strike immediately, hoping to capitalize on the unfinished station and the imperial head of state’s presence to deal a crushing blow. The strategy centered around a two-stage plan to achieve this. The Empire relied on a shield generator on the surface of Endor to protect the new Death Star. This had to be deactivated beforehand.
An assault team comprising Skywalker, Organa, Solo, and Chewbacca with their two droids was to land on Endor. They would infiltrate the shield generator bunker and disable it from within. This would signal the beginning of the space assault, led by Admiral Ackbar.
The infiltration party successfully made it to the surface. Darth Vader sensed his son was among them and believed this to be an opportunity to bring him to the Emperor. Luke felt uneasy, sensing the danger his father posed to the mission.
As they reconnoitered the target area, the Rebels bumped into a group of imperial scout troopers. They attempted to disengage by capturing their speeder bikes and making a run for safety, but the enemy pursued them. Leia was knocked off her speeder bike and lost consciousness.
Luke, Han, and Chewbacca dispatched their pursuers and attempted to find the Princess. The efforts were largely fruitless, as they encountered only her helmet. Minutes before, Ewok Wicket W. Warrick had rescued Leia and defeated one of the scout troopers chasing her.
Together with their droids, the searching rebels triggered a net trap set up by the locals. They were set free by R2-D2, but the Ewok tribe surrounded them. The locals took Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, and R2-D2 prisoner, but the locals saw C-3PO’s golden appearance and believed him to be some sort of god.
While the protocol droid was placed on a throne and carried, the others were tied up. The Ewoks decided to hold a banquet in C-3PO’s honor, with Han Solo as the main course. Leia emerged from one of the huts and attempted to convince them to free her friends, but hers and the droid’s attempts were fruitless.
Running out of time, Luke convinced C-3PO to threaten to use his magic if the Ewoks harmed his friends. The Jedi used the Force to lift the throne the droid sat on. The sight of the flying god frightened the tribe, and they promptly freed the Rebels. Leia and Han shared a passionate kiss. R2-D2 chased off an Ewok with a taser-like tool.
Later that evening, the Ewoks gathered around a bonfire to hear the story of how their new friends got there. C-3PO explained their ordeal against the Empire and Darth Vader. The tribe accepted the Rebels as their own, and as such, the Ewoks pledged allegiance to their cause.
During C-3PO’s retelling, Luke called Leia outside for a serious discussion. He revealed to her that the Sith Lord was his father, and hers too. The two were twins. After the death of their mother Padmé Amidala, Luke and Leia were separated to avoid being tracked down by Darth Vader and the Empire.
The revelation left Leia shocked, but it explained her special connection with Luke. Despite not knowing the details of their conversation, Han Solo comforted the Princess after finding her in distress. Following their talk, Luke bade farewell to his sister and set off on his mission. Armed with the advice and training given to him by his Masters Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the young Jedi had decided it was time to face Darth Vader again following the defeat during their clash on Bespin.
The Emperor’s Plan
Fully aware that Darth Vader was after him, Luke Skywalker went to the imperial garrison in Endor and surrendered himself. News of the Jedi being in the Empire’s custody quickly reached the Death Star II. The Sith Lord flew to the moon’s surface aboard his shuttle to take his son and prisoner.
When they finally met, Luke attempted to convince his father to desert the Dark Side of the Force and leave the Empire. Darth Vader’s position was unwavering, however. With his detachment of stormtroopers and Skywalker, the Sith Lord boarded his shuttle and departed Endor towards the new Death Star.
Aboard the space station, Vader brought the captive Jedi before Emperor Palpatine. The Master of the Sith expressed his excitement to complete Luke’s training and turn him to the Dark Side, as he had done with his father. Palpatine had planted the leak regarding the new Death Star’s weaknesses and the location of the shield generator. The Emperor knew the Rebel Alliance would not pass on an opportunity to attack.
Unbeknownst to them, however, the station was fully operational despite the incomplete superstructure. The Emperor’s plan consisted of drawing the full might of the Rebel fleet, concentrated for the first time after the routing suffered during the Battle of Hoth. They were to arrive expecting an inoperable station under construction, with the shields disabled by the Endor party. Palpatine wanted to use the Death Star’s armament and still-standing shield as a surprise to stun the Rebels and crush them in a decisive battle.
The Battle of Endor
Without Luke, the remaining Rebels in Endor set out to disable the shield generator protecting the new Death Star. The facility was inside a heavily defended bunker, seemingly impenetrable. The Ewok guide accompanying the raiders led them to a secondary entrance guarded only by scout troopers. An Ewok stole a speeder bike to create a diversion. Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Organa used this opening to infiltrate the bunker.
The Rebel force quickly met imperial resistance. They had wanted to plant demolition charges inside the bunker to take down the shield generator and its auxiliary facilities. The Emperor had foreseen this assault and reacted by sending elite stormtrooper units to ambush the Rebel party. The infiltrators were quickly flushed out under gunfire and met a large group of troops with walker support. Outnumbered and outgunned, the assault party laid down arms and surrendered.
Failure on the ground on Endor affected Rebel plans. The Alliance’s fleet launched an attack. Multiple star destroyers protected the Death Star. Rebels found that the deflector shield projected from Endor was still up, making an actual attack impossible. The space station turned out to be fully operational and used its primary weapon to destroy some of the Rebellion’s capital ships.
The Rebellion’s plan to destroy the Empire’s new superweapon had suddenly become a fight to survive. Losses quickly began to mount under the overwhelming numerical advantage of the Imperial Navy. Unable to disengage, the Alliance fleet defended itself to buy time to the Endor raiders.
When all hope appeared to be lost, an unexpected ally saved the Rebel group. Under the command of tribal leaders, Ewoks used their knowledge of the planet’s jungles to ambush the imperial garrison keeping the raiding party captive. Using the new attack as a distraction, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and a wounded Leia made it inside the shield generator bunker and planted the demolition charges before leaving in a rush. The defenses of the Death Star fell, and the Rebel fleet was finally able to start its attack run.
A Final Duel
Aboard the Death Star’s throne room, Emperor Palpatine instigated the rage of Luke Skywalker against his father. The Sith Lord saw this as an opportunity to draw the young Jedi to the Dark Side and succeeded in getting him to attempt a strike against Darth Vader, who quickly blocked it with his lightsaber. As the two dueled once more, Luke disappeared into the room. His father sensed Skywalker’s mind. Vader began telling him that he knew about the existence of his sister. Beyond that, he bragged that if Luke would not join him, he would drag Leia to the Dark Side instead.
The provocation turned out to be too much for Luke. He emerged from the shadows and launched a series of vicious blows at his father. Darth Vader struggled with the aggressive Jedi, and eventually had his mechanical right hand severed with his lightsaber.
As the Sith Lord found himself at the mercy of his son, his Master turned against him. Palpatine instructed Luke to finish his father and take his place as the apprentice of the Dark Side. Despite his rage, Skywalker composed himself and threw his lightsaber aside. He declared himself to be a Jedi knight, and that his father was one too, at the core. Emperor Palpatine scoffed that he would then die. The Sith Master used the Force to electrocute Skywalker, intent on putting him through a painful and slow death.
The tortured Jedi winced in pain, crying out for his father’s help. Moved by his son’s pleas, Darth Vader chose to betray his path as a Sith and save Luke. In touch with his Jedi past as Anakin Skywalker, he lifted the Emperor and drew the ire of his lightning onto himself before throwing him down a reactor shaft to his death. Vader’s life support system became inoperable, rendering the redeemed Jedi critically wounded.
The Empire’s Downfall
Both sides began to incur unsustainable losses in the Battle of Endor. Under the command of Lando Calrissian, the Millenium Falcon dove into the insides of the Death Star together with other Rebel fighters led by Wedge Antilles. The strike group hit the reactor core. The attack destabilized it beyond repair and ignited a chain reaction that could only lead to its destruction.
News of the reactor attack reached the space station’s crew, who ordered an immediate evacuation. Luke Skywalker dragged Anakin towards the hangar despite his pleas to leave him behind. The son refused to abandon his father, however. As he drew his final breaths by the shuttle’s ramp, Anakin asked Luke to remove his helmet so he could see his son with his own eyes at least once. He expressed his thankfulness to Luke for believing in the good left in him and asked to relay this to Leia. Anakin died in Luke’s arms, finally at peace with himself.
The Galaxy is Free
The Rebel ships escaped the Death Star’s inner workings, as did Luke with Anakin’s body. The space station exploded as the troops in Endor watched. A victory celebration began on the forest moon, as the remaining imperial troops laid down arms. Han Solo and Leia Organa witnessed the blast together. The former smuggler offered to step aside for Skywalker once he returned. Leia revealed that her love for Luke was not what Han expected – he was only her brother. The two shared a passionate kiss.
That evening back on Endor, Luke built a Jedi funeral pyre to cremate Anakin Skywalker, before reuniting with the Rebels involved in the battle. Alliance fighters made a series of fly-bys over the moon’s night sky to celebrate their triumph. Luke saw the Force ghosts of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker. News of the Rebel victory quickly spread across the galaxy. Citizens of many planets flooded the streets to celebrate. The galaxy would be free again.
Question: How does Return of the Jedi end?
Answer: The movie ends with the destruction of the second Death Star and a celebration across the galaxy.
Question: Why did they change the Return of the Jedi end?
Answer: The original ending envisioned Luke Skywalker defeating Darth Vader. He would put on his mask and become a Sith Lord. George Lucas deemed this to be too dark.
Question: Who is Return of the Jedi referring to?
Answer: The movie’s title refers to Anakin Skywalker’s redemption from the Dark Side of the Force.
Question: Was Luke a Jedi in Return of the Jedi?
Answer: Yes. After his defeat on Cloud City, he pursued the traditional path of the Jedi and built his lightsaber.
Question: Does Luke ever find out about Padmé?
Answer: Yes, through C-3PO’s memories.
While the Empire’s defeat at Endor did not outright mark its end, the death of both Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader was a deadly blow. The leadership vacuum, allied with an exhausted populace after years of the Galactic Civil War, sparked a series of anti-government protests across the galaxy. One of the most notable revolts happened in Coruscant, the seat of the Galactic Empire. Citizens toppled a statue of Emperor Palpatine.
Leia Organa sent out a series of holographic messages calling for systems to take up arms against the Empire. The Rebel Alliance became the New Galactic Republic. The last battle officially fought by the Empire happened a year after the Battle of Endor in Jakku. The Galactic Concordance was signed to end the civil war and transfer power to the New Republic. The galaxy was at peace again.
Looking for more interesting readings? Check out: