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 "Star Wars saga". It takes place one year after The Empire Strikes Back.
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, carnivorous plant-like desert 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 then destroy Jabba's sail barge and escape before it explodes.
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 known as Anakin Skywalker, is Luke's father, before dying and becoming one with the Force. Obi-Wan Kenobi's Force ghost then reveals that Leia is Luke's twin sister, and tells him 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 himself. 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 his father 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, only to find 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 massive superlaser, destroying a Rebel starship. He then 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. 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 father's last request, Luke removes his mask, and the redeemed Anakin Skywalker dies in his son's arms.
After the strike team destroys the shield generator, Lando leads a group of Rebel fighters into the Death Star's core. While the Rebel fleet destroys the Super Star Destroyer Executor, Lando and X-wing fighter pilot Wedge Antilles destroy the Death Star's main reactor, escaping from the station's infrastructure before it explodes. Luke also escapes in a shuttle with his father's body. On Endor, Leia reveals to Han that Luke is her brother, and they kiss. Luke later cremates his father's body on a pyre before reuniting 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.
- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo
- Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
- Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
- Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
- Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2 and Paploo
- Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine
- Frank Oz as Yoda
- David Prowse as Darth Vader
- James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader.
- Sebastian Shaw as the unmasked Anakin Skywalker
- Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi
As with the previous film, Lucas personally financed Return of the Jedi. Lucas also chose not to direct Return of the Jedi himself, and started searching for a director. Although Lucas' first choice was Steven Spielberg, their separate feuds with the Director's Guild led to his being banned from directing the film. Lucas approached David Lynch, who had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for The Elephant Man in 1980, to helm Return of the Jedi, but Lynch declined, saying that he had "next door to zero interest". David Cronenberg was also offered the chance to direct, but he declined the offer to make Videodrome and The Dead Zone. Lamont Johnson, director of Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, was also considered. Lucas eventually chose Richard Marquand. Lucas may have directed some of the second unit work personally as the shooting threatened to go over schedule; this is a function Lucas had willingly performed on previous occasions when he had only officially been producing a film (e.g. More American Graffiti, Raiders of the Lost Ark). Lucas did operate the B camera on the set a few times. Lucas himself has admitted to being on the set frequently because of Marquand's relative inexperience with special effects. Lucas praised Marquand as a "very nice person who worked well with actors". Marquand did note that Lucas kept a conspicuous presence on set, joking, "It is rather like trying to direct King Lear – with Shakespeare in the next room!"
- “I played a very important part in bringing Harrison back for Return of the Jedi. Harrison, unlike Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill signed only a two picture contract. That is why he was frozen in carbonite in The Empire Strikes Back. When I suggested to George we should bring him back, I distinctly remember him saying that Harrison would never return. I said what if I convinced him to return. George simply replied that we would then write him in to Jedi. I had just recently negotiated his deal for Raiders of the Lost Ark with Phil Gersh of the Gersh Agency. I called Phil who said he would speak with Harrison. When I called back again, Phil was on vacation. David, his son, took the call and we negotiated Harrison's deal. When Phil returned to the office several weeks later he called me back and said I had taken advantage of his son in the negotiations. I had not. But agents are agents.”
- ―Howard Kazanjian
Ford suggested that Han Solo be killed through self-sacrifice. Kasdan concurred, saying it should happen near the beginning of the third act to instill doubt as to whether the others would survive, but Lucas was vehemently against it and rejected the concept. Gary Kurtz, who produced Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back but was replaced as producer for Return of the Jedi by Kazanjian, said in 2010 that the ongoing success with Star Wars merchandise and toys led George Lucas to reject the idea of killing off Han Solo in the middle part of the film during a raid on an Imperial base. Luke Skywalker was also to have walked off alone and exhausted like the hero in a Spaghetti Western but, according to Kurtz, Lucas opted for a happier ending to encourage higher merchandise sales. Harrison Ford himself has agreed with this sentiment, saying that Lucas "didn't see any future in dead Han toys".
- Main article: Return of the Jedi (soundtrack)
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.
Return of the Jedi grossed $309.3 million in the United States and Canada, and $166 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $475.3 million, against a production budget of about $32.5 million.
The film made $23 million from 1,002 theaters in its opening weekend and grossed a record $45.3 million in its opening week. It finished first at the box office for six of its first seven weeks of release, only coming in second once behind Superman III in its fourth weekend. Box Office Mojo estimates that the film sold over 80 million tickets in the US in its initial theatrical run. When it was re-released in 1985, it made $11.2 million, which totaled its initial theatrical gross to $385.8 million worldwide.