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Does Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi Still Hold Up Today?

1983’s Return of the Jedi is generally regarded to be the weakest entry in the original Star Wars trilogy, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad movie -- it just didn't reach the dizzying heights of its two predecessors. Ewoks aside, Return of the Jedi has a lot to offer.

RELATED: 5 Ways Return Of The Jedi Let Fans Down (& 5 It's Still A Perfect Ending)

From the spectacular opening set-piece at Jabba’s palace to the unexpectedly heartbreaking death of Darth Vader, there are plenty of things in Return of the Jedi that still hold up today.

10 The Spectacular Opening Act At Jabba’s Palace

Following The Empire Strikes Back’s cliffhanger ending that saw Han being frozen in carbonite and taken away by Boba Fett, the opening act of Return of the Jedi chronicles the Rebels’ attempts to save him. One by one, they all infiltrate Jabba’s palace and get captured.

This whole set-piece plays like its own little Star Wars episode that gives every character something to do. It builds to a spectacular climax as R2-D2 shoots out Luke’s lightsaber while he’s walking the plank, allowing him to turn the tables on Jabba’s criminal enterprise. This mind-blowing opening sequence ensures that audiences are hooked from the beginning.

9 Ian McDiarmid’s Chilling Performance As The Emperor

After his name was mentioned in passing in the 1977 original and he made a cameo via video call in The Empire Strikes Back, Emperor Palpatine finally made his debut in Return of the Jedi. And against all odds, Ian McDiarmid’s chilling performance managed to live up to two movies’ worth of build-up.

McDiarmid deftly walks the line between sinister and camp, a balance he established perfectly in Jedi and would go on to explore further in the prequels set back when Palpatine had to keep up the facade of a peaceful politician.

8 Yoda’s Death Scene

When Luke returns to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training, he finds Yoda on his deathbed. This is a different kind of Star Wars character death because Yoda isn’t ceremoniously killed in battle or slashed down by an infamous Sith Lord.

Instead, he accepts that his time has come, gets into bed, and waits to become one with the Force. Yoda’s demise is both dignified and inspiring, and everyone who watches can only hope they will be able to accept death as graciously.

7 The Excitement Of The Speeder Bike Chase

Shortly after their arrival on Endor, Luke and Leia attract the attention of a pair of Scout Troopers and have to chase them into the forest on speeder bikes. This is one of the most thrilling action scenes in the whole Star Wars saga.

RELATED: The 5 Best Action Scenes (& 5 Best Character Moments) In Return Of The Jedi

The speeder bikes move at a breakneck pace, firing lasers at each other while frantically zipping between trees. There’s a high possibility that everyone involved will crash their bikes into a tree and explode, so the sequence has plenty of tension.

6 Luke’s Flirtations With The Dark Side

The revelation that Darth Vader is Luke’s biological father at the end of The Empire Strikes Back suggests that Luke’s destiny could be to turn to the dark side. In Return of the Jedi, he’s dressed in all-black robes to suggest that this is a real possibility.

While Luke remains on the light side, he occasionally flirts with the dark – particularly when the Emperor goads him into aggressively attacking Vader with enough force to disarm him. Watching Vader suffer at his own hand makes Luke realize that he’s on the edge of turning to the dark side, which brings him back to the light and reaffirms his commitment to Yoda’s Jedi teachings.

5 The Biggest Space Battle Of The Trilogy

After such breathtaking space battles as the original Death Star trench run and the Falcon’s escape from the Empire through a dangerous asteroid field, the climactic space battle sequence in Return of the Jedi had a lot to live up to.

With the entire Rebel fleet flying straight into a trap and contending with the entire Imperial fleet, it’s safe to say that Jedi’s final space battle is the biggest, boldest, most spectacular battle sequence in the trilogy.

4 The Evolution Of Han And Leia’s Dynamic

Han and Leia’s love story comes full circle in Return of the Jedi. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, when Han is about to be frozen in carbonite and Leia finally says, “I love you,” he bluntly replies, “I know.” In Jedi, he finally returns the line – and she throws his own quip back in his face.

After Leia saves Han from a couple of Stormtroopers, he says, “I love you,” and she smirks back, “I know.” This subversion of Han and Leia’s dynamic proves that their shared biting wit makes them a perfect match.

3 Raising The Stakes Of The Death Star Assault

Long before J.J. Abrams rehashed George Lucas’ Death Star plot in The Force Awakens, Lucas rehashed it himself in Return of the Jedi. But Jedi significantly raises the stakes from the original, because this Death Star can’t be destroyed from the outside.

RELATED: The 5 Funniest (& 5 Saddest) Scenes In Return Of The Jedi

Instead of skimming the trenches, the Rebels have to actually fly inside the station and blow up the core. So, there’s the added challenge of escaping the station’s core after the explosion. There’s also a great moment of tension right at the end of the tunnel when the flames briefly engulf the Falcon before Lando safely makes it out into space.

2 Darth Vader’s Redemption

When Darth Vader was introduced as a faceless embodiment of evil in the original Star Wars movie, fans had no idea how sad they’d be when he died at the end of the trilogy. The Sith Lord goes a long way toward redeeming himself when he can’t bear to watch Palpatine blast his long-lost son with Force lightning and tosses his puppet-master over a railing into the Death Star’s reactor core.

Audiences aren’t expected to forgive Vader for years of war crimes, but he is redeemed in his son’s eyes. Luke arrived at the Emperor’s throne room with faith that there was still good in his father, and he turned out to be right. The emotional resonance of Vader’s death subverted expectations in the best way.

1 The Hard-Earned Happy Ending

The final scene of Return of the Jedi is the perfect antidote to the subversively dark turn of Empire Strikes Back. The Rebels defeat the Empire, Vader kills the Emperor to save Luke, and peace is restored across the galaxy.

After the Rebels’ tireless efforts throughout the trilogy – not to mention within Jedi’s three-pronged climactic battle alone – this happy ending is more than deserved. The heroes’ celebration on Endor is extremely cathartic for audiences who followed the Rebellion’s struggle for three whole movies.

NEXT: 5 Ways Return Of The Jedi Is The Lightest Star Wars Movie (& 5 Ways It's The Darkest)

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