Influential Films in Pop Culture History: ‘Return of the Jedi’

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me”- Luke Skywalker.

Today is the last day of August, which means this is the final installment of the Summer 80’s Movie Article Series. So now it’s time to take one last trip back in time to a decade of heavy rock music, Cold War tension, new technology and a decade of unbridled cultural boom.

The year is 1983, a year that saw the start of the great North American video game crash, the creation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day by President Ronald Reagan, and Michael Jackson introducing the moonwalk dance on Motown’s 25th anniversary TV special. In May, George Lucas’ third Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi, opened to great critical acclaim from fans and critics alike, further cementing the franchise’s place in the realm of popular culture.

George Lucas has always been something of a mad genius when it comes to filmmaking. Since he broke into the business proper in 1973 with American Graffiti, he’s become a household name and industry legend. From the Star Wars franchise to Indiana Jones, his passion for storytelling and cinematography has lead to some of the most successful and memorable movies being produced over the years, and shots that have come to redefine camera work for the motion picture industry. Star Wars will always remain the strongest part of his legacy and Return of the Jedi is one of the cornerstones of the Lucasfilm foundation.

Star Wars has always been known for many things as a film franchise, its casts, its stories, its special effects. For Return of the Jedi, story, character development, and special effects are all things that have helped it to stand out, not just as the final chapter in the original trilogy, but even as a standalone movie.

The Star Wars cast is one of immense fame. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker all have gone on to become legends in the pop culture community and the movie world. Each member has had success in other avenues, from Harrison Ford’s constant stream of movies, to Mark Hamill’s triumphs as a voice actor, to Carrie Fisher and her work as an advocate for mental health patients before her final return as Leia Organa Solo for the first two of the New Trilogy movies. Star Wars gave all these actors and actresses their foot in the door to a bigger world, one that has been all the brighter thanks to them.

Luke, Leia, Han, Lando, Chewie, C3PO, R2D2, every one of these characters experiences immense growth throughout the course of the movie. For Luke, the final tests on his path of becoming a Jedi and overthrowing the Empire and saving his father. Leia and Han grow even closer, solidifying their relationship amidst the chaos of the end of the war to save the galaxy and bring it peace and also grow stronger in their roles as leaders, giving each other love and support and courage. Lando learns to grow beyond his role in Cloud City, standing up for the cause for the Rebellion and Chewie gets to flex his Wookie muscles more and be the big and awesome force of nature he always is. C3P0 and R2D2 continue their bickering and bantering, proving that for all their quarrels they are and will always be friends to the end.

Return of the Jedi has one of the most affirming stories of all; it’s the final chapter of the war between the Rebellion and the Empire, Luke defeats the Emperor and redeems Darth Vader, proving that there was still a good man inside all along. Peace is restored to the Galaxy, the threat of Imperial rule is ended. Plus Star Wars fans got introduced to another amazing species, Ewoks, those tiny little warrior bears that won their way into people’s hearts with their fierce behavior, adorable speech and hardy military tactics.

Special effects are one of the things that make Lucas movies so great, and there’s special effects galore in Return of the Jedi. From the final battle both in space and on Endor, to Luke and Darth Vader’s final lightsaber battle (and the Emperor’s Force lightning), to the speeder bike chase through Endor’s forests, time and time again George Lucas has proved to be a master of special effects, delighting audiences over the years with his spectacular space battles and interstellar work.

It’s a bit sad to end this series on 80’s movies for the summer, but it has been fun. There’s been a lot of great films re-explored, directors discussed, memories reawakened of a decade when every month and every week there was something new and exciting hitting theaters across the world for audiences to watch and enjoy. And along the way people who have read these articles have no doubt gotten a bit of a nostalgia bug for their childhoods, for movies that have remained favorites of theirs over the years. To wrap things up and put a neat bow on it all, kick back and watch Return of the Jedi, end the summer of 80’s movies on a high note, with one of the great science fiction films of the decade. The Force is strong in all who love Star Wars, and may the Force be with you always.