Return of the Jedi Turns 40 | Features | Roger Ebert (2023)


Return of the Jedi Turns 40 | Features | Roger Ebert (1)

"Return of the Jedi" celebrated its ruby anniversary this May and received a limited theatrical release. Even after four decades, the more things change, the more things stay the same. Justlike in 1983, you can go to a store and pick up a Death Star-full of merchandise, including special reissues of the original action figures. The Force that is the Lucas/Disney marketing machine is still with us, even if Ben Kenobi and Yoda are not.

It's still remarkable that "The Empire Strikes Back" ended the way it did with an open cliffhanger, even if its success and the production of the next chapter were all but guaranteed. "Jedi" opens with the Empire deep in the construction of a new bigger, and deadlier battle station, looking to cement their victory against the Rebel Alliance and rule the galaxy once and for all. The Rebels have a plan of course, and the serendipitous army of murderous teddy bears that are the Ewoks. But before Luke Skywalker et al. can continue that fight, there's still a loose thread to be resolved, namely the fate of Han Solo, last seen frozen in carbonite and flying Boba Fett Freight to be delivered to Jabba the Hutt.


"Return of the Jedi" might have been the first of these films to suffer from, as the shimmering ghostly spirit of Ben puts it, "a certain point of view." With six years between the film and the first "Star Wars" picture, which had been reissued with "Episode IV - A New Hope" at the head of the crawl in 1982, kids had grown into teenagers who decided they were too cool for the more "childish" elements like the Ewoks, and as such, the furry critters are still divisive to this day.

Return of the Jedi Turns 40 | Features | Roger Ebert (2)

In any case, "Jedi" is still a blast. Yes, it's the weakest of the three. Yes, it has some decidedly obvious flaws and some unengaged performers. But it's a glorious end to the trilogy that features an excellent leading performance by Mark Hamill, a dynamite final act with spectacular cross-cutting, amazing creature work, and a John Williams score that proves what we've always known: He's the MVP of the entire franchise.

Structurally, it's a bit of an odd beast. The entire first act is dedicated to rescuing Han, with the subsequent two covering the core three characters of Luke, Han, and Leia pulling together for the Rebel cause, which is a smart move. Harrison Ford famously thought Han should die in the film, but that would rid us of the essential chemistry generated between the three, something the film itself recognizes. There are a lot of disparate strands to weave together, with a trip to Yoda and Ben Kenobi to reveal the identity of the "other" mentioned in "Empire" and Darth Vader's continuing recruitment of Luke to the dark side.

Return of the Jedi Turns 40 | Features | Roger Ebert (3)

Speaking of Vader, we're reminded that he is but a henchman to the real villain, the Emperor, as played by a snarling Ian McDiarmid. Not all is well between master and apprentice (especially considering Vader told Luke they could overthrow his boss), and the Emperor probably didn't take Vader's failure to convert Luke particularly well. Vader seems to have some shell shock from his encounter with his son, and there's a melancholic tone to the character (a great combination of James Earl Jones' rumbling baritone and Dave Prowse's body language) that suggests his connection to the dark side is weaker than we were led to believe. Indeed, a key moment in the film is a wonderful short sequence where father and son talk after Luke gives himself up. Luke's determination to bring his father back is admirable, with him bringing up Vader's former self, which clearly angers the dark lord. The last shot of the sequence is a lone and contemplative Vader staring out into the forest, which leaves very little doubt that he's not going to kill his son.


(Video) What It Was Really Like To See Return Of The Jedi In 1983

In many ways, Mark Hamill carries the film. Luke now shows signs of both Ben and Yoda's training through a certain sense of command of his emotions and inner tranquility, although his occasional naivete and recklessness remind us that he's not a proper Jedi just yet. Hamill spends much of the film stoic and restrained, but you can feel the tension from the anger that is ready to bubble up. While we know in our heads and hearts that he isn't going to go over to the dark side, his performance at least does a good job of telling us he might.

His performance also helps to anchor a less impressive Ford and Fisher. Granted, they're not given a lot to do, and Solo's arc from dastardly smuggler to military hero robs the character of a certain amount of agency, but both are clearly bored. Perhaps this is where their movie star personalities come in; their talents still shine through, and the charisma between the central three is undeniably intoxicating. Lucas and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan are much more interested in Luke's journey and the multiple creatures that occupy most of Jedi's frames.

Return of the Jedi Turns 40 | Features | Roger Ebert (4)

Thankfully, said creatures are one of the film's highlights, with ILM's puppetry department at the top of its game, led by Phil Tippett and Stuart Freeborn. Jabba the Hutt is the obvious one, a wonderful and complex puppet that never feels anything less than alive. He's a suitable antagonist for the first half, although it's interesting that some people may be watching this film for the first time, having seen the character in earlier films, not least the controversial Special Edition of "Star Wars." In 1983, audiences only knew the character from references in the previous two films, so finally meeting him was a culmination of sorts.


The first act is very well-realized and raises the stakes incrementally with the introduction of all of the heroes; the two droids, Chewbacca and Leia (disguised as a bounty hunter), an unfrozen Han, and finally Luke, who strides into Jabba's palace Force choking guards left and right and trying to bluff Jabba when talking about his powers. But it turns out he holds the aces, as after a brief dalliance with the wonderful Rancor monster, he sees the end of the vile gangster at the site of his supposed execution. It's still thrilling seeing R2-D2 shoot a lightsaber into the air and Luke's hand while a scantily clad Leia avenges her oppressor with the very chain used to manacle her. That said, I challenge anyone to determine what Luke's actual plan was; getting captured and sent to be executed doesn't sound like a solid strategy.

The second act is when we finally get to meet the Ewoks, who just happen to live on the moon the Death Star is orbiting. The general conception of the Ewoks is that they're cuddly bears, and while individually they display these traits, along with a sense of curiosity and defensiveness, as a group, they are fairly vicious; let's not forget that the first time they meet Luke, Han, and company, they attempt to cook them. Of course, they're also the culmination of one of Lucas' themes of the series, that of the organic versus the synthetic, or man versus machine, to put it bluntly. Vader is an obvious example of this, and, like the Rebels themselves, the Ewoks are an analog for the Viet Cong against the might of the American military machine.

Return of the Jedi Turns 40 | Features | Roger Ebert (5)

The middle of the picture establishes the stakes of the final battle on a broad and personal level, with the Ewoks adding more manpower for the Rebels while Luke disappears to face Vader and the Emperor. This section tends to be a bit more tedious than the rest, though the speeder bike chase punctuates it. Another ode to Lucas' obsession with speed, it still works beautifully, especially because of the wise lack of score. Instead, the film acquiesces to Ben Burtt's sound effects, which end up having a strange musicality of their own.


Perhaps it's good to have a break because it's relentless from when the Rebel fleet gets to the Death Star until the end. Credit must go to the editing trio of Marcia Lucas, Sean Barton, and Duwayne Dunham, who effortlessly manage the frantic cross-cutting between the three conflicts of Luke vs. Vader and the two battles in space and on land and give the sequences an incredible sense of momentum.

John Williams, whose malevolent theme for the Emperor makes "The Imperial March" sound campy in comparison, throws the picture forward at every moment. The scenes in the Emperor's throne room are by far the best in the film. Williams is clearly inspired by the physical and psychological conflict, subtly building the score in scale and intensity until he unleashes its full might as Luke gives into his anger. Williams uses a deep male choir to underscore that fateful decision, illustrating the influence of the Emperor, whose theme rises to operatic levels as he sets the stage for Vader's dying act of redemption.

It must also be noted that the film's version in theaters was the latest of the "Special Editions," which Lucas has been tinkering with since 1997. That means there's a different song in Jabba's palace; the Sarlaac now looks like Audrey II from "Little Shop of Horrors," and Hayden Christensen, who played Anakin Skywalker in the prequels, replaces Sebastian Shaw as his glowing Jedi spirit. The picture also ends with a more encompassing celebration as worlds across the galaxy celebrate liberation from the brutal regime of the Empire. A newer John Williams cue ends the film, and it works perfectly for the modified version as it sits as part of the larger saga, while the more intimate "Yub Nub"was more suitable for the end of the story as it was in 1983.

"Return of the Jedi" may have flaws in more crucial areas than the previous two films, but it remains an excellent picture. But more than that, it encompasses a message that is never more important in these times:one oflove. Whether it's a Rancor keeper with a broken heart over his dead pet or a villain being brought back from hell, it reminds us of the intrinsic role in our lives that love plays and that it's not just what drives us, it's what saves us. One of the best lines in "The Last Jedi," the superior episode of the sequel trilogy, is Rose saying, "That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love." That's a core tenet of "Return of the Jedi" and why it remains so wonderful today.


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Why is Roger Ebert so famous? ›

In 1967 he was named the paper's chief film critic, a title he would hold for more than 40 years. Ebert was known for his unabashed love of cinema and an unpretentious, accessible approach that allowed him to give equal critical consideration to both Hollywood blockbusters and art house fare.

How old is Roger Ebert? ›

What movie did Roger Ebert write? ›

Did Roger Ebert have children? ›

Personal life. Ebert was married to Chaz Hammelsmith from July 18, 1992 until his death in 2013. They had no children.

What is Roger Ebert's most famous review? ›

"Bonnie and Clyde" (September 25, 1967)

One of Roger's most famous early reviews was of "Bonnie and Clyde," a sardonic and tonally daring take on a Depression-era crime spree that spoke directly to the spirit of the late-'60s counterculture.

How many movies did Ebert watch? ›

As a professional, he watched over 500 movies and he reviewed about 300 movies each year. Over his 40 year career, he published about 10,000 movie reviews.

What was the last movie Roger Ebert reviewed? ›

Whether it was fate or coincidence, Roger Ebert's last review was for the 2012 surreal drama, To the Wonder. The film starred Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem, and was made in the typically avant-garde style of its director Terrence Malick — known for his other films such as Tree of Life.

What was Robert Ebert net worth? ›

Roger Ebert was an American film critic, journalist and screenwriter who had a net worth of $10 million at the time of his death. Roger Ebert's career began in 1966, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times' Sunday magazine. In 1975, he became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize.

How many stars does Robert Ebert give? ›

Every film which Roger Ebert gave a four out of four star review in his career. Does NOT include films that were initially rated lower than 4 stars but were later included on the Great Movies List.

What is considered the greatest movie of all time? ›

1. Citizen Kane (1941)

What are the 5 perfect movies? ›

Five perfect movies - A roundup of some of the best, according to...
  • Amelie.
  • Control (Ian Curtis biopic)
  • Free Solo.
  • The wind that shakes the barley.
  • Dead mans shoes.
Apr 22, 2020

How much do film critics get paid? ›

Movie Critic Salaries
Job TitleSalary
Microsoft Movie Critic salaries - 2 salaries reported$101,894/yr
Rocket Internet Movie Critic salaries - 1 salaries reported$39/hr
Macy's Movie Critic salaries - 1 salaries reported$29/hr
Contemporary Media Movie Critic salaries - 1 salaries reported$26/hr
2 more rows

Did Oprah date Roger Ebert? ›

while they were on a date! Roger says since that show, his "'cred' has gone way up!" In his Chicago Sun-Times column, Roger says that he and Oprah went on not one, but two dates back in the '80s. For their second date, Roger says they went to see the Count Basie Orchestra.

Can Roger Ebert talk? ›

When film critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to cancer, he lost the ability to eat and speak. But he did not lose his voice. In a moving talk from TED2011, Ebert and his wife, Chaz, with friends Dean Ornish and John Hunter, come together to tell his remarkable story.

Who owns Roger Ebert? ›

Ebert Digital LLC

What is the best film ever made according to critics? ›

According to a group of film critics, the greatest movie ever made is Jeanne Dielman, 23, Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. The 1975 film tops the 2022 results of British magazine Sight and Sound's prestigious “Greatest Films of All Time” poll, which has taken place every ten years since 1952.

Who is one of the world's most respected film critics and historians? ›

One of the world's most respected film critics and historians, Leonard Maltin is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide, its companion volume Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide and 30 years as film critic on Entertainment Tonight.

Who is the best film reviewer of all time? ›

The 12 Best Movie Critics of All Time, Ranked
  • 8 André Bazin.
  • 7 Molly Haskell.
  • 6 François Truffaut.
  • 5 Vincent Canby.
  • 4 Leonard Maltin.
  • 3 Gene Siskel.
  • 2 Pauline Kael.
  • 1 Roger Ebert.
Apr 22, 2023

Who took over after Ebert? ›

Ebert was a pivotal figure in the German Revolution of 1918–19. When Germany became a republic at the end of World War I, he became its first chancellor.
Friedrich Ebert
Preceded byWilhelm II (as Emperor)
Succeeded byPaul von Hindenburg
Head of government of Germany
De facto 9 November 1918 – 13 February 1919
25 more rows

What is the most times someone has watched one movie? ›

A man has set the Guinness World Record by watching Spider-Man: No Way Home for a huge number of times. Ramiro Alanis revealed that he spent four months watching the Tom Holland film 292 times in cinemas. In doing so, Alanis broke the Guiness World Record for most in-theatre viewings of one movie.

What is the most referenced movies? ›

Top 10 Most Referenced Movies
  • #8: Pulp Fiction (1994) ...
  • #7: Gone with the Wind (1939) ...
  • #6: The Shining (1980) ...
  • #5: Psycho (1960) ...
  • #4: The Godfather (1972) ...
  • #3: The Wizard of Oz (1939) ...
  • #2: Casablanca (1942) ...
  • #1: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Jun 8, 2019

When did Roger Ebert get sober? ›

Ebert gave up alcohol in 1979. Roger Ebert spoke candidly about his rehab and Alcoholics Anonymous experiences on his blog.

What is the last film by Quentin Tarantino? ›

Quentin Tarantino's final film 'The Movie Critic' rumoured to be about critic Pauline Kael.

Why is Roger Ebert a good critic? ›

Ebert wrote balanced reviews, by and large, that appreciate a movie's virtues and identify its faults. Orr tells us why Ebert didn't retire: "He kept writing about movies because he cared about movies..." One thing we can say for Ebert is that he wrote more meaningful sentences than that one.

Who was the richest film director? ›

Top 10 Richest Directors Of All Time
RankNameNet Worth
1.George Lucas$5.1 Billion
2.Steven Spielberg$4 Billion
3.Peter Jackson$1.5 Billion
4.Tyler Perry$1 Billion
6 more rows
Mar 7, 2023

How many stars does Roger Ebert use? ›

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert "both consider[ed] a three-star rating to be the cutoff for a "thumbs up" on their scales of zero to four stars. Film critic Dave Kehr—who also uses a 0–4 star scale—believes "two stars is a borderline recommendation".

How many reviews did Ebert write? ›

By conservative estimate, Ebert reviewed at least 10,000 movies during a career that spanned from 1967 to 2013. Most of these films were graded on a scale of four stars to one-half star, but I Spit On Your Grave was awarded zero.

What actor has the most leads in movies? ›

15 Leading Actors Who've Appeared in the Most Movies, Ever
  1. 1 Eric Roberts (725 acting credits)
  2. 2 James Hong (456 acting credits) ...
  3. 3 Danny Trejo (438 acting credits) ...
  4. 4 Richard Riehle (427 acting credits) ...
  5. 5 Christopher Lee (288 acting credits) ...
  6. 6 Samuel L. ...
  7. 7 Danny Glover (202 acting credits) ...
Apr 15, 2023

Who is the biggest star in the world cinema? ›

Lead roles
RankActorTop-grossing film
1Scarlett JohanssonAvengers: Endgame ($2,794,731,755)
2Robert Downey Jr.Avengers: Endgame ($2,794,731,755)
3Samuel L. JacksonAvengers: Endgame ($2,794,731,755)
4Zoe SaldañaAvatar ($2,923,706,026)
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What movie has the most stars in the cast? ›

  • 'International House' (1933) Number of stars: 12. ...
  • 'It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World' (1962) Number of stars: Like, 60-plus. ...
  • 'The Greatest Story Ever Told' (1965) Number of stars: 20. ...
  • 'Murder on the Orient Express' (1974) Number of stars: 10. ...
  • 'Short Cuts' (1993) ...
  • 'Mars Attacks!' ( ...
  • 'Hamlet' (1996) ...
  • 'Deconstructing Harry' (1997)
Aug 11, 2014

What movie has a 100% rating? ›

A number of these films also appear on the AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies lists, but there are many others and several entries with dozens of positive reviews, which are considered surprising to some experts. To date, Leave No Trace holds the site's record, with a rating of 100% and 252 positive reviews.

What is the #1 biggest film ever? ›

Gone with the Wind

Which movie has 9.5 rating? ›

The movie that has a 9. 5 rating is “The Shawshank Redemption” (1994). Directed and written by Frank Darabont, it is an iconic classic and widely regarded as one of the greatest films of all-time.

What movie has a perfect rotten tomatoes? ›

Critics Consensus: Arguably Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece, The Seven Samurai is an epic adventure classic with an engrossing story, memorable characters, and stunning action sequences that make it one of the most influential films ever made.

What are the Big 5 film? ›

Today, the Big Five majors – Universal Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, and Columbia Pictures – routinely distribute hundreds of films every year into all significant international markets (that is, where discretionary income is high enough for consumers to afford to watch ...

What is the most common movie rating? ›

Movie ratings come in four different categories: G, PG, PG-13 and R. G stands for general audiences. The content is suitable for almost everyone in any age group. This is the most common rating category for movies released by major studios and major theater chains.

Does film editing pay well? ›

As of May 24, 2023, the average hourly pay for a Film Video Editor in the United States is $26.10 an hour.

Can you be a film critic without a degree? ›

The journey to being a film critic is defined. You do not need to attend university to get a degree in film-making or criticism. However, a university degree is usually required. Also, you need some experience and skills to get the reputation you need to become a renowned critic in the film industry.

What degree do you need for film criticism? ›

A film critic is a journalist with knowledge of the film industry. Some film critics have a background in film studies, while others have a degree in communications or journalism; studying both disciplines through major and minor options may give you an advantage.

Who was Oprah's first love? ›

Oprah Reunites With Her First Love | The Oprah Winfrey Show | Oprah Winfrey Network. Meet the one who got away! In 1992, Oprah took a trip down memory lane and checked in with her high school sweetheart, Anthony Otey. For more on #oprahwinfre...

Who told Oprah to syndicate? ›

If there was a defining moment in Oprah Winfrey's business career, it came in 1986 when King World offered her a syndication deal. She'd been hosting the successful AM Chicago, a half-hour morning talk show, when friend and movie critic Roger Ebert persuaded her to go for it.

Has Oprah ever dated anyone? ›

Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham began dating in 1986, the same year Winfrey's show debuted. Winfrey and Graham got engaged in 1992 but called the ceremony off the following year. They have said that if they had married, their relationship would not have lasted.

Did Roger Ebert believe in God? ›

Just over a month before his death on Easter Thursday, Roger Ebert wrote a blog post titled “How I Am a Roman Catholic” — a follow-up of sorts to a 2009 post called “How I Believe in God.” For years I'd been toying with the idea of a response to that 2009 piece called “How I Believe in Roger Ebert”; for the last four ...

What movie did Roger Ebert walk out of? ›

Caligula (1980)

Legal issues surrounding the unsimulated sex and violence further hindered the film from finding a mass audience. Notable, however, is the fact that Roger Ebert, who sat through so much dreck in his lifetime, actually walked out.

How old was Ebert when he died? ›

Why was Roger Ebert so popular? ›

In 1967 he was named the paper's chief film critic, a title he would hold for more than 40 years. Ebert was known for his unabashed love of cinema and an unpretentious, accessible approach that allowed him to give equal critical consideration to both Hollywood blockbusters and art house fare.

Did Roger Ebert have kids? ›

Personal life. Ebert was married to Chaz Hammelsmith from July 18, 1992 until his death in 2013. They had no children.

Could Roger Ebert talk? ›

When film critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to cancer, he lost the ability to eat and speak. But he did not lose his voice.

Who is the most famous movie critique? ›

Roger Ebert is the undisputed best-known movie critic of all time. His work at the Chicago Tribune and on PBS introduced the “thumbs up/thumbs down” ranking that has become a staple of cinema, and his take would become a decisive factor on whether audiences would swarm to a theater, or wouldn't even care to show up.

Did Siskel and Ebert get along? ›

Things were going pretty well between Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert by the mid-'90s. There was still tension there, of course—that would never go away. But Gene and Roger's lives would undergo major changes throughout the decade. Their partnership would become closer than ever before.

Did Roger Ebert ever change his mind? ›

For the remainder of their tenure together, neither managed to convince the other to change their mind about any other movie, though as you'll see later on, Ebert did sometimes reverse his decision in print.


1. Siskel and Ebert The Worst Movies (Ebert’s most hated)
(The Magnificent Mr McGee)
2. Roger Ebert & the Movies (2000) - Nutty Professor II, Space Cowboys, Girl on the Bridge
(That Old T.V.)
3. Siskel & Ebert / Star Wars & Close Encounters / 1980
4. Return of the Jedi Review - Sneak Previews (1983) [Richard Marquand & Anthony Daniels Interviews]
(Travis C)
5. Sneak Previews with Siskel & Ebert: S1 E8 (1978) - Grease, Jaws 2, Animal House, Heaven Can Wait
(That Old T.V.)
6. Siskel & Ebert Collection on Letterman, Part 6 of 6: 1997-2000
(Don Giller)


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