(A version of this post was shared with Laughing Place on May 4, 2023.)
A long time ago (40 years to be exact) in a galaxy far, far away (movie theaters worldwide), George Lucas gave us the third and final installment of his epic Star Wars trilogy – Return of the Jedi. It was hailed by critics as a cinematic joy and gobbled up by audiences to the tune of almost $400 billion dollars (in 1983 money).
Star Wars fever caught fire all around the world, and the Skywalker saga came to a satisfying conclusion (so we thought at the time). The film fed us a classic, tidy victory of good over evil, the turning of a dreaded villain to see the light, and plenty of colorful new characters to meet along the way.
In addition to another helping of stunning Lucasfilm visual effects and another quintessential John Williams score, Return of the Jedi (initially planned to be called Revenge of the Jedi, and later more formally recognized as Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) also gave fans a healthy serving of timeless quotes. So for this 40th anniversary, let’s look back on some of the best quotes from Return of the Jedi.
“If I told you half the things I’ve heard about this Jabba the Hutt, you’d probably short circuit.”
Prior to George Lucas’ revising and re-releasing of the original trilogy films, Jabba the Hutt was a large looming threat, but little was known of him. Brief mentions of Jabba in both Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back set the stage for someone to be tangled with. But Threepio’s typically worrisome words to Artoo prepared us more directly for the danger to come. The worry behind Threepio’s warning nudged the idea forward that a droid may short circuit out of nerves or worry, adding to the humanization of two of the most iconic sidekicks in the Star Wars galaxy.
“You may have been a good smuggler, but now you’re Bantha fodder.”
Jabba the Hutt is truly an interesting character. While he speaks in Huttese, and all of his dialogue is translated into captions, every now and then some of his words sound amazingly like English (or “basic” in the Star Wars universe). No matter the language, everyone in the Outer Rim knows exactly what Bantha Fodder means, and it ain’t good! Best of luck Han (you’re gonna need it).
“Threepio, you tell that slimy piece of worm-ridden filth, he’ll get no such pleasure from us!”
Chewbacca: “Woof” (otherwise known as “wrong” in Wookie)
Han Solo’s bravado knows no boundaries, and that is part of the reason we love him so much. He was in absolutely no position to make a confident declaration of anti-compliance to Jabba, but that didn’t stop him from running his mouth anyway (in the most charming way a scoundrel possibly could). Thankfully, Luke (and Chewie, and Lando, and Leia, and Artoo…) had his back all the way.
“Strong am I with the Force, but not that strong.”
When a 900-year-old Jedi master lives his final moments, sad you will be. Master Yoda only gave us a few precious moments of time in this film, but those moments were packed with wisdom and information.
The idea of evading death has not always been measured solely by strength, but also by choice. In prequel Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Emperor Palpatine tells the tale of Darth Plagueis, who deliberately set out to find a way around death, and was well on his way to succeeding until he was murdered by his own apprentice. In the Harry Potter films, Lord Voldemort found a way to cheat death, by splitting his soul into multiple bodies.
In contrast, Master Yoda may have claimed he was not strong enough to outlive death, but the truth of the matter is that he chose to live the honorable Jedi way, which inherently includes the peaceful passing of life.
“What I told you was true, from a certain point of view.”
This may be the only time in a Star Wars canon film that Obi-Wan Kenobi ever seemed to be a little inauthentic. There is a pretty clear difference between being murdered by someone, and actually being that someone. But if Obi-Wan hadn’t told Luke early on in Episode IV that Darth Vader murdered his father, Luke would have been conflicted about confronting him, or even about being on the opposite side of the war from his father.
Obi-Wan nurtured a clarity in Luke’s feelings, even though it came at the expense of a bit of well-meant deception. Only when Luke was trained enough to resist, could he safely know the truth. But still, we can’t blame Luke for being a bit peeved with old Ben.
“Keep your distance, though, Chewie. But don’t look like you’re trying to keep your distance… I don’t know – fly casual.”
Once again, Chewie is questioning the logic of Han’s statement. But Han’s confidence is key, as is his advice. If you look like you belong, you are much less likely to be challenged about your intentions. That being said, it must be hard for a Wookie to act as nonchalant as a human servant to the Empire.
Now, if we could just do something about Luke’s Force connection with his father. The nerve of him, endangering the mission…
“Then we’ll do it real quiet-like.”
Han Solo isn’t exactly a master of planning (though he’s very much a master of snarky retorts). How dare Leia challenge him on his plan to brazenly take on a handful of guards, by warning him of the risks. It’s not like the fate of the entire galaxy depends on the mission. In Episode V, Han famously declared to Threepio “never tell me the odds”, and here he is saying much the same thing to Leia when she warns him of the risks of letting a guard slip away.
“Hey, it’s me.”
If it’s not Leia warning Han, then it’s Luke. This time, Luke is warning Han (and Chewie) to take out the guards “quietly.” Once again, how dare anyone challenge Han on his ability to carry out a task successfully (and without unintended fanfare)?
In Luke’s defense, Chewie doesn’t do anything quietly, so we understood the true concern of his warning. But that makes the resulting snafu even more humorous when it’s Han – not Chewie – who steps on the stick, snapping it loudly and alerting the guards to their presence. It’s nothing a little high-octane speeder bike chase won’t solve.
“It’s a trap!”
One of the most popular Star Wars-based memes of all time came from a relatively minor character. Admiral Ackbar – a Mon Calamari leader in the Rebel Alliance space offensive – is as brief and succinct as time allows in the heat of battle, when he realizes the Death Star is indeed operational. To add a little extra sting, the Rebels come to realize that the Imperial fleet has been toying with them, waiting patiently for them to discover this grim fact.
While Ackbar’s revelation was hardly humorous at the time, his panicked declaration has come to be the punchline of many “dumb guy” situational scenarios.
“I love you.” “I know.”
We all like to be “in the know.” So when Leia responds to Han’s declaration of love with a simple “I know”, we all sit there smugly thinking “I get it”, recalling the reverse of this exchange near the end of Episode V.
But let’s think about it on a deeper level. In Episode V, Leia was truly pouring her heart out to Han a moment before he underwent a life-threatening carbon freezing process. Here, in Episode VI, Han’s life (and Leia’s as well) are equally in peril at the blaster-point of those pesky stormtroopers, yet his declaration of love feels a combination of thankful and confident (even downright cocky). Such is life and love when it involves Han Solo.
“Obi-Wan has taught you well.”
The acknowledgement of being taught, trained, or otherwise educated well is a common one throughout Star Wars. The master/apprentice pair is prevalent throughout the universe, whether it be on the dark side or the light.
What make’s Darth Vader’s statement here unique is to whom he is attributing Luke’s successful training. From Vader’s point of view, he never knew Luke had any interaction with Master Yoda, let alone a prolonged training session. In fact, Vader has no idea at this point that Yoda is still alive – nor does he have any reason to believe that he is – having last seen him decades ago. This is the brilliance of Luke’s secret training.
“I’ll never turn to the Dark Side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.”
In the face of pure anger at the hands of the Emperor, Luke stood taller than his father, whom he still somehow loved and respected. In this moment, he displayed the discipline and heroism that embodies the Jedi way.
Luke’s declaration is especially impressive knowing he likely faces certain death as a result of his conviction. Was Luke simply being loyal to the end? Or perhaps, did he have confidence that taking this stand would help his father return from the dark side? The last quote in our list may help answer that question.
“Tell your sister, you were right.”
Luke knew it all along. There was indeed some good left in his father. Vader may be “more machine now than man” and he certainly spread more than his share of terror across the galaxy, but Luke saw in him what no one else could. He saw the goodness buried deeply behind that scary exoskeletal shell. His sister Leia didn’t see it. The Emperor didn’t see it. And Darth Vader himself couldn’t see it either.
Vader’s final action brought the Emperor down, and his final words helped put his family back together. “Tell your sister, you were right.”
What’s your favorite quote from this epic Star Wars finale? Join the conversation with a comment to this article, either here or on social at:
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