Star Wars Episode V: The Empire strikes back

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Not recommended under 10, PG to 13 (Violence; scary scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Star Wars Episode V: The Empire strikes back
  • a review of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire strikes back completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 9 February 2012.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 10-13 Parental guidance recommended due to violence and scary scenes
Children 13 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire strikes back
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild science fiction violence
Length: 120 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The rebels are stationed on the ice planet of Hoth but it comes under attack from the Imperial forces. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) manage to escape in time in the Millennium Falcon. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is, however, instructed by Obi Wan Kenobe (Alec Guiness) that he must travel to Dagobah to receive training from the Jedi master Yoda (voice of Frank Oz).  Yoda is a small creature, not quite what Luke was expecting, but with great powers which he patiently tries to teach Luke to use.

Meanwhile Han and Princess Leia land on Bespin where they are taken in by an old friend Lando (Billy Dee Williams). Lando unfortunately betrays them to the Empire who captures Han and Princess Leia and take them prisoner. Luke realises his friends are in trouble and leaves Dagobah to rescue them. He finds himself in much greater difficulty than he expected when he comes face to face with Darth Vader (David Prowse).


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Good versus evil

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • several space ship battle scenes
  • several laser  gun battles
  • A large ice monster attacks Luke, drags him away and he is shown hanging upside down.
  • Luke cuts a monster’s arm off with a laser
  • Han opens up the stomach of a creature with a laser.
  • Large mobile tanks that look like creatures advance on the targets shooting lasers at them.
  • Luke and Darth Vader battle in his mind, with light sabres. Luke chops off  Darth Vader’s head but it is Luke’s own face he sees.
  • CP30 gets shot at and breaks up into pieces.
  • Han is tied up and tortured (nothing actually shown).
  • Chewbacca strangles Lando
  • Luke and Darth Vader fight with light sabres and Darth Vader cuts Luke’s hand off.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under five, including:

  • Dogobah is a scary, swampy, foggy land with strange sounds and creatures.
  • Many of the alien creatures look very scary, including Chewbacca and Yoda.
  • Darth Vader is very scary looking–covered in a black armoured suit complete with face covering. He breathes very heavily.
  • A large ice monster is shown eating raw meat with blood dripping from its face.
  • Luke is caught in an ice blizzard and collapses with his camel. He appears near death.
  • Luke’s plane is shot down and he crash lands.
  • The Emperor is a scary, threatening man.
  • Luke enters a dark, spooky cave where he imagines battling with Darth Vader.
  • Han is put into a carbon freeze and looks like a statue.
  • Luke falls out of a window into an abyss. He nearly falls off the planet but hangs on to wires.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • While Luke and Darth Vader fight, Darth Vader tries to convince Luke to come over to the ‘dark side’. It is then that he reveals he is actually Luke’s father.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

OK for this age group

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Some mild flirting between Han and Princess Leia.

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

Some mild name-calling such as “fuzzball” and “nerf herder”

In a nutshell

Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back is quite an intense movie and darker than the original Star Wars film. As the story unfolds it reveals more of the plot which has quite sinister undertones. However, it is another science fiction classic that will greatly appeal to older children and adolescents.

The main message from this movie is that you should not allow yourself to be overcome by evil and should remain true to your beliefs.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • courage
  • loyalty
  • selflessness and self sacrifice

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as their own beliefs are about good and evil, and the use of force to defend one’s beliefs.