The general consensus is that the second in the original Star Wars trilogy – released 40 years ago – is the best. In fact, it’s to blame for the franchise’s problems, writes Nicholas Barber.

It’s 40 years this month since The Empire Strikes Back was released, and for most of that time the second film in the Star Wars series has been enshrined as the best: the darkest, the most complex, the most mature. Directed by Irvin Kershner, it’s the Star Wars episode with the highest score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes (94%) and from viewers on Imdb (8.7), and the one that is said to elevate the saga as a whole. “It is because of the emotions stirred in Empire,” wrote Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times when the film was re-released in 1997, “that the entire series takes on a mythic quality that resonates back to the first and ahead to the third. This is the heart.”

I wish I could agree. This might come across as a contrarian hot take, but it seems obvious to me that the best film in the Star Wars series is, in fact, Star Wars. (I know we’re supposed to call it ‘A New Hope’ these days, but it was called Star Wars when it came out in 1977, so that’s good enough for me.) What’s more, it seems obvious that The Empire Strikes Back is the source of all the franchise’s problems. Whatever issues we geeks grumble about when we’re discussing the numerous prequels and sequels, they can all be traced back to 1980.

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