Best soundtrack - In addition to all the great themes from the first movie, this one introduced Yoda's theme (to date, my absolute favorite), the Imperial March (DV's theme), and the Finale (picture the medical frigate on which Luke, Leia, and the droids watch the Falcon on its way to rescue Han... there. Can you hear it?).
Best (pre-CG) visual effects ever - Bespin's sky as the Falcon is pursued by TIE Fighters, the asteroid field, AT-ATs on the horizon from the cockpit of a snow speeder, and so on.
Best sets - The carbon freeze chamber, Cloud City hallways, Star Destroy interiors, starship hangers on Hoth, Dagobah (that was all done on a soundstage!), etc.
Best action sequence - The Millennium Falcon asteroid field chase. This still gets my adrenaline pumping.
Best sequel - Could anyone have followed up Star Wars: A New Hope with anything as entertaining? This topic requires more exposition than I can go into, but consider, for example, the way the characters are reintroduced to the audience, one by one, each in an appropriate context (contrast with the entire PM or the angering character introduction: the presentation of Jabba the Hutt in RotJ... they just put the camera right on him first thing, no context, no suspense, nothing. This for a character mentioned seven years and 2 movies ago. Someone take a class on filmmaking, please!). Also, rather than going with the obvious, interesting choices are made (see, for example, earlier discussion on character groupings) rather simple rehashing earlier material.
The most effective romance - It was a PG-rated love story even guys enjoyed. Name another movie that fits that description.
Single most memorable event in my cinematic viewing experience - One of my all-time best memories was being a 7-year-old in the audience of "The Empire Strikes Back." I remember sitting there during the scene where Luke is hanging over the chasm (sans arm, mind you; which was traumatic enough for me already), and I was about to die. I had never been so charged with fear in my entire life. Granted, I didn't have abusive parents or anything, so I guess my existence was pretty tame.
Still, this was incredibly dramatic. Darth Vader was going to kill Luke! He was going to kill the guy I had been rooting for for the past three years. The guy who I identified with because I still had some traces of blonde at that point, whose action figures were all over the floor of my room. Okay, I was seven. I didn't know you couldn't kill the lead protagonist in the second chapter of the most lucrative film franchise of all time.
So there Luke was, hanging over a bottomless chasm. My heart is racing. And then Luke jumps. I don't even remember being affected by Vader's revelation that he was Luke's father. It was that Luke was going to (and did!) tumble down this pit. And then he does! Whoa!
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