Star Wars: How George Lucas Changed The Empire Strikes Back's Ending After It Was in Theaters

To call filmmaker George Lucas a perfectionist would be a bit of an understatement, as he has regularly gone back and found ways to tweak his films to most directly align with his vision, and while some fans might not appreciate the more recent updates he's added to his films, he's been attempting to improve them for 40 years. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back landing in theaters, StarWars.com looked back at how Lucas witnessed how the final scene played out after the film landed in select theaters and found a way to tweak the ending before the rest of the world saw it.

The film first debuted in 70mm in more than 100 theaters on May 21, 1980, with its 35mm release not happening until June 18th. In the final scene in which Luke, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 are on the medical frigate while Lando and Chewbacca are on the Millennium Falcon, Lucas thought the geography of the sequences was confusing as it played out in that initial release in regards to where all the characters were. Lucas then contacted the film's editor and the ILM team to let them know they needed to add some shots to help clarify the sequence before the film went wide.

You can head to StarWars.com to see the full breakdown of the slight differences between that initial 70mm release and the modifications made for its 35mm release.

The first notable changes to the original trilogy of films came in the late '90s when Lucas was planning to re-release the films in theaters, as the filmmaker took advantage of advances in both visual effects and sound design to make improvements to antiquated effects, which also included the incorporation of deleted scenes. The Special Edition release of Star Wars: A New Hope famously altered the scene in which Han Solo kills Greedo, updating it to feature Greedo firing first, as well as the addition of a Jabba the Hutt scene.

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With the film's DVD and Blu-ray releases over the years, the films had earned a number of slight tweaks, with the films landing on Disney+ last year seeing yet another change. In the famous Han and Greedo scene, before Greedo is killed, he now utters a word that sounds like "maclunkey," which was reportedly a change made to the film when there were tentative plans for the original trilogy to be converted to 3D for a theatrical release.

The entire Skywalker Saga is currently streaming on Disney+.

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