June 21, 2021

“Luke, I am your father!” — the most famous movie misquote ever?

On May 21, 1980, The Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the original Star Wars movie trilogy, had an initial release at a limited number of theaters in the US.

The nationwide release came nearly a month later on June 20, 1980.

Now called Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back since George Lucas decided to start producing Star Wars prequels, it’s still a favorite of many Star Wars fans — including me.

I can’t recall if I first saw The Empire Strikes Back at my local move theater in May or June of 1980.

But I know I went as soon as it was shown there, along with my daughter, who was already a Star Wars fan at age 6.

I vividly remember that, like other fans who saw it for the first time, my mind was blown by the shocking climactic scene in the huge air shaft of Cloud City on the planet Bespin, when Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) fights a lightsaber duel with Darth Vader (played by David Prowse, with the voice overdubbed by James Earl Jones).

The first shocker in that scene (which you can watch in video clips online) is seeing Darth Vader cut off Luke’s right hand with his lightsaber.

Then Darth shocks viewers — and Luke — even more by saying he is Luke’s father.

Vader’s revelatory line is widely misquoted and often spoofed for comedic effect as: “Luke, I am your father!”

As serious Star Wars buffs know, Vader doesn’t say those exact words.

But somehow, the misquoted version took on a life of its own shortly after The Empire Strikes Back was released.

For example, a review in the June 28, 1980 edition of the Montana newspaper The Missoulian, says of the final fight scene between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader:

“Both are silent. After a few minutes, Luke’s hand is cut off and his lightsaber falls into a chasm surrounding him. Then all of a sudden Vader turns off his lightsaber and says ‘Luke, I am your father!’”

I’d guess that a review in a small Montana paper didn’t create the famous misquote.

I suspect it was floating around elsewhere in print and conversations in the weeks after the film was released.

At any rate, since 1980, “Luke, I am your father” has become one of the most familiar movie misquotations of all time.

Indeed, it’s often included in lists of top movie misquotes.

In case you can’t recall what Darth Vader really said, here’s a transcript of the exchange between him and Luke Skywalker with the actual “I am your father” quote.

DARTH VADER: “Don’t make me destroy you. Luke, you do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy.”
“I’ll never join you!”
“If you only knew the power of the dark side. Obi-wan never told you what happened to your father.”
LUKE: “He told me enough! He told me you killed him.”
DARTH: “No. I am your father.”

This freaks out Luke as much as it did audiences.

He cries: “No! That’s not true. That’s impossible!”

Then he pushes himself off into the void of the Cloud City air shaft, seemingly falling to his death.

Of course, Luke lived on.

In the highly unlikely event that you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t explain how he survived.

What also survived long after The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980 is one of the most famous movie misquotes in the known universe.

Maybe the most famous.

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