The Empire Strikes Back begins three years after the destruction of the Death Star. Princess Leia has set up the Rebel Alliance on a base located on the ice planet of Hoth. Darth Vader in the mean time has ordered his Imperial fleet to hunt for them by dispatching probe droids across the entire galaxy.
While out investigating one of the probes that landed on Hoth, a wampa manages to knock out and capture Luke Skywalker, but he escapes from the its lair once he comes to. He stumbles out into the frozen world, but the cold quickly overwhelms him. As he succumbs to a hypothermic sleep, Obi-Wan Kenobi appears to him as a Force Ghost, and instructs him to go to Dagobah to train under Jedi Master Yoda.
Han Solo arrives and sacrifices his Tauntaun to save Luke and himself as night falls. The next morning, a search party rescues them, and takes them back to the Rebel base.
Meanwhile, the probes have already alerted the Imperial fleet to the Rebels’ location. Darth Vader holds nothing back, and launches a large-scale attack to crush the rebellion. Using AT-AT walkers, they overwhelm the Rebels, and capture the base; forcing them to retreat.
Han and Chewbacca escape with Leia and C-3PO in the Millennium Falcon, but the ship’s hyperdrive malfunctions, and they can not make it to the new rendezvous point. They fly to an asteroid field, and hide in one of the larger caverns in one. Vader now summons a plethora of bounty hunters to find the Falcon, but he will not allow any disintegrations!
At the same time, Luke and R2-D2 escape in his X-wing fighter, and head to the swampy planet of Dagobah. He promptly crashes upon entering the planet’s atmosphere, and winds up in the exact location he needs to be. He soon comes across a crazy little local who tests his patience. When the local reveals himself to be the Jedi Master Yoda, Luke doesn’t believe it until Yoda and Obi-Wan’s spirit talk about training Luke. Yoda doesn’t want to, but reluctantly accepts Luke as his student (as if he’d really say no after sitting back and waiting for Luke to grow up these past twenty years).
Back at the Falcon, that large cavern turns out to be the inside of a large space slug called an Exogorths. Han hightails it out of there, but the Imperial Fleet once again finds him. However, Han still manages to evade them by anchoring the Falcon to one of the ships, and then floating away with its trash before it jumps to hyperspace.
Han takes them to the Cloud City on the gas planet of Bespin where Han’s old “friend” Lando Calrissian runs the show. However, Han’s little trash trick didn’t fool the bounty hunter Boba Fett. He successfully tracked the Falcon to Bespin, and informed Darth Vader. They arrived shortly before Han, and force Lando to betray them.
Vader wants to use Luke’s friends as bait to capture him so that he can take Luke to meet his BFF, Sheev Palpatine. When Luke experiences a Force Vision of Han and Leia in pain, he abandons his training to rescue them even though Yoda warns him against leaving.
The plan is to freeze Luke in carbonite to hold him in suspended animation, but Vader doesn’t want the Emperor’s prize dying, so he decides to freeze Han first as a test subject. Leia reveals to Han that she loves him, and Han reveals to her that he knows. They quickly freeze Han in the carbonite which he survives. Satisfied, Vader turns Han over to Boba Fett so he can collect on Jabba the Hutt’s bounty for him.
Lando has a change of heart to not get involved, and frees Leia and Chewbacca, but they are too late to stop Fett from departing with Han on board. Lando orders the evacuation of the city, and then the group heads back to the Falcon to flee too.
Meanwhile, Luke has arrived. He finds Vader waiting for him, and the two engage in a lightsaber duel where Vader tries to ensnare Luke in his carbonite trap. Luke escapes, and the two battle to the point Luke is cornered out on a platform overlooking one of the deep airshafts.
Vader cuts off Luke’s right hand; disarming him so to speak, and then takes the opportunity to ask Luke to join the dark side. Luke won’t join him because he killed his father, but when Vader reveals that he’s really Luke’s father, Luke screams, “No…That’s not true…That’s impossible!”
Luke searches his feelings…apparently it is true, and the reality is too much for our hero. So, Luke drops hops off the platform, and falls into the airshaft which takes him gently to the bottom. As he comes to a halt, an opening ejects him out the bottom; forcing him hang on to an antenna for dear life.
Luke reaches out to Leia using the Force. She senses him, and orders Lando and Chewie to turn back to pick him up. Once they get Luke onboard, TIE fighters try to chase them to Vader on his Star Destroyer where the two men share a Force Connection. However, R2-D2 reactivates the Falcon’s hyperdrive, and they escape.
They rejoin the Rebel fleet where a surgical droid replaces Luke’s missing hand with a robotic one. Lando and Chewbacca depart in the Falcon to search for Han.