Thirty years ago, I was 10 and camped out with friends and family on the Glendale Cinema's parking lot in Indianapolis...waiting for the first showing of Empire. That movie equally jazzed and devastated us.
I saw Empire the night after it opened. It was the first time in my life buying advance tickets for a movie. What a thrill when the whole audience cheered at Luke's first appearance. Even though I loved the movie, I was a bit put off by the "to be continued" nature of the ending. And I was convinced Vader was lying about being Luke's father.
I was four. I was desperate to see the film- I had played with all the toys thanks to my neighbor, and even though my parents didn't know what the heck the Force was, they agreed to take me. When my party of four arrived, though, we were told there were only three seats in the theater- none together, I begged to sit on my dad's lap. We sat in the front, while my mom and sister were somewhere in the rear. I remember coming in late- Luke was already hanging upside down in the cave- and I was hooked. Until Luke met Yoda, and I turned to my dad and asked why the new character sounded like Grover. At the end, I was devastated by the news that Vader might be Luke's father. But my own dad had good news- he had seen an interview with the actor who played Darth. James Earl Jones was black, he told me, and there was no way that blond kid could be his son...
I saw Empire many years after it was released, because I wasn't born when it first came out. But it's my favorite of the Star Wars films. It was just so epic. While the first film is high up on my list, this one is just awesome. It rreally packed in a lot of stuff and expanded the concepts of the first film. Plus as a kid I loved the scenes on Hoth and of course, Yoda.
Interesting to note that the SW movie generally regarded as the best -- Empire Strikes Back -- was not written or directed by George Lucas. Lucas came up with the plot and supervised, but he turned the direction over to someone who could handle actors (Irvin Kershner) and he hired a couple of real writers (Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan) to write the screenplay.
You can credit Brackett and Kasdan for the crackling, punchy dialogue, especially between Han and Leia. It echoes the male-female bantering in the Howard Hawks-directed movies written by Brackett (esp. "The Big Sleep" and "Rio Bravo") ... something I'm sure film buff Lucas was aware of. Kasdan wasn't bad at dialogue, either, as you know if you've seen Body Heat.