How Many Academy Awards Did The Empire Strikes Back Win In 1980?

How Many Academy Awards Did The Empire Strikes Back Win In 1980?

Here’s a question that you might not know the answer to: how many Academy Awards did The Empire Strikes Back win in 1980?

Tricky question, right? While The Empire Strikes Back is considered by most Star Wars fans to be the greatest film of the franchise, you might not have been born when it was released in 1980 (I wasn’t). And even if you’re as old and as wise as Master Yoda, a lot has happened since those Academy Awards nominations, winners and red carpet malfunctions.

After all, The Empire Strikes Back is thirty five years-old and during its lifetime, it’s numerous iterations, variations, updates and overhauls have helped to keep the presentation of the film timeless. So surely this classic did well at the Oscars.

The Empire Strikes Back is considered by most to be a science fiction masterpiece, and in it’s lifetime it has evolved from a dusty, old 35mm film into compressed television broadcasts, VHS, Videodisc, Laserdisc, Special Edition re-release, DVD, Blu-Ray, HD television, digital downloads and online streams.  But the rarest of them all is arguably the 70mm version of The Empire Strikes Back. While for most it appears to be the same cut as the 35mm print, hardcore Star Wars fans will instantly be mesmerized by the twenty eight alterations made to the film.

Indeed you may have watched each and every version of The Empire Strikes Back a number of times, and be astounded time and again by its brilliance, but it may surprise you to learn that at the time of it’s release it wasn’t hailed by filmmakers as an inspirational masterpiece.

In 1978, Star Wars (later retitled Episode IV: A New Hope) won seven out of eleven categories that it was nominated for at the Oscars. Even by today’s dumbed-down standards, this is a considerable achievement for just a “kids movie”. However, in 1980 The Empire Strikes Back presented audiences with a far darker and more “adult” tone than that of it’s predecessor. Consequently, The Empire Strikes Back was only nominated for three awards.  The film won a Special Achievement Award for Special Effects and despite some of John William’s (or indeed cinema’s) finest musical scores being written for film, he lost Best Original Score to Michael Gore for his work on Fame.

Out of the three Academy Awards that The Empire Strikes Back was nominated for, it only won one. Yes, you read that correctly… The Empire Strikes Back only won a single Academy Award and it was for Best Sound. While a Special Achievement Award is still… a special achievement,  The Empire Strikes Back did surprisingly poorly for such a classic, gaining only two awards out of a possible four. And one was a gift!


53rd Academy Award Nominations For The Empire Strikes Back

Best Art Direction
Harry Lange, Alan Tomkins, Michael Ford,Leslie Dilley, Norman Reynolds Nominated
Best Original Score
John Williams Nominated
Best Sound
Steve Maslow, Gregg Landaker, Peter Sutton,Bill Varney Won
Special Achievement
Brian Johnson, Richard Edlund, Bruce Nicholson, Dennis Muren
Golden Globe – 1980
Category Nominee Win/Nominated
Best Original Score
John Williams Nominated
PEO – 1981
Category Nominee Win/Nominated
Best Film


Bizarrely, The Empire Strikes Back is often featured in the top ten greatest movies ever made; The Return of The Jedi, which is considered by most to be the weakest of the three original films, is not.  However, the latter was nominated in four categories and won a Special Achievement Award for visual effects.  So how could there only be one Academy Award separating the best and the worst of the original trilogy?

So there we have it: Ewoks get you more nominations than Wampas do. Leaving audiences with a cliffhanger is suicidal for Awards Season. Oh, and don’t bother hiring John Williams to write you a timeless musical score.

So, to answer the question: how many Academy Awards did The Empire Strikes Back win in 1980? It won two, and only one that it was nominated for.


Chris McCarron

I'm an angry Scotsman, fanatical about Doctor Who with a savage hunger for comic-books and an unrivalled passion for video games. Owner of GoGoChimp

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