Movie Sequels That You Never Realized Were Just Copying 'Empire Strikes Back'

List Rules
Vote up the sequels that borrow a little too much from 'Empire Strikes Back.'

Star Wars paved the way for all future trilogies, and the second entry being its strongest outing means there's no shortage of sequels like Empire Strikes Back. The film might have been a low point for the heroes, but it was a high point for critics and fans. Empire was a character-focused, dark, and deeply internal film that featured one of the best plot-twists in cinema history. It was also the only entry in the original trilogy that didn't end with the heroes destroying a massive space station. In fact, when the credits rolled, the heroes were in a much worse place than when they started. 

The hallmarks for a sequel clearly ripping off Empire Strikes Back are that it takes the series in a darker direction, features a twist that totally reshapes the story, and finishes on a downer of a cliffhanger that baits fans desperate for narrative resolution. Not every film ripping off Empire Strikes Back does all three, but if the sequel for a movie that wasn't that dark suddenly gets a lot darker, there's a good chance the filmmakers were cribbing from the Star Wars playbook.


  • After the release of Dead Man's Chest, critics were quick to compare the film to Empire. And looking back on the arc of the initial Pirates trilogy, they were right to do so. 

    Following in the footsteps of Empire Strikes Back, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest has quite the cliffhanger ending. After a darker movie than the first, in which the main cast finds themselves split in different directions (just like Empire), the film ends with Captain Jack Sparrow at his end. Everyones' favorite pirate gets a one-way ticket to Davy Jones' locker from the Kraken, where he would have presumably stayed for eternity. Luckily for Jack, just like in Empire, his closest allies waste no time plotting his rescue with a surprise assist from the resurrected Captain Barbossa. 

  • One of the key elements of Empire Strikes Back is Luke's relationship with Yoda. After learning the basics of the force from Ben Kenobi, Luke is ready for more training from a new Jedi Master. Luke travels to Dagobah, finds Yoda, and begins to train. Before Luke's training can finish, he goes against Yoda's warnings and leaves for Bespin to save his friends. 

    Similarly, in The Matrix: Reloaded, Neo meets with The Architect, the Matrix's creator. The Architect tasks Neo with going to the Source to save the Matrix, but instead, he chooses to save his love, Trinity. SyFy rightly compared this moment to Empire Strikes Back as well due to the big twist - the machines have been behind The One this whole time. 

    The Matrix: Reloaded ends on a classic Empire Strikes Back downbeat with the destruction of the Nebuchadnezzar and loss of most of Zion's fleet after an EMP goes off early. The machines have achieved quite the victory, and the movie ends with Neo in need of medical attention a la Luke in Empire. To make matters worse, one of the only other human survivors is secretly possessed by Agent Smith.

  • John Wick: Chapter 2
    Photo: Lionsgate

    John Wick 2 ends with an absolutely phenomenal cliffhanger. The movie begins with Santino, a crime lord from Wick's past, returning to demand Wick fulfill the "marker" Santino has from him. This "marker" symbolizes an unbreakable promise. At first, Wick defies the request, but after Santino destroys Wick's home, he doesn't see any option but to accept the request. 

    After a violent series of events, Wick sets his sights on Santino after being betrayed in bad faith. Wick pursues Santino into The Continental, the one safe-zone from assassinations. But, after Santino uses this fact to taunt Wick, Wick terminates him anyway. The film ends with Wick having one hour until his excommunicado status goes into effect, and every assassin in the world will be hunting him. While it feels a bit more exhilarating than Empire's crushing final ten minutes, it still leaves audiences desperate to find out what will happen when it's literally John Wick against the world.

  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    Photo: Lionsgate

    Star Wars: A New Hope ends with the Death Star blowing up and Luke Skywalker and co. being awarded for their heroics. The Empire Strikes Back begins by letting everyone know that this journey is far from over. Similarly, The Hunger Games ends with Katniss and Peeta becoming co-victors of the games, and Catching Fire finds them getting thrown back into the proverbial fire. 

    Business Insider compared Philip Seymour Hoffman's role in the film to that of Lando's in Empire Strikes Back. Similarly to Lando, Hoffman's character, Heavensbee, originally works for the bad guys (Heavensbee is the Head Gamemaker) before ditching them to help with the rebellion. 

    In the end of the film, Katniss escapes from the games but is seriously injured (just like Luke escaping from Bespin). Meanwhile, Peeta wasn't so lucky, and the film ends with his life still in jeopardy. Sounds like a certain beloved space scoundrel. To make things even more depressing, Katniss learns that her beloved District 12 has been wiped out.