Since the franchise started in 1977, Star Wars has become a huge part of entertainment and pop culture. The 1980 debut of Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back marked an important moment in movie history. Darth Vader tells the world he is Luke Skywalker's father, and the twist ending gobsmacked viewers everywhere. The Empire Strikes Back reactions were truly staggering.
Now the minds behind movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi struggle to keep plot surprises secretive. Avoiding spoilers online is often a monumental task; fans rush to social media platforms and forums, discussing what they had seen. On the other hand, The Empire Strikes Back original reviews didn't even mention the reveal, giving fans opportunities to experience Darth Vader's revelation properly.
Thanks to sites like Reddit, it's possible to find out exactly how these fans reacted when they witnessed the famous scene firsthand.
From Redditor /u/sinat50:
I remember the day vividly. I was standing in line with my dad, so excited to see the movie, and some assh*le runs out waving a flashing lightsaber in the air screaming, "Darth Vader is Luke's father! Darth Vader is Luke's father!"
Never in the history of man has their been a crowd of people so determined to [kill] someone.
From Redditor /u/Retroactive_Spider:
It was pretty amazing. The theater was tense.
Honestly, the biggest thing I remember is not believing it. I thought Vader was just bullsh*tting him. Why would Obi-Wan lie? It wasn't until Yoda confirmed it in Return of the Jedi that I believed him.
Word didn't really spread that quickly. There was no internet, after all. There were kids I went to school with who, months later, still didn't know. People are a lot kinder about spreading spoilers in person.
From Redditor /u/5_Frog_Margin:
I was 10 in 1980, I felt the same way. I thought Vader was just messing with him. Of course a big part of me didn't want to believe it. Honestly, for a 10-year-old Star Wars fan, that's a lot to take in. The worst villain of all time is actually the father of the best hero of all time? Impossible!
Nowadays, kids are so jaded and used to twists like this, it's hard to impress them. It took me quite a while to absorb and accept it, and even during Return of the Jedi I was secretly hoping it would be confirmed by Yoda or Obi-Wan as BS.
Conversely, when Leia was revealed as the sister, I felt the opposite. I remember thinking, "Gimme a break, you did that in the last movie." I have always been a little jaded about that. It wasn't until I saw the end of Revenge of the Sith that it seemed to all fit together. Destiny and all that.
From Redditor /u/showmm:
I don't remember the theater, I do remember not believing what I was seeing and hearing on the screen. But the twist of Darth being Luke's father wasn't that big because I simply didn't believe it. The ending with the heroes not obviously winning was more of a shock.
Think about the last part of the movie. Han Solo was already dead/in carbonite, Luke has just had his hand cut off, and now Darth Vader is trying to con Luke that Darth is his father.
I couldn't believe it. Darth Vader had to be lying, simple as that. This was too much tragedy for a [9-year-old] little kid... to take in. The heroes are supposed to win! This wasn't a victory, how could any of this be happening?