STAR WARS MADNESS FINAL FOUR: #1 The Empire Strikes Back vs. #5 Rogue One

By Andrew Gilman Updated:

Welcome to the Final 4 round of the Star Wars Madness Tournament! Following a harrowing Elite 8 round that saw massive blowouts and shocking upsets, the stage has been set for the four remaining Star Wars films to battle it out for a chance at the crown. Below is our updated bracket:


Now, we're on to the first matchup of the Final 4. An all-time classic is set to take on a new fan favorite, presenting completely different options for fans of the Empire and the Rebel Alliance. The Empire Strikes Back saw the Rebels suffer a masive defeat at the Battle of Hoth to Imperial forces, led by the charismatic, dutiful, calculating General Veers. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Alliance scored their first major victory over the Empire by stealing the plans to the Death Star, but at great cost: all of the heroes died at Scarif. There's one big connective thread to these films: Darth Vader shows up and kills a bunch of people. Which film saw the dark lord at his best? Eliminating Rebel soldiers, or executing his own officers? VOTE BELOW!

In The Empire Strikes Back, we immediately find our heroes in danger, setting the field for the rest of the film. Luke heads to Dagobah to begin training as a Jedi with Yoda, facing his inner darkness and learning the lesson of belief. Han and Leia are hosed from the get-go, and as they all fall into the trap set by Darth Vader on Cloud City, the dark lord solidifies himself as one of the most cunning villains in cinematic history.

No... I am your father.

Come on. There's no way this wasn't going to get mentioned. This is one of the most iconic lines in the history of motion pictures, words that changed the landscape of the Star Wars saga forever. What's most interesting about this twist is that Luke already knew who his father was and what became of him - or so he thought. After Vader has toyed with him on three different set pieces, trying to freeze him in carbonite, throwing him out a window, and slicing his hand off, he gave Luke the courtesy of officially making it the worst day of his life by telling him he was his son. Luke's world was turned upside down, the future became even more uncertain, and this moment defined Star Wars as a story about family. Vader was hellbent on finding Luke from the opening crawl of the film, and the buildup to this moment throughout the entire film makes the revelation hit the audience just as hard as it hits Luke. If someone successfully created a time machine, millions of young Star Wars fans would use it to go back to see the reaction to this moment in 1980.

Impact on Star Wars

For all intents and purposes, Empire has had the biggest effect on Star Wars and will likely go unmatched. Empire took the series in a darker direction following a happy fairy tale ending in A New Hope, proving that Star Wars was serious about challenging its characters and was here to stay. Lucas carried forward with Luke's 'hero's journey' through his training with Yoda and defeat on Cloud City, which resulted in catastrophic ramifications for all of the heroes. Yoda's introduction into the series pushed Star Wars into new boundaries of mysticism, leaving behind powerful messages for all audiences. The romance between Han and Leia proved that Star Wars could succeed with any kind of storytelling, so long as the characters were done justice. A sequel in which the bad guys won was unheard of for its time, made even more stunning by the fact that even the villain suffered some form of emotional defeat. The Empire Strikes Back transformed what Star Wars is and can be, and has set the bar astronomically high for every creator entering the galaxy far, far away.

Why The Empire Strikes Back should beat Rogue One?

Why shouldn't it? That's not a knock on Rogue One; Empire is just that good. The Empire Strikes Back is essentially a perfect film, with its only real flaws being drawbacks from aged visual effects and an occasionally recognizable puppet. Empire tells a deeply personal story for all of its characters with sky-high stakes that culminates in a shocking reveal leaving our heroes with nothing but hope and each other. The score is incredible, not only in the big sequences, but also during the expositional moments as well; there's not a single point in the film that can't be identified by John Williams' accompanying score. The writing and dialogue fit the characters perfectly, and the tone set for the film emphasizes the gravity of the situation the Rebels are found in. Also: Vader. The movie was about Luke's journey towards becoming a Jedi and Han and Leia's budding romance, but in many ways Darth Vader steals the show and has become the face of this film and franchise. It's no mystery why Empire is frequently placed near the top of fans' Star Wars movie rankings - we'd be worried if it weren't.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story finds a group of outcasts with good hearts come together to fight for galactic freedom, successfully showing how the Death Star plans ended up in the hands of Princess Leia. A personal story for Jyn Erso as much as it is a group ensemble, the heroes are sent to find Saw Gerrera, who received a message from Jyn's Imperial scientist father, Galen, detailing the threat posed by the Empire's new technological terror. The group sneaks into the Imperial facility on Scarif, where they are joined by the Rebel Alliance fleet in a vicious war that ends with the heroes paying the ultimate price for their bravery.

Rebellions are built on hope.

Things weren't going too well for Jyn up until about the midpoint of the movie. When we found her, she was locked away in an Imperial prison cell before being broken out by the Alliance. She then goes on to recieve a heartbreaking hologram message from her father Galen, watches her father-figure Saw perish in the destruction caused by the Death Star's test fire, and holds Galen in her arms as he dies from wounds caused by the Rebels right after finally reuniting. She feels betrayed by the Rebels, by Cassian, but has finally found the resolve to keep fighting. Following her father's death, Jyn returns to the Alliance base to convince the Rebel Council to send troops to Scarif to steal the Death Star plans, but unfortunately she has little credibility with the body. She utters a line said earlier to her by Cassian, something she's grown to believe over the course of her journey, and it embodies everything that Star Wars is about. Although she wasn't able to sell the Council on her pitch, the soldiers in the room were listening, as were her new friends. Those friends all quickly became a family as they took off for Scarif, later followed by Admiral Raddus and the Rebel fleet, with hope guiding their path to victory.

Rogue One broke new ground in Star Wars as the first live-action spinoff film in the universe. The film's primary objective was to fill in the gap left by the opening crawl of A New Hope, telling us how the Rebels scored their first major victory and stole the Death Star plans. On that front, it succeeds tremendously, leaving us with an astonishing third act that makes up for a lot of the messier moments in the beginning of the film. We were promised a gritty war film set in the Star Wars universe, akin to Saving Private Ryan, something the filmmakers absolutely delivered. Despite the outcome of the film being pre-determined, the Battle of Scarif still managed to jack up the heart rates across the globe and Lucasfilm and Disney proved to us they weren't afraid to kill off the cast of heroes if it was necessary for the story. The film also hit technological feats, as ILM produced exceptional work yet again, breaking new ground by digitally recreating Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Princess Leia in a largely convincing manner. Rogue One added countless new things to the Star Wars canon and lore, and Darth Vader's work aboard the Profundity at the end of the film gave fans a long-desired look at the Sith lord in all his ferocious glory.

Why Rogue One should beat The Empire Strikes Back?

This movie delivers in so many ways that it's rightfully earned its place competing against the big dog. Rogue One is, evidently, the most well-received film of the Disney Star Wars era, and for good reason. The story is compelling, the characters are interesting in the limited time we have with them, and the final act of the film gave us one of the best space battles in the series and a nail-biting ground assault on a beautiful tropical Imperial resort. The film achieves spectacular things technologically and narratively, adding a great story to the Star Wars universe. The movie leaves you wanting to fire up A New Hope immediately after to continue the story, which is exactly what the intended purpose was. Rouge One was a smash hit at the box office and planted the seeds for numerous Star Wars stories that have since been told, with even a spinoff TV series now on the way. To say that Rogue One was a success would be criminally understating things, but can it, or any Star Wars movie, hold its ground against The Empire Strikes Back? Can readers stand to see the Imperial flag reign across the galaxy? Or will it not be a problem so long as they don't look up...

- About The Author: Andrew Gilman