Look and Find #4: Empire Strikes Back ‘Imperial March’

Welcome to the fourth post in the “Look and Find” series. The process is straightforward: look across the length of a film/video game for leitmotifs/themes, transcribe them, find other instances of them, detail them with instrumentation as well as notable characteristics and permutations, and post them here! Again from The Empire Strikes Back (1980), we have the Imperial March.

Imperial March:


Note that the Imperial March is ONLY introduced in Empire, not in the original Star Wars. Anything that concerns the Empire or Darth Vader has this theme accompanying it. Throughout the series, though, it is a theme that wholly represents Darth Vader more than the Empire. As it is a march, there are obvious military connotations, a uniformity and precision in its melodic structure through the constant quarter note rhythm (“Only imperial stormtroopers are so precise”).

Specific time stamps of this theme:

19:45 – First example, the Empire searches for the hidden Rebel base, and the music also underscores Darth Vader’s conversations with Imperial officers.

30:25 – Very quick burst of the theme inside the hectic ‘Battle of Hoth’ sequence, as General Veers orders the targeting of the shield generator.

34:09 – Darth Vader introduction.

34:43 – Another Darth Vader intro.

36:50 – Interlude shot of Imperial fleet.

44:17 – Another Interlude shot.

52:14 – ANOTHER interlude shot.

*53:37 – Notice how the theme is NOT used. There may be other hidden forces at work in the scene ahead *foreshadowing the giant space worm*.

1:05:43 – yet ANOTHER interlude shot.

1:23:26 – Beware the Dark Side, notice the lack of solid rhythm: less about the empire and more about the Force.

1:30:26 – Again, lack of strict rhythm as Han is to be interrogated.

1:31:19 – Same as above.

1:34:35 – Same, but now with regards to being frozen in carbonite.

1:36:38 – Something something Dark Side!

*Notice that during the battle between Luke and Vader, no music is played until the later part. This creates uncertainty and even anxiety as we watch.

1:46:00 – Dark Side is overwhelming Luke, his will is being broken.

1:51:15 – The big one! The ultimate reveal. As if Luke has been through enough he has this giant bomb of a revelation dropped on him.

Did you find other examples of the theme in the film? Thought this was boring? Let me know in the comments below!



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