Remembering Irvin Kershner, Director Of ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ A.K.A. The Best ‘Star Wars’ Movie Ever

As if losing Leslie Nielsen wasn’t enough of a tragedy, here’s some more sad news: director Irvin Kershner, most famous for directing “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back,” has died in his Los Angeles home following a lengthy illness. He was 87.

Although Kershner’s directing credits are few and far between, the filmmaker’s status as the director of “The Empire Strikes Back” solidifies his crucial place in cinema history: He not only contributed to one of the greatest science-fiction sagas of all time, he was also responsible for bringing us the very best “Star Wars” film, period.

Sure, every “Star Wars” movie has its merits — okay, most of them do — but none hit the same high notes that “Empire” achieved. After the jump, check out five reasons why Kershner’s entry into the “Star Wars” franchise is the greatest of them all.

1. The Battle of Hoth
From episodes one through six, “Star Wars” always featured entertaining opening sequences, but none hold a candle to Hoth. This snowy landscape is not only the site of one of the greatest “Star Wars” battles of all time, it also introduced viewers to an innovative new way of camping out in the cold. (Speaking of which, the holiday season is just around the corner — have you bought your Tauntaun sleeping bag yet?)

2. Tons of Character
In addition to the new worlds discovered on Hoth, Dagobah and Bespin, “Empire” introduced several crucial characters to the “Star Wars” mythology, including (but not limited to) the backwards-talking Yoda, the suave Lando Calrissian and the inimitable (well, kind of inimitable) Boba Fett and his fellow bounty hunting rivals. Can you imagine “Star Wars” without any of those three characters? We think not!

3. Han Solo, Not So Hot Right Now
Lando, Yoda, Fett and the others brought plenty of excitement to the table, but old favorites like Han Solo remained powerful presences throughout “Empire.” Han in particular is a standout in this episode, going from self-serving mercenary to self-sacrificing hero. As a result, the words “I know” became synonymous with “I love you, too” for several years to come.

4. Daddy Problems
Talk about completely reversing a character’s apparent direction, the reveal of Darth Vader as Luke Skywalker’s father forever changed the destiny of both men. Indeed, the revelation of Vader as Anakin Skywalker was so important that it inspired a trilogy of prequel films. Wait, this is supposed to be in defense of “Empire,” right? Maybe we should ignore that last bit…

5. Darker Days
Perhaps the best lesson that “Empire” taught us is that the dark side is good. No, not the dark side of the Force, of course… but sometimes, winning isn’t everything. Sometimes, walking away from a battle without hope is necessary to come back and win the war — and in the case of “Empire,” watching that hopeless battle is an absolute blast through and through.

And for that, we can never thank Kershner enough.

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