With “Solo” out in theaters, I thought it would be nice to finally do a ranking on the Star Wars films. There are finally ten of these so it makes for a good top ten. I’m very aware I’m not the only one doing this just because there is a nice even set of 10 movies with a good range in quality. However, this is personal to me and by no means a definitive ranking of the series. In fact, many of you are probably going to disagree with me so please feel free to comment on your ranking!
Also, I know I’m a few weeks late on this, I’ve just been very busy so better now than never!
ALSO, THIS IS THE 100TH ARTICLE ON THIS SITE!!! Like seriously, if you’ve been with this since the start two years ago, kudos to you! It’s been a fun ride writing for all of you, and I intend to keep it going. I know I can be really random with posts so I want to create a weekly schedule so everyone knows what to look forward to. I also have some more future plans regarding expanding the site, and I’ll talk more about that in a separate post. For now, let’s do this!
Okay, here we go:
10. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
At the bottom of the pack in my opinion is the laughably cheesy “Attack of the Clones.” This is what happens when you give George Lucas full creative control of his film. The middle entry of the prequel trilogy features a grown up Anakin played by Hayden Christensen, who honestly gets blamed too much for barely any fault of his. If you gave the best actors in the world this script with scenes supposedly penned on the fly by Lucas, they wouldn’t be able to pull it off. The romance between him and Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala still manages to crack me up (“I don’t like sand… it’s course… and rough… and irritating… and it gets everywhere”). It also has one of the worst shot fight scenes in all of Star Wars: the Anakin and Count Dooku fight where they’re literally facing the camera and clearly aren’t even clashing lightsabers. However, I still don’t think it’s a bad movie. It plants the seeds pretty well for Anakin’s eventual turn to the dark side, and it’s still a good standalone movie. The battle in Geonosis with all the Jedi fighting all the droids is pretty awesome, and we get to see Mace Windu kill Jengo Fett. Fett is a welcome addition to the series and makes for a pretty badass bounty hunter. As with all of the prequels, Ewan McGreggor’s Obi Wan Kenobi is the clear bright spot.
9. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Generally considered by many to be the worst in the franchise, I think “The Phantom Menace” gets way too much hate. Yes, Jar Jar isn’t a good character at all and yes, Jake Lloyd’s Anakin almost ruins the intimidating Darth Vader we see in the original trilogy. However, the film overall doesn’t contain too much of the terrible dialogue that “Attack of the Clones” had. Liam Neeson’s Qui Gon Jinn and McGreggor’s Kenobi have a great Master/Padawan relationship. The other nice moment is when C-3PO meets R2-D2 for the first time. I personally don’t hate the whole midichlorian thing since it isn’t really mentioned much again in Star Wars. I don’t like it, but it doesn’t really ruin the concept of Star Wars as some people are quick to point out. Despite it’s mediocre first two acts, the final battle is absolutely spectacular. Ray Park’s Darth Maul is the coolest part of the movie with his iconic double bladed lightsaber. The movie definitely ends with a bang despite its rather slow start. That said, I’m aware of the problems regarding the dumb senate meeting scenes and Natalie Portman’s robot voice.
8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
The most recent movie in the franchise is probably the one people most expected to fail. However, while there were many who didn’t like it, I found it to be a fairly enjoyable heist movie. My only major issue with “Solo” is that it’s ultimately sequel bait and often plays itself too safely. This probably has a lot to do with Ron Howard’s reshoots after Phil Lord and Christopher Miller got fired by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. I talk a lot about the troubled production here so if you want to catch up on that, here you go. While I personally think the Lord and Miller version of the film would have been more outrageous and therefore interesting, what we got wasn’t too bad. I’ve seen it twice now, and I have to admit, it has kind of grown on me. Alden Ehrenreich is actually really good as Han Solo, and his chemistry with Joonas Suotamo’s Chewbacca makes for a great core of the film. The supporting cast is great with Donald Glover’s Lando (or as I like to say, Childish Landino), Emelia Clarke’s Qi’ra, and Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett. Paul Bettany’s villain, Dryden Vos, is fine for the movie, but he’s nothing more than a mere front for *a fantastic cameo* that I wouldn’t spoil here, but you can read about it here. My issue with the film is that not much happens that’s unexpected. I (and I’m guessing others) saw the big double cross from miles away. Another minor thing was the cinematography. Certain shots, especially the ones in the desert, were framed pretty cheaply. The film overall didn’t have a Star Wars feel to it, which is fine, but at least light it like it’s sci-fi. Even “Rogue One,” a way gritter and more realistic film, was shot with a colorful vibrancy that made the movie stand out. Speaking of “Rogue One”…
7. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Here’s where things are probably going to get a little messy. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rogue One is a lot higher on most peoples’ lists. I really liked the movie, but I just thought it wasn’t as good as the others. Like “Solo,” it had some pretty obvious missed opportunities such as Darth Vader. While his scene at the end is arguably one of the best and most terrifying scenes in the whole series, his character is underutilized considering he’s supposed to be only a little past the height of his powers at this point. Besides Vader, I thought Saw Gerrera’s character was just really weird and didn’t make much sense. However, both of those are major nitpicks, and the film overall beats out its negatives. The Rebel Alliance constantly feels desperate, and as Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor shows us, desperate times calls for desparate measures. The film shows us that even the supposed good guys can do some pretty evil things for the greater good. Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso is a great hero who truly earns her place as the leader of this group. Director Gareth Edwards managed to put together a team we actually care about only to crush us with a sad ending that rivaled “Revenge of the Sith.” I’m just on a roll with these transitions…
6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Please don’t hate me for putting this up so high. I know it’s the prequels, but I will defend “Revenge of the Sith” with everything I’ve got. Yes, there are some typical George Lucas dialogue issues. As Harrison Ford put it when filming the first Star Wars, “George, you can write this shit, but you can’t say it.” Other than some dialogue issues, this truly feels like the movie Lucas set out to make when he first annouced the prequel trilogy in the 90s. Anakin’s turn to the dark side throughout the movie is utterly heartbreaking. Christensen’s performance is actually menacing and quite convincing when he’s not saying Lucas dialogue that clearly wasn’t proofread. That said, his back and forth dialogue scenes with Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine are actually rivetting. One of my favorite scenes in the whole series is when Palpatine tells Anakin of Darth Plagueis. It’s ultimately what turns Anakin to the dark side, and it’s just really sad seeing it all happen onscreen. Moreover, this is the best version of Obi Wan in the series in my opinion. His fight with Anakin at the end is still my favorite in the series. I know it’s choreographed and more like a dance than a hardcore, heavy, brutal fight, but these McGreggor and Christensen did the whole thing in real time without stunt doubles. As an action scene, it’s one of my all time favorites, and the emotional weight behind it adds more stakes. The end of their climactic duel is easily one of the saddest scenes in Star Wars, and I remember actually crying when I first saw it. It was one of the first movies I genuinely had tears in, I really don’t know why, but it’s stuck with me since. Apparently the original director’s cut of the film was over four hours long, and I would love to see what that would have been like.
5. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
While most consider “Return of the Jedi” to be the runt in the pack because of the Ewoks and Boba Fett’s cheesy and premature death, I absolutely love it. I might be putting this up so high because of pure nostalgia, but there’s more to it than that. “Return of the Jedi” (or as stuck-up purists would say “Revenge of the Jedi”) is the perfect ending to a perfect trilogy. After Luke’s revelation that Darth Vader is in fact his father, his personal quest in this film completes his arc in a satisfying way. It’s a satisfying end to the best movie trilogy ever in my opinion. Return of the Jedi is also the most colorful of the three, and that primarily has to do with the lush landscapes of Endor and the masterful design of Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine. Everything feels like a true culmination, and by the end you feel the end of a journey with limitless possibilities for the future, which brings us to…
4. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Director J.J. Abrams had the impossible task of revitalizing the franchise by catering to both old and new fans as well as people who have never heard of Star Wars. I know a ton of people don’t like it because it’s a retread of A New Hope. However, 1. They know and acknowledge that some parts are similar like Starkiller Base, 2. It’s really not. We haven’t ever seen Star Wars from a Stormtrooper’s perspective like we did with John Boyega’s Finn, and I thought that added some empathy for an otherwise emotionless group of soldiers. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a perfect modern hero full of the energy that the franchise desperately needed. I would also argue that Kylo Ren is a better character than Darth Vader was in the original trilogy. Especially with “The Last Jedi” in mind, I would put Ren in the top five Star Wars characters so far. He’s a complicated villain with layers that each serve to explain how he’s not just an evil guy. He’s clearly tormented, and Adam Driver’s performance is nuanced from anything else I’ve seen in Star Wars. That’s why it’s truly heartbreaking when we see him kill his father, Han Solo. Harrison Ford is the best he’s ever been in the series. I remember when I first saw the movie back in 2015, I never thought of him as Harrison Ford acting as Han Solo, he *was* Han Solo, period. You can yell at the movie of being a “retread of A New Hope” all you want, but at the end of the day, you can’t deny the movie is damn fun.
3. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
This is where I’m going to have to really defend myself. This is where half of you will close the article out of impulse, but hear me out. Though director Rian Johnson seems to have divided Star Wars fans over “The Last Jedi,” there’s no denying from both sides of the argument that he created a film that boldly takes the franchise in a new direction. I personally believe that Johnson has crafted the best Star Wars film since “Empire Strikes Back.” There’s so much to talk about with this film, and there’s a reason for all of it. Moreover, it subverts all the expectations that people have been building up for two years ever since “The Force Awakens.” Regardless of the mixed reactions the film has caused, I really appreciate Rian Johnson’s willingness to take risks and go out of the box in a way we didn’t think Star Wars movies can do. He presents mythical entities and people as the truth, something different than what the galaxy expected. Luke Skywalker isn’t the hero everyone thought he was, and he makes a compelling argument of why the whole Jedi/Sith thing makes no sense. Johnson also explains the Force and especially the Dark Side in the best way so far. Everyone gives an A+ performance in “The Last Jedi,” but Mark Hamill steals every second in frame. Full of twists and turns, “The Last Jedi” truly is the game changer film we needed. I really like the argument that for the new Star Wars to live, the old must die. Despite the devastated state of the Resistance by the end of the movie, “The Last Jedi” provides hope that these new films will take us in places we didn’t know existed.
2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The one that started it all misses the top spot by just a hair. “Star Wars,” as it was known back when it first released, was a historic moment in film and pop culture history. It sparked the imaginations of countless individuals like me and has stuck with millions for over four decades. The original trilogy as a whole hasn’t aged a bit since it came out, but it’s incredible how a movie in 1977 somehow managed to look this good. Yes, I understand the version I keep seeing is the Special Edition, but if we just focus on the practical effects, the colorful atmosphere, and John Williams iconic score, I guarantee you nobody today could ever come up with something like that. Also, there are plenty of 1977 restored theatrical cuts online so I’d recommend checking those out. Say what you will about George Lucas and what he did with the prequels, but you have to admit, the guy is a technical wizard. “Star Wars” was a milestone achievement in special effects, using cutting edge technology and film making innovations that have paved the way for modern science fiction. Interestingly, it’s also the cheapest Star Wars movie and most profitable off of its budget. The film was only made for $11 million, the equivalent of about $45 million today and that’s a relatively small number considering most blockbusters are made for over $100 million. “Star Wars” is next to “Gone With the Wind” as the highest grossing movie ever domestically adjusted for inflation. I don’t need to talk about how iconic it is considering it started the empire (pun intended) that we know and love today.
1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Let’s be honest, you all saw this coming from a mile away. Yeah, it’s a common answer, but that’s because it’s true. “The Empire Strikes Back” is my personal favorite movie ever and rightfully so. It has the best action, humor, and emotional core out of all the films. Every big character completely changes through the course of the film. Luke goes from being a hotshot pilot to a broken and then reformed Jedi knight with the help of Yoda. The movie also solidified Han Solo as my favorite movie character ever. Leia said it best, he’s a half-witted, scruffy-looking, nerf herder, and honestly, I think I base most of my life decisions around “What would Han do?” For example, any time someone tells me anything is too difficult, I snap back, “Never tell me the odds!” The movie also has my favorite romance ever with Han and Leia. I distinctly remember that I genuinely felt sad during the famous “I love you” “I know” scene. The movie really makes you fight for these two and tests their relationship through the conflicts. Everything is so well intertwined and complete that out of all the Star Wars movies, I would argue this one stands on its own just as well as “A New Hope” even though most thought there was never going to even be a sequel to “A New Hope.” We even get to see a side of Darth Vader that puts him in a vulnerable position when we see his human head for the first time. It’s moments and details like this that make it so good. The humor is also on point. C-3PO is a character they could have screwed up so badly, but he works so well here because everyone is in on the joke that he’s pretty annoying. I feel like every time I watch the movie, I latch onto a different part of it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it, and it’s one of the only movies that doesn’t ever get old no matter how many more times I pop in the DVD. I’m surely going to watch it countless more times in the future.
So that’s my ranking of the 10 Star Wars films! Yes, I know I’m missing “The Clone Wars,” but come on, no one cares. It’s pretty clearly in dead last place. I’m also missing the Holiday Special and the two Ewok spinoff television movies. I think I should make a separate ranking/review of those sometime. We’ll see 🙂
What do you think about this ranking? What would you change and why? Please feel free to let me know in the comments section!