If you haven’t seen any of the Star Wars movies where have been for the last 40 years? No seriously, you’re missing out. With that in mind here’s my list of Star Wars films ranked from worst to best (Star Wars stories included).
Be warned spoilers lie ahead.
10. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
There is some great action to be had in Episode II, the breathtaking speeder chase, Jango vs Obi Wan and the arena on Geonosis. Ultimately the aspect that holds it back the most is the god awful romance between Anakin and Padme, which manages to make Skywalker look like a creepy stalker and Amidala a cradle snatcher. I wish Lucas had passed writing and directing off for this entry as the forbidden love aspect is never truly believable and it’s kind of the catalyst for the existence of the empire in the first place. One side note is Episode II has the best sound effect in Star Wars history in my opinion. If you haven’t listened to a seismic charge with your surround sound turned up way too high, you haven’t lived.
9. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Ah Episode I… one of the most divisive films in the entire Star Wars saga. For many, Jar-Jar, Galactic Politics and Midichlorians ruined their favourite film franchise. For me, while these elements of Episode I have their issues, I don’t hate them and I don’t hate the film (or the whole prequel trilogy) either. Seeing the Jedi operating at the peak of their powers is exhilarating and the lightsaber duel at the end between Qui Gon, Obi Wan and Maul is still the best duel in any of the 10 films. Plus… Duel of the Fates.
Star Wars fatigue probably has a lot to do with the lukewarm reception for Solo which, in my review for Ruthless on Film, I scored a solid 4 stars. The story doesn’t really hold any surprises for Star Wars fans but it’s fun to see Han’s origin story on the big screen and Alden Ehrenreich does an excellent job of portraying a young Solo/Harrison Ford. I hope we get to see more from this fledgling series, especially after the return of Maul to the big screen, but I’m not holding my breath.
The first effort of the Disney era got off to a solid start. The Force Awakens doesn’t take too many risks to the point of it being a bit derivative of Episode IV, but it does bring back the lived-in vibe that the CGI heavy prequels missed. Add in some solid new protagonists with some old favourites and you have yourself a good movie!
6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Whether you are a fan of the prequel trilogy or not, most people will agree that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the bunch. We are finally shown Anakin’s fall to the dark side and even with George Lucas’ occasionally dodgy writing, it is as hard hitting as it should be. Betraying Padme, the duel with Obi-Wan and who could forget the younglings! John Williams has to take a large slice of the credit too as this is probably my favourite score after Empire Strikes Back. Aside from the terrible cry of “Noooooo!” from Vader at the end, it’s a fitting conclusion to Anakin’s journey from innocent child to Dark Lord of the Sith.
One of the most divisive films in the franchise, The Last Jedi drew strong praise from critics (myself included) but some fans were less impressed. Personally I’m still of the opinion that it is a tremendous film and adds some real emotional weight to the Disney trilogy. I do concede after having watched the film at least a dozen times now, that the whole Canto Bight subplot is unnecessary and giving Rose and Finn something more meaningful to do would have made their story more engaging. However, although Luke isn’t how I imagined him, I love Mark Hamill’s turn as the now disillusioned Jedi Master.
One of the biggest issues any prequel film faces is that ultimately, the outcome of the film is already known. Rogue One combats this by giving us an engaging cast of protagonists and a suitably dastardly antagonist. Filled to the brim with fan service for the original trilogy, prequels and the animated entries to the Star Wars universe, Rogue One is a tremendous film in the vain of classic WW2 espionage films. Rogue One also happens to contain my favourite scene in the history of Star Wars, Vader in all his glory is breathtakingly terrifying!
2. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
I’ve copped out a little here, as I find it too hard to settle on my preference between Episodes IV and VI, so I’ve ranked them equal, hence no number 3. It really depends on my mood as to which I prefer. Following up Episode V was always a tough ask but Return of the Jedi does as good a job as any movie could. The effects, the action and the stakes have never been bigger in the original trilogy. What we today know as the conclusion of Anakin Skywalker’s journey to fulfilling the prophecy of the “chosen one”, gives us Vader’s redemption, 3 years after the bombshell reveal at the end of Episode V. We are also introduced to Vader’s master and the most evil man in the galaxy, The Emperor. The casting of, then 39 year old, Ian McDiarmid makes you wonder if George Lucas knew that he would wait 16 years to release Episode I. It has allowed McDiarmid to make the role of Sheev Palpatine his own. It’s hard to remember the mish mash version they originally had in Episode V’s holo message.
2. Episode IV: A New Hope
Ah, where it all began. It’s fair to call Episode IV one of the most unexpected successes in movie history. Rejected by several studios, including current custodians Disney, Lucas finally got a deal with 20th Century Fox. It only received a limited initial release, after having it’s release date moved to avoid such cinematic greats as Smokey & the Bandit, but quickly smashed box office records going on the become one of the first true blockbuster movies. Episode IV may not be the best film in the franchise, although it is excellent, but it is arguably the most influential. It dragged Sci-Fi into the mainstream, pioneered groundbreaking special effects and pushed merchandising to unprecedented demand. The movie itself is Lucas’ tribute to some of his biggest cinematic influences, 121 minutes of cinematic joy that launched the biggest entertainment franchise in history.
1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode V is not just the best Star Wars film, it’s the best film of all time. I’m not even going to add the caveat of “in my opinion”, because it just is. Irvin Kershner was given the unenviable task of crafting the follow up to the biggest movie hit of all time and he absolutely nails it. The scale is bigger, the story more complex, the characters more interesting and the score is sublime. The big reveal that Vader is Anakin Skywalker will never be surpassed in the pecking order of movie twists. It’s such a well known part of Star Wars canon, and for that matter pop culture, now that it’s hard to imagine the impact that this reveal had at the time. Here is a character, that has basically been the personification of evil for over 4 hours of screen time, and all of a sudden you have to digest that he is actually a fallen hero and father to the galaxy’s beacon of hope. Episode IV launched the franchise but Episode V cemented its greatness.