There’s no denying that Star Wars has become one of the most popular franchises in film history, if not the most popular. George Lucas changed the cinematic landscape back in 1977, and we’ve felt it ever since. However, there’s much debate over where the canon films rank among each other. So, allow me to throw my hat into the ring — possibly angering hardcore fans in the process.
Note: With respect to the Holiday Special, Caravan of Courage, Battle for Endor, and The Clone Wars, we will not be including those films in the rankings below.
#11: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Although Phantom Menace gets a lot of consideration for the worst Star Wars movie, Attack of the Clones is practically irredeemable on all fronts. A majority of the runtime is a terrible romance film, filled with classicly unbearable dialogue such as Anakin’s comprehensive treatise on his hatred for sand.
The finale? Nothing more than a battle between disposal clone armies. Thanks for increasing the stakes there, George.
#10: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Reports quickly swirled after the release of The Rise of Skywalker that JJ Abrams and screenwriter Chris Terrio were constantly rewriting the script onset, and it’s very obvious in the finished product. TROS is all over the place, showcasing a story that has MacGuffins that lead to other MacGuffins, inexplicable character changes, and some of the most baffling additions to Star Wars lore since the Prequels.
Perhaps the most frustrating piece of it is the inordinate amount of fan service that always feels cheap and unearned, permeating each piece of the film to a nauseating degree. Each choice either rewrites every interesting choice made by Rian Johnson in The Last Jedi or calls back to the original trilogy. Either way, The Rise of Skywalker is never its own film with its own decisions, and that might be the worst sin a Star Wars movie can commit.
#9: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
This was a shaky start to the Prequel Trilogy. The Phantom Menace gets bogged down in continuous senate meetings and trade talk that, by the time the action starts, many viewers had tuned out. Until the third act, The Phantom Menace lacks genuine stakes, opting for bland worldbuilding that you would see in a companion book rather than a narrative film.
However, there are some moments to like here. The final lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul with the famed “Duel of the Fates” music is pretty riveting stuff, and Ewan McGregor is always delightful. Let’s just not talk about the midichlorians in the room…
#8: Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Many expected Solo to become a serious disaster by the time it hit theaters; and while it’s not quite that level of bad, it’s still pretty unremarkable. The entire endeavor feels like it’s noted to death, and everyone is forced to work in very standard means with little deviation. What entertainment this film has is tied to other Star Wars films via references and familiar characters; there’s nothing new, and it’s frustrating to see such talented individuals wasted on standard material.
Solo is the first of the Disney Star Wars films to feel tired and unimportant, and it’s mostly because the film does nothing to warrant its own existence.
*To read the site’s full review of Solo: A Star Wars Story, please click here.
#7: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Revenge of the Sith is undoubtedly hampered by its two predecessors, but it’s definitely an improvement. The final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar is incredibly well-done and very emotional, highlighting Ewan McGregor who has always been the saving grace of all the Prequels. The movie also takes a noticeably darker tone than the other Prequels which is much appreciated considered the amount of catering to younger audiences. Not to mention the number of memes that the movie birthed, which is always appreciated.
Also, Jar Jar does not speak, which might be the best endorsement you can give the Revenge of the Sith.
#6: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
It doesn’t reach the heights of A New Hope and Empire, but Return of the Jedi is weirdly kitschy, which makes it a fun novelty item of sorts to return to from time to time. We finally see Luke mature to his full potential after years of watching him grow in the force. We also get one of the biggest redemptions in movie history in Darth Vader. Unlike The Rise of Skywalker, Return of the Jedi remains satisfying despite its obvious flaws and unfortunate appeals for more merchandise sales.
#5: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rogue One may be the most visually breathtaking Star Wars film (The Last Jedi has something to say about that as well), with arresting set pieces taking place on multiple scenic locales. The lack of character development is always a problem when returning to Rogue One, however, and that’s the major reason that it will never be hailed as anything close to a classic.
But for Star Wars fans, Rogue One is the best possible fan film you could ever ask for, with thrilling action and fun additions to lore.
*To read the site’s full review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, please click here.
#4: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Arguably the movie with the most pressure to succeed in the 2010s, The Force Awakens provided audiences with an emotionally satisfying entry into Star Wars canon. The highest-grossing movie of all time in terms of the domestic box office, Episode VII is a solid template for how to softly reboot a franchise — many imitators have come since.
The big criticisms of The Force Awakens are its similarities to A New Hope, which are mostly reasonable. But Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren are well-drawn, wonderful characters for a new generation that make every familiar sequence fun and inventive.
#3: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
The Last Jedi is easily the most fascinating of the Disney-released Star Wars films. Writer/director Rian Johnson switches the formula, tackling the idea nostalgia being the driving force of Star Wars films in a head-on way. The term “subverting your expectations” has been joked to death, but Johnson effectively reshifts the focus, making a Star Wars movie all about failure and the desire for radical change. Aside from a rather useless Canto Bight sequence, The Last Jedi will continue age nicely with arresting visuals and a cleverly strange connection created between Rey and Kylo Ren.
*To read the site’s full review of The Last Jedi, please click here.
#2: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
George Lucas’ baby redefined the blockbuster upon its release in 1977. We often forget how goofy space odysseys of this ilk were before A New Hope. Most of them have aged very poorly, but A New Hope is still super watchable and fun to this day and invites the audience into a whole new world where practically anything is possible, taking a few notes from 1930s serials as well as some of the more classic Westerns.
Along with Jaws, A New Hope changed movies for good.
#1: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Empire deepened all the emotional moments of A New Hope while setting the industry standard for what a sequel should accomplish. Along with A New Hope, Empire has been talked to death for so long that it is nearly impossible to add new commentary to it. But what is very clear is that it is the reason that we are so obsessed with Star Wars to this day as a culture. From one of the best reveals in movie history to some of the more human moments in the entire franchise, Empire flat-out works on all levels to this day.
Thanks for reading! What is your ranking of the Star Wars movies? Comment down below!
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