Ranking The Star Wars Movies
Today is the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars, so we're ranking every movie in the saga!
10. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
This actually isn't a bad movie, it's just the least good Star Wars movie. It gets lots of unfair criticism but some that's fair too. Sure, Jar Jar Binks is a divisive character, but like George Lucas says, these are movies made for 12-year-olds, and most 12-year-olds like the goofy Gungan. The story of The Phantom Menace is actually well put together even if it's not well executed. This is a political drama wrapped in a space adventure making it tonally inconsistent and a bit boring between action sequences. That pod race scene will always be one of the best action set pieces in movie history and this movie is still one of the great achievements in visual effects. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's final duel with Darth Maul is unforgettable, and this film introduced concepts essential to Star Wars mythology, whether you like it or not.
9. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones brought us some amazing action sequences from the opening chase, to the huge battle on Geonosis, and the epic lightsaber duel with Count Dooku. While most of the acting can be a bit wooden at times and the dialogue isn't that great, it's still an intriguing story that delves deeper into the mythology of the Jedi and the Sith. The movie also has a lot to say about political deception and the cost of war discovered by Obi-Wan as he goes on a noir-esque detective adventure. Bringing in some fun new characters like Jango Fett and Count Dooku make this one more engaging overall too. It's also tonally complex as Anakin begins his path towards the dark side of the Force and forms a complicated relationship with Padme.
8. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Here's where the prequels really were able to shine. Revenge of the Sith brings the story of Anakin Skywalker full circle as Lucas focuses in on the characters while still delivering awesome action and incredible visual effects we've come to expect. Opening up the film with a big battle in space over Coruscant was genius because it gave us something we've always wanted to see but gets it out of the way early to focus the rest of the movie on the deep storyline. Every actor is on point here, especially Ewan McGregor who is the highlight of this trilogy as Kenobi, but each of the main cast have important moments throughout the film with Hayden Christensen finally coming into his own as Anakin and Natalie Portman delivering the emotional moments as Padme. Skywalker's journey towards the dark side is brought to completion in a heart-breaking way that makes sense from a character perspective and has real dramatic weight.
7. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The first in a series of spin-off movies from Lucasfilm, Rogue One gives us the story of the Rebel spies who stole the plans to the Death Star just before the events of A New Hope. Director Gareth Edwards really brought the war to the forefront here, showcasing some gritty battles on the ground and in space, as well as some intense character-driven drama. What really is shocking about this film are the outstanding visual effects which brought Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin, and Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia, back to life. The movie features perhaps too many references to the other films sometimes taking us out of the movie, though. However, the darker tone is balanced with plenty of humor and some great new characters like Felicity Jones' survivor Jyn Erso, Diego Luna's war-hardened Cassian Andor, and Alan Tudyk's hilarious K-2SO.
6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
A fun-filled romp, Solo represents the best of what these stand-alone Star Wars stories can be. It connects to the larger universe, yet has a story that stands on it's own. As written by Larry and Jon Kasdan, the script features some of the funniest moments of the saga while keeping the stakes high and character development at the forefront. This cast is the highlight as Alden Ehrenreich brings his own charismatic charm and flare to a more idealistic young Han, and Joonas Suatamo infuses Chewie with a ferocity and energy like never before. Meanwhile, Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge do a wonderful job in each of their important and well-rounded roles. This is an action-packed, hilarious journey through the seedy underworld of the galaxy far, far away with the most notorious smuggler and his ragtag crew of criminals.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Returning to the franchise after being away for over a decade seemed like it might be an impossible task, but writer, director, and producer J.J. Abrams accomplished the mission. Injecting the series with fresh blood with instantly classic characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, and Kylo Ren, helped bring a new audience into the fold. However, giving lifelong fans a look at what Han, Luke, and Leia had been up to since we saw them 30 years ago was a real treat too. This movie certainly pays homage to the original trilogy, but it does so in the best way by giving us new-yet-familiar locales, characters we care about, and themes that resonate with a modern audience. The Force Awakens is a great start to the sequel trilogy and an excellent way to introduce the saga to a new generation.
4. Star Wars: A New Hope
The one that started it all is still not just one of the best Star Wars movies, but one of the best sci-fi movies ever made. Featuring a mostly unknown cast, groundbreaking special effects work, and a timeless story of good versus evil, A New Hope changed film-making forever. Inspired by classic adventure serials like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, when released in 1977 no one had seen anything like Star Wars before. George Lucas was able to craft a story and characters that everyone instantly fell in love with while also developing special effects with his company that had never been tried before. It also helped launch the careers of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill into the stratosphere, and brought Star Wars to the forefront of the minds of every person who saw it.
3. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Capitalizing on what made the first film great, while also taking the series in surprising new directions, The Empire Strikes Back is the template for what makes a good sequel. It is undeniably the greatest sequel ever made because it takes huge risks, but doesn't abandon what came before. Also, we get to know the characters so much better this time around since we don't have to worry about introducing all of them to the audience. Action and effects here are bigger and better too, just watch that opening battle on the snow planet of Hoth or the adrenaline-pumping trip the Millennium Falcon takes through the asteroid field. Characters are developed so well as their relationships grow and change, and let's not forget this one also features the biggest plot twist in movie history right after one of the best duels ever put to screen.
2. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
This chapter brings the story of Anakin Skywalker to an end, and takes Luke's hero journey to unexpected places as he struggles with succumbing to the dark side of the Force. Opening in Jabba's creepy palace and closing with the greatest space battle in film history, this movie delivers everything a fan of this franchise could hope for. So many film franchises have failed to conclude their respective stories in satisfying ways, but Star Wars didn't. Executing Lucas' vision is director Richard Marquand who doesn't get enough credit for making this movie great. A common criticism is the Ewoks, but they represent the thematic idea of the entire saga which is that anyone can save the galaxy. Also, the final confrontation between Luke and Vader remains the most dramatic and emotional moment in the entire series thus far.
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The best Star Wars film is The Last Jedi. In this entry writer/director Rian Johnson crafts an intricate plot in which our heroes must learn from failure. Finally seeing Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker again is a delight and he delivers his best performance ever this time as a weary Jedi uninterested in the wars raging all around him. The rest of the cast is brilliant too with Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley taking their characters to exciting new places. It's got outstanding visual effects, an incredible score from the great John Williams, and tells an intense story with a strong sense of urgency an amazing action sequences. Here we learn new things about the Force, our beloved characters, and the entire Star Wars mythology. It's the most uniquely humorous, surprisingly emotional, and powerfully meaningful movie in the saga helping move the franchise forward at exactly the right time.