May the Fourth be with You! It’s Star Wars Day, and we’ve embarked on the nearly impossible mission of ranking all Star Wars Movies that have ever been made, from worst to best.
Happy Star Wars Day! If you’re a fan of George Lucas’s beloved Saga, you might be about to embark on your annual rewatch of every single Star Wars movie that has ever been made – a mission that Disney+ has made even more appealing this year, with the release of eye-catching original concept art for every title (like Jason Palmer’s gorgeous illustration, pictured above). Before grabbing the remote and preparing for our own annual rewatch, we thought we’d try our hand at ranking all Star Wars movies that have ever been made. Yes, we know: lists are subjective, and the Star Wars fandom is known for being divided into groups with polar opposite opinions and tastes. So don’t turn us over to the Dark Side quite yet if we don’t share your opinion on Anakin’s sand monologue, and bear with us while we try to get over the trauma caused by Jar-Jar Binks’s first appearance. From Worst to Best, here’s our very subjective list of Star Wars movies: we hope you enjoy reading it, and May the Fourth Be With You!
11. EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson
No, it’s not just because of Anakin’s sand metaphors. Though the moment in which the young padawan compares the coarseness of sand with the softness of Padmé’s skin certainly contributes to the film’s cringe factor, there is another reason why Attack of the Clones came last – that reason being its complete lack of character development, combined with terrible writing and poor acting. It needs to be said that the second prequel is not all bad: it explores the early stages of Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor)’s relationship, it provides a good backstory to Boba Fett and it features a great Christopher Lee (Count Dooku) in an epic lightsaber battle with young Master Yoda that you’ll either love or hate. Yet, Lucas’s eye-catching CGI creatures, John Williams’s compelling score and the well-crafted arena battles and Galactic Senate meetings are not enough to make us forget about Attack of the Clones‘s complete lack of a plausible storyline. Which makes it a non-essential watch in your annual Star Wars marathon.
10. EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Jake Lloyd, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman
The Phantom Menace is one of the most hated Star Wars movies of all time, and the reason for that is a lizard/dinasour/frog-like man-sized creature that says things like “Maxi big the Force!”, “Mesa hatin’ crunchin’!” and “Ex-squeeze me!” with a somewhat Italian/Jamaican/Easter European accent. That creature goes by the name of Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), and not only is he one of the most embarrassingly bad-written and painful to watch (and hear!) characters in movie history, but he is also what prompted a debate on racial stereotypes among Star Wars fans and critics. In all fairness, there are good things in The Phantom Menace too. As well as an all-star cast, the film has entertaining, imaginative scenes that some of the other prequels lack, like the dangerous but fun pod races and an impressive lightsaber battle involving Darth Maul (Ray Park), one of the most interesting villains in the saga. Yet, the terrible humour, poor dialogues and Jar-Jar scenes still make it a hard film to watch without cringing, which is why Star Wars enthusiasts often recommend Episode IV as the first episode of the saga for newcomers.
9. EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid
Don’t get us wrong: Revenge of the Sith is only slightly better than the other prequels. It has a better structure, more than one well-crafted battles, unexpected twists and a much-anticipated confrontation between Anakin and Obi-Wan. It also has the advantage of portraying the rise of Darth Vader, with an extra dose of nostalgia added by John Williams’s familiar theme at the end. Yet, the lack of charm of its protagonist and an unconvincing storyline still make Revenge of the Sith just as flawed as its predecessors, making Star Wars fans welcome the noticeable change in style, quality and content that comes with the next movie in the timeline, Episode IV.
8. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany
Solo: A Star Wars Story is not a bad movie altogether, but it’s a prequel that never quite manages to capture the essence of the iconic character it’s all about. Harrison Ford‘s shoes would have been hard to fill by anyone, and the issues with Solo‘s production didn’t help leading actor Alden Ehrenreich do Han Solo justice, with the film’s original directors (Phil Lord and Chris Miller) fired over creative differences and replaced by Ron Howard when most of the filming had already been done. The result is an overall enjoyable prequel with an all-star cast (Paul Bettany, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Thandie Newton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, to name a few), well-crafted CGI and an adorable young Chewbie (Joonas Suotamo), which makes for a good addition to the saga but suffers from an overall forgettable leading character.
7. EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Ian McDiarmid, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson, Billy Dee Williams
Full Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t always make sense
With the last chapter of the saga came a significant change from Episode VII (Rian Johnson), one that divided the fandom as a result of the different approach taken by new director J.J.Abrams, also the mind behind Episode VI. If you liked The Rise of Skywalker, you probably enjoyed seeing your favourite characters reunite, in emotional scenes and epic moments that gave most of our heroes a good farewell and certainly allowed for plenty of nostalgia. J.J.Abrams’s approach was a diplomatic one, and he needs to be given credit for providing a demanding fandom with plenty of moments to remember. Yet, The Rise of Skywalker it’s also an extremely flawed movie, with an implausible villain, laughable plot developments and sudden changes of direction in storyline that ask the viewers to forget about most of what happened in Episode VII. Which really is a shame, since The Last Jedi is what gave us Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega)’s clever plans, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern)’s heroic actions and all the hilarious General
Hugs Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) jokes, as well as a leading character who knows the Force without having to be a Skywalker and an exceptionally-written screenplay with plenty of room for character development.
6. EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson
The Force Awakens is absolutely worth watching, if only for the fact that it let us witness the goosebump-worthy moment in which Harrison Ford enters the Millennium Falcon one more time and utters to Chewbacca “Chewie, we’re home”. Episode VII is also what introduced to us to Kylo Ren, the bad-tempered, hilariously “emo” villain we had all been waiting for, whose sudden mood swings gave birth to one of the funniest SNL skits we’ve ever seen. The main flaw of the film is a storyline that is pretty much identical to Episode IV: A New Hope, with a new generation of good guys, led by a heroine with incredible Force-learning abilities, trying to destroy a bigger Death Star that happens to have the same design fault as the original one. Yet, it is still a great introduction to the saga for new generations of fans, which also remains an enjoyable (if slightly predictable) movie for older Star Wars enthusiasts.
5. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gives meaning to the whole franchise by explaining why it is that the most powerful weapon(s) in the universe can be blown up with a single, strategically-placed “proton torpedo”. It turns out that there’s a reason behind the Death Star’s unbelievable design flaw, a reason which is connected to a well-crafted, compelling story. Rogue One combines great storytelling and impressive aesthetics with excellent acting from the entire cast (which includes a larger-than-life Mads Mikkelsen), confirming its status as the best standalone movie in the Star Wars universe.
4. EPISODE VI: RETURN OF THE JEDI
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams
Constructing Death Stars seems to be the Empire’s favourite pastime, so it should come as no surprise that Emperor Palpatine’s new, evil plan in Return of the Jedi involves exactly that. As a matter of fact, the Emperor’s dark schemes are not the only aspect that makes Episode VI the least successful film in the original saga. Return of the Jedi suffers from a series of bad choices in screenwriting, such as the unfortunate sequences with Princess Leia in a bikini, unnecessarily confusing plans involving shield generators, Ewoks and terrible hats, and way too much time spent at Jabba the Hutt’s palace. At the same time, Return of the Jedi concludes the original saga with plenty of meaningful Skywalker-bonding moments, lightsaber battles between good and evil and the possibility of redemption for more than one character. Episode VI may not stand the test of time as well as its predecessors, but it’s still a fundamental part of the saga, with an epic ending that is worth the whole movie alone.
3. EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie-Tran, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domnhall Gleeson
When it first came out, The Last Jedi surprised audiences by presenting scenarios that are very different from the classic Star Wars dynamics that both George Lucas and J.J. Abrams have gotten us used to. It’s not only a matter of the force being strong in Rey (Daisy Ridley) even though she’s not a Skywalker: Episode VIII marks a clear change from its predecessors by presenting a well-developed story that favours character development over special effects. And so we learn that not everything is what it seems, and that Jedis can make mistakes. We marvel as the relationship between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Ray develops, and wonder about Luke (Mark Hamill)’s role in all this. We are surprised by how much we like some of the new characters, like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Maz (Lupita Nyong’o), and dislike others, like DJ (Benicio del Toro), and the clever references to the previous films keep our nostalgic hearts happy. Despite the presence of a few scenes that are imperfect to say the least, The Last Jedi is a well-written, entertaining, epic adventure that shines for emotion.
2. EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Alec Guinness, Peter Mayhew, Harrison Ford
A New Hope introduced us to “a galaxy far, far away”, and redefined the sci-fi genre: it’s where it all started, and it’s not just a matter of special effects that had never been seen before. Episode IV helped define the very concept of fandom, and was key in the establishment of the notion of a blockbuster, confirming that special effects, technical aspects and merchandise are just as important as content when it comes to captivating the masses. It is also an impressive showcase of exceptional sound design techniques, with sound designer Ben Burtt using innovative ways to capture the iconic sound of lightsabers, spaceships and Death Star appliances as well as the voices and sounds associated with R2D2, C3PO and Chewbacca (who was partially dubbed by a bear: find out about it here). Not only that, but John Williams composed for A New Hope some of the most recognisable and beloved themes in movie history, from a title theme that establishes the film’s epicness from its very first sound (a cleverly placed, single grand fanfare) to an iconic Imperial March that conjures Vader even when he’s not in the room. As for the plot, A New Hope is a wonderful combination of epic action sequences, quirky creatures, Jedi tricks (with a superb Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan) and endearing sequences, made even more better by some of the most quotable lines in movie history. And no, “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for”.
1. EPISODE V: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Director: George Lucas
Cast: Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, Billy Dee Williams, Kenny Baker, Frank Oz
It was hard to establish the ultimate winner between Episode IV and Episode V, but Empire Strikes Back deserves to come first, if only for its excellent screenplay. Not only is Episode V the film in which the “biggest secret of cinema history” is revealed, but it is also a sequel that surpasses its predecessor in many ways, starting by how much actually happens in it. There are yeti-like creatures, Jedi ghosts, probe droids, Imperial Walkers, asteroid fields, disassembled droids and shady colonies in the sky. Characters get carbonised, eaten alive and stuffed into wild animals. Darth Vader is angrier and moodier than ever before: his innovative uses of the force are more hilarious than frightening, and the confrontation with Luke is certainly worth the wait. In all this, Empire Strikes Back also manages to do some impressive character development, with Luke finding out about the Force while training with a conflicted Yoda, Leia and Han strengthening their bond in a way that stays true to both characters (with the famous “I know” line, added by Ford himself), and a good dose of telepathy to anticipate the events of the following movies. Empire Strikes Back is a lesson in storytelling, and an exceptional sci-fi movie that preserves the technical innovations of A New Hope while introducing much-needed emotional elements.
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