This week is Star Wars Celebration, which means we’re likely getting the first trailer for this year’s The Last Jedi, the eighth movie in the main saga. Few film franchises can claim such an impressive and longstanding streak.
Overall, Star Wars is the greatest sci-fi collection of all time. The Alien franchise got lost in orbit after the second installment and Star Trek has never reached the same heights despite its warp speed. Star Wars, which pioneered the sci-fi blockbuster as a viable Hollywood moneymaker, spans 40 years and remains one of the most beloved properties in all of entertainment. The Force is strong with this series.
In honor of The Last Jedi, we decided to rank all of the movies in the series to figure out which is the best. Note: This list only includes saga films, so no Rogue One.
7. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Oh boy, where to begin? Attack of the Clones has fatal flaws throughout with no redeemable qualities à la the Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi duel. I guess let’s start with the obvious.
Fans believed the mystique of Darth Vader could not sink any lower after his pint sized iteration in Episode I, but they were wrong. Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker couldn’t have been more off-putting. Thanks to the lethal combination of laughable dialogue and poor acting, the future Sith Lord more closely resembled a whiney punk than a galactic badass. It was a letdown of Jabba-sized proportions.
Elsewhere, Episode II suffered in every major movie-making department: script, characters, pacing, focus. Anakin and Padme’s love story is forced and awkward and the Jedi Council’s decision making is indefensible. It’s truly a nonsensical affair with as much CGI garbage stuffed into every frame as possible.
Lastly, how did George Lucas know audiences desperately wanted a Star Wars film about the minutiae of intergalactic politics and trade negotiations?! The man must be as prophetic as Yoda.
6. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Why isn’t The Phantom Menace in the bottom slot? For all of its problems – of which there are many – it still was the first Star Wars film in 16 years. Think of a time when you got laid after a particularly long dry spell; didn’t the anticipation make it better?
Sadly, nostalgia and excitement weren’t enough to save this movie. Jar-Jar was a racially insensitive misstep, child actors suck and the character development was nonexistent. Seriously, without describing her physical appearance or job, please try and describe Queen Amidala. She’s…monotonous? Whatever, anything was better than that conversation about sand.
Episode I also helped to destroy beloved Star Wars lore thanks to serious plot inconsistencies and the bonkers midi-chlorian explanation.
5. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
The newly minted Darth Vader summed up audience’s feelings about the final prequel pretty succinctly in Episode III.
Once again, terrible dialogue (“from my point of view, the Jedi are evil!”), poor story momentum and crazy character choices reared their ugly head in this movie. At no point did anyone ever buy Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side, making the Vader payoff feel completely unearned and downright disappointing. Though that fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan on Mustafar is badass, the entire movie is weighed down by the poor execution of the inevitable.
Think about Rogue One: everyone had a general idea of how that film would end going in, but we were still engaged in the story thanks to the characters we grew to care about and the connections to the original trilogy. Lucas couldn’t pull off the same trick with most of us hoping that lava would finish off this lame and pouting version of Vader.
Shoutout to the High Ground, though.
4. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
The one that started it all.
A New Hope scored 11 total Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Alex Guinness crushing OG Obi-Wan). At the time, it was considered a startling advancement in filmmaking and special effects. But what really drew fans to this space opera was the iconic characters that shaped sci-fi archetypes to this day and the warm heart A New Hope boasted.
Also, samurai in space. What else do you need from a movie?
3. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Ewoks suck, I grant you that. At times, Return of the Jedi felt more like an extended commercial for kids toys and Star Wars merchandise than an actual concluding chapter. But that scene between Luke, Vader and the Emperor…Wow. That’s how you do a high-quality drama crescendo. There was so much subtext and substance built into that scene over the course of the original trilogy that each line of dialogue connects to something powerful. It’s an emotional journey reaching a head for both Luke and his Pops.
Episode VI may not be the best of the bunch, but it is my favorite thanks to that confrontation.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Yes, The Force Awakens bears a striking resemblance to A New Hope, but if ain’t broke, you know?
The Force Awakens is by far the funniest Star Wars movie in the saga and masterfully blends old elements with new. Inserting Han Solo into the sage old mentor role previously filled by Obi-Wan helped connect both generations in an unexpectedly enjoyable way. It also didn’t hurt that Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron were all worthy successors to those that came before.
A modern take on a classic tale, The Force Awakens had to juggle more than any other movie in recent memory. The final product may not be perfect, but it is perfectly satisfying.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
It’s no coincidence that the best Star Wars film is also the darkest. Wading around in uncertain, more adult territory does wonders for quality.
Episode V sees Han Solo’s true turn into a good guy, Luke’s progress as a Jedi Knight and Leia’s ongoing empowerment. From a character standpoint, no other film in the series makes as much progress. But I’m beating around the bush here. The true highlight of Empire is the climactic duel between Vader and Luke. No BS, I recently showed Episode V to a foreign friend who knew literally nothing about Star Wars and this was her shocked reaction:
Simply put, it’s the greatest reveal in cinematic history that still packs a punch to this day.