Star Wars Films Ranked
Since its release over 40 years ago, “Star Wars” has become a pop culture phenomenon. From the lovable characters to the revolutionary special effects, the franchise has found its way into millions of homes around the globe. With another film set to release on May 25 (“Solo: A Star Wars Story), there is no better time than now to take a look at how all the films in this classic franchise rank.
NOTE: This does not include any animated films. The live-action, theatrical releases only.
9. “Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones”
When it comes to the prequels, there are a lot of debates around not which is best, but which film is the worst. Although it could be easily argued that the first of the prequel trilogy belongs here, “Attack of the Clones” ends up being last on this list. When reflecting on the film, there are a lot of forgettable and cringey moments that hamper the film. Anakin and Padmé fall in love, and that dynamic alone is enough to put this movie last on this list. Although this film does a lot to build upon “Star Wars” lure and the galaxy as a whole, it doesn’t actually make for a good film.
8. “Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace”
Another bad movie “Phantom Menace” ranks ahead of “Attack of the Clones” for a few reasons. First, the score in “Phantom Menace” may be the best in the entire franchise with “Dual of the Fates” being the highlight. Second, although a bit long, the podrace is one of the most fun sequences in the history of “Star Wars.” There is tension despite knowing that Anakin will eventually live because of his vital role to the universe, and the special effects still hold up for the most part. And what kind of writeup would it be if there wasn’t a mention of the final battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn facing off against Darth Maul. Maul is menacing and the battle feels like it has stakes. This battle also helped to spawn some of the best storylines in the animated “Star Wars” cartoons. Overall, although there is plenty to complain about, “Phantom Menace” provides fans of the franchise with a lot to love.
7. “Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith”
Comparatively to the other prequel films, “Revenge of the Sith” is light years better. Fans learn of how Anakin Skywalker came to be Darth Vader in a gut wrenching battle with his “brother” Obi-Wan. Order 66 brings an end to the Jedi accompanied by a memorial score. And fans finally get to see Darth Sidious and all of his power. Where the movie falls flat though is in many of the same ways that the previous prequels did. George Lucas prioritized special effects over a great story and, although there are great moments, some of those great moments do not have the same weight that a more well write script would make for.
6. “Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi”
From this point forward, all of these films are ones that could be classified as good-to-great films. “Return of the Jedi” sees the culmination of the original trilogy, with Luke Skywalker turning his father Darth Vader back to the light and saving the galaxy. Ewoks, despite the hate they got when the film originally released, are fun and add an interesting battle element to the movie. Han Solo and Leia Organa see their love for one another blossom and there is the reveal that Luke and Leia are in fact brother and sister. The story, despite this being the first film where George Lucas begins to favor special effects over a great story, has heart as the heroes of the franchise reach their final destination… or so everyone thought.
5. “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens”
The film that introduced fans to the new Disney trilogy, “The Force Awakens” has a lot to love. Kylo Ren, the son of Han and Leia, is one of the most conflicted characters in the franchise. He battles constantly with what the right path is until the moment he kills his father. Fans meet a new cast of heroes in Rey, Poe Dameron and Fin, each of who bring their own unique qualities to the franchise. Rey is the woman on a desert planet who doesn't know her parents (hey, that sounds familiar), Poe is the hot-shot pilot who plays by his own rules (also familiar) and Fin is the First Order deserter who joins the Resistance (something new!). Jokes aside about how similar this movie is to “A New Hope,” “The Force Awakens” laid a strong foundation for the new trilogy that allowed for the future movies to go in a number of directions.
4. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Taking place prior to the events of “A New Hope,” “Rogue One” is the first movie in the franchise that truly feels like a war movie. No character is safe, and they all risk their lives to get the Death Star plans. The thing “Rogue One” does best though is blur the lines between the Empire and the Rebellion. In the original trilogy, it was fairly simple: the good guys do good things, the bad guys bad things. “Rogue One” however shows that sometimes the heroes need to do things that are considered bad for the greater good of the Rebellion. They all do things they are not proud of because they believe what they are doing, in the end, is what is best for the galaxy. On top of the great story from Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz and the great characters they create, “Rogue One” has the most badass scene in “Star Wars” history when Darth Vader shows why he was the most feared man in the galaxy. Some may say the movie is fan service, but if you are a fan this movie surely ranks highly on your all-time “Star Wars” list.
3. “Star Wars: Episode VIII The Last Jedi”
The most divisive film of the franchise, “The Last Jedi” takes major risks that payoff in almost every way. “The Last Jedi” is the funniest movie of the franchise and makes the characters feel more realistic, rather than people from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Luke Skywalker returns, and fans see that sometimes even our heroes make mistakes that they have to learn from. Kylo Ren continues on his climb further and further to the dark side, as does Rey, his equal of the light sight. Characters meet their end, and fans get another one of the best fight scenes with the fight in the throne room. The force has its lure expanded and fans continue to learn about it as a religion. Overall, “The Last Jedi,” although not setting up the next film well, serves as another excellent installment in the franchise.
2. “Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope”
There is something about the first introduction to “Star Wars” that is still special. The beginning of the coming of age story of Luke Skywalker is relatable for so many people: a young man who just wants to see more of the galaxy. He goes on a journey, has his trials and tribulations, until finally realizing his destiny. This movie from the onset showed how great “Star Wars” could be. George Lucas revolutionized special effects and crafted a timeless story. The heroes met along the way are loceable while the villains are terrifying. Somehow, 41 years later, it is hard to find fault in “A New Hope.”
1. “Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back”
Considered to be one of the greatest sequels of all-time, “The Empire Strikes Back” showed fans that the Empire was a force to be reckoned with. Where “A New Hope” may have made it seem like the Rebellion could not lose, “The Empire Strikes Back” showed the Empire dropping the hammer and obliterating the Rebellion in every battle. Fans get one of the greatest reveals in cinema history when Luke learns that Darth Vader is his father, not that Darth Vader killed his father. Han is frozen in carbonite, but not before the icon “I love you” moment between himself and Leia. And that is how this movie can be described: iconic. It still holds up as the best film in the franchise and showed that even the best of heroes were vulnerable when faced by a powerful villain.
David Arroyo is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.