Happy Star Wars Day, everyone!
Star Wars happens to be a series that I love dearly, though it didn’t begin that way. I’ve had mixed opinions about it for many years, but over the last few I’ve found that I really enjoy the world and the characters, so much so that I’ve dived deep into the novels and the animated series’ as well. But today, in honor of May the Fourth, I figured we should talk about where it all began – the movies.
Now this is just my opinion, and based purely on my enjoyment of the movies on their own and as a part of the larger Skywalker story. Starting at the bottom, here are my rankings for all of the Star Wars movies so far:
BIG GIANT WARNING: Spoilers abound for most if not all of the movies so I can give some context to why I gave it the ranking I did. You have been warned!
11. The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Phantom Menace was my first introduction to Star Wars, and I was only a kid when it was released in theatres. And what a movie it was for my little overly-imaginative child-self. Lots of weird aliens and worlds, cool spaceships, and podracing. I remember being especially fond of the podracing. I had never seen anything like it before and I was immediately intrigued by it. Looking back on it, this is definitely the weakest story of the bunch. It’s supposed to begin the Darth Vader origin story but Anakin doesn’t really play much of a role in the main plot, except when he inadvertently helps them win the battle after getting stuck in a starfighter. We’re seeing how he ended up a part of the Jedi Order and the first time he meets Padme, but that all feels like stuff that could have been summarized with some well placed dialogue in the next movie. Also the Gungans are really annoying. So much fun as a kid, but Jar Jar very quickly becomes a tedious character. And I wish we got to see more of Qui-Gon.
10. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
This movie made me angry. It still does. In terms of overall story, it’s a lot more important than The Phantom Menace, and that’s the only reason it appears above it. Padme was one of my favourite characters in Episodes I & II, a compassionate and kick-ass heroine determined to make life better for her people. But in Revenge of the Sith she is relegated to a side piece, only pulled out at the end for a ridiculous confrontation with Anakin, and then she “dies of a broken heart” once she’s given birth and fulfilled her role in the story. She doesn’t do anything except weep on a balcony and that does such a disservice to her character. Also, I found Anakin’s ultimate descent into the dark side to be extremely dissatisfying. It makes the Light Side and the Dark Side far too clear cut, and I liked that later movies and shows explored it with a bit more nuance. The fact that Anakin – loving husband and soon-to-be-father can decide he’s a bad guy and then go on to kill a room full of kids was a leap in logic that I’ve never been able to understand.
9. The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
I have a very long post discussing this movie at length if you’re interested in learning more of my thoughts, but this is a movie that has moved around in my rankings for a long time. I really enjoyed the first hour or so. The banter between Rey, Poe and Finn was amazing, and something I wish we’d seen more of. I’m also a sucker for fetch quests, as it turns out. Ultimately, in terms of wider story and overall satisfaction I had to rate it on the lower end. There were just too many subplots going on, with not enough of them developed in any meaningful way for any of it to be satisfying. I also found several plot points were way too convenient. To top it all off, I hated the ending. To have the legacy of all the Jedi amount to holding two lightsabers and reflecting the Emperor’s lightning back at him? I just expected more from a second finale to the Skywalker Saga. The best part of that movie was the redemption arc of Ben Solo, and it was an interesting mirror to the prequel trilogy. We see one Skywalker fall to the darkside, and then we see another emerge from it. But that only makes me even more bitter about that ending!
8. Rogue One (2016)
This is a weird one for me, because on one hand I really applaud the shift in tone that they took with Rogue One compared to the rest of the Star Wars movies. I liked getting to see how bad the Empire was, but we also got to see the rebels in a morally grey area as a result of their desperation. It had something of a downer ending, but I was fine with that – it made sense that our main cast would perish in the attack since none of the characters showed up in Episode IV to VI. That being said, Jyn Erso’s character had a lot of potential that I don’t think was really explored very well, and she seemed to make a lot of reckless decisions which didn’t make sense for someone who spent their life trying to avoid the fight. There was a lot more that could have been done with her character, but I can see why they pulled back to keep it PG. Even if it was to the detriment of the story. Still, I always think it’s interesting to see stories that don’t focus on the Sith, the Jedi, and the Force.
7. Return of the Jedi (1983)
I know the original trilogy tends to get hyped up, and I also really enjoy them, but I just didn’t enjoy Episode VI. This might be part of a larger issue I have with finales in general – when I’m especially invested in something I expect a really great ending, but stories are subjective and I find I am hard to impress in that regard. Still, I felt like the pace was weird compared to the rest of the original trilogy, and I found the end to be unnecessarily drawn out. I have the same problem with the end of Rise of Skywalker which is interesting since the two are very similar. If you’ve seen both movies you know what I’m talking about.
6. Solo (2018)
I didn’t love this movie when it first came out, but I watched it recently and I actually really enjoyed it! I thought the beginning dragged a little bit – I don’t know how necessary it is to see Han’s overly long attempt at escaping Corellia with Qi’ra, but I really enjoyed his persistence and cocky attitude. It was a good origin story if you want to call it that. I did find the dialogue to be a bit clunky and on the nose, mind you, but the banter between Han and Lando was incredible. Ehrenreich and Glover shined in that movie, and I would love a Solo 2 just for more of their space hijinks on the Falcon.
5. Attack of the Clones (2002)
My favourite of the prequel trilogy, and where I honestly think the prequels should have started. If the Clone Wars animated series has taught me anything, it’s that there was a wealth of potential there for some great storytelling and the further development of Anakin’s tragic transformation. Though Christensen is a fellow Canadian, his performance is definitely the weakness of that movie, and some of his scenes are painful to watch. Thankfully though, Padme and Obi-Wan are some of my favourite characters in the franchise, and the two definitely shine in this movie. I’m also a huge sucker for political scheming and intrigue, so watching Obi-Wan investigate as Palpatine masterfully manipulates the senate is just so much fun to watch!
4. The Last Jedi (2017)
This was another movie that really broke with the tone of a typical Star Wars film, and I think it was a necessary one. I love The Force Awakens, but it was a rehash of Episode IV: A New Hope, and it was important that they proved they could tell new stories in the Star Wars universe instead of reusing the old material. My only gripe is that much of this movie could have been settled with a simple conversation. Or if they layered in more conflict between Poe and Holdo. The leaps in logic were Olympic medal-worthy. Maybe that was the point, but it just made that aspect of the plot meandering, as we eventually learn in the movie, ultimately pointless. This makes it sound like I didn’t like the movie, but I did. I like that there was a lot more shades of grey to it – the fact that the Resistance is just as guilty of buying weapons as the First Order, and the idea that there might be a traitor on the ship while they’re trying to escape. I don’t like it when morality in movies meant for kids is so cut and dry, so I’m glad they tried to explore that, though not as well as I hoped.
3. A New Hope (1977)
I recently watched this back-to-back with Rogue One and though from a modern standpoint it’s not anything incredibly sensational or groundbreaking, when you consider when it was released you can understand how the franchise became such a phenomenon. The special effects hold up more than I expected them to on a recent watch. Of course, the fight choreography is hilariously bad, and some transitions seem really awkward and random, but I just really enjoyed this movie. The chemistry between Luke, Han and Leia as this ragtag group of heroes is addictively fun.
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
I don’t know if this will make sense, but Episode V just feels like a Star Wars movie. Like it’s the epitome of Star Wars. A New Hope was a great movie, especially for it’s time, but then the sequel just got everything right. You’ve got the A story with Luke exploring his new powers and heading to Dagobah to find a new teacher. You’ve got the B story with Han and Leia, trying to get away from the Empire only to wind up in their trap. They travel to different planets and bump into lots of strange aliens. Everything had pay off and nothing felt extraneous. It’s just a really good movie. I debated between this one and A New Hope for the number two slot, but in terms of the overall story and the impact it has had on the franchise as a whole, I had to give it to The Empire Strikes Back.
1. The Force Awakens (2015)
Some might consider this controversial considering a lot of it is a rehash of A New Hope to begin with, so placing The Force Awakens above it in ranking might seem a little weird. But this movie holds a special place in my heart. After the disappointment of Revenge of the Sith, I kind of fell of the Star Wars bandwagon. I wasn’t as into it as I was when I was much younger, and when I heard about the new movie coming out I was interested, but not as excited as a lot of the die-hard fans out there. I watched the movie about a month after it was released, as I didn’t much feel like dealing with noisy theatres and long lines. But it was the movie that got me hooked on Star Wars again in a big way. I loved seeing all the weird aliens again, and visiting all the cool planets. I liked all the new characters and it was great to see the returning ones as well. It was just fun and it reminded me of everything I enjoyed about the franchise when I was a kid. I watch this movie all the time, and love it more every time I do, so for that reason I have to give it the number one spot.
There is my (possibly controversial?) ranking of all the Star Wars movies thus far. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been binging the series the last couple of days, and I’d like to go back to it.
Happy Star Wars day, and may the force be with you!
What is your favourite Star Wars movie? What is your least favourite? Do you agree with how I’ve ranked them here or would you have switched some around? What is your favourite trilogy of the bunch? Let me know in the comments below!