It all began in 1977 when a drop of George Lucas imagination and innovation turned into one of the greatest movie franchises in cinematic history. Since then, the Star Wars franchise has built 11 feature length films and spawned a myriad of TV shows, books and comic books. One of Star Wars greatest qualities was it’s extensive list of incredible characters. These characters, especially the ones from the original trilogy, have stood the test of time. Many others, including
Star Wars has truly become one of the great cultural wonders of both the 20th and 21st century.
Thanks to a recent re-watch of the Star Wars movies, we’ve decided to put together this list, ranking the Star Wars movies from worst to best. To keep things as simple as possible, we’ll only be listing the episodic movies (1 to 9); those listed under the “Skywalker Saga” banner. Stand alone films (known as Star Wars Stories), animated films & one off specials will not be included in this list.
Here are a few points to be aware of:
This list is purely based on the relevance and quality of the movie in the context of Star Wars.
This is not a depiction of the overall quality of the movie in general.
Re-watchability plays a big part in the rankings
Have a read through the list and let us know how it compares to your favourite Skywalker Saga films.
9. The Last Jedi
Episode VIII – 2017
Based on the online reaction in the time since it’s release, it would appear The Last Jedi is either a film you absolutely loved or one that makes your blood boil. For me, it is most assuredly the latter. Contextually speaking, it is an abysmal Star Wars film. It reeks of a director trying so hard to be unique and appear clever that they completely binned the aspects of what makes Star Wars so great.
The movie begins in the worst possible way; with a flagrant disregard, and frankly, disrespect of the Jedi, as Luke rudely throws his own lightsaber over his shoulder. A true Luke Skywalker would never spit in the face of the Jedi and their beliefs like that. Not to mention it’s a pretty bloody rude thing to do when meeting someone for the first time.
From there the film continues a sloppy and over passed timeline, with super unnecessary, cringe worthy sub-plots involving Finn and Rose. It sends us down an over-done misdirection with The Resistance’s new chief, causing the audience to genuinely dislike her…only to release that’s she actually a self-sacrificing hero all along?
Whilst I do blame the director for thinking it would be a good idea in the first place, I don’t blame Rian Johnson for the execution. That fault lies directly on Disney’s shoulder, who upon release of this film made it perfectly clear that they do not understand Star Wars or even how to structure a trilogy.
8. Attack of the Clones
Episode II – 2002
This one might be slightly controversial, as many people believe “The Phanton Menance” to be the worst of the prequel trilogy. I used to be one of those people as well. That is until a recent rewatch.
Whilst The Phantom Menace has specific flaws, mostly revolving the over use of political drama and talk of trade routes, Attack of the Clones is pretty much awful the whole way through.
The writing is extremely forced and obviously looked better on paper than it did coming out of people’s mouths. Although not helped by the script, Hayden Christensen’s depiction of a Padawan Anakin Skywalker was cringe-worthy…at best. There are certainly some redeeming qualities; such as the big final fight scene and Obi-Wan’s flowing locks. But overall the movie pretty much sucks. Aside from setting up the Clone army that would take centre stage in Revenge of the Sith, the film didn’t do much to push the Star Wars story along.
7. The Phantom Menace
Episode 1 – 1999
Now, despite what I just said, i’m not a Phantom Menace defender. It’s a bad movie. It really is. But in saying that, it does have a few highlights that allows it to slip ever so slightly higher on this list.
Qui Gon Jinn is arguably one of the best characters in the whole franchise. He brings a grace, calmness and wisdom to the Jedi character that few have managed to master throughout the entire saga.
Darth Maul is an excellent and menacing (pun intended) villain. He would genuinely scare the heck out of me if I saw him.
The obvious downfalls, including Jar Jar, trade routes, political mumbo-jumbo and the Midi-chlorian detector, force it into it’s spot at #7. It’s not a movie I would like to watch again, but if given the choice between this and Attack of the Clones, i’d choose this.
6. The Rise of Skywalker
Episode IX – 2019
The Rise of Skywalker wasn’t a bad movie per se, but it was a pretty big disappointment. When I was walking out of the theatre, I actually thought that I liked the movie. But it turned out to be a movie where the more you think about it, the stupider it gets.
I think what it boils down to for Episode IX is that generally, it’s a decent movie, but in the context of Star Wars, it’s really quite dumb. After taking back the reigns from Rian Johnsons, JJ Abrams did his best to restore the trilogy to some semblance of order. His retconning of several plot points, most notably Rey’s parentage, was an obvious fan service notion. Unfortunately, it kind of made things worse. By zig-zagging with plot points and covering by saying, “oh yeah, he was lying to you”, it makes a mockery of the whole story.
My biggest gripe from the final two Star Wars film in the Skywalker Saga is the OP nature of the force and the ease in which someone who is more or less a Jedi Rookie is able to manipulate it. Of course, in the Legends sagas the force is force more advanced. However, since the movies are of their own canon, the degree to which they manipulate the force seems out of whack.
Rey is strong with the force. She’s tenacious and clever. But she isn’t Yoda. Yet she does things which, if the Jedi Council were still sitting in their broad-backed IKEA chairs in Coruscant, would be considered inconceivable.
Bringing back Palpatine was a mistake. It was an obvious way to fix the massive plot hole that Rian Johnson made by killing Snoke in The Last Jedi. But mainly because it belittles the ultimate sacrifice made by Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Several cool fight scenes and the turn of Ben Solo are what keeps this movie from being worse than those we’ve already mentioned.
5. Revenge of the Sith
Episode III – 2005
Okay, that’s enough of the pulling apart of the Star Wars franchise. Now it’s time to talk about some of the better movies they’ve produced. Revenge of the Sith is the final movie in the prequel trilogy and they save their best for last. Whilst it by no means is a phenomenal film, it certainly has a strong enough plot and important moments to make it a re-watchable movie.
The fall of Anakin Skywalker still to this day feels a little rushed. They did a good job in slowly disintegrating his bond with morality throughout Episode’s II and II, but Anakin was still trying to do the right thing until about 10 seconds before he becomes Darth Vader. Then within the next 30 minutes he starts butchering younglings. I’m sure there’s some people out there who have written essays about how it still makes sense. But for me, it was rushed.
Despite this, the choreography and intensity of the fight scenes throughout the movie are some of the best that i’ve seen in the franchise. Obi-Wan systematically dismembering General Grievous is very cool. The final fight between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader on Mustafar is super intense and fully emphasises Anakin’s descent towards the Dark Side.
I’m a big fan of the acting in the final portion of the film in which Obi-Wan, Yoda and Senator Organa realise their beliefs and ideologies are doomed. In spite of everything they stand for, they are forced into retreating.
Something that’s always sat uneasily is that Obi-Wan didn’t put a dismembered and burning Anakin out of his misery. Allowing someone you once considered a brother to burn alive seems like a pretty lousy thing for a compassionate Jedi to do.
4. The Force Awakens
Episode VII – 2015
The Force Awakens provided long suffer Star Wars fans with a new live-action movie, 10 years since the last of the prequels. The film did not disappoint, as it created a wonderful mixture of old and new and become easily the best Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi.
The introduction of new characters Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and BB-8 alongside our old heroes Han Solo, Chewbacca, General Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker, was a wonderful way of kickstarting the new trilogy.
The story followed the classic and never ending battle between the light and the dark side, as well as a desperate search for Luke Skywalker, who for some reason randomly tucked his tale between his legs and bailed due to a failure.
Certain criticisms of the film have of course arisen. Such as the fact that it’s pretty much ‘A New Hope’ in almost every way. These criticisms aren’t technically incorrect, but in my opinion, it doesn’t detract from what is, at its core, a good film.
The contributions of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Chewbacca were the best thing about this film; showing that it was the characters, more so than the story, that launched the original Star Wars films into the pop culture stratosphere.
One has to wonder if Episode VIII and Episode IX would have much better if Han Solo wasn’t killed by Kylo Ren. Exploring the dynamic between Father and Son would have been much more interesting than the forced hate/love story between he and Rey.
3. A New Hope
Episode IV – 1977
The movie that started it all. Originally titled ‘Star Wars’, ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ was a revolution of its time and remains to this day, one of the most iconic films of all time. Despite George Lucas’s inconsistent answer to this question, it seems Star Wars was only originally written as one movie. In hindsight it’s pretty clear to see, based on certain wording choices. But the retconning of these ideas was acceptable enough in future films that we’ve all just let it go.
The introduction of Darth Vader as the films nemeses subsequently created the greatest villain of all time. His intensity and lack of any human qualities made him mentally and physically formidable. On first watch you would genuinely not be able to figure out how one could beat such a foe.
Luke, Han, Leia and Chewy developed into a great dynamic built around true friendship. This is something I believe is lacking in newer films as the friendships seem very forced.
Over the years, it’s become obvious that the later films are of a better quality. However, this movie deserves its spot for the fact it created a gargantuan franchise.
2. Return of the Jedi
Episode VI – 1983
If this list was based on the level of satisfaction and joy I receive from watching a Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi would be #1. It’s the conclusion of the original trilogy and brings together the final battle between the rebellion, headed by Luke Skywalker, and The Empire, lead by The Emperor and Darth Vader.
Sensing good in his Father, Luke desperately tries to get Vader to turn back to the light. Unmoving, Vader tells Luke this is not possible, until Luke starts getting destroyed by The Emperors force lightning. Vader, wanting to protect his son, throws The Emperor down a seemingly never ending hole in the Death Star.
Many point to the introduction of Ewoks as a catalyst was this movie not ageing as well as others, but to quote Marshall Eriksen, “I don’t know why people are so cynical about Ewoks, the Rebellion would have failed without the Ewoks.”
The rescue scene on Tatooine is fantastic. Luke shows off his clearly improved Jedi skills by almost singlehandedly killing every enemy in a 100 metre radius.
Whilst I love this movie and would pick it to watch over all others, I can also agree that there is a certain level of corniness to some of the action and it’s not quite as polished as the below movie.
Which leads us to the #1 Star Wars movie ever…
1. Empire Strikes Back
Episode V – 1980
Empire Strikes Back works on so many levels. Whilst i’m not quite old enough to have a profound understanding of cinematic history, i’m quite sure that few films before this was able to raise the stakes as effectively as Empire Strikes Back. The sequel to A New Hope did something that had rarely been done before, it let the bad guys win.
Empire Strikes Back also lays claim to having one of the greatest twists in all of cinema; Vader is Luke’s father *gasps*. It’s fair to say that few would have seen this coming. Especially since Obi-Wan straight up told Luke that Vader murdered the Skywalker patriarch. I suppose this is true…from a certain point of view.
The symbolism of Luke losing his hand, only to have it replaced by a mechanical arm was a nice way to show that he’s not so different than his famous Papa.
For the rest of the gang, their efforts to thwart the Empire’s grip were ultimately unsuccessful. Assuming they were undetected, they seek refuge in Cloud City with an old friend, Lando Calrissian. Lando momentarily betrays his friends, leading them right into Vaders hands.
The film ends on a dour note, with Leia, Chewie, Lando, Luke, C3PO and R2D2 only just getting away, whilst Han was frozen in carbonite and taken away by Bounty Hunter, Bobba Fett.
The quality of the writing and the build in intensity as the film progresses are what stands this apart from the herd. This film did a brilliant job of subverting expectations and raising the stakes for the final film in the trilogy; Return of the Jedi.