The Star Wars Films Ranked
Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas introduced movie fans to one of greatest franchises in film history. Through several movies and TV series’, the Star Wars franchise became an instant classic thanks to its ever-growing mythos and canon that is fleshed out more and more each year. After The Last Jedi debuted and proved to be not only one of the most successful, but also one of the most divisive Star Wars films, we thought it would be a great time to rank all ten films in the Star Wars saga. Everyone obviously has their own way of ranking these films as one could easily be swapped out for another at different points in the ranking. That being said, behold, every single Star Wars movie ranked from worst to best!
10. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Yes, we are even including the 2008 animated Star Wars film that was the actual first attempt to get the legendary saga back on the silver screen. A film that seemed so poorly put together, it could have easily been several episodes of the now popular TV series of the same name, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a jarring transition from the live-action series. Famously called an “interquel” as it takes place in between Episodes 2 and 3, The Clone Wars saw our heroes on a journey to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s nephew in addition to introducing Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano. Riddled with sub-par performances, shoddy CGI animation and a story that is neither entertaining nor believable, Star Wars: The Clone Wars remains as the real black sheep of the classic franchise. At least we got the fantastic TV series, right?
9. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Almost sixteen years after the original trilogy drew to a close, George Lucas decided to re-visit Star Wars and create the infamous prequel trilogy. Set 32 years before Star Wars, the film follows a young Anakin Skywalker and young Obi-Wan Kenobi. This movie, without a doubt, was a crushing disappointment to fans everywhere. Evidently, this is probably due to the first three films being so terrific. Still, The Phantom Menace focuses less on the exciting characters and more so on trade disputes and political problems and has arguably the slowest moving story in the franchise. A story based on a young Anakin was not a bad idea, but its execution was. Reliance on CGI as well as inconsistent acting was the nail in the coffin as The Phantom Menace was not the start FOX and George Lucas were hoping for. Obviously, Jar Jar Binks being in the film does not help matters, but if we were to write about that, we would be here all day…
8. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones is a film that can flip-flop between the near-bottom and the bottom of most Star Wars rankings you will find online. In my opinion, the second film in the prequel trilogy is a considerable improvement over the predecessor but that does not make it a good film. Less Jar Jar Binks, great performances from Christopher Lee and Ewan McGregor and terrific lightsaber battles keep this film from outright failing but it is clear that George Lucas still did not learn from every mistake he made on The Phantom Menace. In the first film, he placed a lot of focus on trade disputes and in Attack of the Clones, he trades that in for one of the most boring love stories ever put to film. It is more of a mixed bag than any other film on this list as there is quite a bit to like but it is not without countless faults.
7. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
A controversial choice to place this film, I know, but here me out. From this point on, every film in this ranking is considered good to great and the fact that Return of the Jedi is ranked at 7 is a testament to the quality filmmaking in Star Wars. That being said, Return of the Jedi is solid ending to the original trilogy but it is also easily the weakest entry. After dropping one of the greatest cliffhanger’s in film history, fans waited three years to see how Luke Skywalker to react to finding out that Darth Vader was his father. Return of the Jedi accomplishes what it set out do, close the chapter of the saga by tying everything up in a neat bow. And that is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, while the film boasts one of the best lightsaber duels, another spellbinding John Williams score and thrilling action, the story is very uneven and its introduction of ewoks has not gone over well with most fans. Along with Boba Fett getting a rather boring death and its long, plot-halting sequences, Return of the Jedi is a fun but flawed film that is still widely better than all the films below it on this list.
6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Another choice that will probably be looked at with confused faces, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith brought the prequel trilogy to a close and did so in multiple exciting ways. Finally, viewers got to see Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side and Lucas finally seemed to have a hold on how to properly make another Star Wars film. Yes, the film still has unconvincing performances and wonky CGI but Hayden Christensen truly did improve in terms of acting in this performance. Additionally, it may not be a surprising story, but George Lucas delivered an emotional and satisfying conclusion. Featuring one of the best openings in Star Wars history and the most climactic and action-packed lightsaber battle ever, Revenge of the Sith brings balance to the force, even if it was an uneven ride.
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The first of the anthology series, Rogue One was a big risk, stepping away from the Skywalker saga in favour of telling the story of how the Rebellion got its hands on the fabled Death Star plans. It is a story that transcends the simplistic “good Vs evil” Star Wars feature as it features the darker side of the Rebellion; the one that will do whatever it takes to defeat the Empire. Its focus on the story might hinder the fleshing out of characters but that was never the goal. Rogue One is about characters from all points of the galaxy coming together to help the Rebellion gain some kind of edge on its much bigger enemy. The action is enthralling, the cinematography is beautiful and the finale is, without a doubt, gangbusters. Michael Giacchino shined with the first musical score done by someone other than John Williams and it has got one of the greatest Darth Vader sequences in history. It is bold, unique and a superb start to the anthology side of the Star Wars series.
4. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
The beginning of the sequel trilogy, The Force Awakens marks Disney’s entry into the Star Wars franchise. In may have its similarities to A New Hope, but The Force Awakens was the most anticipated Star Wars film since The Phantom Menace and JJ Abrams delivered on all fronts. First, the film introduces viewers to a curious and complex protagonist with Rey, a character who is simply a joy to watch. Written perfectly, she never fails to entertain when on screen but, as every Star Wars fan knows, where there is light, there is darkness. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren might be the most enticing character in this new series of films as he struggles to fill the shoes of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Add in a superb return to form for John Williams, phenomenal action sequences, and compelling storytelling, The Force Awakens was a fantastic start to the sequel trilogy and made for one of the most fun cinematic experiences in recent memory.
3. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
If The Force Awakens was a safe blockbuster that didn’t take many risks, The Last Jedi effectively and excitingly takes a bold step towards the future and makes for one of the most original entries in the saga. It is not only liberating, but it is scary, enticing and opens the door for endless possibilities. At 152 minutes, The Last Jedi is an emotionally-driven, high-octane adventure that embraces aspects of the past but strives to cement its name in the legacy that is Star Wars and break free from the shackles of what came before it. It is a game-changer and breathes new life into the Star Wars franchise and Johnson magnificently conveys a fantastic middle chapter to this new trilogy.
2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The one started it all, Star Wars, later titled Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, is a cinematic landmark. It is not perfect, but it is a certifiable classic and fans have loved the film since they laid eyes on the twin suns of Tatooine. Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness and Carrie Fisher all make their debuts as the legendary Star Wars crew and each scene played out on screen is better than the last. A film that still manages to hold up in terms of visual effects and action sequences, A New Hope established the narrative guidelines for one of the richest mythologies in film. It has become more than just a movie, it is an experience, that is beautifully constructed and dramatically daring and the film introduced viewers to the wonderful world of a galaxy far, far away.
1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
It is not often that a sequel is not only on par with its predecessor, but significantly better. The Empire Strikes Back does just that as the second entry into the original trilogy is not only the best Star Wars films, it is one of the best films in general. Doing something that few movies dared to do (letting the villains win), The Empire Strikes Back raised the stakes as the Empire made a massive assault on the fleeting Rebellion. With Star Wars being a risk in itself, the sequel did not stop him from continuing to push the boundaries as he took the franchise in a darker, more exciting direction as well as further fleshing out franchise leads and expanding the mythos, all in its 2+ hour runtime. It balances emotion, drama, action-packed fun and spectacle and each set-piece in in service of the whole. With one of the best cliffhanger’s ever, The Empire Strikes Back is a groundbreaking project in film history, an example of what a great sequel can be and the best Star Wars film to date.
That’s our list! Don’t agree with it? What is your pick for the best Star Wars film? Let us know in the comments down below!
This post is a milestone for the Talkies Network crew. With this ranking, we have officially written 500 posts for this site. From Nick, Artur and Mathew, thank you for joining us on this journey. We can’t wait to write 500 more!