8: Attack of the Clones
While Attack of the Clones was the first prequel that truly delved into the history of characters we have grown to know and love in the original trilogy, it brought over the issues that plagued The Phantom Menace while adding a plethora of problems of its own.
The horrid writing and the general abuse of CGI made this the worst entry in the entire franchise. Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of Anakin Skywalker felt wooden and even parodic, kicking long-time fans of the franchise in the shins. Entire battle scenes with Clones and Droids alike were done entirely in not-so-subtle CGI, and don’t even get us started on Christensen’s infamous coarse sand dialogue…
Here is a bit of history to one of the most iconic movie villains of all time, handled so poorly it ruined the character for some. To put it bluntly, Attack of the Clones is everything Star Wars isn’t. Whereas the original trilogy relied on personal storytelling within the grander scheme of things, filled with likable characters and practical effects, Attack of the Clones tries to make its scale as grand as possible while pushing its beloved characters to the background, using them as but an empty vessel to take us from one obvious green screen experimentation to the next.
7: The Phantom Menace
Expectations were unreal when George Lucas announced he would return to the Star Wars saga with a prequel trilogy. It was doubtful that The Phantom Menace would live up to the hype behind it, but nobody expected it to be this bad, either. It introduced us to a selection of unlikable characters like young Anakin and the infamously clumsy Jar Jar Binks, with the only redeemable factor being the stellar three-way fight sequence between Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon.
Despite the spectacular action scene, The Phantom Menace ended up being an all-round unenjoyable film with troubled pacing, underdeveloped characters, and an unnecessarily convoluted political plot that feels vastly different from the material we’ve come to love. Clocking in slightly above two hours, the entirety of The Phantom Menace lays the foundation for the two sequels as well as potential spin-offs that are still explored to this day in the form of comic books and animated series. It’s a functional basis, mind you, but it doesn’t have enough personality in and off itself to be justifiable.
6: Revenge of the Sith
Forget the entire trilogy, because this is the only prequel that truly matters. It still suffers from some wonky pacing throughout, but by the end of the film, Revenge of the Sith really picks up some steam.
Anakin’s turn to the dark side of the Force came to fruition, taking a welcome step back from the political nonsense in the first two films. Even though Hayden Christensen’s performance still left much to be desired, seeing one of cinema’s most iconic villains come to be almost made the first two entries worth it.
Another factor that deserves to be applauded is Ewan McGregor’s portrayal as Obi-Wan Kenobi, which came full circle with Revenge of the Sith. Even though the entire trilogy more or less focuses on Anakin Skywalker, seeing Obi-Wan develop through personal loss and tragedy lends Alec Guinness’ portayal of this mentor figure some much-needed and well-deserved depth. By the end of Revenge of the Sith, we couldn’t help but feel sorry for most parties involved, lending this entry way more heart that its two predecessors combined.
5: Rogue One
As the first major standalone addition to the Star Wars universe, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story struggles to find its footing in this vast, well-established saga. It’s set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, filling in some gaps and uncertainties that fans of the franchise may appreciate. However, it’s biggest redeeming factor comes with its tremendous sense of nostalgia, further fleshing out some iconic, fan-favorite villains.
During its first half, Rogue One more or less stumbles around as it gathers its rebel forces. A bit too much time is spent exploring these individuals rather than bringing them closer together as a group, resulting in a first half that feels barren and far too stretched. It makes it known that the Rebels aren’t saints either, but the way it tackles this feels a tad forced.
When it does peak, however, Rogue One reaches extreme heights that’ll excite Star Wars fanatics beyond belief. About a handful of classic characters make an on-screen appearance whereas others get referenced to some degree. Your focus will shift from the superfluous story about a group of daring rebels to one that recaptures the magic of Star Wars in ways you’d have never thought possible. It’s not a bad movie, mind you, but it does feel unnecessary at times.
4: Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi was an excellent finale to the original Star Wars trilogy. While it didn’t exactly reach the heights of its two predecessors, it came with an undeniable sense of closure for fans of the franchise, greatly improving upon the lightsaber battles and giving these developed characters a chance to shine in their full glory.
This entry had a lot going on, and some claim not enough time was spent exploring it all. The pacing was a bit off this time around, and many hate the infamous Ewoks with a passion. For some reason, an entire squad of Rebel soldiers with a known Jedi on their side couldn’t do with guns, lightsabers, and the Force what Ewoks managed to do with sticks and stones. But, like Han told Chewie, maybe that’s just not how the Force works.
It was still a sci-fi spectacle, mind you, but the slapstick nature of the Ewoks and their questionable motives didn’t particularly sit well with all audiences. Return of the Jedi even spawned two unnecessary Ewok spin-offs, which are some of the most widely hated films of all time.
3: The Force Awakens
After a disappointing prequel trilogy, The Force Awakens had a lot resting on its shoulders. Not only did it have to make up for the last three films, but it also had to introduce new characters while taking the original trilogy into consideration, using beloved heroes like Chewbacca, Han Solo, and Leia Organa to pass the torch onto the next generation.
Where The Force Awakens truly shines is how naturally it transitions from the original trilogy to this new one, and how effectively it handles its characters. Both Rey and Finn have believable motivations and are relatable in their own ways, with Rey’s desire for adventure and Finn’s sickness of injustice speaking to us all to some degree. Even Kylo Ren has deeply personal and emotional motivations for his actions, lending him a grander sense of depth in one movie than Darth Vader arguably got in six.
Its plot does take a few cues from A New Hope that can make it feel a tad familiar, but The Force Awakens so finely walks the line between the old and the new that it single-handedly rekindled the Star Wars franchise. Long-time fans were treated to a phenomenal addition to the franchise after an underwhelming prequel trilogy, whereas newcomers got a taste of the sweet nectar that is Star Wars in its full glory. Moments of awe, wonder, shock and sheer nostalgia went hand-in-hand throughout its run time, all whilst respecting the material that came before.
2: A New Hope
A New Hope is where it all started. This is the original Star Wars movie that introduced us to characters that would define modern pop culture, with the likes of R2-D2, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Han Solo, alongside a vast number of memorable others.
In an age where special effects were rather wonky, A New Hope took the world by storm. It may look a bit dated by today’s standards, but modern remasters, special cuts, and good old nostalgia make it the finest starts to a stellar saga. Seeing lightsabers light up and space ships float through the emptiness of space was a mesmerizing sight that left audiences curious for more.
It wasn’t just eye candy or nerd fuel either, but a well-structured, enjoyable science-fiction adventure that effectively blurred the line between die-hard cinema buffs and your average movie-goer. A New Hope had something for everyone, with plentiful personality poured into every single bit of the film. Heck, even a bleeping robot became one of cinema’s most recognized movie heroes!
1: The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back is one of the most finely executed, well-written, and nearly perfectly paced films to ever hit the big screen. Introducing new characters while developing the ones we got to know in A New Hope, revealing intentions and expanding its general lore, this is the science-fiction sequel that improved upon the original in every sense of the word. Besides that, is also served as a gateway to the final installment in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi, all whilst remaining essential in its own right.
One may argue A New Hope deserves the number one spot on this list for launching this science-fiction franchise, but seeing how The Empire Strikes Back delivered one iconic scene after the other, it’s hard not to crown this entry as the best Star Wars movie in general. Luke’s confrontation with the Wampa on Hoth, the takedown of the AT-AT Walker, Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and, arguably one of the most influential and important scenes in the history of cinema, Darth Vader revealing himself as Luke’s father.
This is one of those movies that’ll make you go “Oh, this is the best part!” throughout its entire runtime, with its expert cinematography playing a massive role in that regard. However, The Empire Strikes Back also delves deeper into the history and potential future of each of its character, finely juggling every important personality while shaping and molding the world in which these live. Good sequels are quite rare, and it’s doubtful there will ever be an equally captivating, visually stunning and rich continuation as The Empire Strikes Back. Whether you’re watching it for the first, tenth, or fiftieth time, this one is nothing short of a timeless classic.