Ranking Every “Star Wars” Movie
By Darth Pearson
You all know what day it is, so I won’t waste any time on the pageantry.
Besides, I’m writing this with almost zero prep because I didn’t want to use any more time than I needed to write about samurai wizards in space.
You read the the title, let’s get to to it:
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Not much to say about this movie that hasn’t already been said. There are many, many things wrong with it, and any one of them could be enough evidence on their own for why I’m placing this movie so low.
So take your pick: a plot to kill Padme that makes absolutely no sense, the horrendous ‘romance’ scenes, the Three Stooges-esque factory sequence, or watching Yoda do lightsaber things that he was never intended to do.
This movie is awful, and the only people who like it are those who carry the logic of “lightsaber=good movie”.
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
Even though it’s ranked higher than Episode II, I only think this movie is about 8% better.
That 8% manifests itself in the Pod Racing sequence, the soundtrack, and the final fight that has a bit more depth to it upon revisit than I originally thought. The way the laser doors break up the pace of the fight and evens the playing field for Darth Maul was really clever.
I also appreciate how much emotion Obi Wan displays after watching Qui-Gonn die. It’s one of the rare moments in the series where Obi Wan loses his composure and gives in to anger. The way he takes out Maul is also some clever foreshadowing to how he’d eventually defeat Anakin.
Still–>this is a movie that seems so much worse when you consider the hype surrounding it upon its release. Episode 1 sent the franchise into a complete tailspin that I still don’t think it ever recovered from.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Everyone knows that I don’t like this movie, and I’ve spoken about why at length many times by now, so I’ll try to be brief:
My main problem with this movie isn’t that it’s necessarily bad (few Star Wars movies are), but more about how it’s fooled so many people into considering it a masterpiece.
I think this is because people are confusing the plot of Rogue One with its story.
For those of you who didn’t take an introductory Film course in college like I did, the “plot” is what is literally shown on screen in order to tell the “story”.
The job of the plot is to create tension and dramatic irony in order to get you to care about the story.
Rogue One does not do this.
It does nothing to make the audience care or even know its characters, and instead relies on the audience’s previous investment in the greater franchise.
I keep hearing people gush about how the ending is so compelling since the characters all perish at the end.
But here’s a secret: We already knew that going into the movie. It had to tie up loose ends since none of these characters show up anywhere else. And I would be okay with that if I actually gave a shit about who they were. But I didn’t.
And you probably didn’t either.
The only thing I really cared about was the final space battle, but that’s solely driven by how visually impressive it was instead of how much I cared about its implications. And, of course, seeing Darth Vader’s invasion of the Rebel ship is the type of fan service that even I find irresistible.
Speaking of which, let’s talk about the bad fan service, because it’s pretty offensive. Why in the world would the Empire use AT-AT’s, the same huge lumbering vehicles they used to ATTACK Hoth in Empire, to DEFEND their own base?
Well…because people already know what AT-AT’s are, so dangling them in front of us was just another way to pull the nostalgic wool over our eyes and preclude us from acknowledging this movie as the borefest it is.
It’s almost to the extent that I really start to question how much Star Wars someone has even seen if they love this movie. What exactly are you comparing it to, anyway? Are you implying you’d rather watch this than Solo or The Force Awakens?
Get the f**k outta here.
In summary, I don’t like this movie and never want to talk about it again.
Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker
The more I think of this movie, the more pissed off I get.
That’s because, when I first saw it, I actually didn’t mind it too much. I remember leaving the theater with my brother saying “Well, that was pretty inoffensive. Wanna go to Chipotle?”
But I was wrong. I was so wrong.
I think my initial reaction encapsulates what’s so wrong about this movie.
It’s so swift moving between plot points that by the time you realize how stupid the scene you just saw was, you’re onto a completely different, equally stupid one. By the time the movie ends, you’re not quite sure what happened but don’t remember anything being bad because you didn’t have enough time to realize it, so you just move on with your life.
I revisited this movie about a week after it came out, and I can’t remember the last time a movie made me this infuriated.
Everything about it just…makes no sense.
- Why does that dagger map up perfectly with Death Star remains?
- Who made the dagger? How?
- Didn’t the Death Star completely explode in Jedi? How are there remains?
- Where’s Rose?
- Why show Chewbacca supposedly dying before having him appear in the very next scene?
- How are we supposed to care that Rey is a Palpatine if it’s never been alluded to at all so far?
- Why is Palpatine still alive? How did he survive?
- Who is piloting these Star Destroyers?
- What did Finn have to tell Rey?
- Who are those hooded figures at the Sith temple?
The movie just keeps darting between these questions so you don’t really have time to think about them. It’s as if it was running a sprint to retcon everything that happened in The Last Jedi and make everyone happy.
Which, of course, made NOBODY happy.
The only reason it’s this ‘high’ is because its breakneck pace makes it surprisingly watchable. Everything goes by so quickly that you’re not left with the same sense of disappointment that the previous movies on this list does.
You’re just….there. An empty hollow shell of a Star Wars fan, after watching this empty hollow shell of a Star Wars movie.
Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
I went to the midnight premiere of this movie back in 2005 and it remains the single best moviegoing experience that I’ve ever had.
But the more I revisit it these days, the less I like it.
You can blame the Redlettermedia Plinkett reviews for this one, because I’ve seen all of them multiple times.
Whereas Rogue One is a slog for two thirds before picking up at the end, Revenge of the Sith actually starts off pretty strong before progressively getting more frustrating and uninteresting.
The opening space battle is what the entirety of Attack of the Clones should have been. It’s a fun, action-packed rescue mission that makes it seem as if the bond between Anakin and Obi Wan is as strong as Ben Kenobi made it sound like in A New Hope.
But then it quickly devolves into a series of head-scratching decisions by the characters and action scenes that wear out their welcome.
Anakin’s turn to the dark side is so sudden and unconvincing that it’s kind of ruined Darth Vader for me as a character, since I now know that his transition to a Sith stems from a single vague promise an old dude made to save his wife…which, by the way, is never followed up on.
Speaking of old dudes–Palpatine is my favorite part of this movie. He’s the only character to actually have a pulse, let alone a clear sense of conviction. I’m not sure if the scene where he reveals himself as Darth Sidious is actually good or if it just looks good compared to everything around it, but it’s one of the highlights of the movie for me.
You know what isn’t a highlight? The fight between Obi Wan and Anakin. It could have been 5 minutes long and still serve as a satisfying emotional climax to a duel that’s been alluded to since the very first Star Wars movie.
Instead, we get this CGI filled nonsense that wears out its welcome and feels like more of a relief when it’s finally over. It’s mildly depressing that the fight between the same characters in A New Hope is far less flashy but infinitely more emotional and engaging.
Revenge of the Sith is definitely the most watchable of the prequels, but I’m not sure what merit comes with being the best of the worst trilogy.
Episode 6: Return of the Jedi
This movie is…okay. The sequence at Jabba’s palace is kinda stupid and Luke’s plan makes little sense, but the stakes are high enough to where you’re still invested in what’s going on.
After all, Jabba was referenced in the preceding two movies, so it makes sense why he’d be an obstacle in this one.
Everything involving Endor annoys me to no end. I hate the Ewoks, the Empire is made to seem like buffoons, and Han and Leia don’t actually do much. The only things I liked from that entire part of the movie are the Speeder Bikes because they were new and made for some decent chase sequences.
Han Solo was supposed to die in Empire and it shows, since he’s completely useless in this movie.
The reason I’m still ranking it this high, though, is because of everything that takes place on the Death Star. Luke has spent the last 3 years training after getting the living shit kicked out of him by Vader last time, and the movie does a fantastic job building up the tension to their final confrontation.
And speaking of their final confrontation, this is easily one of my favorite fights in the entire franchise, and it has very little to do with the actual lightsaber dueling.
While in the throne room, Darth Sidious and Vader take turns taunting Luke until he explodes with anger and completely overwhelms his father using sheer fury. But when he realizes that he’s doing exactly what the Emperor wants by continuing his family’s cycle of hatred and anger, he stops himself, thus completing his transition into a Jedi.
Pretty sweet, if you ask me.
Also: while I generally dislike every special edition edit that’s been made to the original trilogy, I absolutely LOVE the second victory celebration song.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
It took a lot for me to watch this movie, since I was completely against its creation at first.
I wasn’t interested in learning how Han got the Millenium Falcon, how he met Lando, or what happened during the Kessel Run. After all, the Kessel Run was only ever referenced in a throwaway line to illustrate how fast the Falcon is. It was never a big part of the lore and I think people pay way too much attention to small details like that.
But man, this movie is so damn fun and enjoyable that it succeeded in making me care about all of the above and have a blast while doing so.
I think this is the only true standalone Star Wars movie so far.
Rogue One relies way too much on Episode 4 plot wise, and it’s very limited as a result.
Solo benefits greatly by being far removed from the Empire, the Rebellion, or pretty much any force-related stuff, since it has the freedom to be really creative and not disrupt the Star Wars canon.
It actually reminds me a lot of the first half of A New Hope, since it’s about all the outlaw and smuggling business that goes on in the galaxy. The fate of the universe isn’t at stake in this movie, and it is a much more enjoyable experience without that burden.
We’re left with a fun adventure movie with charismatic leads and a very welcomed expansion to the Star Wars universe. I don’t really have anything else to say about this one besides that it’s pretty good.
“Pretty good” goes a long way in this franchise considering all the garbage, so it’s getting ranked high.
Episode 8: The Last Jedi
I’m not afraid to admit that I really like this movie.
I know a lot of people absolutely despise it, but I honestly don’t quite understand why. Most of the things people dislike are among the only unique or memorable things in the entire trilogy.
I really enjoyed Luke’s struggle with his own legend. That’s a very real thing that I’m sure people in real life deal with all the time. It’s completely understandable that he’s bitter about having to live up to a perfect image when he himself is just a human, with flaws like anyone else.
I love that he thinks the Jedi were failures, because, well , they were. The prequel trilogy made that very clear.
Canto Bight was annoying, but it wasn’t offensively bad either. Especially since it helps introduce the reality that morality in Star Wars has shades of grey. We could use more of that in this franchise.
I like that the movie did away with Snoke, because it helped further Kylo Ren’s development as an antagonist along, and Kylo Ren is easily the best character in this trilogy.
I was enthralled by this movie having the courage to rip the modern perception of The Force as a weapon away and restore it to what it actually is: a natural phenomenon. I’ll get to this later when I talk about Empire, but The Force functions best in Star Wars when it’s referred to as a natural energy that people can become attuned to.
It isn’t a power-up in a goddamn video game, and The Last Jedi apparently pissed off a lot of people by saying so.
So many lines seemed to be aimed straight at unwieldy fan expectations. Luke’s line “You think what? I’m gonna walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order?” always makes me laugh because I know that’s probably what a lot of people expected to happen.
And while that does (kind of) happen in the movie, the path that Luke takes to get there is why I love this movie so much. He has to rediscover what it means to be a hero, and it’s a very genuine character arc.
Having him show up to just be the exact same as he was in Jedi would be incredibly boring.
Anyway, I really like this movie because it really makes you think critically about the value system that exists in the Star Wars universe. Not every tale needs to be a story of purely good or purely evil characters, of people who don’t change, or protagonists who belong to royal blood.
The execution is admittedly pretty mediocre, and Ryan Johnson might have overdone his subversions here and there, but at least they freakin’ tried. Extra points for that.
Honestly, while this movie did a lot of bold things, it shied away from allowing Rey and Kylo to join forces, which would have allowed the series to evolve even further. But it looks like they got cold feet, which left the door open for The Rise of Skywalker to basically erase the entire film from canon.
Just like the dweebs wanted. Congratulations, you’ve eliminated the only movie Star Wars movie that tried to make you think.
Episode 7: The Force Awakens
Not much to say here.
This movie reminded the world why Star Wars is so beloved. The characters were charming, the action was fun and exciting, and its (mildly apprehensive) attempt to right the Midi-chlorian wrongs of the prequels succeeded spectacularly.
I saw this movie in theaters with my best friend, who had never seen a Star Wars movie before, and he was so engaged in what was happening that I couldn’t help but smile.
Sure, it’s a bit too similar to A New Hope in some areas for my taste, but the harsh reality is that not many people have seen A New Hope recently–>if at all. It bothered me a lot at first, but after seeing what direction the rest of the new trilogy went, I’m clinging to this movie for dear life.
This was exactly what Star Wars needed and I think anyone who legitimately dislikes this movie is just a big meanie.
Episode 4: A New Hope
The one that started it all.
People love this movie for many different reasons, and each one is completely legitimate.
The special effects were mind-bogglingly creative for the time, and still look great today.
How creative the character and sound designs were.
The fact that a few wise decisions saved this movie from being a train wreck.
The lovable, soon-to-be iconic characters.
How, when you look at it through the context of the time it came out, it was an insanely outlandish film, both visually and narratively.
Or, how this movie was and continues to be the gold standard when discussing the monomyth→ also known as “The Hero’s Journey”.
My favorite part of A New Hope is how I consider it to remain the most masterful combination of movie tropes and homages ever put to film. After all, it is a space western samurai movie that borrows from the likes of The Searchers, Flash Gordon, Yojimbo , The Wizard of Oz, King Arthur, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and more.
It was a groundbreaking, radical piece of filmmaking that wouldn’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell getting made today, and I am so glad that it exists.
The road since this movie has been rocky, and Star Wars has definitely gone from challenging the film industry to essentially becoming it, but it has given the world so many recognizable sights, sounds, and characters, that it is impossible to imagine pop culture without it.
Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
If we’re being completely honest here, this remains the last great Star Wars movie to date.
Everything that has come since has tried to reach the bar set by Empire, and all have failed spectacularly.
I truly believe that Star Wars would not be nearly as popular as it is today if it weren’t for this single movie.
Empire Strikes Back is in the discussion for the greatest film sequel of all time, and people today often overlook how incredibly groundbreaking it was.
Because back then, it was almost unthinkable to have a sequel where the main characters basically get their asses handed to them from beginning to end. The invasion of Hoth and subsequent narrow escape by the rebels remains the best example of how formidable the Empire truly was.
Luke plays completely into Vader’s hands, succumbing to his emotions and walking into a trap that results in his arm getting cut off and Han getting frozen in carbonite.
And then the movie just…ends. That’s it. The heroes are left to pick up the pieces after getting picked apart, and now face an uncertain future.
Just imagine what it was like to leave that film in an internet-less world, with the next movie not set to come out for another few years.
Another thing that behooves historical context is the reveal that Dart Vader was Luke’s father. At the time, it was the most shocking movie twist that anyone had ever seen–including most of the cast and crew, who didn’t know about this part of the script.
Realizing that Darth Vader, who supposedly killed Luke’s father, betrayed the Jedi, and spent the better portion of the past 5 minutes toying with Luke and taunting his inexperience, was his father the whole time is an experience that I’m envious of. The “I am your father” line was pretty ubiquitous by the time I saw Empire, but it was absolutely earth-shattering at the time.
Before I go, I have to talk about my favorite part of this movie, which coincidentally is the main reason why I love Star Wars so much: Luke’s training with Yoda on Dagobah.
So much is added to the lore, spirituality, and cultural impact of the franchise in this unassuming swamp.
In my mind, there is no better representation of Star Wars than Yoda during this sequence. He isn’t flipping around with a lightsaber or using The Force as some sort of weapon. Instead, he talks about The Force as something greater than himself, something to become one with instead of imposing his will on. That is the pinnacle of what a Jedi should be–>not the monk-like chivalrous bullshit we get in the prequels. The Force isn’t inherently good or evil, it just is.
This stark contrast with Luke’s brash, emotional, and impatient demeanor helps show how far Luke has to go on his path to becoming a Jedi. This dichotomy sets up some of my favorite lines in film history:
Luke : All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda : No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.
Luke : I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.
Yoda : You will be. You… will… be.
Luke : What’s in there?
Yoda : Only what you take with you.
Yoda : Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.
And a line that always gives me chills, and continues to be a source of motivation for me:
Luke : I don’t, I don’t believe it.
Yoda : That is why you fail.
Alright–you get it. I love this movie so dang much, and it’s easily my favorite Star Wars movie of all-time. And it will always be.
Thanks for reading, folks.
May the 4th be with you!
Dedicated to Michael Roland. May The Force be with you: always.