Forty years ago today cinema was forever changed when Star Wars hit the big screen for the first time. The film has spawned seven sequel/prequel/spin-offs (with more on the way) and has become a cultural revolution on three separate occasions. In honor of this milestone I am ranking the Star Wars film from least great to most great, because after all, they’re all awesome. It’s important to remember that this is my list… which makes it the only one that matters… that’s how the internet works, right?
The Phantom Menace
Let’s be honest, this is a no-brainer. Lucas could have started the tale of young Anakin Skywalker anywhere, but he chose to pick 9-year old Anakin. Why? The film is often trashed so I wanted to focus on the positives. I am a huge fan of the now defunct Expanded Universe, and when I was a teenager reading about Coruscant and the Jedi Council I never thought I would actually get to see it on the big screen. Just seeing the universe I loved for my entire life get bigger and better was enough for the fanboy in me. Plus it didn’t hurt that the film featured one of the sagas best action sequences in the 3-way duel between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. This fight ushered in the “prequel lightsaber fighting style” and featured the epic composition “Duel of the Fates.” A piece of music so great, that its absence from The Force Awakens makes me sad that Disney is distancing itself so much from the prequels that we might never hear the epic sounds of this classic piece.
Attack of the Clones
Lets get it out of the way, the film spends entirely too much time with Anakin and Padme on Naboo. It’s uncomfortable at best and extremely awkward and bad at its worst. However, the parts of the film not revolving around the romance devoid of any chemistry had a lot of good stuff. I would argue that the last 45 or so minutes of the film are pure Star Wars bliss. The battle of Geonosis is a great step in showing us that the Jedi can be killed and that they will not be able to simply steamroll over the Confederacy. We also get to see Anakin go all dark side on some Tuskin Raiders, get pissed at Obi-Wan and basically outline how he will one day be the baddest dude in the galaxy. Oh yeah, and we got to see Yoda kick ass for the first time. Sure he was a little more jumpy than we would have thought, but seeing him show his powers against Dooku before turning to lightsabers was great.
The Force Awakens
The newest entry into the “Skywalker Saga” falls right in the middle for me… and most other people I believe. Touted as better than the prequels, but still inferior to the original trilogy seems an unfair comparison. I think it is better than some films from both eras, and that there are other films in those eras that are better. The only thing that really holds the film back is that it is basically a remake of A New Hope. Not in the traditional sense. There are new characters, planets, droids, etc., but the tone and feel of the film borrows heavily from the 1977 original. But I guess if you were going to steal/borrow liberally from any film, the original Star Wars is a pretty good choice. The thing that that this film nailed the most was Has Solo. Probably because Harrison Ford knew this was his last go around as the smuggler (Spoiler alert…) he really brought it. He is funny, heroic and amazing throughout the film. It saddens me that he spent no time with Luke Skywalker, but that is a whole other problem. As much as Abrams killed it with Han Solo (see what I did there?), he really dropped the ball with Luke Skywalker. To make the allusion that Luke Skywalker would abandon the galaxy after one of his pupils turned to the dark side is more ludicrous than ludicrous speed in Spaceballs. We’re to believe that after Luke trained the next Darth Vader he would run away and hide, hoping the galaxy would clean up after him? I call bullshit!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One is a great example of what the spin-off movies can accomplish. While the episodic films in the franchise are beholden to the rules and restrictions laid out in previous installments, films like Rogue One can take chances and tell stories of a different tone. Want to kill all your heroes, sure. Want to show Darth Vader mercilessly chopping down a hallway of expendable rebel soldier, why not. After Force Awakens lack of any sizable First Order/Imperial force, it was a great treat to see the might of the empire on full display. We got multiple walker configurations, star destroyers, TIE fighters and tons of imperial troops, droids and officers. For an Imperial fan like myself, this was a return to the good old days. It does suffer from what can only be described as “Death Star fatigue,” seeing as it’s the fourth film to feature a planetoid-sized sphere of death. It is also lacking in the villainy department as a whole. I squealed with delight at the prospect of bringing Grand Moff back, but his role was somewhat diminished by existing solely as a digital character. He also took some of the moxxy out of the film’s main antagonist, Director Krenic. Who was made to look weak by playing second fiddle to Tarkin, whining to Vader and getting reprimanded, allowing two generations of Ersos to outsmart him and just being an overall bland villain. But let’s be honest the final scene of Vader mowing through rebels is one of the five best scenes in the entirety of the Star Wars franchise.
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A New Hope
Oh no! Here comes the hate! I understand that this is the film that started it all, and that without it we would not be celebrating this day almost 40 years later. I think the film is tremendous and laid an amazing foundation, I just like the others better. George Lucas took an incredibly simple story and turned it into an epic masterpiece. His use of the droids as the POV characters is amazing. The film is a thrill ride from the moment they leave Tatooine until the end. With space battles, lightsaber fights, blaster fights and even heart pounding drama in a trash compacter. What more could you ask for? It introduced us to almost all the relevant players in the galaxy and you are hard pressed to find anyone who has not seen this timeless classic.
Return of the Jedi
Ewok are cute and awesome! There I sad it. So much crap is heaped on these cute little bears that some people are blind to the amazing action on screen. The space battle from 33 years ago has yet to be matched in any film to date. Did I mention Admiral Ackbar, the GREATEST fictional character in all of cinema? That might be a stretch, but if you know me, you know I love Admiral Ackbar. The duel in Empire Strikes Back gets most of the love, but the fight between Vader and Luke in the Death Star throne room is pretty awesome. Even with a mask on you can feel Vader being tempted to the light side, while at the same time watching Luke struggle with emotions that would lead him to the dark side. In the final moments,the amazing music kicks in, Luke chops off his father’s hand, and throws down his lightsaber to show the Emperor he will not play his reindeer games. Wait, what? Might want to hold onto that thing Luke, maybe just turn it off and clip it to your belt. Oh well, as Dark Helmet said “evil will always triumph because good is dumb!” I will agree with the internet that this is the film most hurt by the special editions. From the “Jedi Rocks” musical number to removal of “Yub Nub” at the film’s comclusion, Lucas’ tinkering may have hurt more than it helped.
Revenge of the Sith
Come at me bro! Episode III concluded the maligned prequel trilogy and did it in an epic way. There is epic space battles, epic lightsaber battles, and everything you cold possibly want in a Star Wars film. Order 66 people… the epic moment where Vader and the Emperor make good on their promise to kill all (most) of the Jedi. This epic section of the film is the dick-punch that the prequel trilogy needed to bridge the prequels with the originals. Sure Mace Windu goes out like a punk, even after Samuel L. jackson promised us he wouldn’t, but he film goes to so many planets and really expands the Star Wars universe. It gives it an epic feel and helps us understand how the Empire could so easily take over. Plus it’s the icing on the “Palpatine is the best” cake that Vader baked him for Boss Appreciation Day.
Empire Strikes Back
While all the other films tried to make Star Wars bigger, Empire tried to remind us that it’s the characters in the saga that make it great. It was the dark second act that has become synonymous with the dark film in a film franchise, every franchise has their Empire Strikes Back. This film is a masterpiece and I could go on forever. I am an Empire lover (not the movie, but the real heroes of the original trilogy), always have, and this is the Empire in all its glory. From the first time you see the Super Star Destroyer Executer dwarfing the enormous Star Destroyers, to the Imperial Walkers, to the epic moment when Darth Vader tells Luke that he is his father (spoiler alert?). This film is wall-to wall Imperial might, plus they wipe the rebels from one side of the galaxy to the other. The film introduces the Emperor, Lando and everyone’s favorite muppet Yoda. For me though it’s the little moments that make this film so great. Like when Han opens the door in Cloud City and Vader is waiting for him. While everyone else is paralyzed with shock, Han Solo gets off four shots on Darth Vader. He didn’t even think, it was all muscle memory, and George Lucas wants us to believe Greedo shot first. Lucas, please!
So what do you think? Let us know your ranking in the comment section below.