Monday was Star Wars Day. It’s that day of the year where every card-carrying geek sets out to prove their geek status by mentioning it as much as possible. I mean, if you don’t post as many Star Wars Gifs as possible are you even a real fan? Speaking of real fans, it’s also a day where the hardcore fans get to moan about how much the franchise has been ruined over the years. But has it really? We get it. The loyal fans who were there at the start don’t want to embrace change. They don’t want to admit that their way isn’t the best it can be anymore. They want to say awful things about Rian Johnson on the internet because they have nothing else in their life. If it makes you feel better then go for it. But, come on, are the more recent films in the Star Wars series really that bad? I set out to solve this once and for all by definitely ranking them from best to worst. Now, I did only use the main episodes in the Skywalker saga because we have to be honest, Rogue One would have beaten most (if not all) of them had I included it. So, it didn’t seem fair to count that. Even if it does include the single greatest Darth Vader scene in the franchise’s history.
9. Attack of the Clones
Oh god, I hate this film. It has but 2 redeeming features and only one of them is something the film can take credit for. Number 1: the massive Jedi battle on Geonosis is pretty cool. Number 2: Ewan McGregor’s face is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Everything else is dreadful. The storytelling is badly paced and the narrative is mostly boring. We’re mainly just watching people go somewhere. It’s badly shot, the CGI is laughably bad (CGI pear anyone?), it’s self-indulgent and narcissistic, it ruins Boba Fett, it pushes a love story between two actors with no chemistry, it’s messy, and it just doesn’t feel like a Star Wars film. I hate. I. Hate. It.
8. The Phantom Menace
I know that many people would have put TPM as the worst ever Star Wars film but they’d be wrong. The reason most people see this as such a travesty is that Jar Jar Binks has a bigger role in Episode 1. But, when you take him out of the equation, there’s actually a lot more positives in the first prequel than the second. Darth Maul is outstanding. The showdown between him, Qui Gon, and Obi-Wan is way cooler than any lightsaber fight in the original trilogy, and the pod race (though adding very little to the plot) is really well done. It’s not a good film, I can’t deny, but this has less pomposity than its successor. This is a misjudged children’s film. AOTC was just a bad film.
7. Revenge of the Sith
Without a doubt, the best of the prequel trilogy but that really isn’t saying anything. This film has some interesting and fun moments but it is basically just Lucas trying to tie everything together. It’s more comforting simply because we’re on solid ground here. There are plenty of characters we know from the future and we know how this ends. It’s just let down by certain key things. Mostly an underwhelming performance from the central character. Dark Anakin never really comes to life as he should. We’d been waiting for this moment and what? He killed some kid and that’s it? Anakin’s move to the dark side just doesn’t work. But, on the plus side, Ewan McGregor got even more attractive between films. God, that beard.
6. The Rise of Skywalker
Now it’s getting harder to distinguish between films. I liked The Rise of Skywalker as I’ve liked all of the most recent films. They were fun and they all took us back to what Star Wars was always supposed to be: knights in space. Take away the fan mythology and Star Wars is just an elevated soap opera in space. Not the criticism it sounds like. Star Wars is supposed to be fun and the modern trilogy gets that. So, I love them all and find it difficult to rank them. But, if I’m completely honest with myself, there were aspects of this that irritated me. Mostly the fact that, in trying to please critics of The Last Jedi, it completely went against everything that film had done. It was pathetic and sets a bad precedent for fan power in the future.
5. Return of the Jedi
There’s a weak film in every trilogy and, for the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi just can’t stand up there with the others. This film just seems silly when you compare it to its predecessors. The opening sequence isn’t bad, especially by the standards set by the prequels, but it goes on a bit too long. There are the Ewoks and all of their cuddly nonsense. It’s cute but it feels like the wrong place to be doing it. We also see Han Solo become less of an anti-hero and become more like your average hero. It’s kind of a shame. It’s not like this film is bad and there are some great moments. The end of Luke and Vader’s father/son story is well done and it’s a satisfying end to the story. It’s just Jedi feels a little bit like a letdown after the previous two.
4. The Force Awakens
I came out of this film and was full of joy. The opening crawl sent shivers down my spine and it was clear that we were back in proper Star Wars territory. J.J. Abrams really did capture the tone and feel of a Star Wars film. The new characters were interesting and the returning ones were just like we remembered them. This film was a cracking start to the new trilogy and really erased the memories leftover from the prequels. The only downside was, it all felt a bit too familiar. This was a rewriting of A New Hope with new faces. It was nostalgic and comforting but a bit safe. It also meant that many of the great new characters weren’t given their chance to shine. I’m still bitter about the treatment of Captain Phasma and I always will be. But this is still a wonderful film.
3. A New Hope
Should this film get bonus points for being the first one? The one that gave birth to the franchise and introduced us to this story. Some people may think so but not me. I’ll always be grateful for A New Hope but, let’s be honest, it’s only regarded as the greatest thing ever because of the ever-increasing Star Wars fandom. Yes, George Lucas and co. did incredible things here and changed the face of science-fiction. It was a gamechanger. But, better things came after it and showed us its flaws. The storytelling is perhaps the tightest of all the films but there are some underwhelming moments. The lightsaber showdown between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader is a massive snore. Luke is not a great character. There are things I’d change. Look, I’m not trying to diminish this film’s place in film history because it more than earnt it. It’s just not the top dog of the franchise.
2. The Last Jedi
Fight me if you want but this film did something amazing. Rian Johnson doesn’t get enough credit for changing the game and trying something new. Fans may see his effort as mocking and destroying the fandom that has moulded their identity but its nonsense. The Last Jedi had great respect for what came before it but it also dared to do something different. In my opinion, it paid off. This film played off against the ridiculous mythologising that the prequels did and changed the game. It’s a film that is all about learning from past mistakes and moving forward. Johnson’s film is well crafted and has a deep understanding of these characters. Yes, some of the sequences go on a bit too long (the fucking casino thing) and there are a few issues with major plot points (I didn’t want Rose to die but her whole “we’ll save them with love” thing was illogical). However, this was a refreshing film to come after a basic copy and past of A New Hope.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
So, there we have it. The number 1 Star Wars film is episode V. George Lucas handing over the writing and directing reigns for this film was the best thing that could happen to this franchise. The story is richer and has more layers than the first film. We started to see the actual darkness within the universe and there were consequences for our heroes. It’s such a step up in terms of the narrative but it still fits with the previous film. Empire is a better looking and more exciting film than A New Hope. Plus, we can’t forget that this had one of the greatest film twists in cinema history. And Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite? An iconic and unforgettable moment. The Empire Strikes Back is a sequel that elevates the first one and shows that you don’t need to play safe. Without a doubt, this is the greatest film of the whole saga.