Because no one hates Star Wars quite like Star Wars fans.
Well, folks, here we are. It’s Star Wars day. May the Fourth be with you.
And because The Rise of Skywalker is now streaming on Disney+, I would like to take this opportunity to give my personal rankings for every film in the Star Wars franchise, and, in turn, shit all over the movie in question.
Now, Star Wars is a lot like family to me. I love Star Wars a lot. But, much like I get an abundance of family during quarantine, my last few intimate experiences with the franchise have left me scarred and deformed. I feel my trust has been breached after having been lovingly nurtured in the galaxy far, far away for a long, long time.
And so, I present to you: every Star Wars film, personally ranked by me, a cynic.
This is a personal choice and not a general consensus list, although my opinions are always right when it comes to Star Wars, so you may as well not look anywhere else. Also, I’m still mad at them for how they finished the Skywalker saga, so while my opinions may be polarizing, they are what they are.
Be warned though, I spoil just about every Star Wars movie on this list. So back out now if you dare.
Lock S-Foils in attack positions. Let’s begin.
There is no reason why Solo should have been made. I mean, they took one quote from A New Hope and basically spun it off into two and a half hours of backstory for Han Solo- a character whose backstory certainly could have been left alone. On top of that, nothing about Solo sticks out to me- or maybe only its failed plays on nostalgia did. From a bland, blatant rip off of K2-SO from Rogue One, to inexplicably re-introducing Darth Maul to the series (telling everyone to go watch the animated TV shows? Please. You made a mistake by killing him off. Admit you made a mistake and move on from it- stop trying to atone for George Lucas’ shitty screenwriting), and even, in my opinion, a failed attempt at recreating Lando Calrissian with a caricaturist performance (at best) by Donald Glover. Now, I did like Alden Ehrenreich, and I was able to buy into the fact that he was Han Solo, and not some actor hired to do an impersonation of Han Solo. But tying back to my main gripe with the film- the writing- we get enough Han character work throughout the original trilogy. We don’t need more bizarre character work from a character that doesn’t require it (an Imperial Infantryman?? Really?). We see Han grow over the course of the film, but that’s the problem. At no point do we see him truly morph into the cynic we get in his first scene in A New Hope. I left this film feeling disheartened and disappointed about the direction of Star Wars, and my feeling might be the only thing I truly remember about this movie. Maybe over-saturation of the product was, in fact, the problem. And another film on this list, for me, solidified that thought.
10. The Rise of Skywalker
In the words of our dear old Emperor Palpatine: "I have waited a long time for this moment."
Remember how over-saturation of the product makes it stale? Right. God, do I never hope to watch this movie again. I can’t even watch the CinemaSins “Everything Wrong With…” video on it because I know that EVERYTHING is wrong with this movie. It is now to the point where the more I think about The Rise of Skywalker, the angrier I get that we had to end with THIS. I understand how difficult it is to end a series, especially one that’s been building up for years and years and years, and has reached definitive conclusions once, maybe even twice. And Rise of Skywalker got caught up in movie franchise sin number one- pandering to the fans. Because again, no one hates Star Wars quite like Star Wars fans, the (undeserved) backlash from The Last Jedi was unheralded. And so, J.J. Abrams returned to direct the final film of the Skywalker saga in order to give the haters a nostalgia high and… failed miserably. From the opening lines of crawling text we are told that something amazing happened offscreen and that we’ll never get to see it. Who the HELL watched the first two movies of the sequel trilogy and thought “ya know, Emperor Palpatine would figure into this quite nicely and logically”? I could go ON, but there are many more flaws with Rise of Skywalker that I have yet to get to- the shoving of Rose back into the very minor character category, the obvious bait shots of a “Darth Rey” and a “Darth C-3PO” in the trailer that only lasted for mere seconds in the movie, and THE KISS. Jesus Christ the kiss. Kylo and Rey aren’t even related and this felt like a more incestuous kiss than Luke and Leia. There were LAUGHS in the movie theatre because it IS UTTERLY RIDICULOUS. I hope you’re happy that you ruined a good thing, Star Wars fans. I feel like Rise of Skywalker was an amalgamation of fanfics that J.J. Abrams rolled up into one train wreck of a film. Man, did this film also fall victim to the wake of Avengers: Endgame. Where did all those ships come from? The two most recent Star Wars films have failed me. The saga has eight films in it as far as I’m concerned.
Guys, thank you for bearing with me on all my ranting. I promise the next 9 films are (slightly) more positive.
9. Attack of the Clones
There is one good thing about Attack of the Clones, and it’s the introduction of the Clone Army, right from about the start of the Battle of Geonosis (skipping the lightsaber duel), all the way to the end (right before Anakin and Padme’s secret wedding). Oh, that and the love theme from the film. Now, leave it to George Lucas to write some truly cringe dialogue (see: Anakin’s thoughts on sand), but John Williams is a gift to man from the gods of music and can do no wrong. In Attack of the Clones two major storylines present themselves- Obi-Wan’s discovery of the clone army, and and Anakin’s love affair with Padmé (because puberty and movie magic suddenly make it okay that a small boy from The Phantom Menace would eventually fuck the clearly adult-and-not-14 year old woman he meets on his home planet). On Obi-Wan’s side we get Boba Fett- as a KID! And on Anakin and Padmé’s side we get some of the worst flirting we’ve ever seen on film. Although, I won’t lie- an overarching theme we get to see is the Jedi Council’s views on the values of being a Jedi. They constantly make Anakin feel like shit for missing his mom and repressing his feelings. Although I didn’t understand it when I was a 9 year old kid seeing this movie for the first time, as an adult it’s more clear that the Jedi Council members are huge dicks- and maybe we begin to see that maybe the eradication of the Sith maybe ISN’T the way to bring balance to the Force? Just some food for thought.
8. The Phantom Menace
Now I know what you’re thinking- The Phantom Menace is the worst of all Star Wars films! But I offer you this- there is enough cool shit in this movie that can stand up on its own to put it over the three train wrecks of films I just described. For a long, long time The Phantom Menace was my favorite film in the franchise- I was 6 years old when I saw it in a movie theater, the bright colors and battle sequences blew my mind. Of course now that I’m older my view has changed and I realize that not even these could save this film from a boring premise to humanizing one of cinema’s greatest villains in the form of the least believable acting I have ever seen outside The Room (props to George Lucas though, he successfully confined the worst acting in the prequel trilogy to one character, despite that character being played by two different actors). But man, if you’re going to sit here and tell me that the Pod race sequence is bad, or that the triple battle at the climax of the film (yes, even the Gungan portion- “meesa no have a booma” is iconic dialogue from Jar-Jar Binks) is bad, or that Duel of the Fates is wasted on this movie, or that they did Darth Maul a disservice by killing him off, you’d be semi-right on the last two, but on the whole, you’re wrong. The Pod racing scene is bad ass. You best believe I had every single one of those in Lego form when I was small. Darth Maul is an incredible boss battle at the end. Duel of the Fates is one of most recognizable themes in the franchise. The triple battle at the end of the film rocks (even if flying a ship is most certainly NOT pod racing, Anakin). The Phantom Menace is ripe with faults- believe me, the majority of it is garbage, but there’s enough good in it to edge Attack of the Clones by just a hair.
7. Revenge of the Sith
Finally, a film in the prequel trilogy actually got something right. Aside from the comical “NOOOOO” given by Darth Vader, I’d say the final battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan and Anakin’s subsequent transformation into Darth Vader is a satisfying ending to the prequel trilogy. Star Wars’ first PG-13 movie delivers as best it can, especially considering everyone knows what happens at the end. We get some cool world building (Utapau and Mustafar especially), the heartbreaking execution of Order 66, Anakin’s haunting (and badass) march on the Jedi Temple, as well as some moments that have become meme-worthy (which no other Star Wars film can say)- such as Obi-Wan’s iconic “Hello there!” Revenge of the Sith has its fair share of Lucas-isms, like some bullshit minor villain who gets killed off halfway through the film with no consequences for the heroes whatsoever (cough cough Grievous cough cough), but with a simple approach and a definitive ending, Revenge of the Sith did its job correctly. We get the downfall of the Republic, the rise of the empire, and a complete backstory on one of film’s most infamous baddies. Would I do it differently if I were making them? Of course. But I'm not, so Revenge of the Sith gets a passing grade from me.
6. The Force Awakens
I was lucky enough to see The Force Awakens in an empty movie theatre two weeks after it came out, thanks to a snowstorm in Hartford on a late Sunday night. This first film in the sequel franchise is a solid entry, and as such, ranks right in the middle of this list. My biggest takeaway from Force Awakens are the new storytelling angles, from a defecting stormtrooper to an orphaned hero (and it’s a girl this time), all while interweaving plenty of nostalgia from the original trilogy into the new one. It’s truly Star Wars for the 21st century. I personally loved the killing off of Han Solo (it's a point about this idea of "the past" that I will make in another entry on this list). It’s just kind of a shame that no one could agree on where to go with the new trilogy for any longer than one film, and by the end we were left with a spiraling mess. But, for someone who hadn’t seen anything related to Star Wars in ten years, MAN was it good to have Star Wars back in our lives. It’s a feel good film if ever I’ve seen one, full of just as much wonder as its original trilogy counterparts. It came at a time when we needed Star Wars, and that's what matters.
5. Rogue One
Rogue One is classified as a standalone film, but it’s also kind of not? If that makes sense? It chronologically fits between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope (in fact it literally leads right into the latter), but we’re introduced to new main characters whose every move we are hanging on within two hours of screen time. I once had someone tell me they hated Rogue One because there was no character development. I argue that there is more character development in Rogue One than some characters in any of the three trilogies have over three movies. Take Jyn Erso, for example. She struggles with being constantly abandoned and having to fight for herself, then has to come to terms with her father working for the Empire, only to have her outlook turned on its head when her father discloses that he is alive and left a flaw in the Death Star. Felicity Jones plays the part perfectly, flanked by the equally talented Diego Luna, as well as Alan Tudyk (god bless this national treasure of a man), who plays the sardonic K2-SO (the correct way to play a snarky droid). For once, Star Wars showed us something that happened off screen that was only talked about in another movie (“many Bothans died to get this information to us” from A New Hope), which is played out to great effect. It’s a war movie, first and foremost, and the stakes are high for pretty much the entire movie. And, of course, we get the EXCELLENT moment with Darth Vader laying waste to Rebel soldiers at the end of the film. It’s the only time I’ve ever been truly scared while watching Star Wars. Rogue One is amazing and anyone who thinks otherwise is simply incorrect. Much like another film I will mention a bit later, we have a 21st century filmmaker (Gareth Edwards) who you can tell truly cares about Star Wars and telling a compelling story for the audience. Just because it’s not vintage doesn’t mean it’s not good.
4. A New Hope
Everyone remembers their first. I was, I think, 5 or 6, shortly before Phantom Menace came out. My uncle had a VHS set of the original trilogy, which I ate up. A New Hope is up first, and, though it’s ranked lowest in terms of the original trilogy, it is by no means a bad movie. Every piece of lore we have in Star Wars comes from A New Hope. We have Luke Skywalker, the plucky (albeit whiny- Luke is a very whiny boy) hero who discovers that he is a very real player in something much bigger than his own life; Obi-Wan Kenobi, the old sage and watchful protector- who doesn’t really do the best job of describing Darth Vader and his relationship to Luke in all this (there’s that “too many cooks in the kitchen not being able to decide what kind of soup they want” thing again); Darth Vader, who only has EIGHT MINUTES AND SIX SECONDS OF SCREEN TIME in the film. Talk about maximizing screen time because it feels like he’s in the film for a lot longer; Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, R2-D2; the list simply goes on. A New Hope simply sets the tone. That shot of Luke Looking out over the double setting sun on Tattooine to the tune of the best piece of music ever composed for Star Wars? The assault on the Death Star? The fucking Cantina Band? Iconic. Yeah, sure, the lightsaber fight between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader is terrible, but it was 1977, so I’m willing to give it a pass. No matter your opinion, you have to respect the fact that A New Hope redefined the space opera. For the first time, we experienced the dream of a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
3. Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi might be my favorite, just because of the pure catharsis that occurs that end. That, and green’s my favorite color, so the color of Luke’s lightsaber just resonates with me for some reason. Return of the Jedi has it all. Jabba’s Palace and Luke’s fight with the Rancor (we’ll skip "Jedi Rocks"), the fight on the skiffs above the Sarlaac Pit, the death of Yoda and Luke finalizing his Jedi training, the Ewoks and speeder bikes on the Forest Moon of Endor, a critical confrontation between Luke and Emperor Palpatine, and a multi-layered final battle like no other (“it’s a trap!”). Perhaps most importantly, though, Luke finally does what many others before him have strived to do: bring balance to the Force. Look at the black clothing he wears for the entire film. Look at him whacking away at Darth Vader during their final lightsaber battle. We finally realize that a balance of the Force does not mean eradicating one side- dark or light- it means containing the facets of both harmoniously within oneself. Return of the Jedi also features some of the best music in the series. When that “Attack on the Death Star” music hits? I get chills. Return of the Jedi is the best.
2. The Last Jedi
Now that all the REAL Star Wars fans are here and we’ve weeded out the fake ones who saw this ranking for Last Jedi and LEFT the chat:
I stand by the opinion that The Last Jedi is most important Star Wars movie ever made. Not the best (it’s close), but the most important. How do you follow up The Force Awakens without making it derivative of one of the original trilogy films? Rian Johnson approaches this film with such a creative and unique perspective, paying homage not only to the films of old (like Rashomon) but also cinema as a whole, with certain shots reminiscent of films like Wings in the Canto Bight sequence. We see narratives between Finn and Rose bloom into one of the more interesting relationships in the sequel trilogy, the brilliant turn of face from Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo, which results in one of the most jaw-dropping moments of the film (although let’s be serious, I don’t think my mouth closed during the last half hour of this masterpiece of filmmaking). Also, Snoke’s killing was justified (until I saw Rise of Skywalker) and complimented by one of the most incredible lightsaber fights I’ve ever seen. We see the Force in a whole different light in The Last Jedi. We see the things we never thought it could do- and who really knows what the Force can do, anyways? We examine the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren (not THAT kind of relationship, fucking sickos), their fears, their pasts, and face their futures, as the mirror is held up to nature brilliantly. I hope you see yourselves, Star Wars fans: the generation that is too afraid to let the past go, and clings desperately to the old without wanting to experience anything new. More things to love about The Last Jedi- Luke’s final chapter. Forty years before this movie was made, we saw a whiny little farm boy standing on the edge of the world, looking out at two suns setting in the distance, unaware of where his life would take him. Now, Luke, a Jedi master, having finally made a difference in the world (and become one with the Force), watches the two suns set one last time. It’s a brilliant, heartbreaking circular narrative that deserves your respect. The biggest takeaway from this movie, especially in regards to the Force- your alignment does not have any bearing on what color your blade is. While opinions are polarized on this one, The Last Jedi is an incredible piece of filmmaking, taking risk after risk and succeeding in almost every single one of them. I will defend this film until I die. You cannot stop me.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
When crafting a sequel, it is important to prioritize your character development, lest you fall into the trap of putting the heroes through the same crisis as in the first movie. The Empire Strikes Back is one of those sequels that is better than its original, improving on it in almost every way. From the icy landscape of Hoth and that out of this world battle, as the Rebels attempt to take down the monstrous (and totally bad ass) Imperial Walkers, to the murky jungle of Degobah, where Luke’s various teachings from Yoda shape the Jedi we know and love today, to the BRILLIANT twist at the end of the film, Empire has it all. It takes you from the highest highs of A New Hope, as you wonder where the series will take you next, and makes you feel as worn down as Han, Leia and the gang running from the Empire through the asteroid field. And then, just when you think you’ve made it out, it completely pulls the rug out from under you as Darth Vader reveals his and Luke’s true relationship. And by the end, the heroes are nearly in over their heads in trouble, as Han Solo’s freezing in carbonite leaves his future seriously in doubt. The film has so many twists and turns that you're not sure which way is up. When I was a kid, I thought this movie was boring AF. It was only when I got older that I realized that the movie slowly creeps toward its climax, showing that drama and suspense can be built without the use of flashy lightsaber fights. That way, when we DO finally get the duel between Luke and Vader at the end, the first REAL lightsaber duel, it has so much more weight to it than we realize. We know Luke isn't ready to face Vader yet, but his love for his friends is strong and drags him away from that. We know that Darth Vader is holding all the cards, but we can't help but cheer Luke on in these climactic moments. And then the slap in the face: "No, I am your father." UGH. I can only imagine being in a movie theater in 1980 hearing everyone react to this for the first time. It's just awesome when movies get real and also make you feel, isn't it? What else about this masterwork... Empire is also the first film in which we hear John Williams’ legendary Imperial March, which is one of the most recognizable pieces of film score ever written. When the chips are down, The Empire Strikes Back is the best movie in the Star Wars franchise. I know it, and you I know it.
Am I wrong about any of these? Leave a comment down below. I wish everyone a very safe and healthy Star Wars day.
As always, may the Force be with you.
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.