There are very few people who have never seen at least one Star Wars film. They do exist, perhaps in the further reaches of the galaxy, but trust me, they are out there. Most of us are well trained in the ways of the force and some of us have even seen each of the 11 films listed here several, if not many times.
The original trilogy realeased between 1977 and 1983 are held in fairly high regard, however the more recent films are not always as appreciated as the originals. As with all long running sagas there are the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Speaking of which, we have chose to exclude the Ewok movies (Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor both from 1985) for good reason. So without further ado, here is More Movies listing of all the Star Wars films from best to worst…
A long time ago… Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
A lot of people consider Empire Strikes Back to be “the best” Star Wars movie, but here’s the case for A New Hope. The original film, ‘Star Wars’ only became known as a Episode IV: New Hope in 1981, by which time the first sequel had been released and pre-production on a third film had begun.
It was the creation of now legendary movie mogul George Lucas, who having failed to retain the rights to Flash Gordon, decided to write his own space opera that was inspired by the 1930’s serials (such as Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers). His ‘space opera’ was also routed in mythology, following the arc of the traditional hero’s journey, wrote about in great depth by Joseph Campbell.
The original film has it all, action, adventure, comedy, tragedy and of course, one of the very best film scores ever composed. As a stand alone film it works so well. We are slowly pulled into the world of the Rebellion who are fighting against the monolithic evil Empire. We meet a young farm boy Luke Skywalker who must fulfil his destiny to become a jedi knight.
With the assistance of the wizend old sage Ben Kenobi (played by movie legend Alec Guiness) and two errant robots, Luke embarks on a secret mission to rescue a rebel agent and deliver the plans for the Empire’s new super weapon known as the Death Star, safely to Rebellion commanders. The Rebels intend to mount an assault on this new planet-killing space station, before it destroys them.
Along the way Luke has help from a smuggling space pirate and his counterpart (Han Solo and Chewbacca) who help Luke to deliver the plans after they have rescued the imprisoned Princess Leia from the clutches of the menacing Darth Vader.
The storytelling style is classic fairytale given a science-fiction veneer. The special effects are ground-breaking for the time and have since been tweaked and re-tweaked ad infinitum, in order to keep this classic blockbuster fresh for new generations to enjoy. Much to the chagrin of the purist fans of the series. The acting is naturalistic and this helps to create a feeling of verisimilitude throughout, allowing the audience to really invest and settle in to this epic space fantasy.
If they had never made any sequels at all, Star Wars would still be hailed as a ground-breaking, record-smashing cultural phenomenon. The first film has a beginning, a middle and an end and can be viewed without reference to any of the other subsequent efforts.
In short, the first film in this now gargantuan saga is the most original and serves as the blueprint from which all the others are created, as well as being a yardstick by which they are measured. If you have never seen a Star Wars film, this is the only one you would need to see in order to get a well rounded idea of what all the fuss is about.
The power of the dark side… Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
How do you top the greatest box office success ever? You make a sequel of course, and Epsidoe V: The Empire Strikes Back is rightly heralded as one of the best sequels ever made. Let’s face it, most sequels are watered down versions of the original and are rarely as good, or perhaps in the case of ‘Empire’ even better than the original. Maybe Godfather II or more recently The Avengers films have managed to complement the original, but most sequels fall flat when compared to the initial instalment.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back follows the heroes from the first film and develops their characters. We find out more about Luke Skywalker and his journey towards becoming a Jedi Knight. The blossoming romance between Han Solo and Princess Leia is also explored and we even discover more about everyone’s favourite villain, the towering Darth Vader.
The action sequences are incredible. For example the opening of the film is set on the ice planet of Hoth and has enormous scope which sees the heroes take a severe beating from the bad guys. This theme continues throughout, to the very end of the film which sees the principle characters face-off in the cloud city of Bespin.
The villains have the upper hand and the last half an hour of the film sees betrayal, torture and perhaps the most famous shock reveal in all of cinema. The ending is left open with most of the heroes narrowly escaping the clutches of the Empire and the film leaves enough room for a sequel to sweep in and resolve all of the tumult that has taken place.
Overall, The Empire Strikes Back is certainly one of the best sequel movies ever made, but we have placed it behind the original for the very reason that it is a sequel. Perhaps many Star Wars fans would disagree as there is no doubt that ‘Empire’ is considered to be one of the very best films in the franchise.
Rebellions are built on hope… Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The story of how the Rebellion managed to obtain the Death Star plans shouldn’t really work as a film. Do we need to know what happened just moments before we are introduced to young farm boy Luke Skywalker in A New Hope? Well, as it turns out, yes we do! And it’s glorious! Or perhaps more aptly “It’s beautiful!” as the villain of the piece Orson Krennic would say.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is considered to be the first film in the Star Wars Anthology series and therefore not included as part of the Skywalker Saga (Episodes I through IX). In this film we are introduced to a new cast of characters who are brought together to steal the plans for the dreaded Death Star before the Empire can use the new weapon to tighten it’s grip on the galaxy. A suicide mission of sorts, Rogue One serves as a kind of ‘Dirty Dozen’ type movie.
However, Rogue One manages to capture the essence of the original films and has since become a strong fan favourite, some people even considering it to be the greatest Star Wars movie of them all.
It certainly has a lot of pace, the cast of characters are well played and convincing. Though the film veers away from some of the usual Star Wars tropes (no John Williams score or crawling title sequence at the beginning), Rogue One does capture the spirit of the franchise and introduces new and highly entertaining characters such as the former imperial droid K-2SO.
The production was plagued by set-backs and studio interference, which in this particular case, did not appear to have been to the films detriment. This being the second film from the Disney era of the franchise, fans were yet to begin the revolt which started as a reaction to later efforts. Rogue One is entertaining, highly enjoyable and rightly deserves a spot near the top as one of the better spin-offs from this incredibly popular franchise.
Considered by some to be unnatural… Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
By far the best of the prequels, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is generally held in higher regard than the two preceding films in this trilogy. The story of the fall of Anakin Skywalker got off to a very rocky start with The Phantom Menace and did not improve much with the follow up Attack of The Clones.
But George Lucas seemed to find his feet by the time ‘Revenge’ was made and managed to rekindle a little of the love for Star Wars with the original fan base. The spark of spontaneity and emotion that was so prominent in the original trilogy is sadly lacking in the prequels, although this film does manage to up the stakes a little and provide some more satisfying results that help build towards the films impressive climax.
The acting suffers (as do all the prequels) from too much CGI and too little direction. It would appear that Lucas concentrated far too much on the special effects and not enough on the emotional performance of the cast. Still, this film is a lot of fun to watch and some of the later sequences do venture into the darker territory that the fans wanted to see, with the downfall of the central character and his split from his mentor, foregoing allegiance to the Jedi Order.
The final fight between master and student is incredible to watch and both Ewan McGregor (playing Obi Wan Kenobi) and Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) both give a more than impressive physical performance as the lightsaber wielding warriors at odds.
Overall the film is still rather disappointing if measured by the original trilogy, but in the years since it’s release (15 years ago this month!) it is perhaps favoured more than some of the more recent efforts that Disney have developed more recently.
Not bad for a little fur ball… Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
The third film from the original trilogy is also the first Star Wars film to draw heavy criticism from the fan base. After the dark tone of Episode V, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi seems to veer in the opposite direction and become much more cuddly and kid-orientated.
After all, Lucas has always maintained that the films were made for children, so it’s not a great surprise that someone thought it would be a good idea to have a tribe of primitive, axe-wielding, spear-prodding, stone age teddy bears help the heroes to defeat the most sophisticated and tech-savvy army in the galaxy. This may have sounded like a top plan on paper, but in actuality, this conclusion to the greatest science fiction trilogy of all, is a bit of a misfire.
The original cast return and there are some great elements to ROTJ, but overall it is generally considered to be the weaker film from the original three. There is however, a lot to enjoy such as the introduction of Emperor Palpatine who is played by the marvellous Ian McDiarmid. This character helps to bring a real sense of menace to the story and his scenes in the second half are brilliantly conceived. Return of the Jedi certainly does bring a sense of closure to the trilogy and overall it is still a very enjoyable film.
Just like the previous two films, it has become a modern classic of science fiction. And much like the other two, it has been heavily altered since it’s re-release with the inclusion of new material (the song and dance number in Jabba’s Palace) and tweaking of the special effects that have only served to weaken it’s reputation as one of the more watchable Star Wars episodes.
I saw your laser sword… Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Some love it, most hate it. With the exception of a few sequences and the epic lightsaber battle with the awesome Darth Maul, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace is the first real misfire in the canon. The main complaint is that the performances are lacking the necessary emotions to carry off the hastily and often clunky written dialogue.
This Star Wars film tends to lean too much on digital characters and backgrounds and therefore loses a bit of the old Star Wars charm that so prevalent in the original trilogy. It basically really misses that used-universe aesthetic. Some might say it is too clean to be believed.
It must’ve been difficult for the actors. Usually very good in all the roles they have played, Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson and Natalie Portman all come across as a little bit stiff. George Lucas decided to re-launch his incredibly successful franchise with a prequel trilogy that promised fans more Star Wars films, what could possibly go wrong? Well George, unfortunately you missed the mark and the backlash began. The rest as we say, is history.
In the 21 years since it’s release, The Phantom Menace has mellowed in the hearts of some of the fans. There are still lots of quotable lines, tons of impressive action set-pieces such as the pod races, and not to mention the fact that music by John Williams is exceptional. Worth watching to the end just for Duel of Fates to kick in and witness one of the most badass fight scenes in all of movie history!
The garbage will do… Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
J.J. Abrams is in the director’s seat for the first official Star Wars film of the Disney era, and much like the release of the aforementioned The Phantom Menace, anticipation was high for this new episode.
The first in a new trilogy, the final three films of what would become known as the Skywalker Saga, Episode VII: The Force Awakens is the story of Rey, a young scavenger stuck on a desolate planet.
New characters, new places, new adventures with old faces. The fresh young cast bring a youthful naivety to their parts and thanks in no small part to J.J., the performances are once again more believable and naturalistic. The used-universe look is back and when combined with cutting edge special effects, this Star Wars film looks amazing.
The trouble lies in the plot, in that it is far too similar to the original film from 1977. Young adventurers band together to oppose an evil army who have constructed a huge planet destroying weapon. They employ the help of older allies that have fought in previous wars and the central character is revealed to have a connection to the force. Sounds familiar, does it not?
Well it was a little too familiar for some fans, and although the film did well at the box office, the backlash aftermath is still being felt in the wake if the last two episodes that we will discuss below.
There are some great sequences in The Force Awakens and Harrison Ford gives a memorable performance as an aged Han Solo, but overall this film is not as well loved as it should have been.
I’ve got a really good feeling about this… Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Right from the beginning, Solo: A Star Wars Story was plagued with production problems. The script was chopped up and changed and rearranged, even after production had began, which is never a good sign. The original directors were fired and there were rumours abound on the internet that the lead actor, Alden Ehrenreich, was doing such a bad job that acting coaches had to be brought in to help him out. That seems a little unlikely and we have no reason to believe it is true, but either way, Solo: A Star Wars Story was proving to be a real thorn in the side for Disney and Lucasfilm.
Fans had already voiced their interest in a Boba Fett stand alone film, but when a film about everyone’s favourite scoundrel was announced, people were not exactly thrilled. How would it work without Harrison Ford? The actor is so synonymous with the roll, especially after re-appearing in The Force Awakens in 2015. How could anyone else possibly fill those riding boots? The film also suffered from a boycott by disgruntled fans, angry about the previous release The Last Jedi. More on that in a short while. But were these reactionary fans too hasty? Is ‘Solo’ all that bad?
The simple answer is no, it is not that bad at all. In fact, it is quite a good film. Rescued from the oubliette of obscurity by a safe pair of hands in director Ron Howard, Solo: A Star Wars story manages to entertain fans of the franchise rather well. Sure, there are some cringe moments and certainly a couple of eye-rollers, but don’t all the Star Wars films contain at least a few of these?
The backstory of Han Solo is given a full compliment of box ticks in revealing how he became a smuggler, how he met his famed co-pilot and best friend Chewbacca and also how he managed to win the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian, who is played to perfection by Donald Glover.
Love for the movie has grown a little since it’s release a few years ago, with some fans even requesting a sequel. It’s unlikely as the returns were so low and the film has not helped Disney to restore any faith amoung the Star Wars fandom, but ‘Solo’ is definitely worth a watch and is a lot better than you might expect.
Aggressive negotiations… Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The least popular of the prequels, Episode II: Attack of the Clones has been panned by fans and critics alike. The acting is pretty wooden, the plot is fairly laughable as well as overly complex, plus the romance scenes between Anakin and Padme are rather excruciating. As with all of the films, there are still very enjoyable elements. Christopher Lee plays a great part as Count Dooku, a separatist and former Jedi who is as cunning as he is dangerous. Lee’s performance is calm and masterful, he effortlessly blends into the Star Wars universe as if he’s never been anywhere else.
The film also covers the backstory of beloved character Boba Fett, revealing that he is an unaltered clone of his father, the legendary bounty hunter Jango Fett who is the sample for a newly commissioned clone army. Convoluted? Yes. Hyperbolic? Always. But ‘Attack’ isn’t the worst Star Wars film, it just used to be.
Again, John Williams’ score is the very best thing about the film and a pure joy all on its own. The annoying CGI character Jar Jar Binks takes more of a background role, a telling indication that Lucas and company were very aware of what the fans thought about this particular aspect of the new trilogy.
In short, if you had never watched any Star Wars films in your life and Attack of the Clones was the first one you did see, you probably wouldn’t watch another.
Taking one last look… Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
J.J. Abrams returns like a jedi to try and salvage this ailing trilogy and satisfy the fans with this final instalment in the Skywalker saga. In fact he tries so hard to retcon the mistakes and claw back some respect for this once beloved franchise, that he completely over shoots it and makes a dull, predictable and frankly nauseating film that is so verbose, that one could be forgiven for thinking you had just woke from a bad dream after having seen it.
Harsh, but true. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is a mess. We could blame the previous film, and it would be true to a greater or lesser extent, that the damage done by Episode XIII: The Last Jedi, was irreparable. That did not stop them trying to clean up the mess.
Right from the outset the vibe is bad. The return of characters that should rightfully be dead and gone, replaces the dead characters that should rightly be alive to face the First Order. The heroes bicker among themselves as if they don’t really like each other, and the plot unravels and ultimately renders all of the previous films null and void in terms of their outcome.
It’s also worth noting that John Williams’ score for the most recent trilogy is very sedated and at times buried in the film’s soundscape. Always having featured so prominently, and to great effect, it is noticeable by it’s absence here. Can you hum any of the new themes? We can’t either.
Quite frankly, this instalment of Star Wars is the final nail in the coffin of the Skywalkers. Not only is the title therefore unintentionally ironic, but the great shame is that there were so many missed opportunities which might have resulted in a perfect swan song instead.
A disturbance in the force… Episode XIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
In it’s defence, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi does have some fans. However, most of them are not lifelong Star Wars fans. And those that are life long fans and still love it have our respect and scorn in equal measure. This really is a love it or hate it film. I think the quirky new style that the director Rian Johnson brings to the mix is not the issue. It is the incredibly sweeping changes he brought to the character of Luke Skywalker that is at the centre of the problem. He also kills the films major villain half way through. Whoops…. Spoiler alert!
From the very beginning Luke Skywalker has been our central hero. It is in effect, his story. He saved the galaxy several times as a young man, can we not see him do that one last time before he grows too old? His best friend has just been murdered by his nephew and his own sister is begging him to re-return to the fight. Plus there is a plucky young force sensitive character that needs his help to control the power growing within her. Can we not see this former galactic legend train the girl properly, as he was trained by Yoda? Well, yes but no. It’s a mess guys, it’s a real Disney/Lucasfilm/Rian Johnson mess.
From the very beginning, actor Mark Hamill was shocked by his lack of inclusion in the Force Awakens, but it would be fair to say he was rocked to the core when he discovered what writer-director Johnson had in store for Luke. Hamill probably felt the same disappointment as a fan that we all did.
The excitement of seeing Luke Skywalker wield a lightsaber once more, and maybe vanquish the Knights of Ren while our new hero Rey takes on Kylo for the second time? No. We got grumpy Luke who seemed to hate all things, had no hope left in him at all and flatly refuses to be pulled back in to the fray.
Rian Johnson has certainly seen his fair share of flack for this film, which is a great shame as he is a very good director and his other films are usually enjoyable (the recent Knives Out and 2005’s Brick are both excellent).
But The Last Jedi will polarise Star Wars fans for years to come. As a Star Wars film it is a complete departure from the winning formula. Unfortunately, not in the right direction. Princess Leia using the force to fly back onboard the ship whilst floating in space is just too much for most of us to take. Way too much. Some people want to blame Disney, some want to blame Kathleen Kennedy, most want to blame Johnson.
One thing is for sure, The Last Jedi will continue to draw more debate and criticism as the years go by. It will be interesting to see if it becomes more popular with future generations of fans or remains at the bottom of people’s lists as the worst Star Wars film ever made.
So there we have all the Star Wars movies from best to worst!
How did we do? Do you agree with our ranking or do you think some of our selections should be re-arranged?
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