When I started this blog not too long ago, I never thought of myself as a sucker for pain. After this undertaking, I’m sure I suffer from some sort of sadomasochism. What other explanation is there for actually WANTING to rank every film in a series that owns some of the most obnoxiously opinionated fans in the business? But I digress…
When ranking Star Wars movies, it’s important to remember there is no consensus. Not everyone will agree The Empire Strikes Back is the best film in the series, nor will it be universally agreed upon that Attack of the Clones is the worst. I’m fully prepared for everything you guys have to offer me. After James Bond and Van Halen, the discussions have been tame. I’m looking forward to this one getting a bit testy.
As with the other blog posts, the same rules apply: 5 categories for each film ranked from 1 to 10. An aggregate score will be tallied up at the end and each film will be ranked accordingly. The categories are as follows:
Plot: How engaging is the plot of the film? Is it easy to follow?
Characters: Are the characters interesting? Does the film develop them well? Are you attached to them by the end of the film?
Action: How satisfying are the action scenes? This accounts for both lightsaber battles and battles taking place in the air/in space.
Legacy: Is the film well received? Do both fans and critics enjoy this film?
Entertainment: Does the film entertain? Does it dip at all in certain points?
I can’t stress this enough, I’m trying to be as unbiased as possible, so don’t shoot the messenger. With that being said let’s jump right into it, with a film in dead last most of you should have seen coming…
8. Attack of the Clones (2002): 25.5/50 (51%)
Plot: 5/10 – This movie is generally regarded as the low water mark of the series, and one of the reasons for this is the lackluster plot (among other things). The political overtones of the series continue to be found here (something the prequels routinely get pounded for) and do a poor job in terms of pacing the movie along. There are some generic twists thrown in involving Count Dooku and Jengo Fett that anyone could have seen coming. But the elephant in the room we have yet to address is the love story developing between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amedala. The romance is forced and the dialogue is groan-worthy, leaving many feeling like they paid good money for a ticket to The Notebook In Space.
Characters: 5/10 – Attack of the Clones’ character development piggybacks off of its predecessor, The Phantom Menace, in that most of its characters are returning from the first movie. Most of the characters in AOTC , however, seem to have regressed from Phantom Menace to now. Anakin goes from an annoying kid to a whiny teenager, and Padme goes from a strong woman in a position of power to playing hard to get with the aforementioned Skywalker. Obi Wan Kenobi is one of the only characters who really has any depth in this movie and even then his character isn’t developed upon while he’s being sent on a wild goose chase halfway through the episode. Oh and Jar Jar Binks returns, which can only drag this score down even more.
Action: 7/10 – What AOTC lacks in plot and character development, it seems to make up for in action. Don’t get me wrong, this is run of the mill Star Wars fare, but in this movie it is a welcome change from Obi Wan’s espionage and the not-so-edge-of-your-seat “will they, won’t they” subplot of Padme and Anakin. The lightsaber fights are fun, albeit a bit over-choreographed, and the battle of the clone soldiers against the droids is a highlight of an otherwise dull film.
Legacy: 4/10 – There’s no getting around this one. Even at the time of its release, AOTC was universally panned and time has done this movie no favors. The film finds itself smack dab in the middle of an “un-rennaisance” of Star Wars films, where the prequels squashed most fans’ excitement about the direction of the series. The movie feels bloated and silly and even if you remove the now infamous 2nd act of Anakin trying desperately to lose his Jedi virginity, the movie is just a bland space adventure with decent action and bad writing.
Entertainment: 4.5/10 – Aside from the action sequences mentioned above, AOTC doesn’t exactly get the blood flowing when it comes to the entertainment factor. I saw this movie in theaters when I was 9 years old and the memory is still as fresh in my mind as it ever was. The line Anakin delivers with tears in his eyes, “are you suffering as much as I am,” actually drew laughter from a few in my theater. Skip this movie unless you are a diehard Star Wars fan looking to make a run through the series.
7. Revenge of the Sith (2005): 29.5/50 (59%)
Plot: 6/10 – A plot that only ever so slightly improves upon Episode II, Revenge of the Sith shows us Anakin Skywalker’s final heel turn to the Dark Side of the Force. It is interesting, in theory, but Episode III’s story fumbles about quite a bit throughout the movie’s run time. Anakin’s shift in allegiance is supposed to feel like a slow set up but in less than 10 minutes he goes from questioning whether he should turn in Emperor Palpetine (the bad guy) and mowing down a school of Jedi children. It would be jarring if it weren’t so laughably inconsistent. The other plots involving the Jedi council and Anakin are mildly interesting and engaging, but once again we are presented with a twist that most viewers should have seen coming.
Characters: 5/10 – Again, ROTS takes characters from a previous film and messes around with them for 2 hours. Anakin’s walk toward the Dark Side doesn’t make him a tragic character that we feel sympathy towards, he just comes off as kind of a douche. Padme furthers her change from a woman in power to an ultimately forgettable character only good for birthing the main protagonists of the next three films. The characters in this film don’t have any stand out moments and if this wasn’t a Star Wars movie they’d be forgotten by most.
Action: 7/10 – Much like AOTC, Episode III’s bread and butter is action. The plot is hard to follow at times and the characters are mostly average, but the action is fun and holds up nicely, with particular praise going out to the final battle between Obi Wan and Anakin. There are space battles involved that give this section a little color and some needed boost, but its mostly run of the mill dogfighting. Aside from that, this is your typical, generic sci-fi/action movie.
Legacy: 6/10 – So it doesn’t hold the dubious distinction of being the series’ worst like AOTC, but its no Citizen Kane either. Most fans will generally agree this is their favorite Star Wars prequel, but that’s a lot like saying ROTS is the skinniest kid at fat camp (do they still do fat camp?). While the movie was generally well received upon its release, time has done the film few favors, as fans have found more and more holes in the plot and dialogue. Ultimately, not the most memorable of Star Wars adventures
Entertainment: 5.5/10 – ROTS has some entertaining moments about it and is a bit of a step in the right direction from AOTC, with the lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi Wan (see above) being the pinnacle of excitement in the film. Other than that and a few space dogfight scenes, Episode III delivers minimally in terms of entertainment. If you’re looking to pop in a movie and be taken for an exciting ride, find another installment in the series.
6. The Phantom Menace (1999): 30.5/50 (61%)
Plot: 5/10 – Perhaps it is the fact that this is the first of the prequels, but a lot of what Star Wars did in this film still felt fresh at the time of its release. That being said, this movie’s plot is confusing and ultimately hard to sit through. The politics we see being thrown at us throughout the movie are tropes seen throughout the prequels and really bog the movie down. There is just too much being stuffed in this movie to make the plot accessible to the viewers. Between midochlorians, Sith Lords, and political jargon our heads are all spinning within the first hour of this movie.
Characters: 6/10 – Of all the prequels to try their hands at character development, this one came the closest to getting it right. The Phantom Menace still falls well short in this category when being compared to the franchise as a whole, though. The main villain in the movie has next to no speaking lines and not much backstory is given on him (I’m assuming to add to his mystique, but it just doesn’t work here). The one character given the most developmental effort is young Anakin and by the end of the movie we can’t stand him. Qui Gon and Obi Wan are interesting characters that give this section a much needed boost, but this is also the movie guilty of introducing Jar Jar Binks to the unsuspecting public. Thanks!
Action: 7.5/10 – An otherwise boring film gets a massive boost from a single scene: the climactic lightsaber duel between the Jedi and Darth Maul. Seriously, I saw this movie when I was 7 years old and immediately HAD to have a lightsaber. I nearly crapped my pants watching the choreography set to John Williams’ “Duel of Fates.” Other than that, don’t expect much else. Even the space battles seem to drag a bit in this film. Save your enthusiasm for the last 20 minutes of this movie, you’ll need it.
Legacy: 6/10 – This movie benefits quite a bit from being the first Star Wars film of the prequels in that people were still doe-eyed and ready for anything. So after the film was less than stellar, the public was less than pleased. After the next installment came out, however, I think fans started to embrace this film as the anti-Episode II. Time has done this movie a bit of good, so Phantom Menace gets a mercifully favorable score in this section.
Entertainment: 6/10 – The Podracing scenes are fun, and the “Duel of Fates” lightsaber battle will keep you enthralled, but aside from a few instances, this is one of the more snooze worthy Star Wars adventures. Politics aside, you’ll find yourself being engaged from time to time, however the film is more hit than miss. The score gets only a slight boost thanks to the action scenes.
5. Rogue One (2016): 35/50 (70%)
Plot: 8/10 – Brownie points for an original plot, as Rogue One trots out a story few outside of the fanbase of the extended universe were truly aware of. The tale of how the Death Star plans were stolen was a talking point for many years before this movie came out (and was a talking point after the fact, as many EU fans complained about the authenticity of the story). It was quite refreshing to see a plot that wasn’t the typical Star Wars story, as Rogue One focused on the doomed squadron that stole the Death Star plans from the Empire.
Characters: 6/10 – Rogue One had the potential to make their mark in this category, but ultimately the characters feel a bit flat, and one dimensional. The characters are engaging but don’t get very much development. It doesn’t help its cause in the fact that (spoiler alert) all the characters we become attached to die in the end. The one shining beacon in this section goes to K2-SO, the mouthy droid that stole our hearts… and then died at the end.
Action: 9/10 – This film nails the action aspect. There is espionage if you’re into that, blaster battles if you’re into that, and even dog-fighting. For everything this movie lacks in getting you to fall in love with the characters, it more than makes up for in the non-stop action. Rogue One is a thrill ride that rarely stops, so action is something this installment has in spades.
Legacy: 5/10 – I said in my James Bond ranker that Daniel Craig scores poorly in the legacy category mainly because of how wet behind the ears he is in playing the part. The same principle applies here, as Rogue One has been around for the better part of four months as of this ranker being written. This film has legions of fans (and detractors) that it has accumulated in its short shelf life and has a positive score amongst critics, but being around for less time than an average Hollywood marriage lasts bumps the legacy score down a bit for “A Star Wars Story.”
Entertainment: 7/10 – Rogue is entertaining in the sense that the story is unique and engaging and the action is “popcorn flick” worthy. Theres nothing outlandish that makes this score any higher or lower; ultimately this movie was more forgettable than its 2010’s counterpart, The Force Awakens. Don’t clear your schedule for Rogue One, but if its on TV, give it a hard look.
4. The Force Awakens (2015): 39/50 (78%)
Plot: 7.5/10 – Ah, The Force Awakens: an exciting tale about a vagabond from a desert planet with strange connections to the Force tasked by destiny to stop the forces of evil while being aided by a cute, miniature droid. It was an engaging plot and a fun story, but stop me if you’ve heard that before. Yes, TFA is an excellent movie and a return to form for the franchise. But perhaps it was a bit too much of a return. I hear a lot of people complain about TFA ripping its plot completely from A New Hope. I have no qualms with this because the movie was great, but for the purposes of scoring, “plagiarism” is going to knock this one down from the “great” to “very good” category.
Characters: 7.5/10 – See above… Kidding of course, but a similar ruling may apply here. TFA borrows heavily from the New Hope formula, but the main characters are different enough that it doesn’t feel disingenuous. Rey is different from Luke in that she’s a lot less whiny than our original hero was in Episode IV, and having Finn be a defector from the First Order was a nice and different touch. However, the other characters are a bit too “New Hope” for this score to be any higher than it is.
Action: 9/10 – The lightsaber fights are crisp without the burden of being over choreographed like the prequels and the space battles really take advantage of having the CGI technology to finally make them believable enough. But honestly, the gravy of this movie and what jumps this score way up is one scene: Rey stalling the Millennium Falcon so Finn can shoot the Tie Fighter! Seriously, who didn’t get white knuckles watching that scene? I’m getting goosebumps just typing about it.
Legacy: 6/10 – Much like Rogue One, TFA gets the short end of the stick for being the new kid on the block. It is slightly more well received than Rogue One, if only for being an above average film in the series after the mess that was the prequels, so it gets a bit higher of a score in the legacy department. Not much else to say here other than this number would probably be astronomical if I was writing this 15 years from now.
Entertainment: 9/10 – TFA was a supremely entertaining movie that had everything going for it: exciting action, a fun plot, and solid characters that we as an audience can get behind from the get-go. I saw this movie twice in theaters and loved it even better the second time. It’s worth the price of admission and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it (it’s so choice).
3. A New Hope (1977): 40.5/50 (81%)
Plot: 8/10 – The movie that started a cultural phenomenon, A New Hope is where all of this hysteria can be traced back to. The plot at the time was unique, and the only reason this score isn’t a 10 is because (be it fair or not) the story template has been recreated many times over the years. When compared to its followers in the series, it is a bit bland, but pop A New Hope in and it will be like you’re watching it for the first time. It never gets old.
Characters: 7.5/10 – The ensemble in A New Hope is the original Star Wars group; this is who we all think of when someone utters those two words. It seems a bit harsh to give this section a 7.5 seeing as how this film is essentially the guinea pig, but look closely: Luke is a complete brat, whiny and impulsive, throughout the entire movie, Leia is similarly annoying in her constant backseat driving throughout the entirety of the film, and even Darth Vader is given minimal screen time, albeit to establish himself more for the later installments. The characters are good, but they get better in the years to follow, so I feel 7.5 is an adequate score.
Action: 7/10 – I often criticize this film for having a single bland lightsaber fight and very “samey” space battle scenes, but it was 1977 after all. That being said, the action sequences feel like a vehicle to further the plot, and they aren’t particularly memorable save for the final Death Star explosion scene. Long story short, watch this one for the entertaining plot and story, not the sexy lightsaber duels.
Legacy: 9.5/10 – Like I said above, this is the one that got this crazy train rolling. Everything about this film has been copied and even spoofed in successful sci-fi films (Spaceballs, anyone?). Words can’t do this film justice when it comes to the footprint it has left in the film industry, but it definitely isn’t the most mythical of the Star Wars films (that comes later).
Entertainment: 8.5/10 – A classic popcorn flick, A New Hope delivers solidly in the entertainment factor. It loses some points for the relative lack of action, but when you watch A New Hope, you are still engaged pretty much across the board. There are more entertaining Star Wars installments, but don’t skip this one. Episode IV has enough thrills to keep you coming back again and again.
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980): 43/50 (86%)
Plot: 9/10 – Ooh, triggered yet? All jokes aside, The Empire Strikes Back takes the classic plot from Episode IV and expands upon it. New worlds are visited and story lines go deeper. The twist of Darth Vader being Luke’s father is one of the seminal moments in cinema history, and Lando turning Han Solo in makes for an interesting sub plot of betrayal. Luke being trained in the arts of the Force by Yoda adds to the story’s depth, and the cliffhangers presented at the end of the film are well done and make us want to come back for more.
Characters: 8/10 – Again, this movie takes Episode IV’s characters and adds some serious depth to all of them. Luke becomes more of a man and learns there are consequences for his actions, even though he is still flawed in this film. At the same time, Han shows us he is a cocky pilot but cares deeply for his friends, and even Leia becomes more sympathetic and a bit more of the bad ass we all eventually know her as. Its A New Hope character development on steroids and its why this is one of the best films in the series.
Action: 7.5/10 – With an increased budget and a few years advancements in technology came a slightly more exciting film than A New Hope. The battle on planet Hoth is a high point in the film and the lightsaber battle between Luke and Daddy Darth is roughly 6,000 times more exciting than the limp noodle, viagra allegory that was Obi Wan’s fate sealing stand off with Vader. TESB still shows its age a bit in parts, but the action holds up better than its predecessor.
Legacy: 10/10 – This is considered by (almost) everyone to be the best film in series history and one of the greatest films of all time. Most fans will defend this film to their last breath, and for good reason… Its phenomenal. Not my personal favorite due to how bleak it is for the second half and the cliff hangers (I like my endings spoon fed to me, thank you very much), but even I can’t argue the impact this film has made on the genre.
Entertainment: 8.5/10 – The fight scenes are passable and the plot is expansive, as TESB takes you through the highs and lows of the fight against the Empire. Action is plentiful and the story takes Episode IV and amps it up to eleven. If you are looking to be entertained by a sci-fi flick, look no further than Episode V. You will have a good time with this one.
1. Return of the Jedi (1983): 44/50 (88%)
Plot: 9.5/10 – The plot in Return of the Jedi is as close as it gets to perfection. The Rebel Alliance takes revenge on the Empire and all loose ends are tied up by the close of the film. There are solid twists in here, like Luke finding out Leia is his sister (gross), and Darth Vader even comes to the good side in his final act of heroism, saving his son before dying. Episode VI has it all and is a nearly perfect wrap up to a nearly perfect series (could’ve done without the Ewoks, but hey, to each his own).
Characters: 9/10 – We had been waiting two whole movies for this: Luke finally becomes a Jedi Master! Who would’ve thought that whiny nerd from Tattoine would’ve grown up to be such a great hero? And kudos to Leia, who makes the switch to total badass and eve spearheads a rescue mission to save Han from Jaba The Hut. The characters are the most developed in this film, but this section just misses on a perfect score for the sole reason that it feels like the leg work of getting these characters to where we like them to be was done by the previous two installments. Big bonus points awarded here for being the film to give us Admiral Ackbar (“Its a trap!”).
Action: 8/10 – By far the best action sequences exist in this film, as Episode VI has the most exciting lightsaber duel in the original trilogy and the space battle and subsequent demise of the reconstructed Death Star give this section a sweet little boost. Again, the film is limited by its age, but even if taken at face value, Return of the Jedi delivers on solid, sci-fi action sequences guaranteed to keep you enthralled even years down the line.
Legacy: 9/10 – This is my personal favorite Star Wars film, but I can’t rank this movie higher than TESB. It is often remembered as the worst of the original three installments, but that is still like being the ugliest Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. It is a fondly remembered Star Wars adventure and is still one of the better sci-fi films to ever be gifted to humankind.
Entertainment: 8.5/10 – One of the most entertaining Star Wars films in the franchise, ROTJ has a wide variety of locations and action sequences, as well as well fleshed out and three dimensional characters. The film lags a bit in the middle, particularly on the forest moon of Endor, where the subplot of C-3PO being mistaken for a God is all but lost on me. Ewok blunder aside, this film keeps you on the edge of your seat and is my personal favorite when it comes to stand alone Star Wars films to watch.
My Personal Rankings:
8. Episode II
7. Episode I
6. Episode III
5. Rogue One
4. Episode IV
3. Episode V
2. The Force Awakens
1. Episode VI