Normally the focus here is to connect the things we love with the God who love us. This post is a little bit different though, in that it is just about one of the things I love the most: Star Wars.
In a week I will be attending the Star Wars Celebration in Chicago. I am really looking forward to that event. In preparation, I watched all of the Star Wars movies yet again. This time though I did so with the intention of ranking them in order.
It is assumed that if you are reading this list then you have some familiarity with Star Wars. If not, then be aware there are spoilers below. This is my definitive order of worst to best for all Star Wars movies that have had a theatrical release. The list is in descending order for dramatic effect.
11. Attack of the Clones
There are some aspects of this movie that I do like. In genera,l I feel like the prequel trilogy did a good job at world building and making it feel like the prequel movies and the original trilogy are all part of the same universe. From that perspective I do quite like the scenes on Coruscant. The best part of the movie is the battle of Geonosis, and it is probably the largest scale battle portrayed in a Star Wars movie. However, it is a bumpy, uneven, and sloppy ride to get to that end.
There are issues with every Star Wars movie, but this is the one where the drawbacks might outweigh the positives. The Anakin and Padme scenes have always been cringe worthy, but the blatant emotional manipulation and refusing to take “no” for an answer is especially problematic today. The prequel trilogy as a whole was overly infatuated with CGI, but this movie is especially bad. The background textures for the Jedi temple and Kamino for instance are a low quality,and once you notice them you can not ever un-notice it. There are several instance where the CGI just do not hold up, and come across as worse than the practical effects of the original trilogy.
10. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace does have some high points. The portrayal of Obi-Wan, Palpatine, and Qui-Gon are all well done. This probably still has the best lightsaber duel in Star Wars as well. I also think the plot of The Phantom Menace is underrated. I like the way Palpatine/Darth Sidious is working behind the scenes to orchestrate the whole thing in order to become chancellor and enact is plan for unlimited power. The issue is a two hour movie was the wrong format. If the Phantom Menace was developed as a ten episode Netflix series for instance, it would be incredible!
The problem with the Phantom Menace is that its problems are front and center. The portrayal of Anakin is just not that great. If that was the movie’s only issue it would be easier to overlook, but then it also has Jar Jar Binks. The character of Jar Jar is actually not a terrible idea, it just seems that Lucas tried too hard to make a funny character “for the kids.” Slapstick characters that are more at home in a Dreamworks cartoon mixed with a plot about political under dealings is a combination that missed the mark a bit.
9. The Clone Wars
This is not often included in lists of the Star Wars movies. It is not live action but it did have a theatrical release so we are counting it. The Clone Wars cartoon improved in characterization as the series went along. This was at the beginning of the run though, and it is a little rough. Ashoka especially stands out in not a great way here.
The biggest negative to the Clone Wars is that it does not quite fit with the overall feel of the movies. This is understandable because being animated it is easier to display events that would not work with actors. The assault on Teth for instance would have looked terrible as a live action sequence. However, it comes off as a lot of fun in animated form. Because it was my son’s favorite Star Wars movie for a couple of years I have seen this one a lot. Overall, I like the Clone Wars. I just like the other Star Wars movies more.
8. Return of the Jedi
I love the last third of Return of the Jedi. From the time Luke turns himself into Darth Vader until the force ghosts appear, I am enthralled by the movie. I absolutely love the switching back and forth between the ground battle, the space battle, and the battle of wills with Luke and the Emperor. It is all a great payoff to Sar Wars. While I miss the yub-yub song, I do like how the end was changed to connect back to the prequel trilogy with scenes from Naboo and Coruscant.
What holds the last episode of the original trilogy back for me is the first forty five minutes at Jabba’s Palace. I know they have to get Han back but it all fills a bit like filler that was used to give the movie a longer run time. I also think the Jabba’s sail barge scene is a little odd. The party of rebel heroes essentially goes full murder hobo for a little bit. Even before the prequel trilogy came out, Return of the Jedi was my least favorite of the original trilogy, and as more Star Wars movies have been released it has slid further down the list. Despite that, I am always up for watching it. The parts I love far outweigh the parts I could do without.
7. Revenge of the Sith
There is a lot that could be nitpicked about episode three. It has some pacing problems for sure, and the whole dying of a broken heart thing is eye roll inducing. I do not care about the problems this movie has, because I have so fun watching it. Star Wars was inspired by sci-fi serials like Buck Rogers, so it has always had a level of campiness to it. Revenge of the Sith really embraces that aspect of Star Wars and runs with it.
This is especially true for any scene that has Palpatine. There is a sense that Ian McDiarmid has a lot of fun playing the character as he absolutely chews up the scenery in every scene. I love it. The overproduced lightsaber fight at the end is another example. It is campy and over the top. I could probably criticize it, but I can not because this movie has the high ground over me.
This is also a movie that is a lot of fun. I was not terribly excited when Solo was announced, because I wanted to see Star Wars stories with new characters. This movie exceeded all of my expectations. The original Star Wars was often called a space western, and Solo embraced that label and then flew all the way to a train heist with it.
I especially appreciate how deep in the lore this movie reaches. It has a lot of call back to old source material and makes constant references to other connection points in the Star Wars universe. Solo pulls of a great feat in that it is stacked with deep references for serious fans but it is still completely accessible to someone just looking for a fun movie to watch.
5. The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens was the first live action Star Wars movie in ten years. It is no mistake that the first line of seventh installment of Star Wars was “This will begin to make things right.” It was critically important for a new Star Wars to both better received and better storytelling than the prequel trilogy. The Force Awakens fully accomplished this goal. I greatly enjoyed the new characters of Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren. Their relationships with one another laid down a strong foundation for a new trilogy. It is also a joy to see old favorites like Han and Leia.
I do wish they did not play it so safe with having the final act be a bigger Death Star. At the time The Force Awakens was released that made it so that three out of seven Star Wars movies were about blowing up super weapons. Even though they played it safe, The Force Awakens did its job. The movie felt like a Star Wars movie and it also felt like it was something new.
4. A New Hope
In one capacity it seems this should be number one by default. The original Star Wars is after all what started it all. This movie laid the groundwork for all that came after it, and the Star Wars movies I like more build off the foundation this one laid.
The elements that I love most about Star Wars in general are deeply embedded in the original movie. Star Wars is not hard science fiction. It is space fantasy. Those fantastical elements such as captured princesses, evil knights, and scoundrels with a heart of gold are front and center in the story telling here. I also love the “used universe” concept. This was a major innovation that George Lucas should be credited for. The Star Wars galaxy displayed in the film felt lived in. Watching Star Wars does feel like taking the first step into a larger world, and it is a world that I still love exploring.
3. Rogue One
Rogue One works so well because when it was made the fandom and mythos of Star Wars was already well established. This movie was made to integrate perfectly into the Star Wars fabric that was already established. I think the rebel fleet appearing over Scariff might be my single favorite scene from any of the Star Wars movies.
What really makes Rogue One work so well are the characters. I love all of them. Director Krennic makes a great villain, and giving Grand Moff Tarkin another turn in the spotlight was a welcome surprise. The Rogue One crew is also endearing. Chirrut and Baze are my favorite, but Cassian and K2-S0 are characters I number among my favorites. The biggest downside to Rouge One is there that there is not enough time to spend with these great characters. I have read more than one book intended for upper elementary readers just because they featured characters from Rogue One and I am looking forward to the Cassian Andor streaming series.
2. Empire Strikes Back
For the longest time Empire Strikes Back was my favorite Star Wars movie. There is so much I love about this. I like the Battle of Hoth scenes a lot. I think the music from this Star Wars installment is some of the strongest from the entire series.
The reason why Empire Strikes Back stands out though is because of the character growth. It takes the characters on a journey. Han, Leia, and Luke are all challenged and grow because of the way the story stretches and pushes them throughout the movie. I also really like that Darth Vader is unleashed in this movie, and gets to fully claim the title as the villain. Along, with that it is refreshing that the good guys lose in Empire Strikes Back. While it ends hopeful, having the good guys get knocked down makes for a much more compelling story when looking at the whole original trilogy.
The last Jedi
I love The Last Jedi for many of the same reasons I love Empire Strikes Back. It gives the villains a time to shine. Just like it is nice to see Darth Vader come into his own in Empire Strikes Back it is captivating to watch Kylo Ren do the same.
Again, much like Empire Strikes Back I love to see how the characters develop and grow throughout the movie. Finn completes his hero journey and moves from a man who wants to run to a man who stands for something. Poe learns that bravado does not equal leadership, and he learns the importance of humility. Even Luke’s story arc comes to an amazing end. I know the direction that Luke was developed was controversial, but it was the right one. It did fit with the character portrayed in the original trilogy and it gave the character true depth.
The greatest highlights of The Last Jedi are the interactions between Rey and Kylo Ren. The romantic tension between the two was palpable and so well done. The scenes in the throne room of the supremacy are amazing. After Snoke was killed all expectations were thrown out the window, and it seems that either character turning are very real possibilities. It was all so well done.
I absolutely love the Last Jedi and I can not see how the story for this new generation of characters concludes in Episode IX.