A while ago, our film critic, Alex Stewart, ranked all 9 Star Wars Episodes. As a huge Star Wars geek, I wanted to go one step further: To rank all Star Wars films that premiered in the theater, which accounts for some 12 movies (don’t expect to find the Ewoks films or the “Star Wars Holiday Special.”). Without further ado, here’s my complete rankings:
12. Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
I have fond memories from the other two prequels growing up, and while I admit Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon (Liam Neeson) battling Darth Maul (Ray Park) is absolutely iconic, it doesn’t make up for the fact that Episode I is a boring, borderline unwatchable slog. Even as a kid, I avoided this film.
11. The Clone Wars (2007)
Many people forget that the excellent CGI animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” TV series began with a disappointing 2007 movie that underperformed and confused people at the box office. It made it’s money back, but only because its budget was so little ($8.5 million). Still, “The Clone Wars” is a disappointing start to what is a great show. “The Clone Wars” (2007) is a TV pilot that should never have been released in the theater.
10. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Despite it being a very mixed film, I have fond memories of “Attack of the Clones.” It’s one of the very first films I saw in theaters, and I remember watching it over and over again on VHS.
Its fight between Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and Yoda (Frank Oz) is still pretty cool to this day, and it’s the first film where we see the Jedi of old battle on a large scale in the Battle of Geonosis.
Still, a clunky romance arc between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), as well as hamfisted political commentary and writing keeps this film from being one of the series’ best.
9. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
“The Rise of Skywalker” is a confusing nightmare that caters to nostalgia while adding nothing new to the Star Wars mythology. It’s more competently made than “Attack of the Clones,” and that is the only reason it’s ranked higher than it, but I would prefer to watch any of the films on this list again over “The Rise of Skywalker.”
8. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Not a bad film by any means, it just had no reason to exist. It would have worked far better had it not focused on Han Solo, and was just a standalone story from someone we haven’t met yet in the Star Wars world. Still, it feels like the closest thing to an Expanded Universe story we’ll ever see in modern “Star Wars.”
7. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
The best thing this movie did was attempt to course correct the unoriginal rehashed direction J.J. Abrams tried to force upon Star Wars. Unfortunately, Disney would have none of it in Episode IX.
Not perfect by any means, as it is bogged down by plot arcs that go nowhere or are redundant, but it plays with interesting ideas like the fact that restoring the Jedi Order as they existed before will only repeat their problems, how the universe needs to break this cycle of empire and rebellion, and how Star Wars needs to let its past die in order for it to go forward.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
This film is saved by its excellent third act. It does classic Star Wars space fights better than any other modern Star Wars film.
Unfortunately, the first third is a slog, and it’s characters — except K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) are bland and forgettable. This film is the reason I was nervous when I saw that Diego Luna was the lead in “Narcos: Mexico”, though he is thankfully brilliant in that show. It’s a shame “Rogue One” wasted its talented cast.
5. Episode VI: A New Hope (1977)
Downright iconic, even if it was saved in editing. Episode IV basically the vanilla version of Star Wars, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I much prefer simple to the convoluted nightmare modern Star Wars has become.
It’s the film that started it all and still holds up today.
4. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
A decent soft reboot of Episode IV, and a decent film in its own right. It revealed just enough of the world (though I wish I got more as a fan), and set us up what seemed like a bright future of Disney Star Wars movies. If only the follow-ups followed through.
3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
A lot of people hate this movie because of the Ewoks, which some see as the precursor to Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best). Still, it’s a much better ending to the series than “The Rise of Skywalker” and like “The Force Awakens”, it set up a seemingly bright future for Star Wars in the event Lucasfilm wanted to make films past Episode VI.
“Return of the Jedi” is an extremely culturally-important film, and rounded out one of the best cinematic trilogies of all time.
2. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
This is not a perfect film. But it’s a glorious one.
For me, no Star Wars film is more memorable than Episode III. Even its bad moments I look back upon happily, as they have been turned into memes I enjoy daily. It’s the best ending to any Star Wars trilogy, even if what came before it isn’t all that great.
1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
You can’t beat “The Empire Strikes Back.” It has one of the greatest twists in cinematic history, and it’s as classic as you can get. It’s the closest thing to a masterpiece I think you can get in Star Wars.