The Star Wars franchise is perhaps one of the most unreliable in history. With films that sporadically leap around the 66-year timeline, drastically varying in quality, it’s easy to get lost. So, here’s a very subjective guide to all the movies that Star Wars has to offer, from worst to best.
10) Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Here, we get to see the terrifying Darth Vader as a petty, ungrateful teenager, ‘Anakin’, moaning about sand and preaching his desire for a dictatorship. This is somehow very attractive to the mature, wise, and democratic politician, ‘Padmé’, who proceeds to risk her career and life for him. It’s clear that the writers were caught between crafting a star-crossed romance and showing the potential for evil within Anakin but had no idea how to combine the two in a sensible way. This is one of my main issues with the film (the second instalment in the prequel trilogy) but honestly, it does virtually nothing well, it looks pretty at times, but I struggle to give it any more praise than that.
9) Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The majority of this film is simply dull. It kicked off the prequel trilogy and introduced us to the annoying child, Anakin, who would grow up to be ‘Darth Vader’. The choice of showing Anakin as a child definitely compromised the horror of the iconic villain, but I personally think seeing Anakin at this stage makes his inevitable fate have much more emotional impact. In spite of the many, many flaws of this film there are two things that save it for me. Firstly, if Ewan McGregor stars in a film, my overwhelming love for him makes the whole experience a lot better. Secondly, the last 15 minutes is some of the best action in the franchise and almost makes the rest of the film worth sitting through.
8) Solo: A Star Wars Story
Enjoyable but weak. The latest addition to the Star Wars saga explored the backstory of the iconic character, ‘Han Solo’. Solo shows the shift from optimism to cynicism that leads Han to the character we meet in A New Hope. My biggest issue with this film is the plot, it just feels like a collection of side-quests Han must go on to avoid trouble with the mafia. He stumbles from one predicament to another and is constantly having to do things neither he, nor the audience, cares about. Overall, it’s not the worst of the franchise but its weaknesses drag it down a great deal.
7) Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi split fans straight down the middle, some loving it, some loathing it. I happened to fall into the second camp which is why this film is so low on the list. In all fairness, it has some of the best cinematography I’ve ever seen, and it presents the inner conflict of the villain, ‘Kylo Ren’ better than any other film in the series. So, what went wrong? Many people would say that nothing went wrong, but, for me, the incessant bathos, pointless side-plots and forced character arcs ruined it. It’s the longest film in the series and you really feel it. By the end, all the characters are back to square one with no genuine change occurring, which is possibly the result of having to make the middle part of a trilogy. The Last Jedi certainly is the marmite of the saga, so I recommend you watch it, you may end up with a strong opinion.
6) Episode VII: The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens started the sequel trilogy and is a solid instalment. It looks great, the acting is good, it’s well-paced and sets up the rest of the trilogy brilliantly. This would be much higher on the list, but it virtually copies the original movie, A New Hope. The plot is so similar it really holds me back from appreciating what the film has to offer. This was the first film of the Disney era and didn’t feel like anything more than an extension just to make money. The Force Awakens clearly wasn’t motivated from a desire to reveal a story that hadn’t yet been told and, as such, doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
5) Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
I have a certain affection for this one that maybe isn’t deserved. In my opinion, it’s the best of the prequels (although that isn’t high praise) and it achieves the darker tone it set out for and it has some great moments in it. Seeing the transformation of Anakin into Darth Vader is interesting, even if it’s not done particularly well, and Anakin turning on his master really allows Ewan McGregor to shine in the role of ‘Obi-Wan’. As with all the prequels, the main part of the film is lacklustre. The fight-scenes are just showing off weird planets and fancy lights rather than progressing the story, and despite the ending being enjoyable, it also feels rushed and fails to properly lead into the original trilogy. I wouldn’t say Revenge of the Sith is a good film, but I’ll always love it for the wonderfully bad moments that seem to stream out from it.
4) Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The start to Return of the Jedi isn’t great, but it does pick up afterwards. As the last instalment of the original trilogy, it shows us ‘Luke’s final transformation into a Jedi and the redemption of his father. The ending of the trilogy is tragic and handled brilliantly with the dark yet delicate music of John Williams playing over Luke’s goodbye to the father he only just found. The final battle between Father and Son is one of the best in the series and is a great ending to such an iconic trilogy.
3) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Perhaps this is a controversial choice for third place, but no other Star Wars movie has stuck with me as much as this one did. Rogue One takes place just before A New Hope and follows a group of rebels attempting to steal the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star. The first half of the film is slow, with our time spent dotting around to random planets we’ve never seen before and waiting for our protagonist, ‘Jyn’, to finally commit to the rebellion. Our patience with this sluggish start is certainly rewarded though, with an incredible final act that brings the stakes to a maximum and leads immaculately into the start of A New Hope. This instalment has a lot to offer, it brings back Darth Vader in a way that really honours the original films, it features excellent cinematography, a great story and the gutsiest ending to any film in the franchise. I can happily go back and watch it time and time again.
2) Episode VI: A New Hope
A New Hope was the film that started it all, it was expected to be a complete flop at the box office but became the seed for an entire franchise. I’ve had to hold back on praising the imagination and creativity of the other films because it all stems from the original. It captured the imagination of the whole world and brought this incredible universe to life with revolutionary practical effects. The film is well-paced, well-directed and features quite possibly the most iconic film score of all time, it’s one that everyone should watch at some point.
1) Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Being the second Star Wars movie ever made, The Empire Strikes Back had a lot of anticipation to live up to so it took everything the original did well and did it better. The opening sequence is much more exciting, and the creativity of the writers is really on show as they expand their universe, teaching us more about the mysteries of the force and all the bizarre environments an entire galaxy has to offer. This sequel has its own story and its own feel, it has a darker tone than A New Hope and deserves a lot of credit for telling a new part of the story instead of trying to recreate the original. It truly is a fantastic film and is a great example of how to write a sequel to an already successful film.
Since the takeover by Disney in 2012, a steady stream of films has been released, with some continuing the original storyline and others being standalone anthology films. The next film will finish off the sequel trilogy and is due to be released in December 2019. Disney has many ideas for where they want to take the franchise, although, they’ve had to think twice since the disappointing box office performance of Solo. New life has been breathed into the series, some fans believe it shouldn’t have been resurrected in the first place, but undoubtedly a new generation of people will grow up, fascinated with Star Wars.