Star Wars fans, prepare for some good old-fashioned debate. With The Last Jedi out in theaters, it’s time to see where it stands alongside the other eight Star Wars films. And yes, we mean ALL the films. Even those ones you didn’t know about or try to pretend never happened.
Let’s get to it!
13. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
No ranking would be complete without a mention of the most infamous Star Wars production of all time. Some people might take issue with calling this a film, but we’re excluding any TV series or shorts here. The Star Wars Holiday Special is a singular production and that qualifies it for film status.
Even with all that said, The Star Wars Holiday Special is one of the necessary pieces of viewing for Star Wars fans, if just to see how kooky other folks saw the franchise and the dark path it could have gone down. It’s a grating, unbelievable experience that needs to be seen to be believed. Still, it’s the worst thing to have the Star Wars name on it. That takes something special.
12. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Remember this? Yeah, neither do most fans or even casual Star Wars viewers. This was a feature film lead-in for the 2008 TV series of the same name. Actually, this was supposed to be the first few episodes of the show but George Lucas saw the footage and thought they could be woven together to form a movie.
This leads to jumbled bits of plotting, uneven pacing, and an overall story that just doesn’t feel like it’s should be a theatrical release. The series would eventually find its groove but this initial outing was a big misstep. Skip this one.
11. Attack of the Clones (2002)
If it was possible, I’d lump all the prequels together and give them a collective bottom slot. But, we’re looking at these individually and Attack of the Clones easily takes the loser’s mantle. It features some of the most unnecessary prequelizing in the series — we didn’t need to meet Boba Fett’s dad — and a garishly cartoonish and flat aesthetic that’s ugly to look at.
Not to mention the poor acting, dialogue, and overall clunky nature of the film. There’s Hayden Christensen’s infamous wooden charisma (“I hate sand.”), the aggressively doofy tone of the piece clashing with attempts at seriousness, and a romance that’s as dead as Shmi.
Though some conceptual ideas sound promising on paper — seeing an army of Jedi should be much cooler — the execution stumbles in every way. The prequels are often maligned, but Attack of the Clones is the one that deserves the most derision.
10. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984)
Yes, those Ewok movies that you might not have known about are on here. And they rank higher than one of the prequels! That being said, the first film, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure is definitely the lesser of the two. The production quality is surprisingly decent for a TV movie but it’s a weird and aggressively juvenile outing.
Plus, it pales in comparison to the sequel. They are two parts of a whole but this one is the weaker link. But hey, it’s got the Gorax! It earns points for that.
9. Ewoks; The Battle for Endor (1985)
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor isn’t an awesome movie, but it’s pretty awesome for what it is. And what is it? A shockingly vicious follow-up to the first film that also features Wilford Brimley as a staff-wielding badass.
There isn’t a ton to recommend in these two Ewok movies — other than that they are weeeeeird — but if you’re only going to check out one, make it The Battle for Endor.
8. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Many would call Revenge of the Sith the best of the prequels. While it does offer some improvement on its predecessor, it also dives even deeper into the tonal confusion that plagued Attack of the Clones. The grim and serious subject matter never meshes with the outright silliness of the action. Between Yoda‘s bunny hop strategy against Darth Sidious and General Grievous‘s quadruple lightsaber extravaganza, Revenge of the Sith is as childish as its attempts at overbearing darkness.
And all that darkness doesn’t really hit when you’ve still got thud-filled dialogue and bad performances. There is also a serious third act rush in order to get things to line up with the original trilogy. Revenge of the Sith gets points for trying, but it never quite gels into the big final entry that it puffs itself up to be.
In the words of Darth Vader, “NOOOOOOOO!”
7. The Phantom Menace (1999)
It’s true that The Phantom Menace has the worst reputation of the prequels, but when grading on the curve that that trilogy provides, The Phantom Menace actually ends up being the best of a pretty bad bunch.
Yes, all the problems of the prequel films are still there — grating performances, George Lucas’s script, and an unappealing visual style — but there is a clearer sense of tone to The Phantom Menace than the other films. Granted, that tone is substantially more youthful and simple than most fans wanted but at least it’s consistent.
And there are at least elements of The Phantom Menace that hold up as opposed to most of the other prequels. Liam Neeson’s lackadaisical performance as Qui-Gon Jinn is surprisingly smile-inducing, the podracing section is dumb but fits well with the film’s vibe and is actually exciting from an action standpoint, and Darth Maul is the most visually interesting character to come from the prequels.
It’s not a good movie, but The Phantom Menace is earnest in its naivety. That counts for something.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The idea of exploring tangential corners of the Star Wars universe sounds like a great idea. Unfortunately, Rogue One couldn’t quite commit to delivering something that delivered on that concept.
Gareth Edwards’s direction is solid, but the plot feels woefully unnecessary and the new characters don’t do enough to endear them to the audience. Add to that a scramble in post-production to turn the intended grimmer film into something more marketable creates a tonal disconnect that never rights itself.
Maybe the following non-trilogy films will be able to find their footing, but this initial outing stumbled more than it stood on its own.
5. The Force Awakens (2015)
This reboot of the regular Star Wars saga delivered what a lot of fans wanted: a safe but confident return to form. It introduced us to a likable new cast of characters and the most polished direction the series has ever seen under the eye of J.J. Abrams.
It’s got some dramatic issues — Rey‘s struggles are too easily overcome — and its slavish devotion to the structure of the original films hurts it, but it’s an endlessly watchable and fun experience that brought the franchise back on track. It also set things up for one of the best entries in the series…
4. The Last Jedi (2017)
Though fan backlash is dominating the conversation, history is going to be very kind to The Last Jedi. I think it’s the best of the new Star Wars films by far, but it’s also simply one of the best blockbusters in recent memory.
Full of scathing subtext about the franchise itself, fans, and the potential of storytelling, The Last Jedi expands the world of Star Wars in shocking but breathtaking ways. It also features some of the best performances in any Star Wars film. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher both deliver career bests, and the new cast establishes themselves as new classic characters.
Rian Johnson has made one of the most personal, unflinching, and thought-provoking films in the entire Star Wars canon. It might not be safe or easy, but it’s going to prove a lot more substantial and worthy of discussion than most of the films in the franchise.
3. Return of the Jedi (1983)
People give Return of the Jedi a lot of flak for those jungle teddy bears, but those critics often overlook how much of Return of the Jedi not only works like gangbusters but delivers some of the most impacting moments in the series.
The opening first act involving the rescue of Han Solo is an utter blast and Luke‘s journey towards the dark side is compelling and nerve-wracking. Not to mention the final redemption of Darth Vader. Yes, there are some clunky bits here and there, but Return of the Jedi is a satisfying conclusion to the original trilogy. It’s a good movie that has the unfortunate task of following up two great films.
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
When talking about the best Star Wars films, many fans point to The Empire Strikes Back. And they aren’t wrong. The superb direction from Irwin Kershner, the moral complication of the pulpy universe, and the establishment of an epic familial saga that ended up with one of the biggest twists in all of cinema.
It’s impossible to deny the power of The Empire Strikes Back. Much like The Last Jedi, it broadened the world of Star Wars in immense and difficult ways that we’re still feeling the repercussions of. I mean, it deserves high praise solely for its introduction of Yoda, one of pop culture’s most ubiquitous and beloved characters.
1. Star Wars a.k.a. A New Hope (1977)
This is the film that started it all. Before the crass commercialization and fan expectation, this movie took pulp science fiction and blew it up in the biggest way possible. Star Wars (rebranded A New Hope in later versions) took all the elements of fantasy adventure and presented it in an imaginative way that had never been seen before.
While many will argue that Empire Strikes Back deserves the top spot — share your thoughts with FANDOM! — Star Wars excels in its simplicity and sense of self. I actually love Empire Strikes Back more for its narrative and character complexity, but it’s impossible to deny that Star Wars is and always will be the best Star Wars film.