Star Wars Films Ranked
It’s May the Fourth, “Star Wars” Day. Disney+ is the streaming home to all of the “Star Wars” films and series, as well as documentaries, shorts and specials. So far, there have been nine films in the Skywalker Saga, as well as two “Star Wars” stories that help fill in the gaps. They have been met with praise and adulation but, also, indifference and disdain. Not every “Star Wars” film is created equally, but I’m going to rank the nine Skywalker films and two “Star Wars” stories.
NOTE: I won’t be ranking the two Ewok films that are also available on Disney+. They have nothing to do with the main line of films. I also won’t be including “The Clone Wars” film, because it is more of a backdoor pilot for “The Clone Wars” series than a true film.
11. ATTACK OF THE CLONES
This remains the hardest of the “Star Wars” films for me to get through. Yes, there are some good parts like Christopher Lee’s entire onscreen presence and Ewan McGregor’s demeanor as Obi-Wan Kenobi. But the George Lucas terrible dialogue train hits its worst in this movie. Hayden Christiansen’s performance is wooden. He would get better and received a lot of undue criticism, but this fact hasn’t changed. This film is just kind of there.
10. THE LAST JEDI
Another disappointing middle film, this time in a different trilogy. There’s actually a lot of good within “The Last Jedi.” Unlike “Attack of the Clones,” this one isn’t irredeemable for me. It’s real problem seems to be the trilogy it’s in. Some of the decisions like getting rid of Snoke and allowing Kylo Ren to be the Supreme Leader are good. But making Rey’s parents unimportant when “The Force Awakens” lets you know they are important is a bad call. That can work in a different trilogy with a different Jedi. Plus, Daisy Ridley asserted that Rian Johnson threw away the plan they were given between the two films when he started filming, and it’s painfully obvious. I would, however, like to see a Rian Johnson trilogy to see what happens when he has control over the entire story rather than just the middle.
9. THE PHANTOM MENACE
This film had to try to meet unrealistic expectations when it was released in 1999. There was no way to live up to them, but when you adjust your expectations, it still doesn’t clear the bar. Most viewers don’t want to know about the inner workings of trade routes and political machinations. The pod race scene was really cool in theaters but has lost its luster over time, because it doesn’t work as well on smaller screens. Jar Jar is an annoying character, however I am glad that Ahmed Best returned in “The Mandalorian,” because, like Hayden Christiansen, he received a lot of unfair and undue criticism. Still, it’s got the best lightsaber fight in the entire series between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.
8. RISE OF SKYWALKER
This is a film that mostly fails because of the preceding film. Many of my complaints in this film come from problems started in “The Last Jedi.” It’s frenetic pace seems to be undoing a lot of “The Last Jedi” that contradicted the original plan for “Rise of Skywalker.” Maybe having the same director working on all the films would’ve improved both. I would love to see what a proper middle movie for this trilogy would be, just like I would love to see the films surrounding “The Last Jedi” that make them both better. This one also gets nostalgia points for being the first “Star Wars” film I saw in theaters with my son.
7. SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
The biggest complaint against this film is that it was unnecessary. There was a lot of behind the scene strife that led to a change in directors. This film has no right being as coherent as it is when you learn about everything that went on behind it. Still, it’s a reasonably fun film. It’s not great. We didn’t really need to know about Han’s past, but it works for what it’s trying to be. I’m hopeful we get that previously announced “Lando” series and see more of Han in that. Of the places where “Star Wars” could’ve stopped a project, the “Star Wars” stories were not the place to stop.
6. THE FORCE AWAKENS
There’s a fair criticism to this film, it is basically a remake of “A New Hope.” But, it’s a well-made remake of “A New Hope.” It introduces the new characters very well. It gives us a bad guy that we want to root for and against. It introduces a new trio without a love triangle. We get to see Harrison Ford return as Han before he ultimately becomes Obi-Wan Kenobi. We get to see all the things we loved before. It’s a nostalgia trip, but it still holds up pretty well because the story itself has always been a good one to tell.
5. REVENGE OF THE SITH
This is by default the “good” prequel film, but it’s actually a pretty good film on its own. It moves all the pieces into place for where they need to be for “A New Hope.” It allows whiny Anakin to fall, so Darth Vader could rise as the greatest villain in movie history. I just really like this prequel.
4. RETURN OF THE JEDI
The film that wrapped up the greatest trilogy in movie history still holds up as it is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a week in theaters. It’s the closest thing to a kids movie in the original trilogy. It’s still got a lot of heart and a lot of danger. It may be the weakest of the three, but as strong as the first two were, being the weakest of the three still puts in the top four of all “Star Wars” films.
3. A NEW HOPE
The film that started the entire saga is still amazing more than 45 years later. It’s not perfect, but it still provided the world with an epic franchise that introduced Jedis, Death Stars, the Rebellion, the Empire, Darth Vader and light sabers. It’s very hard to improve upon this film, but Lucasfilm has managed to do it twice before.
2. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
The best “Star Wars” film from Disney tells the story of how the Rebellion managed to steal the Death Star plans from the Empire. Introducing the best droid in the series in K2-SO, sorry R2-D2 and Chopper, this film hits every note exactly how it need to do so. Plus, the Darth Vader light saber scene looks epic, even if it creates a plot hole given how his fight in “A New Hope” with Obi-Wan went.
1. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The 1980 sequel to “A New Hope” gives fans exactly what they want: a more menacing Empire, the Rebellion on the run but still finding a way, and Boba Fett actually looking tough. While it may be dark for the younger crowd, it builds on the first story and adds to it without taking anything away from it. Plus, it delivers the best plot twist in cinematic history. “The Empire Strikes Back” still stands tall as the best “Star Wars” film.
Those are my rankings. Which “Star Wars” films do you like? Which do you hate? How would you rank them? And remember, May the Force be with you.