Star Wars Movies Ranked – From Worst To Best
COVID-19 has truly impacted many of our lives. I’m fortunate enough that for me, it means a lot more working from home. This has also given me the time to go back and re-watch a lot of my favorite movies. Awhile back, I ranked the Friday the 13th movies from worst to best. You can check that out here! I want to eventually tackle Halloween, but with The Rise of Skywalker available on streaming services, it’s time to take a look at my all-time favorite series. These are the Star Wars movies ranked by watchability.
13. The Star Wars Holiday Special
I was hesitant to even include this one on here. It’s a holiday special that came from an era where holiday specials were still pretty common-place. For all intents and purposes, it’s pretty harmless. However, and this is important, George Lucas hates it and refuses to acknowledge its existence. And therefore, we must include it on the list.
I’m not going to dive too deep into this one. It’s got everything bad you could imagine. Mark Hamill fresh off his injury and wearing a pound of make-up? Got it. Carrie Fisher doing her absolutely best while trying to sing a song with senseless lyrics? Got it. A wookie using a porn headset? …Got it? There’s basically nothing positive to say about this trainwreck.
12. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
No, I’m not talking about episode 2. And no, I’m also not talking about the Clone Wars TV show, which is stellar. I’m talking about the movie that launched the Clone Wars TV show, which is not stellar. Many of you out there may have forgotten that this actually was even made, and you can count yourselves as the lucky ones.
The Clone Wars focuses on heroes Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they’re sent on a quest by Jabba the Hutt to save his son Rotta. In exchange, the Hutts will ally with the Galactic Republic against the Confederacy of Independent Systems. The only good thing to come out of this 98-minute trash-fire is the introduction of Anakin’s padawan Ahsoka Tano. If you have a chance to go back and watch, take a hard pass on that.
11. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
This. Movie. Sucks.
I don’t have a lot else to say. From the R2D2 and C3PO Looney Tunes adventure through the droid facility on Geonosis to the awful love scenes between Anakin and Padme, it’s just awful. The effects are horrific and do not hold up well. That said, it’s not at the bottom of the list so I do need to list some positive things. Yoda fights Count Dooku and that’s pretty great. This movie also gives us Obi-Wan, in all his sarcastic glory, dropping a “Good job!” on Anakin. Classic.
10. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
This movie can be brought down to one fatal problem. If you lopped off the first 70 minutes, it’s a better film. Yes, the Duel of the Fates is AMAZING. But the rest of the movie is just tough to watch. From the frankly racist accents to the fart jokes… oh yeah, you forgot about that, didn’t you? As much as people complain about Rey being able to use the force with no training, I’ll remind you that Anakin won a pod-race and flew a starfighter to destroy the droid command ship with basically no training.
I would have loved to put this movie in a worse spot on the list, but I can’t. For all of its problems, I’m sorry. The last 20 minutes really redeems a lot of it. Even today, the fight between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul is pretty great. Even if the force field hallway makes absolutely no sense. Why is that a thing?! Wait, I’m sure that’s been answered in a comic book and I’m sure I won’t like the answer.
9. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
It bums me out to no end that I have to put this one so low on the list. I’ve now watched it four times, and I’m sorry, but it’s just not getting any better. It’s got a series of cool moments that don’t have enough good connections between them. The climactic showdown between the Sith Armada and the Rebels? Cool. The fight between Rey and Kylo Ren on the Death Star wreckage? Cool. The final confrontation between Emperor Pip-pop and the last of the Jedi? I’ll take it.
But how we get from one point to the next is just… weak. It plays out like a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with a first-time Dungeon Master. Go somewhere, complete quest. Now go somewhere else, complete another quest. None of it seems to blend together the way a story should. It feels like they had a bunch of ideas that someone insisted make it into the movie, but didn’t have the time to put the puzzle pieces together.
8. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Please. Put down your torches and pitchforks. This is the one that forced me to decide whether this list was going to be “which Star Wars movie is the best?” and “which Star Wars movie would I most want to watch?” And I decided to go with the latter because the former is a pretty easy list. This I thought was a bit more challenging.
But at the end of the day, it forces me to put A New Hope in the 8 slot. Gun to my head, would I rather spend the next couple hours watching Episode 3 or 4? I’d take 3. Episode 4 or 7? Dammit… I think I would rather watch 7 again. While Episode IV is a classic and was groundbreaking in 1977, it’s a bit dry today. The Death Star battle is better in your memory than it is to re-watch, the lightsaber clash is… not much. While it does have some classic lines and moments that I’ll forever love and cherish, it’s just not the best watch in 2020.
7. Solo: A Star Wars Story
This movie was one of the best examples in recent memory of low expectations bearing fruit. I went into Solo having heard that it was terrible. And I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. I got a fun movie that felt like more of an adventure movie than a Star Wars film. I know a lot of people blasted it for that, but I found it to be pretty refreshing. At the end of the movie, I genuinely wanted to know what happened next and that’s a pretty good compliment.
Solo was the second of the spin-off Star Wars movies and it had a bit of a troubled production cycle. While it didn’t live up to the high bar that Rogue One set, it was pretty damn enjoyable and is better upon re-watching. The reveal at the end was unexpected and I’m still bummed out that the plans to explore what happens next got canned.
6. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
What’s that sound? It’s the unmistakable sound of people’s heads exploding at me having Episode 8 ranked better than Episode 4. I believe that The Last Jedi is the most divisive episode in the franchise. People either loved it or hated it, and frankly they both have a lot of reason to feel the way they do. I found myself on the side of really enjoying it. From a story perspective, having Luke’s need to overcome his guilt at failing Ben was powerful and I really enjoyed watching it play out.
Luke’s sequence with Yoda was one of my favorites in the entire sequel trilogy, and it set up his interaction with Rey in the 9th movie. (Which was my favorite scene in that movie!) Despite loving many of the parts of the movie, I recognize that Rian Johnson really screwed over Episode IX. Instead of building off Episode VII, he took many things in another direction or flat out shut them down. This left Episode IX scrambling to complete the story, and it definitely suffered for it. Nevertheless, Episode VIII was thoroughly enjoyable for me, except for the casino planet.
5. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
A lot of people didn’t care for The Force Awakens when it released. I was not one of them. If memory serves, I saw this movie in theaters 9 times. While it does have a lot of awkwardness in it, it was a pretty enjoyable movie. Some people would say it’s a rehash of Episode IV, and yea, in many ways it is. But with better effects and more action. Where-as A New Hope feels a little dry these days, The Force Awakens is a lot of fun to watch.
I would be remiss not to mention that Episode VII has one of my all-time favorite lines in Han Solo’s “That’s not how the force works!” But mostly, I felt like director JJ Abrams was living a life-long dream. This movie felt in many ways like you took someone who grew up watching and loving Star Wars, and told them to make a movie. To some it feels like pandering, but to me it was a love letter to the trilogy that helped raise him.
4. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Maybe some of you out there will forgive my Episode IV opinion because I have a prequel film making it higher on the list than any of the sequels? No? I didn’t think so. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the prequels, even I’m willing to admit the third one is pretty cool. Unlike episodes 1 and 2 which are bad movies with some cool elements, this is a pretty good movie with some bad elements.
Yes, the effects do not hold up well. Specifically the droids and aliens look pretty bad when you watch today. However, the force powers and lightsabers look pretty stellar. I can’t mention this movie without paying tribute to the best lightsaber duel in the series. Even today, Anakin vs Obi-Wan is an incredible watch. Finally witnessing the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the Galactic Empire is pretty satisfying, and Revenge of the Sith remains the only one of the prequels I can stomach watching on a regular basis.
3. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
I find that a lot of people are torn on Return of the Jedi. Personally, I really like it, but I can see some of the complaints. The sequence on Endor drags on for a long time. It’s easy to forget that they pretty much go straight from the scene on Tatooine to Endor and spend the rest of the movie there. And it goes without saying that the Ewoks are pretty painful. Doesn’t it just make it worse that, originally, it was supposed to be Kashyyyk instead of Endor? We could have had Wookies instead!
But there’s just too much good stuff in Episode VI to not give it the credit it deserves. The battle on Jabba’s sail barge, the battle on Endor (once it gets going), the space battle around the Death Star II. Not to mention the final confrontation between Luke and Vader. To this day, I love going on Youtube and grabbing the scene where Luke finally gets angry and unleashes on Vader. Classic.
2. Rogue One – A Star Wars Story
I love this movie. There’s definitely some Disney-isms, but this to me is what a spin-off Star Wars movie should be. While much of the Star War canon is pretty well explored, we haven’t really seen the actual theft of the Death Star plans. Rogue One made a bold call in almost ignoring the force, and instead focusing on the regular people that sparked the rebellion that brought down the empire.
This movie also took the opportunity to do something that until then, we’d only really seen in Rebels: remind us why the rebellion was afraid of Darth Vader. We just don’t get to see enough of Vader striking terror into the hearts of rebel scum in the original trilogy. And yet, everyone talks about him like he’s the boogeyman. The final sequence of Rogue One shows us exactly why everyone feels that way. Watching him carve through rebel soldiers to retrieve the Death Star plans was as satisfying as it was epic. That said, if you watch Rogue One and A New Hope back to back, it is hilarious to watch Leia lie straight to Vader’s face.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
This might be the most unoriginal thing I’ve written on this website maybe ever, but The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite movie in the series. Even 40 years later, this movie holds up astonishingly well. Unlike Episode IV, where the effects have really started to lag, this one still looks pretty good today. Yea, the Wompa isn’t the best but aside from that it does pretty well. The action is dialed up from the original, kicking off with the classic battle of Hoth.
However, it’s not the action that makes Empire stand out, but the character development. Without the context of the other movies, A New Hope is a pretty straight forward story. It’s a hero’s journey, with a scoundrel who finds redemption, and a princess who becomes a leader. Empire is where we find a lot of depth to these characters. Whether it’s Luke making the decision to leave his training to try and save his friends, Han Solo and Leia finding their feelings for each other, or even the introduction and development of Lando.
While it’s cliche to say it, Empire really is the best movie in the series. It’s a darker tale than the others and it is better for it. Sometimes things just become bandwagon opinions, but I don’t think that’s the case with Empire. People have been calling this movie the best one in the series since 1980, and I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. So those are the Star Wars movies ranked. What’d you think? How’d I do? Let us know on Twitter @CheckpointXP!
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