It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan. With what feels like a new series coming out every month (hey there Mandalorian and Ahsoka), we’re getting a constant stream of frenzy-inducing content. As the canon grows, we decided to take a look at all the films in the cinematic universe, and like every nerd loves to do, arrange it into a tidy list where we ranked all of the Star Wars movies from worst to best.
As we were making this list, we realized our initial rankings were driven largely by epicness of lightsaber fights and hotness of the cast, so we tried to take a step back and take a more objective look at film quality.
Major spoilers ahead: if you haven’t seen all the Star Wars films, first of all, what are you doing with your life? Do you hate fun? But secondly, go watch the films, and then come back, because otherwise, you might have a bad feeling about this. You’d get that if you’d seen the films.
The Star Wars Movies, Ranked Worst to Best
13. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Let’s just get straight to the point and draw our line in the sand. TROS sucks. It was a truly disappointing end to a decades-long saga. We could argue back and forth about the story choices (Rey Palpatine is lousy), but it’s also stuffed with cheap emotional ploys and unearned payoffs. Why would we want to spend money on that when we get it for free by texting an ex after a couple of drinks? “U up?”
Many of the characters are completely wasted in The Rise of Skywalker. And much like our next morning’s sober reaction, many of the characters’ arcs feel like a complete reversal. It’s obvious that the filmmakers let their storytelling be swayed by online discourse.
As we’ve learned from #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, listening to the Internet is often a terrible idea. On an unrelated note, how many Stanley cups are too many?
12. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
There’s plenty that’s fine about Attack of the Clones. It’s got fun action sequences, cool lightsaber fights, lots of beautiful costumes for Padmé Amidala, and Hayden Christensen is a heartthrob as Anakin Skywalker.
But the most memorable moments from Attack of the Clones are the love scenes, which are cringier than our college Facebook albums. We didn’t need seven thousand duck lip selfies at a frat party, and we don’t need a monologue comparing the softness and coarseness of skin and sand.
11. The Clone Wars (2008)
This animated film is meant to take place in between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and it’s actually a fairly entertaining watch. Don’t let live action snobs discourage you.
The film is aimed at kids and the story isn’t innovative, but it does have some badass Jedi action. And, the TV series it spurred includes some of the coolest Star Wars canon in the franchise. It also brought Dave Filoni to the party, and he would later be a part of the team that gave us The Mandalorian.
Basically, if you love Daddy Mando and Baby Yoda, you better thank The Clone Wars. Those memes don’t come cheap.
10. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
In true Star Wars spirit, Revenge of the Sith has some awfully cringy dialogue and some absolutely iconic moments. Balance Anakin’s repeated mentions of his power being really powerful against the chilling execution of Order 66. Or the lava lightsaber battle that is the pinnacle of the Prequel Trilogy.
But even Revenge of the Sith’s best moments can’t balance out its greatest sin: turning Padmé Amidala into a crying, barefoot and pregnant wife. Emotions are cool. We love moms. But, reducing a badass lady to the main character’s sad doomed wife is on our list of unforgivable transgressions.
9. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
There was so much potential for this film and the ideas we heard about it. It’s a pre-prequel that sets up the beginning of the Rebellion! No, it’s a space action-adventure like Treasure Island with Han Solo as the main character kid! No, it’s a buddy film that shows how Han and Chewbacca meet! No, it’s a tragic romance that shows how Han became bitter and cynical!
Actually, it’s all of those things. And, as our college advisor told us when we switched majors four times in one year: sometimes, you just gotta pick a lane.
Solo might have ranked higher on our list of Star Wars films, but there’s a scene in which an Imperial clerk gives Han the surname Solo because — are you ready for it? — he’s all alone in the world. This 30 seconds of dialogue alone knocked the film down a couple notches.
8. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
There’s a lot that’s kind of terrible about The Phantom Menace. The lack of a main character, the weirdly convoluted political background, the somewhat grating child Anakin. And that’s before we even get to the much-maligned Jar Jar Binks.
But between zaddy Qui Gon Jinn, top villain contender Darth Maul, and some of the best work from composer John Williams, The Phantom Menace is too iconic to dismiss.
Incidentally, John Williams’ standout Phantom Menace theme, “Duel of Fates,” is the track we put on when we figure out how to do things like change our own oil.
7. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
Star Wars and Bea Arthur. Does more need to be said here?
Oh, ok. The Star Wars Holiday special is basically a holiday variety show. But if you replaced the festive stage with a sitcom-style living room in a Wookie treehut. And the charismatic, quippy hosts with Wookies who only speak Shyriiwook. Seriously, nine of the first 12 minutes are spoken entirely in the Wookie language. From there it only gets more amazing.
We ranked it squarely in the middle of our list because we’re still not sure if it’s a nightmare-inducing terror with what we can only assume were acid-trip-inspired acrobatic and musical routines, or it’s a fantastic cinematic masterpiece that inspires true joy.
6. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Director J.J. Abrams really embraces the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality in The Force Awakens. The film relies heavily on the narrative peaks and cache of the original trilogy.
But getting to see Finn and Rey, a Black Stormtrooper deciding to join the good fight and a lady Jedi rising from obscurity to become a hero, was awesome. And, as the first reentry to the lore of Star Wars in decades, it strikes a good balance of bringing back what we loved from the original trilogy and giving the story new energy.
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Honestly, Rogue One probably belongs higher on this list. Some of the moments are indelibly inscribed in our brains: the blind Chirrut Îmwe’s last stand as he whispers that the Force is with him. Darth Vader’s reappearance as a truly terrifying villain. And the final embrace as the world explodes. Look, we mentioned there were spoilers.
It may be the most poignant of all the films on this list. Ultimately, it’s just not quite as fun as the rest of the movies, which feels integral to the purest form of Star Wars experience.
We mentioned at the beginning of this article that we are heavily influenced by lightsaber awesomeness and thirst factor, right? This one scores high for really hot people, but not nearly enough lightsabers. That’s also our standard feedback for weddings.
4. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
This is probably the film within the entire cinematic collection that has garnered the most discourse. Rian Johnson’s turn at the helm of Star Wars subverted a lot of established tropes and expectations. For us, that made it a true fan’s response to growing up watching the Original Trilogy.
Regardless of how you feel about Johnson’s choices to turn the world upside down, there’s two reasons The Last Jedi ranks so highly for us. Even if it doesn’t have Benoit Blanc in it.
First: Rose Tico is a sassy idealist who gets arguably the best line of the Sequel Trilogy: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” Second: the ultimately optimistic theme that anyone can be a hero. All it takes is standing up and joining the battle.
3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
This was our favorite Star Wars film as kids. It’s filled with giant walking teddy bears! Return of the Jedi also gives us some of the most satisfying character arc conclusions of all time.
Luke Skywalker redeems his father by choosing another path. Han Solo becomes truly noble by putting aside what he wants for the greater cause and Leia Organa. Leia becomes more trusting and vulnerable, putting faith in her intuition.
And Darth Vader puts aside the Sith and becomes Anakin again. Although we hate the remastered appearance of Hayden Christensen. Whoever made that choice should be fired.
Bonus points for cute little Ewoks playing the drums on stormtrooper helmets. Aw, they’re clowning around with severed heads. So adorable.
2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Empire Strikes Back is probably the best-made film of the bunch, and it cemented Star Wars as an eternal behemoth of pop culture. There are few people who don’t recognize the line, “I am your father.” It gives us goosebumps just thinking about it. Ugh, are we sitting under the air conditioning vent again?
1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Okay, we ended up ranking the original trilogy right down the line as one, two, and three. Empire Strikes Back may actually be the better film, but A New Hope — or, as its original title, Star Wars — is the film that changed the world.
Since its release in theatres on May 25, 1977, we’ve experienced an expansive and detailed universe built by hundreds of filmmakers, writers, artists, and fans with now more than four decades of storytelling. And it all started with this one movie.
There are some terribly ridiculous moments in A New Hope. Luke is devastated by the death of a guy he’s known for, like, two days, and is comforted by Leia, who literally just lost her entire planet. The lightsaber fight is embarrassingly feeble. But we forgive it all. We just don’t care about the flaws of the OG.
Sure, there are clearly some questionable artistic choices. But what it represents in our culture and our hearts outweighs all its flaws, and we’ll fight anyone who wants to say something bad about it. Right after we finish this taco.
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