The saga that shaped our childhood love of blockbusters is drawing to a close. J.J. Abrams’ STAR WARS: EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER aims to conclude the Skywalker Saga, bringing closure to the journey of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) while also buttoning up a story that dates all the way back to STAR WARS in 1977.
Safe to say, this is kind of a big deal!
Before the saga ends, we want to go back and rank (as all good movie fans do) the STAR WARS movies. There will be debate, undoubtedly. But everyone’s choice for number one should be the same, right?
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
You can’t have THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK without STAR WARS. But it’s hard not to recognize that EMPIRE does STAR WARS better than George Lucas’ original film. The structure of EMPIRE is groundbreaking, adapting a darker tone, separating its team into factions, and ending on one of the most famous cliffhangers in movie history. There’s a reason so many movies have tried, and continue to try, to copy EMPIRE.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…" With those words, George Lucas changed Hollywood history. There’s no quantifying how massive the impact of the first STAR WARS was, is, and forever will be. There’s a reason we’re still talking about this story 40 years later. Should it be number one on this list? You could make that argument, and we’d listen.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
J.J. Abrams had an impossible task: to revive STAR WARS, which had been dormant since the prequels knocked the brand off of its perch, and remind generations of audiences why they loved STAR WARS in the first place. He succeeded, mainly by copying the formula of A NEW HOPE, but also by introducing winning new leads and balancing nostalgia with innovation.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
Rian Johnson took over from where J.J. Abrams left off. And his effort, THE LAST JEDI, turned the tropes of the STAR WARS universe on their heads. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was happily in exile. The First Order kept the Rebellion on the run. And Emperor Snoke… well, his fate was unexpected. How will Abrams pick up the pieces in time for EPISODE IX?
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
There was a lot of pressure on the original STAR WARS trilogy to follow up THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. And we got amazing STAR WARS sequences… and Ewoks. So, a little give and take. The "good" of RETURN OF THE JEDI is really, really good (and mostly has to do with Luke and his father, Anakin). The rest? Did we already mention the Ewoks?
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
The second time that STAR WARS needed to conclude a trilogy, they relied on the conversion of fallen Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) into the legendary villain Darth Vader. There was high drama and actual suspense in the otherwise bright and shiny prequels, and that emotional weight brought needed gravitas to REVENGE OF THE SITH.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
THE PHANTOM MENACE has the coolest STAR WARS villain outside of Darth Vader. His name was Darth Maul (Ray Park), and he wielded the memorable double-bladed red lightsaber. And then, the movie killed him off. Huge mistake. The return of STAR WARS after a long absence got bogged down in big political plotlines and Jake Lloyd’s uneven performance as young Anakin.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
This is about as bad as STAR WARS can get. It still looks good, and can be exciting from time to time. (Obi-Wan versus Jango Fett was memorable.) But ATTACK OF THE CLONES is so reliant on digital effects, it often looks like a video game, and the romantic chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman was non-existent.