Star Wars Movies Ranked From Worst to Best: Latest Update in 2023!
It’s May 5th today! Happy Star Wars Day to all those who observe it! I revisited and revised my all-time rankings of the finest Star Wars films, including the three trilogies and the two throwback stories.
In case you didn’t consider it, there are spoilers for several Star Wars films ahead. Do not continue reading if you have not yet seen them!
Ready? OK. Let’s delve into these definitive rankings, which are unquestionably accurate (and check out our rankings of the greatest lightsaber duels as well):
12 Star Wars Movies Ranked
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
It has become a cliche, but it remains true: Empire is a darn near perfect film in terms of both visuals and audio. Hoth, Dagobah, and Cloud City’s colour palettes haunt our nightmares. As does the music, specifically the newly composed Imperial March for this film.
Darth Vader, who appeared for a total of 10 minutes in the original film, comes into his own as a menacing villain. Yoda’s mini-lectures on the Force nearly sparked an actual religion.
And the story, which Lucas does not receive enough credit for, is a master class in how to create a sequel superior to the original.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
The first hour of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is one of the finest ever created. Rey was introduced with remarkable economy, and the sequences depicting life in the Jakku junkyard were a revelation.
The parallel narrative of defecting stormtrooper Finn, unprecedented in the Star Wars canon, debunked claims that TFA was a “beat-for-beat” remake.
The second hour, beginning with the introduction of Starkiller base, made the film feel like a Star Wars greatest hits compilation.
Even with the weight that Han’s death adds to the narrative, it still holds together very well. Just that we would have appreciated one fewer X-wing squadron attacking a massive spherical object.
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Star Wars: Episode Iv – A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
A young female disciple approaches Luke Skywalker as a reluctant recluse on a remote planet, where he is living as a reclusive hermit. This was the initial concept George Lucas had for the sequel trilogy.
Director Rian Johnson took this idea and ran with it to create what Star Wars urgently needed in the 21st century: something risky and novel. Jedi
A new generation ripped apart tired old clichés (such as that Emperor clone known as Snoke) with their bare hands. Rey and Kylo Ren, in their stead, emerged as complex characters, both filled with darkness and light. The danger was at an all-time high, but so was the heroism.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The first Star Wars spin-off story suffered from a long summer of frenzied editing. The result may have enhanced the final battle and introduced the iconic lightsaber scene involving Darth Vader.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
The epic conclusion to the original trilogy suffers from George Lucas’ sudden desire to ice his franchise and close everything up in a bow. The decision to transform Leia into Luke’s long-lost sister was too soap operatic for many viewers, including Mark Hamill.
And yet, it accomplishes an extremely difficult task, bringing the largest film trilogy in history to a gratifying conclusion. Vader’s decision to save his son from the Emperor would reverberate throughout Star Wars mythology, making Anakin the tragic protagonist of the entire first six-film arc.
Oh, and you can take your Ewok complaints elsewhere. The purpose of the original Star Wars was to demonstrate how a technologically advanced empire can be brought down by a primitive species that literally consumes Stormtroopers for breakfast.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Revenge of the Sith is the undisputed darkest and best of the prequels, and it contains the essence of a wonderful story. If we were talking about movie novelizations, Sith would be number one; the Matthew Stover book is beautifully written and contains a wealth of additional information.
Unfortunately, Lucas continued to tinker with his own version of the story right up until the deadline. In post-production, he altered Anakin’s motivation for succumbing to the Dark Side. This rendered the essential turning point of the entire prequel trilogy a perplexing mess, and the Jedi appeared even more foolish than intended.
If you believe this film deserves a higher rating, you’re likely recalling the climactic volcanic battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan rather than the endless corridor conversations in Coruscant. However, the latter constitute a vast majority of the film’s running duration.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Solo is a solid story, a neat little heist film (in fact, the highest-grossing heist film of all time at the box office), and an enjoyable origin story that merits the right to be told.
Particularly if viewed as an ensemble film. Alden Ehrenreich was a more effective Han than Woody Harrelson, who played Han’s mentor Beckett. Donald Glover gave an outstanding performance as Young Lando and Phoebe Waller-Bridge made us consider droid rights in depth.
There were clumsy instances that were unnecessary, such as the origin of Han Solo’s surname and the excessive use of CGI in the Kessel Run. Moreover, the cinematography appeared too dim in many theatres. However, the screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan (writer of Empire Strikes Back) and his son Jon is witty enough to keep you giggling.
Solo is not listed higher because it faces intense competition, but as a palate cleanser between mythology-heavy epics, it pulled off its caper almost flawlessly.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Attack of the Clones, as the darker middle chapter of the prequel trilogy, should have been its finest. It had an excellent twist that changed everything you thought you knew about the Clone Wars, as well as political manoeuvrings that paralleled the War on Terror era in which it was set.
What went incorrect? Start with the script that Lucas wrote more quickly than ever before and gave to the crew at the last minute. Which is not a good notion if you’re attempting something new, such as writing a romance.
The lack of chemistry between Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman did not help, but their dialogue (“I hate sand,” he said, contrasting it with her smooth back) was never even mildly romantic.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The Rise of Skywalker visually rates among the best Star Wars films. Who could forget Rey’s backflip atop Kylo Ren’s ship, which started off the first trailer? As we noted in our original review, Skywalker is a film that is best viewed without excessive thought.
Of course, the narrative is also important. And what we got was a story that introduced so many new characters in the final chapter that it scarcely had time for old acquaintances (hello, Lando!). J.J. Abrams, apparently horrified by the reaction of a vocal minority to The Last Jedi, attempted to please everyone but ended up pleasing almost no one.
Especially irritating were the reversal of Rey’s ancestry, the abrupt resurrection of the Emperor, the brief and dubious rehabilitation of the galaxy’s most tiresome man, the marginalization of Rose Tico, and the indifference towards Finn.
Instead of wrapping up a nine-movie series with a flourish, Abrams did it so sloppily that he may have tarnished the reputation of the entire saga, and for sure the reputation of the sequel trilogy.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
It is not as terrible as you may recall. There is the kinetic lightsaber duel between Darth Maul and Obi-Wan Kenobi, which is more ballet than combat, and Yoda’s iconic explanation of how the Dark Side develops from fear.
And at least Lucas was attempting something with his script, releasing himself of all the Flash Gordon fan fiction he had intended for the original Star Wars. (Midi-chlorins, despite the fact that they should not have been mentioned on-screen, trace back to his 1977 notes.)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
This film originated as the pilot episode of the Cartoon Network series Clone Wars. Then, George Lucas made the perplexing decision to release this content as a film at the last minute.
The major Lucasfilm merchandise licensees were not notified in advance, so it is possible that Lucas was not pleased with the effort. No surprise. In 2008, Clone Wars was a far cry from becoming a series with a narrative and animation worthy of a Star Wars film over the course of seven seasons.
However, at least Lucas could now claim that his prequel films were not the worst.