The following post was originally published by Caillou Pettis at Daily Film Fix on December 21, 2017.
The release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth film in the episodic section of the long-running Star Wars was just last weekend. Because of this, I figured now is the perfect time for me to share my complete list of all the theatrical Star Wars films released thus far, ranked from worst to best. These are all my opinions, so you will more than likely have your own opinions on where the Star Wars films rank, which is completely okay. Some spoilers will follow.
10. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
Kicking off the list is what I believe to be the worst theatrically released Star Wars film thus far, The Clone Wars. For those that are unaware, this film has quite the interesting backstory to its production. The creative crew behind this film were originally writing the script for what they believed would have been a CGI/animated television show. However, the creator of Star Wars, George Lucas, decided that it would work better as a film rather than a television series. What we got was an extremely underwhelming and disappointing Star Wars film to say the least.
The animation does not provide a sense of emotion for our characters. When you watch an animated film such as 2015’s Inside Out, you can genuinely feel emotions while watching the characters of the film, and that is partly due to stellar animation. With The Clone Wars the animation is subpar, and thus, the viewers do not have a sense of emotion with any of the characters. Also, the story and film were very short, which is unfortunate, as some viewers may have actually gained a slight bit of interest towards the end, but then the credits roll, and the film is over.
9. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
The best element of Attack of the Clones perhaps is the fact that one of the most hated characters in the entire Star Wars universe, Jar Jar Binks, is barely in this film. Thank god. Filled to the brim with CGI, this film never once has real moments of tension. Even when I first watched Attack of the Clones as a young child, I thought to myself “this does not look real” as I was watching these scenes. Previous Star Wars films used CGI occasionally, but it was not at all a distraction. This film certainly uses it in a distracting way, however. Also, the dialogue is really, quite bad.
8. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
To be honest with you, there are a number of redeeming qualities about The Phantom Menace which by the way, was probably the most anticipated film of all time before its release. My favorite scene in the entirety of The Phantom Menace is by far the final battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gonn Jinn vs. Darth Maul. That entire sequence was incredibly fun to watch on the screen. The rest of the film however is not the greatest, as it too has bad dialogue as does the aforementioned Attack of the Clones, however not as bad. Another similarity between Attack of the Clones and The Phantom Menace are its stories. For a follow-up to one of the most beloved Star Wars films of all time, Return of the Jedi, this film did not deliver with its story, as it did not make us feel like we were once again back in the galaxy far, far away like we did with the original trilogy.
7. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
I genuinely do believe that Revenge of the Sith is a very good Star Wars film. The only major issue I have with it is the opening scene; while entertaining and extremely fun to watch, there was just an over-reliance on CGI, similar to Attack of the Clones, although with this film, the CGI has greatly improved, and it looks much better this time around. This was the film in which we finally got to see Anakin Skywalker turn into the fan favorite Sith lord, Darth Vader, and man did it pay off.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Back when Rogue One was announced in early 2016, I was extremely excited to see the first ever Star Wars anthology film, and the result of it all was satisfying. Filled with a great story that lead directly into the events of the first ever film in the saga, Star Wars,(later retitled A New Hope,) Rogue One was a very fascinating and fun experience for all Star Wars fans. Great performances by Felicity Jones, Alan Tudyk, and Donnie Yen to name a few, also helped drive the blockbuster’s story forward.
5. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
The final installment in the original Star Wars trilogy that many adults today adored watching as a child, Return of the Jedi delivered a truly amazing story with great performances from Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and the late Carrie Fisher. This was the film where we finally got to see how the original trilogy’s story would conclude, and the payoff was immensely satisfying. It also contains one of my favorite scenes in any Star Wars film; the scene in which Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are fighting, with the Emperor gloomily watching the two. During this confrontation/battle, Skywalker is attempting to prove to Vader that he still has a sliver of the light side within him, and that it is not too late to go back to the side he was once on and become Anakin Skywalker again.
4. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
The latest entry in the Star Wars saga The Last Jedi ranks number four on my list. Some long time fans of the series may find this film to be too humorous, and that it does not always take itself seriously. This barely bothered me, because as the film progressed, we got to see that this film would have an assortment of great twists and surprises down the road. Even though this motion picture does not rank among my top three of the saga, it regardless contains my favorite performance of Mark Hamill’s entire career, that of the legendary Luke Skywalker. The Last Jedi is also the only Star Wars film that does not at all feel like Star Wars to me, and that is actually a good thing for me. So many sequences in the film alter what we all thought we knew about the universe, and it took me completely by storm. The theme of the film is amazing as well, as it almost always feels like all of our characters are different and changed from before, and it is an extremely dark moment of each of their lives.
Even though I thought the film was terrific for the most part, the same can not be said for everybody. Recently, a petition has surfaced online that is requesting Disney to remove The Last Jedi from its official canon. The man who created the petition said about the film “It completely destroyed the legacy of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi.” As I stated above, I thought the film was excellent, and one of the boldest and most unique Star Wars films in existence, as it completely changes a lot of things people thought they knew about the series. I do suggest checking it out regardless of all the petitions and hate being thrown around, as I think you may enjoy it. Similarly speaking, DFF’s Jonathan W. Hickman said of Last Jedi “Ultimately, fans should love this latest episode, but they will have to resolve whether the comedic elements undercut or insult the storied mythology.”
3. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
A full decade after the release of the third and final film in the prequel trilogy, we got the sequel to the aforementioned Return of the Jedi, a film that many Star Wars fans had drooled over up until 2015 with the release of The Force Awakens. In fact, I remember when I was a child after watching Return of the Jedi for the first time, I thought to myself “How come there is no sequel to this movie yet?” When it finally was released, myself and other Star Wars fans rushed out to our local theatre and watched one of the most anticipated films of all time. Some people that watched The Force Awakens say they do not like it because it copies off of the original film from 1977, Star Wars, or A New Hope.
While I can definitely agree that Force Awakens can have very similar plot elements and even themes to that film, there was enough new plot elements and themes there to make it feel like its own film. All the new characters introduced I found amazing, including Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, and more. Furthermore, we got our first little taste of the sequel trilogy’s brand new villain, Kylo Ren portrayed by Adam Driver. His character is an incredibly well written one, because he is an extremely conflicted villain. Throughout the film, we see him wanting to stay on the dark side serving Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke, but at the same time feeling a pull towards the light side and wanting to be a force of good in the galaxy.
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
For my number two spot, we are going back to the film that kicked off the Star Wars film series as we know it today, 1977’s A New Hope. Not only did this film revolutionise science fiction in cinema, but it revolutionised cinema in general. So many films these days follow similar elements from the original Star Wars film including this year’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Without this film, cinema as we know it today would be drastically different. But why, and how did A New Hope set the stage for films? Firstly, it set a new standard for visual and special effects. Seeing the amazing and epic space battles, in addition to the gigantic Death Star, along with the gorgeous scenes where we see our heroes using blasters against the Stormtroopers. Plus, who could forget possibly the most iconic fictional weapon in all of cinema? The lightsaber.
Not only did Star Wars use special effects so well, but it also managed to set up an entire universe that felt like a real place that could actually exist somewhere. George Lucas did a phenomenal job introducing some of the most beloved characters in the history of film including Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia Organa, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Yoda, to name only a few. As many other people say, and as I say, the main reason why the Star Wars saga is so great is not because of the breathtaking action scenes with lightsabers and blasters; it is the characters.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Every single time I re-watch The Empire Strikes Back I get goosebumps because I am reminded of how truly amazing and well told the story is, and how excellently the film took our characters to dark places. In the previously mentioned New Hope, I mentioned how Lucas was able to set up the Star Wars universe’s most outstanding characters. With Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner, he took the characters that Lucas visioned, and took them to the darkest places in the entire saga. Throughout the film we are rooting for Luke Skywalker to finally defeat Darth Vader and bring peace to the entire galaxy.
However, when Luke is finally face-to-face with Vader, the two have a brief lightsaber battle which ends in Skywalker’s hand being cut off by Vader’s lightsaber. It is only a few moments after this occurs that it is not only revealed to the audience, but also to Luke Skywalker, that Darth Vader, the most evil being in the entire galaxy is his father. It is quite simply one of the most brilliant twists in film history, as it takes our characters to like I said, even darker places. Also, as great as the Darth Star destruction scene was in A New Hope, that entire scene had a large majority of our heroes staying behind and watching Luke and his crew blow up the Death Star. In Empire Strikes Back in the battle of Hoth, practically every one of our heroes are in the battle fighting against the Empire’s forces.
As the title suggests, the Empire does indeed strike back against our heroes throughout the entire running time. Our heroes constantly lose scene to scene and it truly shows us how powerful the Empire actually is, and that there is a strong chance that our heroes may not win after all. To me, Empire Strikes Back also contains the best cliffhanger in any Star Wars film. Yes, the cliffhanger at the end of Force Awakens was amazing, but Empire Strikes Back has an even better one. Han Solo, being frozen in carbonite earlier in the film, is being taken to Jabba the Hutt back on Luke’s home planet of Tatooine.
New hero Lando Calrissian (played by Billy Dee Williams) and Chewbacca are off to attempt to rescue him. Leia, R2-D2, Luke, and C-3PO are aboard a ship where Luke’s hand gets replaced with a prosthetic one, as well. All the meanwhile, the main villain of the film, Darth Vader, is in fact still alive. The credits start to roll shortly after the aforementioned scene with Leia, C-3Po, R2-D2, as well as Luke looking out into the galaxy.
All these moments that had yet to occur by the end of Empire Strikes Back certainly left fans hungry for more, and were eventually shown in the film’s sequel Return of the Jedi which I discussed earlier. But, in terms of characters, story, special effects, and many more aspects, Empire Strikes Back is definitely to me the best Star Wars film ever made as of now.