Happy May the Fourth Be With You, everybody! If you don’t have any clue what today is, that could mean you’re not all that high on the classic sci-fi space opera saga called Star Wars, created by George Lucas. To celebrate, this would be the perfect time to give a proper ranking of all the theatrical release films from worst to best, not including The Clone Wars movie and the horrible holiday special. I originally planned to put this together when The Rise of Skywalker came out, but I started re-watching the previous movies the week of, so I didn’t have much time.
But I first want to talk about my experience with Star Wars. You’d be surprised to know I didn’t grow up with it. Maybe that was because I was still finding out my taste in cinema before really latching onto the most popular movies in the world. The first time I might’ve paid attention to it was when Revenge of the Sith was coming but never saw it in the theater. Want to hear something funny? I actually had the “Who’s Your Daddy?” poster. It would’ve been nice if I own some of the toys, though. Looking back at my childhood, I envy those who had a special connection to this series. As I became older and checked them out (starting with the original trilogy like a true fan), I honestly couldn’t believe I’ve missed out on an amazing saga that many have loved since 1977. It was the saga that made a gigantic impact in the entertainment world, and it still has to this day with its films, merchandise, a multitude of podcasts, theme park attractions, and memorable parodies from Spaceballs to Family Guy.
The more I watched and thought of the first three movies, they instantly became some of my favorite movies of all-time, easily in my top 5. While I don’t consider myself a humongous fan on account that I played none of the games (unless the Pod race arcade game counts), watched the Clone Wars series, or read any of the novels to know where it fits in cannon, it just feels awesome to be a part of a community that’s passionate about everything surrounding it, whether it’s with people online or chatting about it with my friends. To this day, I currently own about nine tees and watch to catch half an hour of it when it’s on television. I’m someone who wants to see the original cut and not the Special Editions and wants to go to Star Wars Celebration to feel like I belong with everyone else.
Around this time, it’s hard to talk about Star Wars when there’s just a ton of negativity as the sequel trilogy came and finished. Even when the prequels were released, many have pushed those down from enjoying them. Do I hold them higher? No, but anytime I see people bashing people’s opinions about this franchise, especially The Last Jedi to a high degree, just seems very tiring, and it makes us afraid of saying anything positive. Seeing most YouTube reviews talking good things about it has so many dislikes to the point of stupidity. Even if a person doesn’t like any of the recent movies that have come from Disney, don’t act like a bully in person or on social media, because these mean a lot of people. With the end of the sequel trilogy, I feel like we need to take a break from new movies for a couple years and just focus on the television series (The Mandalorian, which I need to finish).
That being said, I love talking about this series whenever I can, as to why this ranking is in order. Also, remember this is a subjective list, and this might not be everyone’s ranking. This is coming from someone who’s a fan and tries to keep that positive energy going, even if it means the prequels, mostly. Let’s get started talking about Star Wars, starting with…
11) ‘Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones’
Release Date: May 16, 2002
Domestic Box Office: $310,676,740
Rotten Tomato Score: 65%
Out of all the prequels George Lucas directed, it’s pretty easy to consider Attack of the Clones the weakest in the entire saga. Most of us were thinking this would’ve improved what The Phantom Menace did a few years back. The reason this is the most unwatchable is that the screenplay should be the blame when everybody has to read these awful lines of dialogue and have it centered on the vapid romance between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman) that’s lame. Even when I watched it for the first time, there weren’t a ton of moments that stood out, thanks to Lucas’ direction, WAY too much CGI that made it look like you’re watching a video game, and Christensen’s Razzie-winning performance that’s hard to get through. But let’s not forget that Jar Jar Binks grants power to Palpatine when replacing Padme in the senate. Why did they have to make Anakin’s personality so whiny? Why did we need to see a young Boba Fett? Did we desperately need a scene where Anakin explains why he hates sand? These are the questions I ponder when this pops up in my head.
10) ‘Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace’
Release Date: May 19, 1999
Domestic Box Office: $474,544,677
Rotten Tomato Score: 53%
The Phantom Menace had to be the most anticipated movie of all-time when it came out in 1999. We would see how everything began with new and familiar faces that were going to ensure game-changing fates for a new generation. Those who first saw it in theaters multiple times might have been oblivious in claiming it to be the best thing ever. Decades later, it’s time to admit it’s a major letdown for everyone. Seeing the journey of how little Anakin Skywalker (a very miscast Jake Lloyd) became Darth Vader sounded cool, but it gets bogged down with unbelievably dumb moments, including Jar Jar Binks being involved and ruining every scene he’s in, those boring scenes of people sitting around talking about trade blockades, and the inclusion of “midi-chlorians” as a way of explaining the force and slapping us in the face. There are some redeeming factors to The Phantom Menace: The awesome Darth Maul lightsaber fight set to John Williams’ “Duel of the Fates,” the performances from Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the pod race sequences, for the most part, is enjoyable. Overall, with a messy screenplay that leaves little engagement, this doesn’t hold up.
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Domestic Box Office: $515,202,542
Rotten Tomato Score: 52%
After The Rise of Skywalker came out back in December, I had no urge to ever talk about it again, mainly due to everybody annoyingly complaining about ever since. The mixed reviews weren’t too shocking to hear, but after a while, it’s like, “Dude, we get it.” Some people really enjoyed the last installment of the sequel trilogy, and I have no problem with that, but this wasn’t the epic conclusion we were all hoping for in making this entire trilogy almost irrelevant. The biggest issue The Rise of Skywalker carries is the story J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio tried to create with big ideas by not making any sense or just ignoring certain things that happened in The Last Jedi. There isn’t a reveal that left a sour taste in my mouth than finding out Rey is the granddaughter of Palpatine. This isn’t the worst Star Wars movie, but you can see that they didn’t have a consistent plan for moving forward with this trilogy. Easily the most disappointing movie of last year.
Release Date: May 25, 2018
Domestic Box Office: $213,767,512
Rotten Tomato Score: 70%
Not everybody is a fan of Solo: A Star Wars Story since having a standalone movie focusing on a young Han Solo didn’t sound interesting in the slightest. That might contribute to the fact that the director change from Lord & Miller to Ron Howard meant a lot of changes were to happen, and this ended up becoming the lowest-grossing film in the franchise. This also came out at the wrong time, where the backlash over The Last Jedi was crazy and coming out at the beginning of summer rather than its usual winter release date. That being said, this was a predictable spin-off where the stakes weren’t there and proved to be unnecessary, but it’s still alright. I thought Alden Ehrenreich gave an underrated performance as Han seeing the early relationship between him and Chewbacca; the action was fun enough, and Donald Glover as Lando was everything I wanted. Forgettable, sure. You’re not going to feel depressed watching this, even though I didn’t see a point in making this.
7) ‘Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith’
Release Date: May 19, 2005
Domestic Box Office: $380,270,577
Rotten Tomato Score: 80%
We all know Revenge of the Sith is the one prequel that was the best out of the previous movies. No doubt about it. This was finally the chance we get to see how Anakin transforms into Darth Vader and see him turn to the dark side. It was, by far, the darkest one we’ve seen at that point, including the Order 66 sequence and Anakin about to kill younglings, I can easily say it’s passable. Certain aspects that didn’t work are most of the dialogue (“Anakin, you’re breaking my heart.”), and there should be no reason for Vader to scream “Noooooooo!” near the end. It completely ruined the scene. But besides that, Revenge of the Sith improves on the action spectacle, the relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan, and ending on the right note. The best scene in the entire prequel trilogy was when Palpatine was discussing to Anakin about Darth Plagueis the Wise. Such a great moment. Another sequence that’s one of the best parts was the confrontation between Obi-Wan and Anakin on Mustafar, ending on a rather heartbreaking note (“You’re my brother, Anakin. I loved you.”). Though I will also say Anakin’s switch to the dark side was handled too quickly and it didn’t make it more powerful was underwhelming. This is nowhere near the top 5 best in the franchise, yet it’s the only prequel I can have on in the background.
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Domestic Box Office: $532,177,324
Rotten Tomato Score: 84%
Knowing that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would be about the rebel spies stealing the plans for the Death Star was a great idea, especially for being the first anthology film in the saga and how it ties in perfectly into A New Hope. This is one of those Star Wars movies where some hardcore fans didn’t love it. Luckily, I’m not one of them. It suffers from underdeveloped characters and the first act can take a while to get going, but then Rogue One turns into a war movie that’s fully entertaining that fits perfectly into the universe. I started to care about Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her team later on, even if I knew the outcome. Whether it was Gareth Edwards or Tony Gilroy, the action is some of the best directed and kept me glued to the screen. I was totally surprised by how well this turned out with the production dramas and having a story I was engaged with until the end. Plus, the Darth Vader scene in the third act is one of my favorite moments of the year. I thought this was fantastic, not including this higher feels weird.
Release Date: December 15, 2017
Domestic Box Office: $620,181,382
Rotten Tomato Score: 91%
Here comes the entry that divides us fans the very most in mentioning the series: The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson’s take on the eighth installment has massive admirers, but so many haters for taking different liberties with certain characters. If you’ve read my post on the Top 10 Divisive Movies That I Enjoyed, you would know it claimed the top shot. Yes, I love this movie. What I’ve always said was that regardless of how you feel about Johnson’s direction, he took some unexpected risks for it to be different from everything, it didn’t bother me when it was exciting. If they would’ve gotten rid of the Finn-Rose Canto Bight storyline, this sequel would rise to be perfect. Everybody would agree it drags the movie down whenever it cuts back to them. Mark Hamill provides my favorite portrayal of Luke Skywalker as a Jedi who failed as a teacher after failing his nephew, Kylo Ren. When you have other great performances, amazing action sequences, and some of the best-looking visuals yet, it is pointless for those pissed off about this. The Last Jedi deserves to be called a “Star Wars” movie, if you honestly think this is the worst and just loves to comment negatively about a fictional sci-fi movie, that is what I’ll say, “Move on with your life.”
4) ‘Return of the Jedi’
Release Date: May 25, 1983
Domestic Box Office: $309,306,177
Rotten Tomato Score: 82%
The first appearance from the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi was the perfect ending we needed for those who grew up watching the original three films. Everything was coming full circle as we see Luke, now a Jedi, and the core three heroes together. Most would agree it’s the weakest because of the Ewoks, which I’ve never been a fan of, and almost seemed like that was when it was gearing it towards kids. It kind of takes a bit to get going before the third act battle. Some of the CGI is kind of dated, plus Boba Fett died poorly, coining the term “Being Boba Fetted.” But the point of all of this was that we won. That’s right, we defeated the Empire. Return of the Jedi is a lot of fans’ favorite of all-time, including comedian Mark Ellis, and I don’t have a problem with that. Though I will always prefer the first two over this, the late Richard Marquand deserves much appreciation for a movie some thought was the last one forever. That three battles in the latter half are simply amazing when you’re on the edge of your seat wondering how everything will wrap up. Just imagine if they chose Steven Spielberg to direct this. One could dream. Also, when it came to the Special Edition, the changes bother me.
Release Date: December 18, 2015
Domestic Box Office: $936,662,225
Rotten Tomato Score: 93%
There were a ton of blockbusters that are the definition of fun, and The Force Awakens is an experience I can never forget. This was taking on a brand-new story directly after Return of the Jedi, as J.J. Abrams gave us what we wanted for a long time: A fantastic Star Wars movie. Here, it gives old fans and new a chance to go back to this galaxy with new and exciting characters to care for. Does it become annoying when some say this was just a rehash of A New Hope? In a heartbeat. And it’s sad knowing the core three didn’t have one scene together. But it didn’t matter to me, and it shouldn’t be the reason to not like this. I love all the brand new characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), BB-8, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), one of the most memorable villains in recent memory, that we were meant to care about, and that includes classics like Han (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher). In terms of action, dramatic weight, and feeling like the return to form captured together, The Force Awakens was the most I had watched a blockbuster in ages, and it’s my favorite from the Disney era.
2) ‘Star Wars’
Release Date: May 23, 1977
Domestic Box Office: $460,998,507
Rotten Tomato Score: 92%
The very beginning of everything we know now that was the start of something influential. If there was a chance to go back in time to experience one moment, that would be to see Star Wars in 1977 when it was untouched and just be blown away by a truly spectacular piece of cinema. This was the journey of seeing all our favorite characters (Luke, Han, Leia) in a galaxy far, far away, as George Lucas masterfully created a space opera that couldn’t be replicated at the time. From what I was watching, it would’ve been hard thinking the first movie had a lot of production problems that were keeping this from being made, similar to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. In the end, it succeeded. It changed the way we view science fiction in a brand new light. Some might argue that it’s the most boring one out of the original trilogy, but after subsequent re-watches, you don’t mind it after a while. With this, we got to see Luke Skywalker wanting to be somebody in his world and learns the ways of the force, using his mind for good to defeat the Empire. Might I mention Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi is one of my favorite performances in the franchise? So many iconic moments from Darth Vader’s entrance, or Luke staring at the twin suns on Tatooine, or the Rebels trying to take down the Death Star in a rousing third act. Star Wars is the ultimate blockbuster. Let’s not forget two things: 1) This won six Academy Awards, including Original Score and Visuals Effects; and 2) Han shot first.
1) ‘The Empire Strikes Back’
Release Date: May 21, 1980
Domestic Box Office: $290,371,960
Rotten Tomato Score: 94%
Putting The Empire Strikes Back at the top spot might be predictable, but this is absolutely my favorite movie in the entire franchise and what I believe is the greatest sequel ever made. Director Irvin Kershner took over for Lucas in the director’s chair and made a perfect continuation. I always keep forgetting this wasn’t popular back in 1980, but now everybody has come to realize how culturally impactful this turned out to be. But why is it my personal favorite, you ask me. To me, The Empire Strikes Back has so many memorable moments that can’t be ignored.
The Battle of Hoath, the chase leading into the asteroid field, Luke training with Yoda in becoming a Jedi, seeing the relationship grow between Han and Leia, and the best lightsaber fight ever between Luke and Darth Vader in Cloud City, leading to an all-time cinematic twist no one saw coming (Darth Vader is Luke’s father). Every time I watch this on TV, it’s always shocking whenever it’s revealed. A darker sequel this time around, in which it takes our heroes in different directions that lead into the unexpected. The second installment also gave us the introduction to “The Imperial March,” Yoda, and the savvy Lando (Billy Dee Williams). But what this really had going for it was its unbelievable cliffhanger that doesn’t exactly end on a happy note like everything else, and that might be why I love this the most: Not everything from this series is going to be amazing for everybody with challenges in the way.
Do you know why sequels like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Dark Knight, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are considered better than its predecessor? Because they know how to make everything even more exciting, which is what this installment brought. Phenomenal action, great script with quotable lines, fantastic performances, and just knows how to check off every aspect right, The Empire Strikes Back is not only the best Star Wars movie in history but a straight-up masterpiece. There’s honestly nothing to dislike.