'Star Wars': Ranked
"Your journey nears its end," mutters Darth Sidious (Palpatine) in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's D23 Special Look trailer. A line likely directed at Rey or Kylo Ren by Palpatine but feeling like it's directed at us Star Wars fans. "This will be the final word in the story of Skywalker." This has been our journey. Experiencing Star Wars' Skywalker saga has been a part of many of our lives. Our parents experienced the original trilogy. Many of us grew up with the prequel trilogy. We're now adults experiencing the sequel trilogy.
The franchise will always mean a great deal to me, and I'm sure it will to many others as well. It has been a huge part of my love for film, being one of the first franchises I truly came to love. I will always cherish my memories of growing up with these films and feeling so entertained by them and in awe of the ambitions they were able to achieve. Whatever we may feel about certain films within the franchise, we can all agree that we love Star Wars and its universe.
I love all the Star Wars films so ranking them has proven to be a difficult challenge for me, but I managed to do it anyways. This list excludes the animated Clone Wars film and the god awful Holiday Christmas Special of '78 that haunted so many of us. The list does, however, include the anthology films, such as Rogue One. Included in the ranking is the best scene, character, and track from each film at the end of each ranking. In honor of the Star Wars Skywalker saga ending with The Rise of Skywalker, here's my ranking of the Star Wars films from the worst film to the best film:
10. Episode I
The Phantom Menace
“Fear Leads To Anger. Anger Leads To Hate...”
A child. A slave to the system. Full of potential and one with the Force, but grounded by way of life. That's how it starts; the story of Anakin Skywalker. The start of the Skywalker saga.
And that's how Star Wars starts. Phantom Menace, whilst not being the first Star Wars film, is still the first chronologically, to have taken place. It chronicles Anakin's first contact with the Jedi when he helps out Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi who - on a mission to rescue and protect Naboo's fourteen-year-old queen, Padmé Amidala - find themselves stranded on Tatooine with a broken ship.
Personally, I think The Phantom Menace is far from a bad film, but it also may be far from a good one. It is flawed with meandering storylines that drive away from the focus of the plot and make it feel like a videogame with side quests. But the sets are immersive and makes the universe feel so expansive. It feels like a good precursor for the ambition and creativity of George Lucas' prequel trilogy. Not so bad for last place.
Best scene: Duel of the Fates
Best character: Darth Maul/Qui-Gon Jinn
Best track: Duel of the Fates
Solo: A Star Wars Story
”Assume everyone will betray you and you will never be disappointed.”
An outlaw. Stuck in a system, confined by people in power. The origins of the galaxy's coolest outlaw. Sleek, charming and a good-hearted hero, this is the origin of Han Solo.
Solo is an adventurous experience. The action sequences are thrilling and Alden plays young Han solo to a tee. The film lacks the communal atmosphere many of the other Star Wars films have however and that takes away from it. It still manages to be an exciting origin for Han and Chewbacca.
Best scene: Kessel Run/Darth Maul cameo
Best character: Han Solo
Best track: Dice & Roll
8. Episode II
Attack of the Clones
"I don't like sand. It's coarse, and rough, and irritating, and it gets everywhere."
A padawan. Anakin's path towards becoming a Jedi (and towards the dark side of the Force). Anakin's apprenticeship under the wing of Obi-Wan. The Clone Wars' inception. Anakin's love for Padmé. Anakin's inner battle against his darker side.
Attack of the Clones gets a lot of hate but looking past its at times comical dialogue and off-placed line delivery, there’s so much to cherish, love, and appreciate. There is so much detail and attention given to each of the worlds our characters interact with. Lucas' second film in the prequel trilogy shows us the expansive universe Star Wars takes place in, with immersive production design giving so much life to these diverse worlds. It is just wonderful to see how imaginative George Lucas was with crafting this universe.
Best scene: Coruscant chase/Dooku battle
Best character: Obi-Wan Kenobi
Best track: Across the Stars (Love Theme)
7. Episode IV
A New Hope
"May the Force be with you."
Skywalker. This is where it all starts. The origin of Star Wars. The inception of the Skywalker saga. Luke's journey towards becoming the renowned Jedi he would later become. With an idea and a focus, George Lucas crafted a film that would go on to inspire future generations of sci-fi films, spawn a household franchise and breed a new group of film, and particularly sci-fi fans.
A New Hope would definitely be considered as one of the most influential films ever made. It influenced the formation of one of the most iconic franchises put to screen. It inspired several generations of science-fiction and space films. But why is it so low on our list?
I just feel there's a sense of disconnect in the first half of the film. Despite building Luke's character, parts of the first half feel lackluster. But once the second half hits, it starts to feel authentically like a Star Wars film and takes us on an adventurous quest against wrong.
Best scene: Kenobi's Sacrifice/Binary Sunset
Best character: Luke/Han/Leia
Best track: Main Title/Princess Leia's Theme
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
"Rebellions are built on hope."
The Death Star. Its construction. The flaw that would lead to its destruction. Placed in the middle of this plot is Jyn Erso, daughter of Death Star architect, Galen, who has trusted the secret of the flaw in his daughter's hands, hoping she safely delivers it to the Rebellion.
Rogue One is one of the most beautiful Star Wars films. Beautifully captured by DP, Greig Fraser, the film is the first anthology film in the Star Wars franchise, diverting away from the main characters of the Skywalker saga, whilst still linking itself to the main franchise via the plot about the Death Star plans.
It is so easy to forget about an anthology film like Rogue One when it comes to favorites, but I honestly think it is one of the most unique and gorgeous Star Wars films made.
Best scene: I Am One With The Force/Vader
Best character: Jyn/Cassian/Orson/Chirrut
Best track: Hope
5. Episode III
Revenge of the Sith
"This is where the fun begins."
Jedi Knight. As Anakin grows disdained of the Jedi council's reluctance to grant him the role of Jedi Master, he strays further into the Dark Side of the Force, lured by Palpatine and his fears over Padmé's pregnancy.
Revenge of the Sith is both the most fun and perhaps the darkest Star Wars film in the franchise. Its first half is a thrilling ride of space dogfights and comedic moments, whilst its latter half is a mournful, unforgiving look at the rise of the Dark side, including Darth Sidious' (Palpatine) merciless Order 66.
It may be far from the best looking Star Wars film and the dialogue may seem infrequently unnatural, but when the film hits with emotion, it truly hits hard. The battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan - which is definitely the best Star Wars lightsaber battle to date - is brimming with emotion and is very evoking.
Best scene: Anakin vs Obi-Wan/Hello There
Best character: Obi-Wan/Anakin/Grievous
Best track: Anakin vs Obi-Wan
4. Episode VI
Return of the Jedi
"It's a trap!"
Luke Skywalker. Having completed his training with Yoda on Dagobah, Luke is now officially a Jedi Knight. Having learned the truth about Darth Vader being his father, Luke is now on a quest to take down the Empire and turn his father over to the light. Rescuing Han from Jabba's palace on Tatooine, Luke and co. embark on a quest to the forest moon of Endor, to destroy the Death Star, and for Luke to finally face his father.
This was a big installment in the franchise, containing one of the biggest twists in the original trilogy - that Leia was Luke's sister. Before the sequels came around, Return of the Jedi was the conclusive end to the Skywalker saga, and it does that title justice, with an epic, heartfelt, adventurous finale that Star Wars fans would appreciate. It is really a wonderful film that truly gets too much hate. A genuine and appropriate end to the trilogy.
Best scene: Luke vs Vader/Celebration
Best character: Luke/Darth Vader/Leia/Han
Best track: Luke and Leia
3. Episode VIII
The Last Jedi
"Strike me down in anger and I'll always be with you, just like your father."
The Light. Rey's training begins as she finds Luke hiding on Ahch-To. As her training begins, the Resistance, including the likes of Finn, Poe, and Leia, try to escape the First Order's fleet. When the First Order manages to track them through hyperspace, they must find a way to stop the Resistance from tracking them, so they can escape, sending Rose and Finn on a quest to Canto Bight find a hacker who can help them with this issue.
Earlier I said Rogue One is one of the most beautiful Star Wars films to date, and I said 'one of' for a reason. And that is because the title for most beautiful Star Wars film goes to The Last Jedi. Every frame features seemingly perfect color grading. From the brooding greys to the shining blues to the striking reds, every scene is encapsulated with intense emotion due to how viscerally captured they are by DP, Steve Yedlin.
Whilst it may have some narrative problems, it still remains to be one of the best Star Wars films. The Canto Bight sequence is the only major problem with the film. It feels too drawn out. However, looking past this minor issue, The Last Jedi is a near-masterpiece, with Rian Johnson's passionate directing playing a big role. To this day, The Last Jedi contains the most accurate teachings of the balance of the Force and the Jedi way.
Best scene: Luke vs Kylo/Throne Room Battle
Best character: Kylo/Rey/Poe/Luke
Best track: The Spark
2. Episode V
The Empire Strikes Back
“Do or do not. There is no try.”
Rebellion. The Empire corners down on the Rebellion in Hoth, following the destruction of the Death Star at the end of A New Hope, as they attempt to escape the grasps of the Empire. Luke travels to Dagobah to begin his training on the path towards becoming a Jedi with Yoda.
The Empire Strikes Back is often regarded, not only as the best Star Wars film, but also as one of the greatest films of all time. And rightfully so. Empire Strikes back is one of the sci-fi greats of the late 20th century; a masterful product of the 1980s. It is indeed a masterful creation, featuring the best direction of a Star Wars film by Irvin Kershner.
It's Star Wars at its prime: dramatic, comedic, expansive, epic. It masterfully mixes so much into one film and feels like such an outrageously perfect adventure through space. A mention of the film's title "Empire Strikes Back" can bring so much joy and excitement to many people. That in itself is a testament to the respect this film holds - it is revered and loved like no other Star Wars film. It is truly at the top of the franchise.
Luke's battle against Darth Vader in Cloud City on Bespin is one of the most famed and iconic scenes in all of film history, featuring one of the biggest twists - that Vader is Luke's father. The set design and cinematography added so much emotion to it. The battle remains to be one of cinema's best scenes.
Best scene: I Am Your Father
Best character: Darth Vader/Luke/Leia/Han
Best track: Finale
1. Episode VII
The Force Awakens
"That's Not How The Force Works!"
Rey. Stranded on Jakku; a no one, cast out on her own. The Resistance, an evolved form of the Rebellion, attempts to fight back against The First Order - a reminiscent shadow of the Empire. Caught up in this through BB8 (a droid on the run with the map to Luke Skywalker - who has gone into hiding), Rey teams up with Finn, Han Solo, and Chewbacca to bring this map to Leia (now a general) and the Resistance.
As stated in my previous ranking on this list, The Empire Strikes Back, many regard that film as the best Star Wars film. But I find it hard to agree with. I would've certainly been happy to make the number one spot a tie, but alas, there had to be one - and here it is.
The Force Awakens is arguably the most thrilling and adventurous Star Wars film. It feels authentic, realistic and grand - the essentials of what made many of its predecessors feel so relatable and timely. It is the perfect escape into a distant galaxy, far, far away. It is the adventure many would live to be a part of. It's the grand scheme of rebellion many would hope to accomplish.
There's so much I can say about my love for this particular entry. Williams' score is so humanly beautiful and aches with emotions many of us can relate to, like solitude. J.J. Abrams directs the hell out of this film - it's imaginative, ambitious and true to the spirit of Star Wars. After a decade devoid of Star Wars films, this was the perfect start to the final trilogy in the Skywalker saga.
Best scene: Rey vs Kylo Ren
Best character: Rey/Finn/Kylo/Han
Best track: Rey's Theme
The Rise of Skywalker is the final film in Star Wars' Skywalker saga. It had its world premiere in Los Angeles on December 16, 2019, and will be released theatrically on December 20 in the United States. The film will have its European premiere in London on December 18, 2019, and will be released theatrically on December 19 in the United Kingdom and in certain European countries.