Each Star Wars movie has admirable, adventurous and imaginative qualities. Yes, the prequels were a letdown, but they were an expansion of the magical galaxy far, far away. When ranking these movies, it’s just as easy to nitpick at each film’s problems as it is to lionize the movie’s positive qualities. But of course, some of the films are better than the others. Here is a definitive, non-arguable ranking of the Star Wars movies.
10. The Attack of the Clones
The clones are probably the most exciting part of this movie with the first major indication that The Republic will soon become The Empire. The battle between Count Dooku, Obi-Wan, Anakin and Yoda was an exciting display of The Force and lightsaber swordsmanship. But that’s where the positive elements end. Hayden Christensen was impossible to watch. The war of words between the dogmatic Jedi and petty politicians was snooze-worthy.
9. The Phantom Menace
The fact that this movie focused on the exploits of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan was a boon. A little — or a lot — more Darth Maul would have been nice. Young Anakin wasn’t great, but at least he wasn’t Christensen. Pod racing was a highlight. Most interesting was introduction to the scope and scale of the Jedi Order. To this point, we’d only seen three Jedi: Luke, Yoda and Obi-Wan (count Darth Vader, if you want). Then suddenly, the galaxy was crawling with them.
8. The Revenge of the Sith
This film was hard to watch for the right reasons. As much as Anakin was difficult to like in the previous movies, the idea of him becoming Vader is heartbreaking. And this movie captures Anakin’s fall into Darth to tragic perfection. But this movie gets lost in intergalactic CSPAN at times. The bad scriptwriting made for rough acting (see: “Anakin, you’re breaking my heart.”). It was the best of the prequels, but that’s not saying much.
7. The Return of the Jedi
The ewoks and the speeder chase scene made this movie truly fun. The non-battle between Luke and Darth Vader, which led to the end of The Emperor, was a satisfying finish for the initial trilogy. But the movie doesn’t quite stand the test of time like the previous two films. Still a very enjoyable Star Wars movie, The Return of the Jedi brought a somewhat disappointing conclusion to Lucas’ hay-day.
6. The Last Jedi
If only the plot deviation with Finn and Rose never happened. If only. The film’s only blemish, which includes an entirely useless effort by the two characters to help The Resistance, consumes a great deal of screen time. But the movie also provides one of the most brilliant scenes in all of the films. Kylo Ren kills Snoke before supplanting him as the most powerful wielder of the dark side (but not necessarily with the intent of becoming a Sith master). The movie pulled off an outstanding light saber battle and a great piece of misdirection that ended in a heartbreaking turn by Ren and a firm stance in the light by Rey. What a scene, which holds together a film that takes an exciting step forward for Star Wars storytelling.
5. Solo: A Star Wars Story
An energetic and fun trip through the making of Han Solo. This film ties up Solo’s backstory with staggering (and sometimes heavy-handed) detail. It also welcomes the opportunity for a female lead to become a prominent antagonist (Qi’ra). Unlike many other Star Wars films, the acting is actually quite good. The star-studded cast helps (Emilia Clark, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover, Alden Ehrenreich and Thandie Newton).
4. Rogue One
It’s not a traditional Star Wars film. Instead, the movie veers decisively away from adventure and toward war. The movie ties nicely into one of the galaxy’s most pivotal moments: the destruction of the first Death Star. But the film flexed creativity and ruptured Star Wars’ status quo in creating the flamboyant director Orson Krennic, the rag-tag crew of racially diverse rebels, including their fearless leaders in Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor.
3. The Force Awakens
The knock on this film is fair. The rejuvenation of the episodic storyline came back to life in ways far too familiar. Another death star. Another force-powerful character on a desert-covered planet. But those familiarities came decades removed from the last Death Star. Episodes one through three left Star Wars fans ravenous for the good old days. This film recaptured that magic while creating a space for creativity, fresh storylines and a new direction (as explored in The Last Jedi.)
2. Empire Strikes Back
The exhilarating film stepped boldly away from Tatooine, and began to embrace this large and far-far-away galaxy. The battle on Hoth was grand. The characters got settled in their roles. The force began to come to life. And the greatest piece of misdirection in the series’ history takes place: “No, I am your father.”
1. A New Hope
The imaginative film set the staging grounds for all of these movies. The movie is easy to watch over and over again, and stands alone as an excellent piece of space-based fantasy. The movie gracefully introduces us to a galaxy we couldn’t have dreamed of, starting with the beautiful cantina scene and the early adventures of Luke.