Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked

Star Wars old trilogy vs new

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, fans all over the world fell in love with a film saga called Star Wars. Since the first film was released in 1977, the fandom of the franchise has only grown -- and grown more passionate and divisive, in turn.

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Whether you're a purist fan of the original films only, a staunch defender of the prequel trilogy, or someone who didn't really embrace the franchise until the sequel trilogy began in 2015, we're all fans of the same things: the light, the dark, the Force, and all things lightsaber related. With ten Star Wars movies released so far, it's time to take a look back at what movies have worked the best, and which ones really have not.

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Star Wars has always been a political series by its very nature of exploring the battle of good versus evil, empire versus rebellion. But Episode II: Attack of the Clones doubles down on the political messaging of the series, introducing heavy handed plots within the Senate and ongoing galactic relations.

Coupled with a truly dismal courtship between a young Anakin Skywalker and future wife Padme Amidala; a struggling, wooden debut performance from Hayden Christensen's Anakin; and a mind boggling final act, the film never really stood a chance at becoming anything strong enough to stand as part of the beloved saga.


Star Wars Phantom Menace Duel Of Fates Fight

Although not much better than Episode II, Episode I: The Phantom Menace has a few strongly redeeming qualities going for it. Liam Neeson's Qui-Gon Jinn is one of the most influential characters in the entire Star Wars saga. Although severely underused, his character puts in action one of the most important acts in the entire galaxy: taking on Anakin Skywalker as a student, which will lead to chaos many years later, beyond Jinn's own lifetime.

The film also introduces the truly nefarious Sith villain of Darth Maul, whose double edged lightsaber alone is worth plenty of bonus points when it comes to comparing each film. However, this film also has the considerable misfortune of introducing the concept of midichlorians to the Star Wars universe. The less said about that, the better.


Darth Vader Final Scene from Rogue One A Star Wars Story

Was there really a need for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story to be made? No. There really was not. But made it was, and as a result, we now know a little more about the early days of the Rebel Alliance. There were some pros to that decision: we got more Mon Mothma, and we got to know Bail Organa a little better, too, which featured a welcome standout performance from Jimmy Smits.

Certain supporting characters, like Bodhi and Chirrut and Baze, made for supremely enjoyable heroic leads. But the real problem with the film lies in its extremely underwhelming lead character, Jyn Erso, who never feels fully developed beyond the trope of lone wolf rebel.


Joonas Suotamo and Alden Ehrenreich in Solo A Star Wars Story

If there wasn't really a need for a film like Rogue One, then there definitely was no reason that Solo: A Star Wars Story was made either. Plagued by plenty of problems during production, including a highly critical and active rumor mill and a late in the game director change, Solo did still wind up being a thoroughly enjoyable film.

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Whether it was really a Star Wars film is up for debate, however, as it plays out more like a typical heist film with a constantly changing cast of players. Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover turn in incredibly strong work as the younger Han and Lando, with Woody Harrelson providing an impressive turn as the unreliable Tobias Beckett.


Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor in Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith

The prequel trilogy is arguably the weakest trilogy out of the entire saga, but Episode III: Revenge of the Sith nearly makes up for all the mistakes of the first two films. Although still far too heavily mired in the intricacies of politics and scandal, the film features the key development of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader through a truly tragic tale.

With Christensen's acting considerably stronger than it was in Episode II, Anakin's turmoil is much more believable from start to finish. Ewan McGregor turns in the performance of a lifetime as the thoroughly tortured Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the culminating fight between master and apprentice on Mustafar is truly one for the ages.


Whether you're of the mind that The Force Awakens was a breath of fresh air, or simply a retread of many of the familiar beats of the original trilogy, there's no way of denying that The Force Awakens brought new life to the franchise, revitalizing it in the way that the prequel trilogy was never fully able to do so.

In its new cast of characters, the film found a true new hero for a new age in Daisy Ridley's Rey, as well as a worthy new adversary in Adam Driver's Kylo Ren. It also featured standout work from the ever reliable Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and perhaps the saga's most adorable and loyal droid in BB-8.


Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Star Wars Return of the Jedi

Although the weakest film of the original trilogy, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi still contains some of the most important moments in the entire Star Wars saga. The film includes some key reveals, such as the public acknowledgment of Luke and Leia's relationship as siblings, and Darth Vader's redemption through the love of his son in his final moments of life.

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It also features some iconic moments of badass behavior, such as Leia strangling Jabba the Hutt with her own chains and Luke taking on both Vader and Emperor Palpatine all by himself. And, of course, it features the adorable and bloodthirsty Ewoks. The deciding Battle of Endor wouldn't have been the same without them.


As the film that began it all, Episode IV: A New Hope, once simply known as Star Wars, will always hold the distinction of being one of the best there ever was. Unlike anything that had come before it, the film did the unthinkable, crafting a world full of distinctly defined planets, characters, and technology.

Featuring the introductions of iconic, generation defining characters such as Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo, Episode IV is responsible for the creation of the careers of Hollywood icons Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. It's also responsible for the introduction of one of the greatest villains of them all, Darth Vader. Few movies can boast so many impressive feats.


Star Wars: The Last Jedi Rey and Kylo Snoke Throne Room battle (photo: Disney Lucasfilm)

Perhaps more than any of the films that have come before it, Episode VII: The Last Jedi is an incredibly divisive film - but a film that has opened the world of Star Wars up in a way that any of the other films was never able to do so. By revealing that the Force is present in all things, and available to all people, the universe of Star Wars has now been opened up to seemingly endless stories and heroes.

The Last Jedi also introduced exciting new uses of the Force that had never been seen on film before, such as the Force bond between Rey and Kylo Ren; allowed for the welcome return of Yoda; and produced newly iconic characters in Admiral Holdo, Rose Tico, and the almost impossibly adorable porgs.


Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Yoda in Star Wars Episode 5 V The Empire Strikes Back

Could any other film in the saga possibly have topped this list? Simply put, Episode V: Empire Strikes Back is perhaps the true, perfect Star Wars film. Although its main characters are separated from one another for much of the film's action, the unique storylines all serve a key purpose, and allow for important relationships to develop and life changing revelations to occur.

As Han and Leia work together to get to Cloud City, the duo fall deeply in love with one another, setting the groundwork for one of the most beloved couples in film history. And as Luke trains with Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah, viewers get to witness Luke's full heroic journey. The film's culminating reveal of Vader's true identity simply seals the deal. Star Wars doesn't get any better than this.

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