The Star Wars movies have always been incredibly popular, and part of the reason why audiences keep coming back is that these films hook you right out of the gate with their opening scenes. These movies’ opening scenes have always had the burden of being set in outer space, since they have to take place right after the text crawls have gotten out of the way. (Well, actually, the “Anthology” movies haven’t had this burden, since they’ve controversially done away with the opening crawl text.)
Every movie in the Star Wars saga has opened strong, but some have opened stronger than others. So, here is Every Star Wars Opening Scene, Ranked.
10 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
The feature-length drag that is The Phantom Menace, fittingly, opened with a scene that was a drag. After the crushing disappointment of an opening text crawl filled with mentions of trade deals, we see two Jedi Knights, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn, boarding a Trade Federation ship to negotiate the terms of their impending invasion of Naboo. Yawn.
Aside from Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon taking on a couple of battle droids and droidekas, which audiences had never seen before and were pretty awesome, there’s nothing particularly gripping about this scene – especially since it ends with Obi-Wan’s lame joke: “The negotiations were short.”
9 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Although it’s widely regarded to be the best movie in the Star Wars saga, The Empire Strikes Back doesn’t have a particularly exciting opening scene. The Rebels have set up a new base on Hoth and Darth Vader and the remainder of the Empire that wasn’t blown away in the Death Star explosion are sending out probe droids to search the galaxy for them.
The opening scene simply sees a couple of those probe droids being dispatched from an Imperial Star Destroyer hovering over Hoth. As mentioned, it’s not very thrilling, but then, how else was the movie supposed to open?
8 Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi opens pretty much immediately after The Force Awakens. The Resistance has just destroyed Starkiller Base, the First Order’s fleet found them instantly, and suddenly, they found themselves totally outgunned and outmatched. Then, Poe Dameron flew up into space to take them on singlehandedly and made a cringeworthy joke about General Hux’s mother.
The gag feels like it should’ve been in one of Family Guy’s Star Wars specials and not in an actual Star Wars movie. The scene’s only saving grace is the beginning of Rose Tico’s character arc, introducing her as a hero with a strong heart who is dealing with a personal tragedy.
7 Solo: A Star Wars Story
It was a shame when Solo: A Star Wars Story turned out to be the only box office bomb in the saga’s history, because it wasn’t a bad movie. It was a fun intergalactic adventure that was definitely worth the price of admission. While the story of Han Solo’s origin didn’t need to be told, it did begin with an exciting chase sequence.
Han and Qi’ra escape from a ruthless gang they owe money to on Corellia in the Star Wars equivalent of a car chase. Unfortunately, it led to the dumbest possible reason behind where Han got his surname from.
6 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Star Wars fans might not love Attack of the Clones – it’s despised, actually, and might even be the worst of the prequels – but it does have a thrilling opening scene. Queen Amidala’s ship lands on Coruscant for an important vote in the Galactic Senate and she’s suddenly faced with an assassination attempt as her ship explodes and everyone is thrown from the wreckage.
Luckily, the person the assassins killed turned out to just be her decoy, who looked an awful lot like her. Apparently, Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley looked so similar in their makeup on the set that even their parents got them confused.
5 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Moviegoers were dying to know how the cliffhanger ending of The Empire Strikes Back was going to be resolved in Return of the Jedi, a lot was riding on its opening scene. Since Empire ended with Han Solo being frozen in carbonite and taken to Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine, Jedi opened with the Rebels all separately arriving at Jabba’s palace to rescue him.
The first ones to show up were C-3PO and R2-D2 with a message from Luke. It was an iconic opening shot, and since those droids are the heart of the saga, it made sense to begin the movie with them.
4 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
In its very first scene, Rogue One establishes itself as the “dark” Star Wars movie. It has shakier, grittier camera work than the previous movies and also has a bleaker color palette than we’d seen before. The content is darker in tone, too, as Director Krennic arrives at Galen Erso’s house to force him to design the Empire’s planet-destroying superweapon, the Death Star.
They kill his wife and his daughter manages to run away and join a Rebel extremist. The scene sets up the plot of the movie and its central characters perfectly. It’s just good storytelling, plain and simple.
3 Star Wars: The Force Awakens
While the movie as a whole felt like too much of a rehash of A New Hope, the opening scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens walked the line between familiarity and originality nicely. Poe Dameron lands on Jakku to collect a map containing Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts before Kylo Ren and the full force of the First Order arrive to capture him.
With John Williams’ score and the familiar camera angles, editing techniques, and set design (and, of course, the arrival of the Stormtroopers), this scene feels like pure Star Wars, and yet, there are no parallels with scenes from previous movies and all the characters featured are new. If only the whole movie had been like this...
2 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Easily the best of the three prequels, Revenge of the Sith opens with a battle sequence that finally puts the prequel trilogy’s overuse of CGI effects to good use. With dizzying camera movements, blaster fire and explosions left and right, and fun character moments to punctuate the action, the opening space battle in Revenge of the Sith that leads into the rescue of Palpatine is a spectacular sequence that straps the audience in for a rollicking escapist ride.
To keep things interesting and avoid the Jedi Knights’ victory from being too easy, George Lucas throws a bunch of extra obstacles in Obi-Wan and Anakin’s way and it pays off wonderfully.
1 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
This was the scene that hooked in a global audience that Fox never thought would pay a second thought to Star Wars. We open on the sight of Tantive IV soaring over the camera, followed by a terrifying, infinitely larger Imperial Star Destroyer on its tail.
Both ships are exchanging laser fire in a cosmic skirmish. Then, we see two bickering droids on the smaller ship as they prepare for an evil overlord and his cloned army to come aboard. Every audience member, whether they were a starry-eyed, flabbergasted eight-year-old moviegoer in 1977 or an adult watching a Blu-ray today, is blown away by this opening scene.