Ask any diehard Star Wars fan to rank every movie in the saga from worst to best and they’ll probably put the Disney movies bang at the bottom (with the exception of maybe Rogue One) and the original trilogy right at the top, with the prequels floating around somewhere in the middle. But most critics aren’t diehard Star Wars fans, and when they write reviews, they’re looking out for more than just whether or not their inner fanboy is satisfied, so the Rotten Tomatoes scores of some of these movies might surprise you.
Ranking by Rotten Tomatoes score is by no means a definitive list, but it is interesting. So, here is every Star Wars movie, ranked by Rotten Tomatoes score.
10 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (54%)
Expectations were more or less sky-high when George Lucas decided to return to his galaxy far, far away to tell the story of how a young slave from Tatooine grew up to become the most powerful Sith Lord who ever lived. There was no way it could live up to the now-adult fanboys’ hopes and dreams. However, Lucas didn’t do himself any favors with a movie that relied heavily on CGI, was filled with corny jokes like “The negotiations were short,” copied the plot of A New Hope with a plucky young hero blowing up the bad guys’ space station, and introduced the world to Jar Jar Binks.
9 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (65%)
Frankly, the action sequences in Attack of the Clones are pretty good. When Anakin tracks down his kidnapped mother to a Tusken Raiders camp, he ruthlessly massacres them, showing an early sign that he lets his emotions get in the way of his inner peace. And the alien gladiatorial arena scene that turns into an all-out Jedi battleground is iconic. Plus, Obi-Wan’s adventures to uncover the missing Jedi archive files are fun, anchored by Ewan McGregor’s fantastic performance. All that lets it down is bad CGI and dreadfully wooden dialogue between Anakin and Padme that makes their romance seem entirely implausible, but that’s a huge chunk of the movie.
8 Solo: A Star Wars Story (70%)
The only Star Wars movie to ever bomb at the box office, Solo is not a particularly bad movie. It’s just not a great one, or a necessary one. Rogue One’s story of how the Rebels stole the Death Star plans was an interesting gap in the story that could be filled with a neat intergalactic heist movie. But we already knew that Han made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, so we didn’t need to see a movie that used that as its climax. The things we did need to know, like how Han met Chewie, were completely botched by the film. But then anything is going to underwhelm if it’s supposed to be the beginning of a friendship as iconic as Han and Chewie’s, which brings us back to the overriding point that this movie didn’t need to exist.
7 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (80%)
It’s hardly a surprise that Revenge of the Sith ranks the highest out of the prequels, because it’s long been considered by fans and critics alike to be the much-despised trilogy’s finest installment. As with all the best blockbusters, the set pieces are imbued with an emotional attachment that elevates them above mindless Hollywood action.
When Obi-Wan and Anakin battle it out on Mustafar, the visuals are spectacular, because the exploding lava goes hand-in-hand with the death of their friendship. Revenge of the Sith is a suitably epic conclusion to the three-part story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader.
6 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (81%)
It’s often said that the third movie is always the worst one, because of the expectations that its promise to pay off a whole trilogy builds up. For every Return of the King, there’s a Spider-Man 3. Thanks to its obnoxiously cute Ewoks and rehashed Death Star plot, Return of the Jedi fails to live up to the sheer brilliance of its two predecessors, but it’s far from the worst threequel ever made. The opening sequence, in which all of the heroes separately arrive at Jabba’s palace to save Han and all get captured, settles us in for a heck of a battle scene over the Sarlacc Pit, while the climactic action told from three perspectives culminates in the emotionally satisfying redemption of Darth Vader, which concludes the trilogy as well as it could be expected to.
5 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (84%)
When Disney bought Lucasfilm, Star Wars fans expected the Mouse House to turn the saga all light and family-friendly. And then they gave us a spin-off about how the Rebels stole the Death Star plans that ended with (SPOILER ALERT!) every single character we’d just met getting obliterated by the very superweapon they were working to destroy. Inspired by Vietnam War imagery where George Lucas’ original trilogy was inspired by World War II imagery, Gareth Edwards’ visual style stands out, because it feels both familiar and fresh. While Rotten Tomatoes disagrees, Rogue One is arguably the best of Disney’s Star Wars films so far.
4 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (91%)
While Star Wars fans were deeply divided by The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson’s eighth chapter of the Skywalker saga, the critics gave pretty unanimously positive reviews. In fact, some of them declared it the best Star Wars movie yet. They praised the way Johnson took the story in bold new directions, as well as the film’s surprisingly dark tone.
Fans disliked the fact that the bright-eyed, optimistic beacon of hope that is Luke Skywalker was characterized as a grizzled cynic who almost murdered his nephew on a whim. Plus, some of the plot points are unnecessary and meandering, like the trip to Canto Bight.
3 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (92%)
For all intents and purposes, The Force Awakens is a good movie. On a technical level, it’s astonishing, and it introduces a bunch of new and exciting characters into the saga – Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren – while nostalgically checking back in with the familiar ones. It’s only issue is that it’s a shameless rehash of A New Hope. Instead of the Rebels blowing up the Empire’s superweapon the Death Star, the Resistance blows up the First Order’s superweapon Starkiller Base. J.J. Abrams just went into George Lucas’ script and find-and-replaced all the names. Still, at the time, fans were pretty happy.
2 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (93%)
At the time of release, A New Hope was the highest grossing movie of all time. To put that into context, in its day, the first Star Wars movie was even bigger than Avengers: Endgame. And it didn’t have 21 movies behind it or franchise recognition – it was just a spectacularly told story that resonated with audiences across the world. Although the studio initially dismissed it as a weird little space movie that no one would want to watch and tried to bury it, Star Wars became a cultural phenomenon overnight, and it’s now regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
1 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (95%)
This one is a no-brainer, since all Star Wars fans agree that The Empire Strikes Back is the greatest movie in the saga. Well, there’s sort of a school of thought that it’s A New Hope, but Empire has the twist that Vader is Luke’s father. Plus, it expands on all the characters’ story arcs and relationships in an interesting way. Han and Leia come closer to getting together, while Luke comes closer to becoming a Jedi – it’s a vital stage in their journey. Sure, Empire has a downer ending, but that just makes us root for the heroes more, and after all, it’s not meant to be a standalone piece. So, it’s the clear victor.