This is it: The Skywalker Saga is over. That is, until Disney and Lucasfilm decided to do another trilogy. In the words of Luke Skywalker himself, “no one’s ever really gone”, and this list will undoubtedly be invalid by the end of the next decade. But what the heck, here is my official ranking of all 9 films in the ‘conclusive’ main Star Wars saga:
9. Attack of the Clones
There’s a lot I like about this movie: Jango Fett, the Clone Army concept, Count Dooku, and the final battle on Geonosis. But there remains the universal truth that the romance between Anakin and Padme is absolute cringe. It is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t able to stand it as a kid and my tolerance to watch it has only gotten worst. It is such a rotten stain on this whole franchise that it catapults the second prequel to the bottom of this list.
8. A New Hope
This will be the first “you are absolutely insane” criticism that I’ll get for this list. Despite setting the foundation for this entire franchise and introducing a number of lovable and iconic characters, this movie was boring to me when I first saw it. It still is to this day. I never cared for the whiny portrayal of Luke, and found the cheapness of the whole production to be a bit off-putting, perhaps due to being spoiled by modern movie magic. The basic plot was never particularly interesting. Bottom line with this movie: its boring. The other two original films have always been far more interesting to me, both visually and thematically. Of course they didn’t have to suffer from mistrust by the releasing studio and a diminished budget, but that’s just the reality of the situation George Lucas’s first film faced.
7. The Last Jedi
For whatever intrigue Episode 8 brings to the franchise via the Rey/Kylo Ren dynamic and unique twist on Luke Skywalker (which I addressed here), it is immediately ruined by some ridiculously awful story choices. A casino planet that’s only used as a Greenpeace add? Introducing a unique twist where Rey could’ve turned to the Dark Side, then immediately stepping back? A slow chase through space with the fear of running out of gas? This movie was incredibly disjointed and inherently divisive, taking both large risks and staying safe, resulting in a whole lot of nothing. It will always be the most controversial film in this saga. If this film didn’t obliterate any chance for solid continuity in the sequel trilogy, we may have actually gotten a cohesive story.
6. The Phantom Menace
I like campiness. I have no qualms with enjoying a movie that embrace it’s inherent silly nature. The Phatom Menace is packed with ridiculousness, and I don’t have as big of a problem with this as many others do. Yes, Jar Jar sucks really bad, young Anakin is annoying, and the script isn’t close to quality. As a measure of universe building though, The Phantom Menace introduced a massive amount of lore that has persisted in nearly every aspect of the franchise since the movie’s release, much of it I would say for the better. It is also packed with a good amount of cool action and fun sequences, all of which are treated as the self-aware shlock that it is.
5. Return of the Jedi
This movie is fine. The finale between Luke, Vader, and The Emperor is the best part of this film. The whole Tatooine sequence, although almost inconsequential aside from Han’s rescue, is a lot of fun. Everything else is meh. I liked it; it is good. That’s it.
4. The Force Awakens
Everyone complains that this movie is just a reboot of A New Hope. That’s exactly why I enjoy it so much. This is A New Hope, but much better. I like Rey better than Luke on the outset, and the pace is far more exciting. JJ Abrams is a master of making action sequences, and this movie exemplifies that fact. It is essentially a Disneyland roller coaster on screen, and as mentioned earlier, I have no problem with that. Despite the story not developing into the potential it had, the mystery boxes The Force Awakens brought to the franchise served as a solid base for the rest of the trilogy (gee thanks for ruining it Rian Johnson, smh).
3. Revenge of the Sith
The prequelitis persists in this third chapter via an insufferable script, but the stakes feel higher in Revenge of the Sith than in most of the rest of the saga. Hayden Christensen actually delivers solid acting chops as an emotional Anakin Skywalker, which allows the audience to become invested in his arc better than I’d seen in any of the other films. Obi Wan is humorous, and plays well as Anakin’s nemesis by default. The pacing is actually decent, with a good mix of drama and action, and the sequence of events for the most part makes sense, something that this saga generally seems to struggle with. Best of all: this movie is a meme goldmine.
2. The Rise of Skywalker
Remember the 5 or so times I said I don’t mind camp? My ranking of what some call “the worst Star Wars movie” exemplifies that statement. God I love this movie. It is, for all intents and purposes, ‘not good’. This movie, however, is dumb in the best ways possible. The hammy villainy is amplified tenfold. The force powers are excessively awesome. Every line is spat out like its said by a 12 year old, and the pace makes me feel like I downed 5 monsters and 7 bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. If you want an exemplary “theme park” movie, this is it. The Rise of Skywalker realizes that Star Wars is an absolutely ridiculous concept, but still introduces cool lore and never insults the fans. As a conclusion to the Sequel Trilogy, I’d say it actually does a decent job beyond the action, and resolves each of the main character’s arcs satisfactorily (Check out my full review here).
1. The Empire Strikes Back
This is everyone’s favorite so I won’t go into too much explanation here. The 5th Star Wars film exemplifies how good storytelling and devotion to character development can be fairly balanced with campy action. For some reason, Disney has basically failed to grasp this concept, that is until The Mandalorian’s first season run. Let’s see if they can ever let Star Wars fully return to this point of quality…
I’d understand if few people agree with this list. To be honest, it’ll probably be different by this time next year. Nonetheless, it was still fun to look back and see all this franchise has done for film. Whether strait garbage or meaningful commentary, Star Wars is one of if not the most influential works of fiction in modern history, and I’m thankful that there are so many people who bring passionate creativity to making these stories their own, whether through canon films, fan projects, TV, comics, or any other medium. The result of all this work means we’ll always have some good and some bad, but there will always be great potential for this universe to be used as a conduit for artistic expression.