These are the questions that will forever get Star Wars fans into a heated debate: Which is the best film? Which is the best prequel? Can the word “best” even morally be associated with Episodes I-III?
So here for your perusal, and quite possibly annoyance, is our lovingly and carefully crafted ranking of the ten main Star Wars films so far to settle the debate for ever (hahahaha).
NB We neglected the older spinoffs because life is too short to weigh up the questionable merits of the Holiday Special and Caravan of Courage against Hayden Christensen’s performance. Have a little mercy.
10. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
A surprising amount of agonising went into deciding on the worst Star Wars film. Ultimately, Attack of the Clones comes out on bottom by virtue of being the most pointless instalment in the series.
What are its unique selling points? What is its purpose, other than to set up the events of the third film? The Clone Wars series spends a lot of time exploring the conflict between the Republic and the Separatists, but here Count Dooku’s significance is completely unclear, and utterly uncompelling.
What we’re left with is a big arena battle, some hardcore Yoda fighting fan service, a tepid love story, a really disappointing origin story for Boba Fett, and something about sand.
9. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The third of the infamous prequel films is, in terms of quality, no better than Attack of the Clones, but at least it gets some of the big moments we were waiting for – the fall of the Jedi, the creation of Darth Vader and the birth of Luke and Leia.
Naturally, it bungles all of these hopelessly.
Ian McDiarmid overacts horribly, Vader is laughable, and Padmé’s “dead from a broken heart” schtick is simply terrible, lazy storytelling – but at least it marked the end of six years of CGI-coated suffering.
8. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Any way you cut it, the infamous prequels were going to come out last. But as The Phantom Menace is the only one of the three not to feature Hayden Christensen’s excruciating Anakin Skywalker performance, it obviously comes out ahead.
All (sort of) joking aside, the film is less all over the place than its two sequels, and has some genuine high points. Darth Maul is a far more compelling villain than Christopher Lee’s Dooku and Liam Neeson cuts a likeable mentor figure. And there’s ‘Duel of the Fates’, the only really memorable Star Wars music outside of the original trilogy.
But there’s still the racist stereotypes, Jar-Jar Binks, and the boring trade embargo plot (how DO you blockade an entire planet, anyway?). It’s not great.
One huge leap forward in quality later…
7. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
No one really knew what to expect from the Han Solo spin-off/prequel (especially after the director replacement drama), and many fans seemed uncertain whether they even wanted to see actor Alden Ehrenreich’s impression of a young Harrison Ford on this early adventure.
Solo turned out to be a perfectly entertaining heist movie, with some fun and intriguing new characters like Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra, a likeable performance by Ehrenreich and some scene stealing from Donald Glover’s Lando. But where Rogue One serves to deepen the impact of the event of A New Hope, Solo feels a bit detached and irrelevant to the wider Star Wars Universe. Fun certainly, but peripheral.
6. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
This was a hard decision to make. We really enjoyed JJ Abrams The Force Awakens, and it goes without saying that it is a far, far better movie than The Phantom Menace.
It brings back the fun that the prequels were so sorely lacking. It’s also beautiful and lush, thanks in part to Abrams’s insistence that practical effects be used wherever possible. The new leads are lovable, Harrison Ford is on fine form, and – though not universally loved – we found Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren to be a compelling villain.
The Force Awakens‘s main problem is that it refuses to take any chances, and was rightly accused of being a blow-by-blow rehash of A New Hope‘s plot. And what was up with the third-rate CG effects used for Supreme Leader Snoke?
Still, it led to fan theorising and speculation on a heretofore unparalleled level.
5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Jedi is usually regarded as the weakest of the original three, and the drop in quality is usually explained by George Lucas’s increasing obsession with maximising Star Wars’ huge merchandising potential. This need to sell toys to kids is blamed for the film’s greatest crime: the Ewoks.
Han Solo’s death and a more bittersweet ending would probably have made for a more satisfying end of the trilogy, but at least we have The Force Awakens now to tell us that everything went to hell soon enough anyway.
Jedi comes out ahead of The Force Awakens for us because, teddy bear puppets notwithstanding, it still features some of the series’ most iconic moments. The Jabba’s palace sequence is brilliant (even if Boba Fett is totally overrated and yes we know we can’t have it both ways), and Luke’s confrontation with Vader and the Emperor completes the emotional arc that began in A New Hope.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
This was probably the hardest one to decide on. We absolutely loved Rogue One, but where to place it against the original trilogy?
It feels like the most serious film in the series so far, a gritty war drama with more shades of grey than Jamie Dornan’s IMDB profile. The cast is diverse on a level that is almost unknown for blockbusters of this kind, it’s genuinely emotional, and manages to add a real weight behind the events of its sequential follow-up, A New Hope.
We didn’t put it higher because its dark tone prevents it from being as family friendly as a “classic” Star Wars film (and we bet kids across the world are fuming about being too young to see the movie). Nor does it feel as iconic as the older films – not yet, anyway. Give it another 30 years – and another 30 films, at this rate – and we may feel very differently.
3. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Where The Force Awakens could legitimately be criticised for its similarity to A New Hope, Rian Johnson’s follow-up takes the franchise into new territory while retaining a reverence for the original trilogy. It’s a majestic (if inconclusive) send-off for Carrie Fisher and has an emotional weight that the series has previously struggled to convey.
And yet it’s also the funniest Star Wars to date.
2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back is, of course, a byword for quality sequels and the middle parts of trilogies. (A tradition that Episode VIII has done much to restore).
Despite some confusion over the film’s timeline (just how many hours did Luke spend training with Yoda?), there’s no denying that the simple line, “No, I am your father,” was a game changer of the highest order. The film ends on a surprisingly unsteady note (well, it must have done, back when the plot wasn’t etched in perfect detail on our collective consciousness) – they got out alive, but nothing will ever be the same again.
If A New Hope laid everything out beautifully, it was Empire that really amped up the stakes. (The question remains: did Jedi squander them?)
1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
The original and the best. Yes, we know it’s not perfect, but it’s a classic and we’ve loved it ever since those two suns first set over Tatooine.
Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are utterly charming, and yes, even Alec Guinness in his grumpy old uncle role. It’s endlessly quotable, and even 40 years down the line, you can feel the rough, dusty galaxy springing to life under Lucas’s hands.
Empire often gets thrown around as the “better, darker” Star Wars film (maybe less so now that Rogue One is out there), but for our money A New Hope just pips it with its optimism and a strong, simple structure that ends with the goddamn Death Star trench run. It doesn’t get much better than this.
Want up-to-the-minute entertainment news and features? Just hit ‘Like’ on our Digital Spy Facebook page and ‘Follow’ on our @digitalspy Twitter account and you’re all set.
Source: Read Full Article