Star Wars

Star Wars films ranked from worst to best

Hello everyone! I’m Alex Shannon. In case you don’t know who I am, I’m an editor for OLC. I’m also in charge of organizing, recording, editing, and publishing the OutLoud! Culture Podcast. I’ve been tasked with ranking all seven Star Wars movies in the lead-up to The Force Awakens., so away we go, and may the Force be with you! If the Force was against you, I’d reckon this article took a while to load.

#7: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

For me, there was never going to be any other Star Wars film at the bottom of the list, Revenge of the Sith was the culmination of all the weird little bits that had been building up in Star Wars ever since Empire Strikes Back. You had a major character having a massive shift in personality that came straight out of nowhere from Return of the Jedi and Empire Strikes Back. You had important, yet undeveloped characters dying in an attempt to elicit an emotional reaction out of the audience like in pretty much every Star Wars film. You had some pretty weird-looking CG-effects like you saw in The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, plus the complete lack of self-awareness when it comes to how completely and utterly evil the Jedi turned out to be. Finally, you’ve got an incredibly rushed conclusion that’s sort of like the end of Return of the Jedi, but somehow makes even less sense. That’s not even counting all of the unique issues the film has, like the split narrative that becomes even less tolerable as time goes on, the utterly bizarre way that the Clones shift from being friends with the Jedi to being their enemies (Which is an extension of an issue from Attack of the Clones), and the equally bizarre en medias res intro, which I’ve come to despise. Finally, there’s the fact that the state of Anakin’s character in the last half of the movie flies in the face of everything that was established in both the previous films, and the Expanded Universe, not to mention the character that was established earlier in the movie! Anakin Skywalker isn’t the kind of character that would join up with the Sith unless, say, the Jedi killed his wife.  But that’s not what happened, and the actual way she died was incredibly dumb. Thanks to all that and more, I consider Revenge of the Sith the worst of all of the Star Wars movies.

#6: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I didn’t see the prequels until after I’d already seen the original trilogy, and by all accounts I was among the lucky few of my generation. However, I don’t harbor nearly as much hate for them as some of my fellow Star Wars fans do. However, I personally consider The Phantom Menace one of the weaker entries in the series. Not quite Revenge of the Sith level of awful, but not as good as, say, Empire Strikes Back. The main issue I have with the film is that it makes Anakin into a celebrity, the kind of celebrity that people would wonder about the disappearance of. This issue was made even worse come Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin Skywalker was a hero to many. It’s the kinda thing that makes you wonder how he could become Darth Vader without people knowing about it. Or maybe the whole galaxy takes Obi-Wan’s comment about Vader killing Anakin seriously because they needed a martyr to the cause of the Rebellion. It also seems like a massive coincidence that nobody would be able to figure out that Luke Skywalker is Anakin Skywalker’s son, since Anakin was known as the freaking chosen-one inside the Jedi Order and as the Clone Wars greatest general to everyone else. This is just me drawing a connection between things that happen in the real world and things that don’t happen inside Star Wars, such as celebrity. Then there’s the fact that Lucas attempted to recapture Mark Hamill’s earnest farmboy charm with a much younger actor and failed. It’s not Jake Lloyd’s fault, he was just a few years too young for the role, plus he was stuck with some pretty poor direction, as well as a bad script. If Anakin was about fourteen years old with a slightly deeper voice, and had a few of his dumber lines cut from the script, he wouldn’t have been quite as unbelievable or irritating. Then we get to Qui-Gon Jinn. Even though I like the character and the actor, Qui-Gon doesn’t really have any reason to exist, since Obi-Wan said that Yoda was his master in Episode V. He’s really just there to be the character who dies to give us the sad moment every Star Wars film is obligated to have.
Finally there’s Jar-Jar Binks and the rest of the Gungans on Naboo. I think that Jar-Jar was quite possibly the best thing about the prequels, and I mean that quite literally. The prequels were the movies that made the Jedi as evil as the Sith, and made everyone else slightly dumb at best. Thanks to how poorly written the other characters became, Jar-Jar wound up being one of the few characters I could still sympathize with come Revenge of the Sith, since all he ever wanted to do was the right thing. Jar-Jar might have been a coward, but he was a selfless coward at the very least.

#5: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Empire Strikes Back isn’t be any means a bad film, but I feel it’s incredibly over-rated as far as the rest of the films in the series go. Episode V is where most of my problems with Star Wars started. There’s the love-triangle between Han, Leia and Luke. The complete shift in Leia’s desires towards the end of the film. The massive time-skip between Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope, which leaves a few questions about how Luke managed to go from being a nobody X-Wing pilot to being in command of the freaking rebellion. Add in the fact that the split-narrative leaves us without enough time to focus either on Luke honing his Force skills or the growing relationship between Han and Leia, and you can probably see where I’m coming from. Episode V seems like a mishmash of inconsistent ideas that aren’t fully explored beyond their superficial aspects. If you needed the love-triangle, I’d appreciate some more development on the parts of Leia and Han. Sure, Han had the hots for Leia, but neither of them could stand each other in Episode IV, and given their attitudes towards each other early in Episode V, Leia quite obviously preferred Luke’s earnest farmboy charm to Han’s rough rogue attitude. This whole argument would be later made moot come Episode VI, but that’s one of my issues with that movie. I consider Empire Strikes Back to be one of the lesser films in the series, since it doesn’t seem quite as spectacular as the first movie was. Even though they upped their game on the lightsaber duels and the action-scenes in general, I don’t like the flow quite as much as I did A New Hope‘s.

#4: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Yes, Attack of the Clones gets a lot of flack, some of which it completely deserves. The CGI in particular deserves all the stick it gets, especially when the mistakes are blatantly obvious, like when Anakin’s head clipped through that wall, or how fake some of the environments look. You can almost never replace a real location with CGI and make it look just as good as the real thing. There’s a reason why they had to go to Norway to shoot the Hoth scenes in Empire Strikes Back, and it wasn’t just due to the fact that they couldn’t make it up on a computer. However, I liked Anakin in this movie more than I did in almost any other. His attitude was exactly what I would expect out of a kid who grew up in the emotionally repressed atmosphere of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Yeah, the time-skip is annoying, but I can see how the characters got to where they are from where they started. It helps that I was big into the Expanded Universe as well by the time I got to Attack of the Clones, since there are a few little bits here and there that make more sense if you’ve read Expanded Universe novels. Plus, the battle on Geonosis is freaking awesome, even if it is mostly CGI.

#3: Star Wars: The Clone Wars

This is probably one of the most perfect Star Wars movies that’s ever been made. The effects are good, the action is great, and the writing and pacing is excellent. The book version was a little better than the movie, but the movie was still good. Plus, it kicked off one of the best animated series of the last decade. It’s got everything about Star Wars that I like and nothing that I hated, but I feel like it should go at number three because it’s just a little too simple. It kicks off a load of complex stories in the television series, but it doesn’t quite capture the same kind of magic that the movies I placed above it did. At the very least though, they didn’t bring up the Force or galactic politics at all, which was probably a good thing.

#2:  Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Yes, Return of the Jedi has issues. Leia has no right being Luke’s sister, and even if she was, she gets over that fact way too quickly. It also makes a good deal of the expanded universe (and the previous films) seem incredibly creepy in hindsight. Then there’s the Ewoks, which have no right being in the film, taking away the possibility of an even cooler jungle fight-scene. The whole ending would be better if the Ewoks were replaced by Wookies. There’s the rushed conclusion as well, which is a product of both the presence of the Ewoks and the pretty lackluster combat on Yavin. But overall, I still liked it better than Empire Strikes Back, due in part to the awesome space-combat, and the confrontation between Luke, Vader, and Palpatine. Then you’ve got the awesome opening, detailing the Rebel rescue of Han Solo, and the awesome showdown between Luke and Jabba’s pet Rancor. Luke’s duel with Vader at the very end of the film is one of my favorite showdowns in history, ending with Vader sacrificing his life to save his son. Return of the Jedi is one of my favorite Star Wars films for many reasons, and I still love it to this day.

#1: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Okay, A New Hope isn’t perfect. The duel between Vader and Obi-Wan is lackluster, there are a few times where the effects are below-par, and there are a handful of scenes which don’t make a whole lot of sense even in the context of the movie itself (and that’s before we start talking about the Special Edition), but A New Hope has the cleanest character arc of the entire series. Luke starts off as an innocent, earnest kid who just wants to become a pilot, but thanks to a massive coincidence he stumbles upon a message that takes him on a journey. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie for me was when Luke was pulling his aunt and uncles bodies out of their torched home. It was at that moment that Luke Skywalker changed. That was his defining moment, and it was incredible to watch. You could see Luke’s whole world crashing down around him as he turned over the ramifications of this entire situation in his head. Luke’s transition from nobody farmboy to the hero of the Rebellion was just downright awesome, and I love it to this very day. When I first saw A New Hope on VHS so long ago, I was blown away, and that’s why A New Hope is still my favorite out of all the Star Wars films.

Images from http://impawards.com, edited by Alex Shannon.

Written By: Alex Shannon

Game, movie, television and literature critic from Gautier, Mississippi. Editor for OutLoud! Culture.com

Comments: 7

  • Daniel Rochelle

    Reply December 17, 20155:50 am

    Genuinely surprised to see someone else recognise that Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is the best of the prequels, and that
    Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is the worst.

    But ranking Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back that far down? You must be mad – it’s quite clearly a very close second best to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.

    My list (and I haven’t seen Star Wars: The Clone Wars or Star Wars: The Force Awakens yet) is;

    6) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
    5) Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
    4) Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
    Huge gap in quality
    3) Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
    2) Star Wars: Episode IV – The Empire Strikes Back
    1) Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

    It will be interesting to see how peoples lists change once they’ve have seen (and digested) Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

    • Alex Shannon

      Reply December 17, 20152:12 pm

      I never liked Empire Strikes Back as much as Return of the Jedi or A New Hope, and I was never quite sure why. It just didn’t sit well with me.

      • Daniel Rochelle

        Reply December 18, 201512:39 am

        Well it’s very much the middle part of a story – whereas Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope works as a standalone film and Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi offers a conclusion to the story, so in some ways I can kind of understand where you are coming from. But that doesn’t change the fact that as a film, it’s a wonderfully made and quite rightly iconic movie in it’s own right.

        • Alex Shannon

          Reply December 18, 20154:29 pm

          It is. By no means am I saying it’s bad. Even at its worst, Star Wars has always been better than the vast, vast majority of cinema. I’d rather watch Revenge of the Sith than, say, Jupiter Ascending.

          • Daniel Rochelle

            December 18, 20154:41 pm

            “I’d rather watch Revenge of the Sith than, say, Jupiter Ascending.” – Oooh, that’s a tough choice. I mean, that’s really difficult.

          • Alex Shannon

            December 18, 20159:58 pm

            Ain’t it just.

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