Most Star Wars fans have an easy time ranking the movies, since there almost appears to be a universally approved unspoken rule the the order of quality in terms of the trilogies so far, and that is that the Sequel Trilogy beats the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy beats them all, with almost no exceptions. For the record, I am including Rogue One as part of the sequel ‘trilogy’ since Episode IX hasn’t come out yet and it just makes things easier. I would like to think outside of the box for a moment and rate the films based on to what degree I personally enjoy them. So here goes:
9 – Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Alright, so as far as thinking outside the box is concerned I haven’t got very far yet. But allow me to explain – there is a reason why Phantom Menace always comes up bottom in polls for best Star Wars movie, and that is that it is not only bad, it is also boring. As far as boring movies go, Phantom Menace falls into the worst possible category of films that could have been so much more interesting, and therefore much better, if just a bit more care and attention had been put into them. As it stands, Phantom Menace is riddled with plot holes, has little or no tension, is swamped in racist stereotyping and terrible dialogue, and ends in a convoluted mess of a conclusion that has four separate battles going on at once. Overall, the film has two bits that are less terrible than everything else around them, and they are the Podrace and the final duel with Darth Maul. Everyone says that these scenes alone redeem the film somehow, but I disagree. They are visually exciting, but that is all that can be said for them. There is no tension at all in the Podrace save for the bloated length and although the illusion of high speed that Lucas creates during this sequence is impressive, visuals alone do not make a scene. The same is true of the final duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon and Darth Maul – we know next to nothing about Darth Maul and we have barely had time to know Obi-Wan either, so when Qui-Gon dies its a foregone conclusion what is going to happen because we know that Obi-Wan must survive. Added to all this is the numerous other fatal flaws that the film has, there’s the midi-chlorians, the boring political element that would surely baffle children, the decision to sideline Obi-Wan for the less interesting Qui-Gon, and the terrible child acting. Overall, the decision to make a prequel is almost always a misguided one, and Phantom Menace stands as a testament to a worse-case scenario.
8 – Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
A lot has been said about this film recently, and it’s obvious from where I’ve positioned this film on my list where my views on this movie stand. However, I don’t hate this film, far from it. I actually really enjoyed watching Episode VIII, but there are some things about the film that just really bugged me, such as the seemingly forced humour, the pointlessly inserted characters like Maz Kanata and DJ, and the implausibly misguided decision to kill off Luke Skywalker and not Princess Leia. There were good things about the film, such as Rey, Kylo Ren and scenes like the throne room duel and the destruction of the Supremacy, but then there were some outright strange decisions, such as the characterisation of Luke Skywalker, the decision to kill Snoke, the Porgs, and the scene in which Leia flies through space like Superman. Overall, the film wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t too good either.
7 – Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones is a strange one for me because it was my favourite Star Wars movie for years as a child. I loved the battles, the lightsabers, the fact that Jango Fett was in it, and because it was a sequence of bright images played in a sequence. On reflection, the film is totally bland, with a story that meanders and relies too heavily on plot elements that are not properly explained to us. Who is Count Dooku? Who is Sifo Dyas? Why are the Separatists rebelling? These are never explained and so we are almost forced to not care about the political plotline. This is somewhat refreshing since Phantom Menace relied so heavily on political exposition to deliver plot elements, but that isn’t much to be proud of. The best thing by far about this movie is that you get a feel for what the Galaxy was like before the Empire, with the Jedi at the height of their power. The special effects of aged horribly, and considering they make up over half of the movie, it shows.
6 – Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
The final chapter of the Original Trilogy is a fantastic film in its own right, but it just doesn’t hold a candle to either Episode IV or Episode V. The biggest problem with Episode VI is that the ending is basically a rehash of the ending of Episode IV but with a more ridiculous villain. Despite filling the evil manipulator role really well, Palpatine seems somewhat of a ridiculous ‘big baddie’ for the Star Wars universe, considering the fact that Darth Vader is a menacing robot man with an evil mask and Palpatine is an old man in a black cloak. His motives seem really strange too, he asks Luke to join the dark side whilst offering no real temptation or reason as to why he should, other than the vague assertion that the dark side is powerful. Even when he finally decides to kill Luke, he dawdles and relishes his victory to such an extend he ignores both the fact that the Death Star is about to explode (again) and also that Vader is about to betray him. One aspect of this film that used to be one of its most redeeming features was the wholesome ending, but the new films have spoiled that now and so Episode VI is lesser today than it was.
5 – Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
This may seem somewhat of a controversial opinion, but I firmly believe that Episode III is better than Episode VI. As they both take the role of the ‘final act’ in their respective trilogies, it is easy to compare the two and George Lucas deliberately inserted references to all of the Original Trilogy films into Episode III. The best thing about this finale is that it ends the despised prequel trilogy on a dark and sombre tone – the formerly sickeningly child-friendly and happy prequel films end on the darkest Star Wars film to date, with scenes including the massacre of a temple full of unarmed children, the massacre of a room full of unarmed politicians, and the massacre of at least 600 defenseless Battle Droids. The film does have some really emotional scenes, such as the Order 66 scene, the scene in which Anakin realises Padme is pregnant and the best scene in the film – the final conversation between Anakin and Obi-Wan before the two former friends part ways. The lightsaber duels in this movie vary, from the bland and dull Dooku fight and the overlong Anakin and Obi-Wan fight to the two fantastic duels involving Palpatine.
4 – Episode VII – The Force Awakens
While I didn’t like Episode VIII very much, I am not a sequel-trilogy hater. I really enjoyed Rey’s story in both Episode VIII and its predecessor, Episode VII. Whilst I accept that the film has its issues – most notably the fact that the film essentially rehashes the basic plot structure of Episode IV – the film itself is an enjoyable and refreshing return to the original formula of Star Wars, and it feels that little bit more authentic than the Prequel Trilogy did. The new characters are all likeable and relevant (except for Maz Kanata, who makes no sense) and the pool of acting talent is rich, from the charismatic John Boyega to the energetic Daisy Ridley. Overall, it rebooted Star Wars strong, ignorant of what was yet to come.
3 – Rogue One, A Star Wars Story
The original prequels may have failed, but the sequel prequel did what the prequel trilogy tried to do, the inverse of which the sequel trilogy did right, in that it was an effective stylistic sequel but chronological prequel to the original trilogy. Rogue One gives audiences a Star Wars experience, and although the main plot is far from relevant in comparison to the Skywalker lineage, the film does solve several major plot holes of Episode IV whilst also standing on its own two feet as a movie. I would even consider showing this film to people who had never seen Star Wars before, apart from the fact that it is so action-packed that the original films may seem boring by comparison.
2 – Episode IV, A New Hope
The original Star Wars, originally called Star Wars, is a fantastic experience. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult to watch the film in its original form, since the only versions that are released nowadays are the heavily edited special edition versions. Episode IV had several re-releases, each one adding or altering more and more of the film until it has reached the point where entire scenes have been added, dialogue has been altered, and the focus or point of entire scenes turned on their head. Nowadays, it is difficult to watch Episode IV without these changes becoming more and more obvious, to the extent that they almost impact on the enjoyment factor of the film. For a lesser movie, they might, but this is the original Star Wars experience, and it still holds up. Essentially a traditional swashbuckling fantasy adventure in space, Episode IV kicks off the franchise with a beautifully immersive experience.
1 – Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back
And then came the big one. Not much needs to be said here, since Episode V is often considered to be one the best movies of all time, and it is not hard to see why. It improves on Episode IV in almost every single way, bringing new planets, new characters, new adventures, new threats and shocking new revelations to the main characters and the audience. Imagine the shock that would engulf the internet if Episode V was released today, it would be truly Earth-shattering.