Happy Star Wars Day! Ranking the Star Wars (live-action) films

happy star wars day

Happy Star Wars Day, everyone! Now, to preface this post, I should say that I’m not exactly a SW super fan, despite having grown up in the 80s with two older brothers who loves the franchise. They were only seven years old when the first film was released in 1977, but I remember they watched the VHS tapes repeatedly years later. So I was familiar with the franchise early on, but I actually didn’t watch the entire original trilogy until my college years. I have since watched ALL of the live-action feature films to date.

Now, I’m excluding the animated feature Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) as I have not seen that one, so we’ve got eleven live-action films total including the spin-offs. Of course with ANY list, it’s all subjective so the ranking is really in order of our FAVORITES 😉

– As to be expected with a list like this, there’ll be spoilers galore – 

I’m inviting my friend + loyal FC contributor Ted Saydalavong to join the fun as well, so let’s start with his ranking.

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TED’s Ranking

Ted’s ranking is based on re-watchability, creative storytelling and most importantly, entertainment value. So here it is from BEST to WORST.

  1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    Yes, this film tends to be on top of many Star Wars fans and I think it’s still the best in the series. Great storytelling with a dark and twist ending.
  2. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
    The original film still entertains by today’s blockbuster standards. Sure some of the effects and dialogs are a bit cheesy but it’s still an entertaining film.
  3. Star Wars: Rogue One (2016)
    I still would like to see the original and darker cut of this film but I think it’s the best one in the newer Star Wars films.
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
    It’s basically a remake of the original Star Wars film but it’s very entertaining. The film has lots of weaknesses but as a fan, I can overlook those flaws.
  5. Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker (2019)
    Same can be said of this last film of the so-called Skywalker saga, it has tons of flaws but I was entertained.
  6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
    Hate to keep repeating myself but this one also has tons of flaws and to me, it’s the least entertaining of the new trilogy.
  7. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
    The weakest of the original trilogy but it’s still very entertaining and the speeder chase is one of the best action sequences in the franchise.
  8. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
    A show off of what CGI can do in films and Lucas had a lot of fun with this prequel. Now if only he never included Jar Jar Binks and wrote a better script for the actors, this one could be higher on my list. Still this one might have the best action sequences in the entire series. The Pod race and Duel of Fate are two of the best action scenes in the series.
  9. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    Lucas tried to create an emotional send off for the final film of the prequel but sadly he didn’t know or care to write or direct dramatic sequences. The movie has great special effects for its time but the acting was atrocious and I cringe every time the words were spoken by the actors.
  10. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)
    Again, here Lucas tried to create some dramatic and romance for this film but the writing and acting were atrocious. The only things I liked from the film were the action scenes. I love the climactic battle near the end of this film. I think Lucas only wanted to show off the special effects and cool action scenes for the prequel. He should have hired additional writers to fix his scripts for these prequels. Also, this one was shot in the early form of digital filmmaking and it has that flat and dull look that you see in early days of films shot with digital cameras.
  11. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
    This is on the bottom of my list because it’s the most boring and unimaginative of all the films in the series. I actually fell asleep halfway through the film when I saw it in the theater. Gave it another try when it came out on disc and I wish I hadn’t done that, I was not entertained at all.

RUTH’s Ranking

Same with Ted’s criteria for ranking, I too feel that re-watchability + creative storytelling (instead of just plain fan-service) are key, and obviously they’d have to be fun to watch. Anyway, here’s my ranking:

  1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    I actually go back and forth between this one and the first one, aka A New Hope (now I feel like George Lucas should just leave the original title Star Wars). In the end, this one wins as it’s got the most iconic, emotional moments (the ultimate hero/villain, father/son duel) that is so indelible even people who don’t watch the films know the ‘I Am Your Father’ reference.
  2. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
    I remember really enjoying this one and was in awe of how George Lucas launched such a behemoth franchise that span five decades and beyond with this first film. It’s the first time I heard that amazingly iconic theme song by John Williams and being transported into a galaxy far, far away. After re-watching this a few more times, I was still invested in the journey Luke, Leia, Han and the whole space opera gang.
  3. Star Wars: Rogue One (2016)
    I love this one the most out of the spin-offs. I like Gareth Edwards’ direction and Felicity Jones as the lead. It’s got plenty of fun and humorous moments (esp. Donnie Yen’s scenes!) as well as emotional resonance I’m looking for. I wish Edwards had stayed on to direct some of the Skywalker saga movies.
  4. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
    I have to say I’m just not fond of Jabba the Hut at all, I tend to fast forward his scenes a lot whenever I re-watch this one. The whole sequence with the Ewoks aren’t my faves either, though I enjoy the Leia + Han romance and the adventure with Lando Calrissian, etc. So overall still a great end to the first trilogy that leaves so much room to expand the story.
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
    I’m baffled by all the hate towards this one. I guess haters are gonna hate, which is a prime example of toxic fandom. I personally enjoyed Rian Johnson’s take on this franchise, adding some surprising twists whilst still staying true to George Lucas’ legacy. I know many fans hated the direction of Luke in this film but I appreciate the deconstruction of such a titular character of why he’s a legend, who gets to have the Force, etc.
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
    Unlike Ted, I don’t find this boring at all and I like the fact that it’s a space heist flick. I actually like Alden Ehrenreich as Han and enjoyed all the bits between him and Donald Glover’s flamboyant Lando. I’ve rewatched it on Blu-ray since seeing it in the theater the first time and still enjoyed it a great deal.
  7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
    This movie reminds me a lot of Superman Returns where Bryan Singer just paid homage to Richard Donner’s Superman. JJ Abrams did the same thing with this one, as Ted said above, It’s basically a remake of the original Star Wars movie. There’s a sheer lack of suspense and even the death scene involving a beloved character didn’t give me the emotional resonant I expected. I do love the introduction of Kylo Ren who provides some of the unexpected hilarious moments of rage, ahah. I also love Rey when she was just a petulant, defiant desert dweller, that is until Abrams abominably ruins her character in Rise of Skywalker!
  8. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999)
    I guess I can’t blame George Lucas in wanting to give us the backstory of his space opera, esp. his most famous character that is Darth Vader. If only he’d hire a good writer or collaborate with one to execute his vision. I mean, there is no excuse for such an irritating character like Jar Jar Binks! I do like Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as the two powerful Jedis and I think their casting save the film for me. Like Ted, I also enjoy the action scenes of the Pod race and Duel of Fate. I actually love the music of Duel of the Fate scene so much that I used that particular score for a re-cut of Face/Off I did in a video editing class!
  9. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    I actually just rewatched the last battle scene between Obi-Wan and Anakin and it’s so heartbreaking! I remember tearing up during the last moments, esp. when Obi-Wan screamed ‘You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!’ Ewan McGregor is so good as Obi-Wan, I’m glad he gets to reprise it soon 16 years later! Overall though, Anakin’s journey to the dark side under the wing of Emperor Palpatine could’ve been more compelling. I think what makes the last scene of Anakin becoming Darth Vader so poignant because we know just how evil this lost kid could become. 
  10. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
    As I mentioned, I hated the fact that Abrams practically ruined Rey’s character by making her the grand-daughter of Palpatine, ugh! Plus the entire movie consists of SO much nostalgia. Now, while I enjoy seeing beloved actors from the franchise, seeing them distracts me from the actual story. Fan-service rarely make for good movies and that is the case here. I also think Abrams gave the talented Adam Driver such a disservice by making his character into nothing more than a conflicted man-child. As funny as emo Kylo Ren is, in the end he isn’t really a compelling character.
  11. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002)
    I honestly can’t remember much about this movie other than the cheesy dialog between the two lovebirds Anakin and Padme. I totally agree with Ted that Lucas should have hired good writers to fix his scripts for the prequels.
may the force be with you

Well, what do you think of our rankings? How would YOU rank the eleven STAR WARS movies?

Musings on Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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I wasn’t going to blog about Star Wars as I didn’t think I’d have time before my East Coast trip on Tuesday. But you know what, I can’t help it. Hubby and I actually watched the original trilogy a few weeks ago, just to refresh my memory as I barely remember any of the story. We even watched the last half hour of episode III around the time the final duel between Anakin Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin becoming Darth Vader.

Well, naturally there’s a feverish anticipation to The Force Awakens, a decade after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith in 2005. I’m glad the film is finally here so I can actually talk about it and not worry about spoilers. Given the behemoth box office take of $238+mil, surely most of you have seen it by now? I pretty much avoided reading a lot of reviews and articles before this weekend and I’m glad I did. Well, this post is not a review per se, more of my random thoughts about the film and the franchise as a whole, so SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen it yet.

A balance of homage & re-imagining

After refreshing the sci-fi classic Star Trek, it’s incredible that JJ Abrams ended up getting the torch to refresh yet another beloved franchise. In a way he’s the right man for the job, and he’s dealt with audience’s passion AND wrath for some of his own creation, i.e. LOST. It’s crazy to think that this is only his fifth feature film as he mostly serve as producers in a plethora of film and TV series.
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Abram’s revealed that it’s nerve-wracking to be helming such a massively popular franchise with such ardent fans who are quite tough to please. So I can see why he sort of played it safe with Episode VII and the plot was a nice continuation from where Return of the Jedi left off three decades earlier. The trio of writers, Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, were respectful to the original story whilst making it current in terms of tone and narrative for the new generation of fans.

The one major update seems to deal with the Force itself. In The Phantom Menace, the Force was measured by Midi-chlorian counts found in the cells of a human being. Anakin had a high amount of that and that’s why Qui-Gon Jinn deemed him to be the Chosen One. But he had to be trained to be able to use the force optimally, but now it seems that the Force-sensitivity is more of a mythical thing that isn’t quantifiable, as the case with Rey who doesn’t require much training to use it (more of that later).

After the Galactic Empire was defeated, a new threat emerged in the galaxy, this time it’s called the First Order. Its similarities to the Third Reich is palpable once again, down to the army formation, uniform, etc., led by the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). It’s clear from the start who the good and evil parties are, which kind of takes away the suspense.

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What I like about it

There’s plenty of familiar faces that’s thankfully more than just for nostalgia sake, as the major players Luke & Leia Skywalker and Han Solo’s are integral to the plot. But the fresh faces add a dose of new energy to the story, and the female-driven plot is a welcome but not-surprising move coming from Abrams.

The adventure pretty much began the moment we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger in the desert planet Jakku and Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who found his conscience and escaped from the First Order headquarter. I love both Ridley and Boyega as the two young fresh faces, that’s inspired casting there to cast two unknowns who have a nice chemistry together. Ridley’s given the most to do here as the Chosen One character, both in terms of physicality and emotionally. I think overall she pulled it off. Boyega is an effortlessly likable lead who’s got a pretty strong screen presence, too. They’ve signed on to multiple Star Wars movies and I certainly welcome seeing more of them.

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Both of them have some funny and even sweet moments with the original cast, especially Harrison Ford who have the most screen time compared to Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, the latter had no speaking part at all. Like an old shoe, Ford filled his role of Han Solo effortlessly, complete with his curmudgeon attitude and dry wit. His loyal companion Chewie was right there beside him up until the end and perhaps the only moment I choked up a bit was when Chewie witnessed his BFF being murdered right in front of him.

Lupita Nyong’O, whose face was never seen, added gravitas as the wise Maz Kanata, a petite pirate of some kind who’s lived a thousand years. It’s a memorable motion-capture performance and her character is a pretty important one as she seems to know the whereabouts of Luke and also has his lightsaber.

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Like in Abram’s Star Trek films, there’s an underlying humor throughout. The banter between Rey, Finn and Solo are a hoot when they’re trying to operate (and fix) the archaic Millennium Falcon. I also find Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) hilarious when he’s angry. The dude has major anger management issues as he’d blast an entire control panel with his lightsaber upon hearing some bad news, ahah. He does have great hair though and what’s the secret to him NOT having helmet hair? Now that‘s a secret worth knowing about 😉 I think between him and resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), they can practically do a Pantene commercial!

My new fave characters are definitely Rey, Finn AND the spherical droid BB 8. It’s the most adorable droid yet and he’s an absolute blast to watch! Just like Baymax in Big Hero 6, I had a big smile in my face every time the droid appeared on screen and it even knew how to give a thumbs up!! So yeah, thanks Abrams for introducing such a fun new character that made me forget about that super annoying amphibious whose name rhymes with jinx.

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When I learned that the film is 2 hrs and 15 minutes long, I was worried I’d be bored stiff but I’m glad that’s not the case at all. In fact, the film felt like a breeze thanks to the dynamic pacing and fun action scenes, especially the flying sequences. That said, I didn’t think the special effects were THAT spectacular as some people have been saying. I mean, it’s to be expected from a modern movie with a humongous budget of $200 mil. It wasn’t as jaw-dropping as Mad Max: Fury Road which was made with $50 mil less and it didn’t feel so CGI-heavy as this one.

Lastly, I have to mention about John Williams‘ score which was still as awesome as the first time I heard it. The new score is wonderful and rousing as well, which mixes the old and the new, just like the film itself.

What I’m not crazy about

I mentioned the lack of suspense, well that’s how I feel throughout the movie. I can’t tell you a moment where I was genuinely surprised, let alone shocked by it. It’s also very predictable, which takes away the impact of some of the big moments of the film. I could see the death of a major character from a mile away, and I didn’t shed a single tear when it happened (and I’m a cryer!). So you could say that the film wasn’t as emotionally gratifying as I had expected.

Now, my main *quibble* that I discussed on my way home with my hubby was the fact that there are more questions than answers after seeing it. I read this article on Tech Insider on 11 biggest questions after seeing the movie and I agree with all of them. The main one is about the protagonist Rey, who we knew nothing about when the film started and she remained a mystery up until the end. Why is she force sensitive? How does the force work within her without ANY kind of training? Yes of course given that Disney is going to milk this franchise for all its worth, I said to my hubby that we probably won’t know much about her until Episode XII! Heh.

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The other main issue I had was that it was never explained why Kylo Ren had such a major beef with his parents? I’d think they’d mention a bit of that when Han and Leia talked about him, but no, we only learned that he had been trained by Luke but then got seduced by the dark side like his granddad. I kept thinking how this seems akin to those parents who learned that their sons had secretly joined ISIS. Ren himself is far from the great villain Vader was (which is obviously the point I guess, hence his constant self doubts), and he’s far too emo and prone to tantrum-throwing to be effective as an evil leader. It made me wonder how he got to be in such a high position to begin with, is it because Snode saw a potential in him given that he’s Vader’s grandson? As much as I enjoy seeing his gorgeous hair though, I think Ren should’ve worn his mask more often as he’s not at all menacing when he takes it off.

“A soap opera about family, not spaceships”

That’s a quote from George Lucas himself I read in this article. “People don’t actually realize it’s actually a soap opera and it’s all about family problems — it’s not about spaceships.” Well, that is fine and dandy because even stories that take place in space have to be somewhat relatable for it to resonate with audiences. But do they need to have familial link for every single character though?? I think if Kylo had been someone NOT blood-related to any of Star Wars’ major character, but that he somehow received training from a Jedi (Luke), I doubt that it’d make that much of a difference in the story. Yes obviously having Han being killed off by his own son, instead of some stranger baddie who happens to be a Vader groupie, has a bigger shock value (though I wasn’t all that shocked, to be honest).

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In any case, I do think the Star Wars saga is NOT just about spaceships. It’s got some Biblical values of good and evil, generational sins, and a good message about self-control, self-sacrifice and what it means to be a hero. It’s also a story about loyalty and friendship, as with Han and Chewie, as well as those droids being so loyal to their masters. The Force Awakens introduce new best friends too, Rey and Finn, Finn and Poe, and even Rey and Chewie?

So is it a perfect film?

Well, the short answer to that is NO. As I mentioned above, Abrams took a pretty safe path and made it more of an homage with a few new things added and so I feel that it’s a bit derivative and even predictable. Just as the original trilogy were best appreciated as a whole, as a stand-alone film, The Force Awakens is good but not spectacular, but it works as a continuation of a larger story. The finale hints that Luke would have a larger role in Episode VIII alongside Rey, so it’ll be interesting where the story goes from here.

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Yes it is indeed better than the prequels, and the dialog has more zing and not cringe-inducing, thank goodness. I’m glad I saw it and I think having just seen the original trilogy helped with my enthusiasm for this new film. Having said that, my hubby and I didn’t absolutely LOVE this enough to see it again on the big screen though. We might rent it again later once it’s on Blu-ray. Thus, as entertaining as The Force Awakens was, I’m actually looking forward to talking about other movies other than Star Wars in the new year.


Well, what did YOU think? Did you share my thoughts about Episode VII?

Movie Jail Relay Race – 12th Round

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You’ve probably seen this Relay Race been going around in the past few months. I love this brilliant idea, courtesy of my pals Nostra and Terrence which started back in late November. Here’s the gist:

It’s time to put some movie people in jail. The object is to give a prosecutor’s argument as to why these movie people belong in “Movie Jail” whether it be for violating the integrity of the content source of one their films, or being a sell-out, just making bad movies overall, getting worse as time goes on or not being in a good movie for many years.

The baton will be passed to another blogger who will have to do the following:

In order to free someone from Movie Jail they have to do 2 things
1 – Give a defense attorney argument defending the plaintiff
2 – Pay bail: the cost of which is another case for the court and a prosecutor’s argument against the actor/director of their choice that will replace the one set free.

There must always be 10 people in Movie Jail.

Thanks to Diana from Aziza’s Picks for passing this to me last Thursday. At this point, I’m the 12th person on the relay race, here are the previous participants from the starting point:

  1. My Film Views/The Focused Filmographer
  2. Cinematic Corner
  3. And So It Begins
  4. Surrender to the Void
  5. Cinematic Paradox
  6. The Cinematic Spectacle
  7. Being Norma Jean
  8. Defiant Success
  9. …let’s be splendid about this
  10. Lime Reviews and Strawberry Confessions
  11. Aziza’s Picks

So let’s take a look at the current 10 inmates, shall we?

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Jennifer Aniston

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Michael Bay

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Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer

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Raja Gosnell

Katherine Heigl
Katherine Heigl

Todd Phillips
Todd Phillips

Eddie Murphy
Eddie Murphy

Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler

Til Schweiger
Til Schweiger

Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart

Diana rescued George Lucas [glad she did, I would’ve rescued him too] and put K-Stew in. I absolutely concur with her choice and rationale. Stewart was already a prisoner right from the original relay race but got rescued [Sati, though I enjoyed reading your argument, sadly I don’t think K-Stew deserved your eloquent defense], so I’m glad she’s back in! The thing is, I’m totally stumped as to who I should defend. As Diana said before, everyone here seemed to merit their penalty. I wasn’t aware of who Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer and Raja Gosnell before but that’s because fortunately, I have never seen any of their movies — except for Gosnell’s Never Been Kissed — but man, those are awful, awful movies.

After much deliberations, I’ve decided that I’d give my defense not for a complete release but to put said actor on probation. I simply can’t think of anyone here that I’d give a get-out-of-jail free card because their ‘offense’ is quite tremendous.

The actor I choose to defend is:

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Jennifer Aniston

Yes I know, I’m quite shocked myself that I’d actually pick her as I’ve said it several times on this blog that she can’t act. But she’s generally pretty likable and I feel that she just need to find the right project and be more willing to venture out of her comfort zone [The Good Girl, Horrible Bosses]. For what it’s worth, at least she’s been consistent in her career, I mean, it’s not like she was an Oscar-winning actress who suddenly start making bad choices. Now, that doesn’t excuse her role choices – hence I still put her on probation – but I think she still could make good movies down the road and the right director could perhaps coax a good performance out of her.

The actor I’m putting in jail:

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Nicolas Cage

It pains me to put Nic on here as I quite like his earlier roles. I mean, this guy won a darn Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, and his action movies following that was great: The Rock, Face/Off, Con Air, and his dramatic roles in The Family Man and Adaptation displayed his acting chops. But then his piles of debts pretty much reduced him to a ‘yes man’ who takes every single freakin’ role without bothering to read the script. I mean, other than maybe his supporting role in Kick-Ass, he hasn’t starred in anything decent for as long as I can remember. He’s been so prolific and not in a good way, starring in one bad movie after another, with seemingly no end in sight. I thought the first Ghost Rider was absolutely horrid and he’s made a sequel of the darn thing!! You’d think he’s hit rock bottom when he starred in a Taken rip-off called Stolen [seriously Nic, that is low even for you], but I think that’s still not his worst yet. He’s attached to no less than nine movies just in 2013 alone, according to IMDb, who knows how many of those turn out to actually be remotely watchable?? I could go on but I think most moviegoers could see he’s lost his integrity as an actor. I do hope he could still turn things around though.

P.S. I was actually considering putting Gerry Butler in jail, but I think that Nic is far more guilty than him at this point. But the fact that I’m even considering GB, it goes to show how I feel about his career right now.


Ok, now I’m passing the torch to Iba @ I Luv Cinema.
Curious what she’d do with this list 😀


Well, are you surprised by my picks? Sound off in the comments below.