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.

stormtroopers

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?