11 Best Star Wars Movies Ranked
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The winner of the title for "best Star Wars movie" is often hotly debated, but there's no denying that the Force is strong with (most of) these movies.
Even uttering the words “Star Wars” can spark polarizing conversations. There are people who obsess over every detail of the movies and those who simply like a cinema spectacle—and of course, everyone argues over the best order to watch Star Wars. Either way, just about everyone has an opinion. Now when you’re trying to rank Star Wars movies, that’s an entirely separate debate. Most fans can agree that Empire Strikes Back is the best of the bunch, though for sentimental reasons many want to put A New Hope in the top slot. Others find the newer films a disgrace to the franchise while some welcomed the new characters with open arms.
Considering Star Wars spawned its own holiday, May the 4th Be With You, you really can’t disregard the franchise’s place in pop culture history, or its impact for that matter. So, with that, we attempt to rank the best Star Wars movies, until the next Star Wars movie is released, that is. Knowing there’s zero chance every fan will agree with us, we went with our hearts (and conversations with fellow enthusiasts) to produce a list we think makes sense, with maybe a controversial pick here and there.
11. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
What can we say about The Phantom Menace other than that it was wholly disappointing for Star Wars fans? When it debuted as the first of the “prequels” to the initial trilogy, enthusiasts of the franchise were beyond excited to see more of this popular universe and learn more Star Wars facts and backstory. Released in 1999, this is the film where we get to meet a young Anakin Skywalker who is discovered by Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. They look to the boy as a way to restore the Force amid an interplanetary trade dispute. Unfortunately, The Phantom Menace just couldn’t meet the energy of its fan base. Natalie Portman, an Oscar-winning actress, couldn’t even lift this flat script off the ground as Queen Amidala/Padme. Also, many fans widely pan the cartoon-like character Jar Jar Binks.
10. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Things didn’t improve much for the second stab in the prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones, which was released in 2002. You’ll find a lot of fans complaining about the lack of focus in the plot, to the point that it practically has no storyline at all. Taking place a decade after The Phantom Menace, Episode II introduces Hayden Christensen as the young but more mature Anakin Skywalker; movie-goers generally thought he fell flat as the character. Speaking of Anakin, the conversations between him and his now lady love Padme/Queen Amidala are just embarrassing. Star Wars may not necessarily be known for its stellar dialogue, but it can do a heck of a lot better than this. And where are those awesome villains we love to hate? On the upside, it does have some of the best Yoda quotes.
9. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Yes, that’s right, we did it: All three members of the prequel trilogy are ranked at the bottom of our list. Revenge of the Sith is definitely the best of them, but that isn’t saying much. But, hey, if you like watching your Star Wars movies from worst to best, then you get the prequel trilogy in order. Look at that! If you’re still trying to follow along with what’s going on here (and good for you to stick with it), we’re three years into The Clone Wars and we’re getting better insight into what will be Anakin’s future when he’s asked by both The Jedi Council and Chancellor Palpatine to spy on the other. There’s some action and more of the space opera–style plot that Star Wars made famous, but…meh.
8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
There are a lot of people who really bag on Solo but, to be honest, we see the good in it. However, fans we spoke with said that while at times it was a fun cinematic romp, the movie is largely unnecessary. It is a standalone film, released in 2018, so it doesn’t necessarily offer anything to the overarching saga, but does give a look at what young Han Solo’s life was like before he started hanging out with Luke and Leia. You do find out how Solo gets his hands on the Millennium Falcon and how the famed ship made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs (one of the most classic Star Wars quotes of all time).
7. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi has some great moments, but probably an equal number of shortcomings. For starters, Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) isn’t nearly as strong in this film as she is in The Force Awakens. She’s no wallflower, but we missed her camaraderie with Finn, with whom she shares barely any screen time, and she feels a little more passive here. However, we did love Luke’s “face-off” of sorts against Kylo Ren at the end of the film and there are some epic fight scenes. The movie concludes with a nice sense of optimism that we could all use (especially given that some of the storylines could be real downers). Here’s a nifty piece of Star Wars trivia: At 2 hours and 32 minutes, it’s also the longest Star Wars movie.
6. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
Part of the problem with The Rise of Skywalker is something that was absolutely unavoidable—it’s impossible to please everyone when you’re wrapping up a trilogy. But, hear us out: They really tried, though in really trying, some things fell through the cracks. And by cracks, we mean plot holes. But instead of harping on the things fans didn’t love (or even like) about The Rise of Skywalker, let’s take a look at the positive: We get to the nitty-gritty about Rey in terms of where she came from and where she’s going, witness some really cool action scenes, and get some nostalgic moments with our old favorites. Perfect, it is not, but it will carry your attention from beginning to end.
5. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
After witnessing the woefully boring prequel trilogy, fans weren’t totally sure what to expect when The Force Awakens rolled into theaters in 2015. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you get the picture. Still, legions of fans flocked to cinemas, hoping for the best but expecting the worst. What we got in return was actually a delightful surprise. It was like reuniting with old friends—after all, there were Luke, Leia, Han, and other familiar faces. We got the chance to see what became of them, but perhaps even better, the Star Wars universe brought us Rey, who was an instant breath of fresh air to the franchise. While Luke, Leia, and Han may not be living the lives we hoped for them, it was cool to watch and offered a bit of closure for some characters. And don’t forget BB-8, the cutest droid we’ve come across since R2-D2.
4. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Only in the case of Empire Strikes Back has a sequel been better than the original movie, so while Return of the Jedi delivers some memorable scenes and cool effects, it still lands at number four on our list. It does wrap up a lot of storylines threaded throughout the initial trilogy and provides a happy ending we aren’t always treated to in the Star Wars universe. We visit Jabba’s palace and meet the Ewoks, who, while adorable, are generally disliked by many fans and are the butt of many Star Wars jokes. Wherever you stand on Return of the Jedi, it holds up and is an important part of the original trilogy, though probably more loved in memory than while actually viewing it. Return of the Jedi also brought us this awesome Star Wars pick up line: You’re Endor-able!
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Placing Rogue One ahead of Return of the Jedi is a controversial move, but we believe in this standalone story. What makes fans love Rogue One is it’s a very unique take on the Star Wars universe. It’s been compared to classic westerns, such as The Magnificent Seven, but set in space and every single character has a purpose that is expertly and interestingly tied up by the end of the film. You don’t find that in many movies, particularly in the Star Wars franchise. On top of that, the story is self-contained, woven together so tightly that you can see exactly how it sets up A New Hope perfectly, like a puzzle carefully pieced together. The only downside? It’s the only Star Wars film where we get Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso.
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
From a nostalgia standpoint, A New Hope is absolutely everything. It introduces us to some of the most iconic characters in movie history. Released in 1977, it’s still as relevant in pop culture today as it was back then. Essentially starting an entirely new film genre, A New Hope was groundbreaking in its special effects and created a whole new universe in another space and time. Whether you’re a Star Wars fan or not, you really can’t brush off the tremendous impact it had on filmmaking and culture as a whole. And don’t forget about the endless amounts of merch it created. Sure, there were toys based on television and movies prior to A New Hope, but it was never quite like this. For these reasons, this film has to rank as the second-best in the series.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Hands down, Empire Strikes Back is the absolute best of the Star Wars movies. It’s action-packed from beginning to end and encapsulates everything that makes us love the franchise. There are battles, there’s romance, there are plot twists and turns, and, most importantly, there are actual emotions. When you look at the movies that rank behind Empire in the franchise, you’ll see there’s a serious lack of depth and feelings; in those films, it feels as if the characters are going through the motions of a bland story with bland dialogue. In Empire, however, we really get the core of what makes the whole story so great. Instead of only sweeping battle scenes and special effects, we get equally as effective smaller moments. Interestingly, the entire cast and crew allegedly decided to put their hearts and souls into this movie to make it even better than the first. Their story is detailed in the book The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back by J.W. Rinzler, which is a great read for any superfan. Celebrate your love of the galaxy far, far away with these May the 4th be with you memes!