Ranking Star Wars
Now that I have spent time sharing my thoughts on all of the Star Wars movies, I thought it might be fun to share my definitive (as of 2020) ranking of all the Star Wars films.
A couple of caveats:
a) Often times this list can change depending on stage of life, mood, etc. I am trying to stick with my most common rankings.
b) This list is based on my own feelings, which include nostalgia and emotional connection. If I had to rank the movies based on the quality of the film, the list would probably look significantly different.
Here we go, starting with my least favorite and working up the ladder.
11. Attack of the Clones - While the action sequences in this movie are great and Ewan MacGregor is a highlight, the romance is forced and the excessive CG make it feel more like a video game.
10. The Phantom Menace - This movie does an excellent job of visualizing a different period in the history of the galaxy and a lot of the CG and miniature work holds up well, but the pacing and clunky acting often hold this movie back. Also, I still love the pod race scene.
9. Revenge of the Sith - I considered moving this one a little higher, but the clunky dialog and still undeveloped characters kept it toward the bottom. The lightsaber fight, however, is one of the best in the series and the second half of the movie is the right amount of dark, tense, and tragic.
8. The Rise of Skywalker - It may be too soon to definitively rank this movie since I have only seen it twice, but the plot makes too many weird choices and does not give its characters enough room to breathe. On the flip side, I do love the new characters and felt their storylines concluded in a satisfactory way.
7. Solo - This movie gets an unnecessary bad rap, but it was a ton of fun and introduced a lot of new great characters. If you can get past a new actor playing Han Solo, everyone clearly enjoyed making this movie, and it is pure fun to watch.
6. Rogue One - Many people say this is the best of the Disney Star Wars movies, and I love this movie, but the beginning feels a little hectic. Once it gets going, about 30 minutes into the movie, it really clicks. I am afraid, however, that the CG Tarkin will not age well.
5. The Last Jedi - Like many, I came out of the theater a little dumbstruck after this movie. Nothing progressed as I expected, but I knew right away that I liked it. The more I watch and think about this movie, the more I like it. The way it handles deconstruction and reconstruction, as well as greater spiritual issues is emotional and powerful.
4. The Force Awakens - This movie was the best way to resurrect a franchise. The new characters were fresh and incredibly likable, the story was tight and engaging, and a whole new generation of girls were drawn into the franchise. The plot was definitely familiar, but I was able to forgive it thanks to the great new characters.
3. A New Hope - The first time anyone ever saw X-Wings, lightsabers, Jedi, Darth Vader, and the Millennium Falcon is hard to keep off the top of the list, but at this point I have to appeal primarily to emotional connection. While this movie is incredible and occasionally spends time in the number one slot, the next two have more emotional connections to barely beat it out.
2. The Empire Strikes Back - Twenty years ago, I would have been shocked to see this one so high on my list. Until the prequels, it was my least favorite Star Wars movie. As I have matured, I have become more familiar with the trials the characters experience and view the darkness of the plot with much more understanding.
1. Return of the Jedi - While not the best film of the originals, I have the most positive memories wrapped up in this movie. Luke's green lightsaber moment, speeder bikes through the forest of Endor, and the biggest space battle I had ever seen sum up what Star Wars means for me. I think any future movie will have a hard time dethroning this one!
We have reached the first movie in the new era of Star Wars. The Force Awakens was a massive box office hit and climbed the charts with amazing speed. Everyone saw this movie and then saw it again. The hype was beyond anything I have witnessed, and for most people, it really lived up. I saw it in the theater about 4 times if that is any indication of how much I enjoyed it. Four years later, here are a few thoughts I want to share.
A few thoughts:
-I noticed for the first time while watching this movie that the beginning is very intentional to share familiar images that are slightly different, as a way to quickly introduce viewers to a new world. The first three shots are the point of a Star Destroyer with a slightly different nose, Stormtroopers with new armor design, and a droid that has a familiar head but very different body. All of these images are classic Star Wars and serve as a quick introduction to the new state of the universe.
-As I was searching for screencaps, I noticed how quickly everything moves compared to the original trilogy. I would have to scroll through multiple pages of screencaps to find a new scene, whereas with The Force Awakens I scrolled through 1-2 pages at the most. I think this is probably a symptom of the modern style of filmmaking.
-The new characters are the glue that makes this movie work. I know a lot of people complain about the lack of OT characters getting together, but I firmly believe these movies are about the new characters, while the classic characters play supporting roles. I am ok with that, because the chemistry between the characters is excellent.
-One of my favorite scenes in all of Star Wars is the X-Wings skimming across the water on Takodana. The visual combined with the music gives me chills every time.
A few memories:
-I remember when the initial teaser came out the day after Thanksgiving 2014. I got massive chills and then promptly got sick for the next two days. I'm not saying the trailer shut down my body, but I'm also not saying it did not....
-This movie came out when not all theaters were offering reserved seats, so we had to get in line several hours early for the midnight show. We had a great time waiting in line, and I would not take back that time in any way.
-The merchandise drop was another memorable part of the experience. I went to Target immediately after school and picked up Kylo Ren and Rey figures. I was also envious of everyone who got the remote BB-8. Never fear, I got one for Christmas a couple years later.
The Force Awakens was an international sensation, and I am glad I was alive to see it. The movie was only part of the massive hype surrounding the return of Star Wars to theaters, and everyone got caught up in it. Next, I look at the most divisive movie in Star Wars history. Just over a week away from The Rise of Skywalker!
This week I am looking at my sentimental favorite Star Wars movie: Return of the Jedi. I think I was at the perfect age when I first saw this movie such that it was indelibly cemented in my consciousness forever. Many of my all-time favorite Star Wars scenes are in this movie. Nostalgia has rose-colored glasses on this one, however, so let's take a look at some of the positives and negatives.
A few thoughts:
-I fully recognize that this movie is the weakest in the original trilogy. The Death Star as a plot device again, and the questionable strength of the Ewoks against the Empire are both weaknesses in this film.
-The introduction of Luke at Jabba's Palace is my favorite character intro of all the Star Wars movies. His look and actions when he first appears on screen are ambiguous about his siding with the Light or Dark. Force choking has only been committed by Vader up until this point. Even though the lightsaber building deleted scene released several years ago is cool, I love this ambiguous character intro and the delay of the green lightsaber until the Sarlacc pit.
-The Jabba the Hutt puppet is amazing and was a true shock when I first saw it. I still think it holds up better than the CG Jabba in the special edition of A New Hope.
-Endor is the only new planet introduced, which is a bummer in hindsight, but I still am a huge fan. All of the speeder bike chase scenes, while somewhat dated effects, have great tension and portray speed well.
-I am indifferent about the Ewoks. As a kid, I was totally cool with them and kind of fascinated, so as an adult I have no issue with them. I understand the intended message behind indigenous people driving out oppressors, and it works fine, if a bit cheesy.
A few memories:
-I already mentioned that this movie is my sentimental favorite, and I will stand by that statement until the end. There are so many parts of this movie that take me back to the early days of my fandom.
-The toys from Return of the Jedi have some very fond memories for me. My cousins had the Ewok village toy, which I was very envious of and could never find. It took a while to find one, but I finally obtained the Jabba on his throne toy that had a pit that could open underneath him. That was one of my favorite toys and perfect for punishing all of the bad characters.
-Speeder bikes are awesome and need to be a real thing. I was determined that I was going to invent one and change the world. Still hasn't happened...
-I enjoy spending time in forested areas, which I partly attribute to the planet Endor. I was so fascinated by the tall trees that it transferred to real life.
It has been a pleasure revisiting the original trilogy movies (let's be honest, this happens frequently anyway), and I am especially looking forward to how elements of Return of the Jedi will play out in Rise of Skywalker. On to the new era of Star Wars with The Force Awakens next!
The greatest sequel ever made! The best Star Wars movie ever! Superlative Star Wars superlative! What movie was up for watching this week? You guessed it! The Empire Strikes Back.
A few thoughts:
-This movie really does improve on the first one in many ways. The characters have more depth. The Empire has more compelling story elements. Plus, the end takes viewers to unexpected places and leaves characters with difficult choices.
-The stop motion animation used for the Imperial AT-AT walkers is still impressive 39 years later. Those walkers look and feel scary on screen.
-There is so much visual contrast between dark and light in Empire. Hoth and the surface of Cloud City are bright and vibrant, while Dagobah, the asteroid field and the bowels of Cloud City are dark and foreboding. This had to have been an intentional choice, especially the way that a light scene is followed by a dark scene and vice versa.
-The Yoda puppet is a work of pure genius, and Frank Oz deserves all the praise for his puppetry skills.
-The addition of background Cloud City out the windows in the Special Edition is a worthy and subtle inclusion. I like the expanded feel it gives to the location.
-There are so many little elements in this movie that you will miss if you blink, but they deepen the mythology and the characters. One of my favorites is Vader's helmetless head in his meditation chamber.
A few memories:
-When I was a kid, Empire was definitely my least favorite Star Wars movie. The good guys did not win, and there were no space battles! As I have aged, however, I have grown to appreciate this movie more than ever. It is a master class in how to make a sequel.
-I have loved the Han Solo in carbonite prop my whole life. I remember waiting for it to be released with the Power of the Force line in the mid-90s and feeling so happy to add it to my collection.
-The Hoth battle has become a favorite of mine partly thanks to the video games of my teenage years: Shadows of the Empire and Rogue Squadron, both for N64. Both games let you take the seat of a snowspeeder and harpoon those AT-ATs to your heart's content.
Of all the Star Wars movies I have been rewatching, Empire Strikes Back has aged the best. The characters face dilemmas and complex situations that mirror those we face in real life, and therefore it is easier to relate to than a simple "good guys always win" plot. As I near the finish of the original trilogy, I think I have developed an even greater appreciation for this movie.
I love my family and this is the place to find all of the adventures we experience.