Just the mere mention of Star Wars will spark polarizing conversations, and sometimes flat-out arguments.
When George Lucas made the original Star Wars, I’m not sure he quite understood that he was jumpstarting what would become one of the biggest, most beloved franchises ever. It’s an entire universe full of characters and vast worlds with seemingly endless possibilities. It’s been more than 40 years, and we’re still exploring it all — and, well, arguing about it, too.
Of course, at the forefront of the franchise sits the movies. Ignoring the made-for-TV Ewoks movies from the ’80s, there are 11 films, giving you 25 hours and 7 minutes of adventure in a galaxy far, far away. But if there’s one thing that Star Wars fans will never agree on, it’s which movie is the best (or worst) of the bunch.
Just for fun, I’ve decided to rank all 11 films. It’s entirely subjective, but I’ve done my best to make my case for each choice.
Did your favorite top the list? May the Force be with you…
11. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Literally, no one should be surprised that Episode I – The Phantom Menace winds up on the bottom of the pile. Even through nostalgia-tinged glasses, you can still see just how bad this movie is.
As the first movie of the prequel trilogy, the beginning of the origin story for Darth Vader, there was so much potential here. Unfortunately, it fell flat. Like, flatter than flat. It lacked any sense of momentum, questionable casting choices were made, and it had an overcomplicated plot about the trade guild. Plus, we get introduced to Jar Jar Binks here. That alone is enough to garner a spot at the bottom.
Look, it’s not all bad — it’s just that the bad far outweighs the good here. And not even the pod racing sequence or Natalie Portman could save it.
10. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Unfortunately for all of us, the second installment in the prequel trilogy didn’t improve much. Following the less-than-stellar reactions to The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones leans heavily into flashy set pieces and effects to wow audiences, but there’s a serious lack of focus in the plot. Some would say there’s not much of a storyline here at all. And I bet you’re excited for a little more Jar Jar Binks!
And while I know that the love story between Anakin and Padmé is key to the overall story, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman just didn’t have the on-screen chemistry that was so desperately needed. Plus, Anakin is so whiny. As the movie drags on for nearly 2 and a half hours, you’ll find yourself asking, “When is this going to be over?”
9. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
Why is this one so low on the list? Mostly because they had literally everything at their disposal to make a great movie, and this is what audiences got. I can’t deny that it looks great and sounds great. It’s definitely an enjoyable film to look at.
But in terms of storytelling, it feels muddled. Characters make decisions without convincing motivation, things fell through plot holes, and it was kind of all over the place. They did nothing with Finn and Poe. Plus, there are so many things from The Last Jedi that The Rise of Skywalker just upends or entirely ignores.
8. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
While still part of the dreaded prequel trilogy, I think most can agree that it’s the least offensive of the three. Of course, that’s kind of like coming out on top on The Flavor of Love.
Although Revenge of the Sith still has the same problems as the first two before it — poor direction, unconvincing performances — this third installment feels like Lucas and the actors are finally getting a hold of things. Too bad they didn’t do that at any point up until now. In any case, Hayden Christensen seems much more comfortable (and less whiny!) here than in Attack of the Clones.
We also finally get to see Anakin’s fall into the Dark Side, which is why we were all excited for the prequels to begin with.
But I’m just going to ignore the fact that a strong character like Padmé essentially gives up on living. It’s completely uncharacteristic for her to give up so easily instead of being spurred into action. They did my girl dirty.
7. Solo: A Star Wars Story
I know there are a lot of people that rag on Solo: A Star Wars Story. It’s “unnecessary” and doesn’t offer much to the overarching saga. But hey, it’s meant to be a standalone movie. It’s part of the franchise, sure, but it’s not meant to fit within any of the trilogies. It’s supposed to be fun! Donald Glover is terrific as Lando Calrissian, so I’m here for it.
There is something to be said about delving into Han Solo’s origin story, though. The movie ends up answering questions about Han’s backstory that we really didn’t need answered and kills off a little of the mystique that we love him for.
6. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
After the embarrassment of the prequel trilogy, the expectations for Star Wars: The Force Awakens were extremely high — and meeting or surpassing those expectations was always going to be impossible. In the end, J.J. Abrams may not have made every Star Wars fan happy, but I do think he created a thrilling and promising sequel that introduces new characters. There are some shortcomings here, but overall, I think it gets a lot of things right.
With the beginning of the sequel trilogy, we finally have something that looks like “real” Star Wars. We are given a slew of new characters — Rey, Finn, Poe, Captain Phasma, General Hux, the list goes on — and we get to see the return of our old favorites, like Leia and Luke. And I think it’s definitely worth mentioning that Kylo Ren is an incredible antagonist.
5. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi had some great moments — but it probably has an equal amount of shortcomings.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The cast is great, and we get to see Mark Hamill come back as Luke Skywalker! The movie does conclude with a nice sense of optimism, and there were some epic fight scenes. And who didn’t love that “face-off” of sorts between Luke and Kylo Ren at the end?
So, what’s wrong with it? There feels like a lot of untapped potential here. Sure, you can only fit so much into the time allotted for a film, but it seems to fail to build on the promise we were left with from The Force Awakens.
4. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
This final film in the original trilogy wraps everything up for us and gives us a conclusion to that father/son thing going on between Luke and Darth Vader. The movie definitely gave us some memorable scenes and cool effects, and provides a happy ending with a tidy bow on top.
However, even though it’s clearly important in the original trilogy, it’s definitely not the best. And most Star Wars fans generally rag on the Ewoks.
Does it still hold up? I say yes.
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
As Lucasfilm’s first standalone film, it manages to be well-balanced and self-contained while also still setting up A New Hope perfectly. It feels like proper Star Wars — it’s dark in the spirit of The Empire Strikes Back, but also has a similar quick-moving and simple plot, in line with A New Hope. It also benefits from great casting, with the likes of Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Diego Luna, and Forest Whitaker.
It’s worth noting that Rogue One was the second-highest-grossing film during its theatrical run, and received Oscar nods for Best Sound Mixing and Best Visual Effects.
The only drawbacks here? While it ultimately works, it almost feels like it doesn’t achieve its full potential. It could have been even darker. Director Gareth Edwards initially shot the film to be in line with realistic war films, but there was plenty of smoothing over and even reshoots that changed quite a bit.
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
George Lucas’ first cinematic foray into the Star Wars universe still stands as one of the best.
The plot is simple, maybe a little clunky at times, and uses archetypes that have been around for ages. Even still, there was detail and imagination that brought the entire story to life and introduced us to some of the most iconic characters in movie history.
It’s been more than 40 years since the film was released, and it’s still relevant today. Not to mention, A New Hope was definitely groundbreaking with its use of special effects, and essentially created an entirely new film genre.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope is cool, but The Empire Strikes Back is even better. Empire sees better dialogue, striking cinematography, deeper characterization, an even more compelling story, and actual emotions and feeling behind it all. We get battles, romance, plus unexpected plot twists and turns — including the biggest plot twist ever.
Some of the most iconic moments from the franchise come straight from Empire: Han Solo frozen in carbonite, the Luke/Vader lightsaber battle, Han and Leia’s first kiss, Yoda’s “Do, or do not” line, and the Millennium Falcon flying into the asteroid field. It’s even got Boba Fett!