I love ranking things (as you can tell from a lot of my prior posts). But I have stumbled into a contentious debate with this particular list. However, I decided to lean into the topic and not pull any punches, not for the sake of argument, but because when the kitchen’s hot, make sure you bring some steaks. So here is my unvarnished opinion on my favorite Star Wars films that I 100% believe no one will agree with.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
Does anyone not have this as number one? I am not interested in being ‘think outside the box’ guy. I might have takes that are hot here, but I am not trying to revolutionize anything. This is the best Star Wars movie.
2. A New Hope
If this movie wasn’t great there wouldn’t be a list. It may not be as good of a ‘movie’ as Empire Strikes Back, but it is THE Star Wars film, and is almost perfect all by itself. I think it is safe at number two.
3. The Force Awakens
I don’t know how hot this take is. I definitely surprised myself by putting it at number three, but I think it’s right. After its release there were only positive vibes about it and the direction of the Star Wars saga in its newest rendition. Sure, some people decried its similarity to A New Hope, but I felt it did so in an appropriate way that reintroduced Star Wars to the world in a new direction that was also rooted in the original movies- which notably the prequals did not do. Did it revolutionize Star Wars? No. Did it need to? No. Do I understand why some people would like The Last Jedi better? Yeah, I do. But choosing to make a great ‘Star Wars’ movie without revolutionizing Star Wars by using the archetypes and themes of Star Wars without turning them on their head is not a negative, even though doing the opposite can be a positive. In short, the entertainment value was sky high, even though we could nitpick The Force Awakens about as a quality *raises nose in the air* film.
4. Rogue One
Another surprise for myself. I wouldn’t have thought Rogue One would be four, but I think every film after this one has some serious issues and Rogue One boasts an interesting story, appropriately rooted in the original Star Wars lore with some awesome moments, including probably the best space fight scene in any Star Wars film. My knee jerk reaction is to have it lower because it wasn’t one of the elite 9, but most of the elite nine had more flaws, and apparently the serious flaws of Rogue One are sitting on the cutting room floor. This movie is entertaining, feels like Star Wars, well-made, and a solid Star Wars addition.
5. Return of the Jedi
Endor is weird. I’m sorry but it is. It feels disjointed, and the fight scene is scattered and often nonsensical. The Ewoks are legends but probably for the wrong reasons- watching Storm Troopers die at the hands of rocks that swing like coconuts is disengaging at best. But the Luke-Vader stuff with that green saber flashing will always be what I remember about Star Wars from when I was a kid, and the intro with Jabba and the sarlacc pit is as Star Wars as it gets. I could see you saying it should be four, but there are enough excuses I have to make on behalf of the movie (like a totally forgettable middle) that I think it stays at five.
6. The Last Jedi
Now we get into the Star Wars movies that have serious issues. And I know The Last Jedi is revolutionary, and projected a new direction, and tried something different other than the Abram’s fan service, and boasts some of the best cinematography in any Star Wars movie. And those points are all valid. But movies are supposed to be entertaining and fun and engaging, and The Last Jedi feels more like reading an essay than a form of entertainment. It just so happens that a lot of us love essays, but even I, who likes the movie can recognize that maybe Star Wars, in a reboot, after a terrible prequal, could have used some good, safe entertainment value. And if anything, this movie tended towards turning Star Wars into films rather than movies and flirted with being boring. It also had some jarring moments. Super Leia was and will always be dumb (even though it fit with the themes). The Luke shoulder brush was juvenile, and the entire Finn story did not work, and gave rise to my theory that Harrison Ford is the #1 indicator of a good Star Wars movie (Rogue One is the exception).
7. Revenge of the Sith
The prequels are something man. They are deeply flawed movies held up by the legacy of the originals and the hype of recreating a story that was long thought dead. On some levels they are incredibly fun and engaging, but they are plagued by a bad lead actor and poor execution. Revenge of the Sith, maybe because of the lessons learned from the first two, is the most enjoyable, and often breaks into the upper half of people’s Star Wars Movie rankings, depending on their feelings about the direction Rian Johnson took the sequels. But maybe I can’t get over the poisoning of the well that the first and second provided. I guess the best way to look at the movie’s strengths were that it was a pretty darn good conclusion to the first two. Tieng up the storylines from the prequels nicely, as well as setting up the originals (that didn’t really need setting up). But that sword cuts both ways. Because saying it is as good as its ability to wrap up bumbling storylines, is not a ringing endorsement. And it is hard to feel the awe, and importance of the scene where Anakin awakens as Darth Vader, only to immediately remember what happened to Padme (a moment that should have been an all-timer) after two movies worth of a petulant and whiny teen playing the greatest villain in all of movie-dom. Unfortunately, to me, Revenge of the Sith will always be held back by its predecessors.
8. Attack of the Clones
This movie was an improvement… Like it wasn’t as bad as the first one. But it also boasts the least memorable moments in any Star Wars film. Upon reflection, I immediately think of the Colosseum scene on Geonosis, but more for the visuals than for anything that happened. Attack of the Clones is a safe movie. No big risks, no big failures. But that also means it whiffs on some pretty spectacular opportunities, like meeting Anakin Skywalker as an ‘adult’ for the first time, like seeing a group of Jedis fight again (I loved the Yoda fight as a kid, but as an adult it feels like a reduction of the character, so I guess that’s a wash). This isn’t a terrible movie, but I wouldn’t say it was good.
9. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace was bad almost all the way through. But Darth Maul and specifically the duel of the fates was an unreal scene full of hype and adrenaline. If the rest of it wasn’t so hard to watch, it probably would jump up a few spots from that scene alone. And what makes it even more frustrating is that I actually kinda like the storyline. To me, it feels like a good way to reintroduce the movies. A bit more political by necessity, a bit more adventurous and exploratory, just enough intrigue and conflict. But outside Obi Wan and Qui Gon, it all fell flat. When 50% of your scenes have either Jar Jar Binks or Ani or both, it was doomed no matter the great climactic moment, well-constructed plot lines, or exciting developments along the way.
10. The Rise of Skywalker
This might be the one people think I have too low. Visually, this movie is stunning. Aesthetically this movie nails Star Wars in the modern age. The plot is pure Star Wars. But it doesn’t make any goddamn sense… It’s bizarre and disengaging. If I look real close and squint my eyes a bit and turn some portions of my brain off, I can just enjoy the Star Wars-i-ness of the whole thing. Or maybe if I just played the Babu Frik scene for the allotted time of the entire film, but if I try to think about this story for more than two minutes I am out. Stuff…just…happens. Characters just do things without any real build to their actions. I felt like I missed an episode in a TV series only to find all my characters on brand new story arcs. I know The Last Jedi was not everyone’s cup of tea, but we didn’t need to switch to vodka. So I get it… every Star Wars movie is great because we get to watch Star Wars, and we got incredible fight scenes, and we got to see Leia as a Jedi, and we got to return to the ‘fun factor’ that The Last Jedi took a shit on, but if we are judging this thing as a movie as well as an installment in the Star Wars franchise, we also have to question the script of this puppy. Did they just sit at their table-read yelling ‘Watch out’ and ‘Over there’ and ‘NOOOOOOOO’ at each other for two hours and think this was gonna work? Halfway through the movie I tried to count how many times a line of dialogue responded to another piece of dialogue. I didn’t need to take off my socks, that’s for sure. The great irony is that this movie felt no need to respond to the movie before it either. Thus a director who thought he was saving the franchise, didn’t.
This smelled like a money grab (necessary to make up the purchase of Star Wars by Disney), but outside of Lando it was a convoluted mess. I would’ve loved if the entire movie was Han Solo needing to complete the Kessel Run. That seems within the range of where this movie could have succeeded. It would’ve been sufficiently steeped in Star Wars to justify its creation, and a simple enough storyline that Star Wars writers could imbue it with all the fun Star Wars problem solving and obstacle dodging. But they made it so much bigger to try and make it a summer blockbuster style film (which it was already going to be) and to open it up for sequels (its Han Solo, if you do it right you can make as many sequels as you want). But no one wants to go to a movie that isn’t good, and they sure as hell don’t want to go to its sequels. No one asked for a clever reason he is called Han Solo. No one needed a Chewy-Han origin story. Keep it simple.
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