Never again will the world see another film franchise as big as Star Wars. The O.G. powerhouse franchise has more sequels, prequels, pre-sequels, spin offs, books, magazines, games, toys, and just about every possible item with a Star Wars sticker slapped on it than we can even comprehend. I may be the billionth person to do this list but as a self confessed expert I will give my opinion, please feel free to tell me why I am wrong. The Star Wars community are famously quite the heated bunch and often. do disagree.
please note: this list will include every official Star Wars film released Canon and Non-Canon. All 9 Episodes of the Skywalker Saga. The two Disney spin off movies. Those two Ewok films everyone tries to forget about. Star Wars the Clone Wars; the Film. And of course, the Holiday Special.
Also a big shoutout to the TV Shows: Star Wars the Clone Wars, Rebels, and of course The Mandalorian. Some of the best Star Wars content we have seen in recent memory.
15. Caravan of Courage; An Ewok Adventure (1984) [1/10]
This film… imagine the scene. Arguably the most perfect trilogy to come out of Hollywood, nothing could’ve been a good follow up but anything would’ve been better than this. A cheesy straight to TV cash in for kids. There’s not much to say about it other than the ever detested/loved Ewoks disappointed enough of us that most of us were able to forget about it. You do start to wonder how it came to be, having been written by George Lucas himself. Perhaps its best if it is left behind in the annals of Star Wars history.
14. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (1985) [2/10]
Unfortunately for some, it was not all forgotten. A sequel, and a second go at trying to adapt the Star Wars property more to kids. A strange off-beat story that was unbelievably written by George Lucas once again. I was just glad they killed off a bunch of people at the start that were annoying. The only saving grace was that this one was a little bit more sure of its identity as a film and wasn’t afraid to be a little darker. But it was a little too little and lot too late. make sure to give it a watch if you want to visit an obscure pocket of the Star Wars Universe that not many people visit but besides that? not much to say about it.
13. Solo: a Star Wars Story (2018) [5/10]
Woah, what to say about this film. Not only was it the only film to ever fail at the box office, but it was released at a time where all of the Star Wars fanbase had a bitter taste in their mouth from Disney forcing a new slate of movies down their throats. No one wanted to see Han Solo’s origin story, some people may be upset at this positioning in the list as it can be a rather fun adventurous film at points. But it is unmistakable that the original direction of the films was squandered by directors being fired. The overall film shows glimpses of unfinished ideas and a lack of clear thought through character arcs.
Some highlights for me however were Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover’s performances as Han Solo and Lando Calarissian. You can tell they were passionate about adding to the lore of the characters. seeing a young Han Solo meeting Chewie was pretty funny too, and that new Millennium Falcon design? mind blowing.
12. Star Wars TV Holiday Special (1978) [5/10]
Yes here it is, perhaps one of the strangest follow ups to a huge Hollywood film to ever exist. Coming out a year after the original movie this was supposed to be one of those classic Holiday specials seen on TV with guest celebrities, music and generally a fun time, but everything in this completely misses the mark.
Awful acting, strange reused footage, creepy animated segments, a four armed cooking show, Princess Leia singing THAT Holiday song, Mark Hamill’s terrifying post-car accident face, and even Chewbacca’s Grandfather? Getting off to VR porn? Forever sketched in the back of my mind. This is slowly becoming a cult classic among Star Wars historians and if you are a die hard fan, you HAVE to see this. Not only because of how obscure it feels, and how trippy it makes you feel, but it is one HELL of a time. a perfect representation of its so bad its good.
11. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones [6/10]
Finally we have the first of the actual Skywalker Saga episodes. This movie is in the middle of the unforgettable Prequel trilogy which was off to a rather shaky start in the previous episode. Hayden Christensen enters the field in a performance that has been the subject of years of laughter from his line of hating to sand, to that strange moment where screams about killing those kids. This movie has some strong points from the final battle which just had a billion lightsabers which I just stanned as a child. Ewan McGregor is constantly a strong point in the prequel trilogy. The CGI may have not aged well but was very groundbreaking at the time, and how could we forget the awesome battle at the end with Count Dooku played by the legendary Christopher Lee. It is a shame it has so many boring Politics scenes and flat dialogue.
10. Star Wars The Clone Wars (2008) [6/10]
I struggled to find a place for this movie in the list, I appreciate George Lucas alongside the magnificent Dave Filoni trying to dive into the animated side of the Film industry. Once again Lucasfilm broke new ground in film making, and that definitely shows. Perhaps, if it wasn’t for some of that clunky dialogue Lucas is known for and a rather annoying Ashoka Tano, it wouldn’t have struggled as much. As I write this in 2020, the Clone Wars TV show is some of the best star wars content EVER, and makes me love Ashoka a lot now so perhaps I look back at this one with rose tinted glasses.
9. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999) [6/10]
The film that couldn’t live up to the hype. The longed for follow up blockbuster since the original trilogy that fans had clambered for years. George Lucas was at the helm as director once again and a star studded cast to follow from Liam Neeson to Sam L. Jackson. This was not the film that any fans had expected going in a complete 180 degrees direction than what fans had come to know about Star Wars from the Shakespearean dialogue to kiddish Jar Jar jokes and drawn out boring politics. However, i’d argue that regardless of the film’s quality, nothing could’ve lived up to the hype that would follow up such an iconic trilogy. Furthermore, this film pioneered in the world of CGI and Darth Maul igniting his lightsaber to the Duel of the Fates is pretty awesome too.
8. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) [6/10]
Ahh finally, the highly anticipated climax to a story spanning over 40 years. The end of the SkyWalker Saga imagined by a stubby nerd from California in the 70s all the way to the biggest Franchise in the World being produced by Disney. The last slate of films perhaps had seen a bit of a decline at the Box Office with frustrated fans, and a lack of a clear direction, perhaps this film was a little too unorganised and confusing in trying to stick the landing and perhaps the task was too large to tackle but this film just lacked clear direction, themes, and identity. Nothing can sum up the thin veil that covered up the Disney money grabbing monster that fans had long since theorised about than when than its opening crawl read; “Somehow Palpatine has returned…” the clear thought through auteurship of Lucas was gone and the lazy and random plot points of a corporate generated industry was now how Star Wars would be seen.
I will argue though that as a die hard fan of Star Wars you will surely appreciate how it celebrates the legacy of Star Wars and is a fun time too. With plenty of call backs to the original trilogy, a ton of fan service, and a satisfying end to Kylo Ren were the some of the highlights for me. as a Star Wars fan how could I not love seeing Chewbacca finally get that medal.
7. Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi (2017) [7/10]
There you have it, the most controversial of all the Star Wars films and the sole reason behind why most people have made these lists in the first place, it is the Marmite of the franchise. Either you think it is a bold new direction for the series, transforming what Star Wars means, or you think it completely disregards and destroys everything people loved about it, is hard to know.
Regardless, people have strong opinions on this one. I have attempted to extinguish the flames by putting it in the middle of the list, whilst I enjoyed the beauty and boldness of the film along stunning performances and fun action, I just am still trying to come to grips within Johnson’s way of dealing with Leia and Luke. I’ll not say anything more to spoil things but we can’t deny that this film may have been responsible for the Boycott of Solo: A Star Wars Story and perhaps putting a final nail in the coffin which was lowered seven feet under a cemetery of die hard fans hopes of a trilogy that would delicately preserve the characters of the original trilogy.
6. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of The Sith (2005) [7/10]
Its gonna be nothing but praise from this point. Yes George Lucas struggled a bit in his second go around in Star Wars but OMG did this movie not disappoint in any shape or form. All the problems faced in the rest of the Prequels were extinguished, no Jar Jar, Christensen put out a stellar performance with Natalie Portman compared to Ep.2, no boring politics. Lucas knew exactly what his style was at this point, every line of this film has become iconic and created a legacy on the Internet, this is probably because my generation was the perfect age to see this that as soon as we heard of reddit meme pages, we couldn’t stop showing our love for it in our nerdy adult life. Brilliant action from the beginning, dark themes, an intense roll into setting up the original movie, iconic villains, a brilliantly cheesy tale about space wizards and family and legacy and love. I’m taking the high ground on this one.
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2018) [7/10]
The number 5 and 6 spots are quite interchangeable to be honest. This film I really enjoyed. Fans were just starting to trust Disney with their baby and this one needed to succeed and man did it succeed. There may have been some issues with story arcs and character development due to too many chefs spoiling the broth but this in my opinion a textbook formula in making a fun Star Wars side quest. Excellent characters, like K2SO and Jyn Erso, super fun call backs to the original film, enticing villains and incredibly groundbreaking reintroductions of actors who are no longer with us. Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin was resurrected better than anyone could have ever done and we also got to see Princess Leia in her prime just before Carrie Fisher passed. There’s a lot in this one. And no one can forget that amazing fight scene that showed Darth Vader in a way we had never seen him before. The Franchise was looking so promising at this point, re-sparking that much needed magic.
4. Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens (2015) [8/10]
I have a feeling some people may think this one is too high up on the list. I get that, this movie is safe, it was the first of a new era of Star Wars, now out of the hands of Lucasfilm for the first time. JJ was more than competent to carry on the legacy. Yes it carried a lot of the same beats on from Ep.4 but this film is one of the biggest ever box office films of all time, whilst bringing back all of our favourite memories from the original trilogy and creating a brilliant new trio, a super cute new droid and one of the strongest villains of the 21st Century, in Kylo Ren.
The hype for this film paid off in a massive way and its strength lies in its willingness to strip back the meaning of these films to what they were originally and bring them to a whole new generation. To me, these films have been on a constant decline since this point.
3. Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (1983) [9/10]
This one was definitely my favourite as a child watching them on VHS, but here we go, to no surprise the original trilogy steal the top three spots. Call me a traditionalist if you wish but in my eyes, and probably most people’s eyes, the original trilogy are and forever will be untouchable. The third instalment of this trilogy sees the big climax to the most epic films to ever be produced at the time, changing American cinema forever. The ending of Luke’s journey as a true hero, the romantic connection between Han Solo and Leia, the wonderful side characters from Lando to Chewbacca, and the redemption of Darth Vader, this is exactly how you wrap something up in a perfect bow. That something being a tragic story of glory, battle, family, heartbreak, perseverance, triumph over temptation and evil. The legacy of this trilogy was cemented forever and what a perfect way to end it.
2. Star Wars (1977) (later titled: Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope) [10\10]
Here we go. Well, one and two was such a toss up, both so good in their own ways, but how can you even fault the O.G. film? The movie that started it all. The movie that spawned a new era of blockbuster films in Hollywood. It reminds me of an Oasis of Water in a dessert, all things surrounding it come to it to be nourished. As does any new Star Wars material, coming back to its source of greatness in Star Wars, a very high bench mark to start things off and is rarely met.
This film was somehow miraculously crafted by a young and hungry director, in many ways an indie film. A far out gamble taken on him that paid off in a way no one could’ve predicted. No one saw this film coming. Not Alec Guiness, not Harrison Ford, not 20th Century Fox, not even George Lucas himself. Every element of this film is etched into our lexicon today, the force, a lightsaber, the Millennium Falcon. I don’t believe there to be a film that ever captured people’s imaginations quite like this. A perfect marriage of soundtrack, colour, new waves of movie magic, characters, and at its heart, a pure and simple story about answering your destiny.
despite the funny dialogue, and the little mistakes still found today, it’s all the little imperfections that make it even more perfect, it’s all in the character of it. A beautiful quirky seed that would grow into something super special, and a big part of my childhood.
- Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) [10\10]
The King of the hill. A very common place for most people’s lists. This film is one of the few to be considered better than the original. That’s a very difficult thing to do, in fact its not un normal for movies coming out nowadays that if a sequel is better they will refer to it as an Empire Strikes Back. But why? This film takes the magic of what Star Wars was and took it in a truly bold direction, darker and braver and more high risk. At this point the whole world had fallen in love with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewy, R2, Threepio, Obi Wan and Darth Vader, add in the excellent parts of Lando and Emperor Palpatine, Boba Fett and Yoda and you have the most awesome group of characters gracing the screen.
The music is heartbreaking and glorious, the relationships between all the characters is so dynamic it has you on the edge of your seat, the action pieces are truly groundbreaking and breathtaking, the biggest plot twist in movie history, the somber but hopeful ending, the perfection of this film is not nearly done justice in words. It is literally an orgasm of sight and sound. It is the reason I first got passionate about film. When I see it today I truly am transported back to being a child again and that is a testament to this films ability to truly capture magic on screen, and so, it gets the number one on my list.
And that is my list finished. As a film student, there is such a massive world of Cinema to get accustomed to and as much as I may appreciate a Tarkovsky film or French New Wave, none of that was able to quite clearly capture the magic of film like some of the movies I have mentioned here today. Star Wars may have been the biggest part of my childhood and that does lead me to ponder whether or not it has influenced me in any way as a 20 year-old film student, and honestly? Of course it has.
Written by George.M.McBurney