Ranking the ‘Star Wars’ Movies From Worst To Best
Star Wars is one of the greatest science-fiction franchises of all time. There is no disputing the vast importance of the galaxy from far, far away in regards to the genre, as well as filmmaking in general. The franchise has gone through three separate trilogies, multiple casts, television spin-offs (including fan-favorite The Mandalorian), animated series, comic book continuations, and so much more, but it’s fair to say it’s the movies everyone lives for. With the long-running saga entering a new era, we thought we’d look back on the films released so far and rank them in order of worst to best. For the sake of our list (and sanity), we’re only talking about the Star Wars flicks that have secured a theatrical release (sorry, Caravan of Courage).
One thing is clear, Star Wars rankings are usually controversial. This is often due to the complex disparities between critical evaluation, childhood experience, and each person’s own unique tastes. While some may love the prequel or sequel trilogies, others may hate them. Some who grew up on the prequels and sequels today may not even enjoy the originals. Yet, no matter where you stand on Star Wars, there may never be a “definitive” ranking list that will agree with everybody.
So with that, prepare to jump to light speed, and check out this author’s ranking of Star Wars movies from worst to best!
12. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
A backdoor pilot for the series of the same name, Star Wars: The Clone Wars follows Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), and Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein) as they try and foil the plot of the villainous Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) and his own apprentice Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman), which includes kidnapping Jabba the Hutt’s son for ransom to turn the gangster against the Galactic Republic.
While there’s no doubt The Clone Wars is aimed specifically at children, if you can get past some of the simple dialogue and mundane plotting (and it can be a lot at times), you can watch this one and jump right to the series afterward. The film plays like an extended episode of the series (which makes sense) rather than a traditional Star Wars epic in its own right. The portrayals of Anakin and Obi-Wan are spot on of course, but the overall story leaves a lot to be desired.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which was directed by George Lucas’ apprentice Dave Filoni, is certainly not the best that Star Wars has to offer, but it was an important launchpad that kept Star Wars relevant for years before Disney entered the picture.
11. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The final conclusion to the “Skywalker Saga” (at least for now), The Rise of Skywalker may have the biggest ensemble cast in all of Star Wars, almost like a Star Wars: Endgame, but with a lot more flaws than the Avengers ever had. The plot revolves around Rey (Daisy Ridley), former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), and pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) as they make one final stand against the evil First Order, led by the resurrected Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
As one of the most expensive films ever made, Episode IX includes some phenomenal action sequences, a triumphant score by John Williams, a final redemption, and not much else really. This one is pretty controversial actually. The epic conclusion resolves the fates of a number of Star Wars staples, including the final post-humous appearance of Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa through re-purposed footage (a genuinely nice touch) and Rey’s reveal to be a… Palpatine? Or a Skywalker? Yeah, the ending isn’t the best.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is not the finest J.J. Abrams feature (watch Super 8 or Star Trek for his best), and it’s probably not going to be anyone’s favorite Star Wars flick either, but there’s no doubt that it’s the final conclusion to Disney’s latest cash grab, and that’s good!
10. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
If you think The Rise of Skywalker being the second worst Star Wars film is controversial, let us introduce you to The Last Jedi. The plot centers around Rey as she finds the exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil), hoping to convince him to train her to battle Kylo Ren and the First Order. Meanwhile, General Leia Organa, Poe Dammeron, and Finn all deal with an impending First Order strike on their dying fleet.
This film, helmed by Knives Out’s Rian Johnson, has been the most divisive Star Wars feature to ever hit the big screen. With gorgeous cinematography and compelling character performances, you’d think this one would be a hit, but the film’s uncharacteristic portrayal of Skywalker and confusing mixed-messages sort of unravel the whole thing. Through all of this, Kylo Ren and Rey have a strange “Force-time” connection that doesn’t ever really get explained and Finn’s whole quest turns out to be for nothing in the end.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is certainly the prettiest Star Wars flick, with some phenomenal cinematography and stellar set-pieces that keep your eye glued to the screen. Sadly, much of the film’s plot is retconned within the first 30 minutes of Episode IX, so there’s that.
9. Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
The second in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, Attack of the Clones, set 10 years after Episode I and before The Clone Wars, continues the “Tragedy of Darth Vader” storyline. The plot deals with a galaxy on the brink of civil war as planetary systems begin to succeed from the Galactic Republic, clone and droid armies are built, and a painful romance between Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) forms.
This film introduces a young Anakin, still years off before his turn to the Dark Side and on his way to becoming a full-fledged Jedi Knight. The excellent master/padawan relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewen McGregor) and Anakin is the film’s strongest beat. Some great character moments include Anakin’s murderous remorse, Obi-Wan’s investigation of Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), and the epic battle between Yoda (Frank Oz) and Count Dooku. All that said, the love story is rough and includes some of the worst dialogue in the franchise.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones gives us both a horrid romance that is incredibly hard to watch as well as some of the greatest worldbuilding that any Star Wars film has to offer. As the “tragedy of Darth Vader” moves closer to the end, Episode II raises the stakes high.
8. Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
George Lucas’ initial return to Star Wars (and his first directorial effort since), The Phantom Menace is the first in the prequel trilogy. The plot involves Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they protect Queen Padme Amidala from assassins. On the way, they meet a young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) on the desert planet Tatooine who has a connection to the Force that’s unparalleled.
On the surface, the film is pretty great, but between Jar-Jar Binks (Ahmed Best), galactic politics, and some strange character choices, the film came in for heavy criticism. What saves it? The epic “Duel of the Fates,” some producing, and the pure moments between Qui-Gon and Anakin. The beginning of the “Tragedy of Darth Vader” may start off somewhat rocky at points, but it lays a generally solid foundation that remains invaluable for the series greater mythology. But admittedly, the kid who plays the young Skywalker may not be the best in the role.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a (mostly) solid beginning to an underrated trilogy that expands George Lucas’ original intent with Star Wars, working to combine practical effects with digital technology and furthering the mythology behind Darth Vader.
7. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2017)
The highly controversial Solo: A Star Wars Story is a space Western that serves as a prequel to the original Star Wars. The plot revolves around a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) after he escapes the Empire alongside best mate Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), leading to a team-up with his childhood friend and love-interest Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), his mentor Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson), and the charming Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).
Tied with The Rise of Skywalker as the 7th most expensive film ever made, Solo was directed by Willow director Ron Howard and written by Lawerence Kasdan, the man who wrote two original trilogy films and The Force Awakens, and his son Jonathan. If anyone knows how to bring back the scruffy-looking nerf herder, it’s them. Another really controversial Star Wars feature (Disney’s A Star Wars Story anthology films were shelved after this), this one is actually pretty great and provides some extra context to Solo’s life story.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is an underrated outing that greater expands the Star Wars universe. Ehrenreich’s Solo, though no Harrison Ford, is a solid cast for this exciting heist flick that goes back to Star Wars’ space Western roots and sticks the landing.
6. Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
The beginning of Disney’s long-awaited Star Wars sequel trilogy that would pick up after the original trilogy ended back in 1983, The Force Awakens had a lot to live up to. The plot features former Stormtrooper Finn teaming up with Rebel pilot Poe Dammeron and drifter Rey as they stumble upon General Leia Organa, rebel smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and Chewie (Peter Mayhew), all while trying to evade Kylo Ren and his First Order.
Between unanswered questions and introducing a new storyline, there is a lot that Episode VII had to do to succeed, and for the most part, it pretty much does. In Disney’s biggest sequel Star Wars hit, we’re introduced to Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, and others as the “Skywalker Saga” continues. This is modern Star Wars at its best. Between powerful lightsaber battles and pulse-pounding aerial sequences, J.J. Abrams is at his peak. Rey and Finn feel like real characters here as they navigate this strange world and their own quests.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens provides the very best that the Disney sequel trilogy has to offer, setting up some wonderful stories and character arcs that were (unfortunately) not really paid off. Ignoring that, this nostalgia-fest proves to be one of the best modern Star Wars movies and is well worth the ride.
5. Rouge One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The first in the Star Wars anthology series, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a direct prequel to the original George Lucas classic that brings together a random band of Rebels as they take a shot at the Empire. The plot focuses on Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), and their crew as they locate and steal the plans to the Death Star while avoiding the death-grip of Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) himself.
Tonally different than most Star Wars movies, Rogue One is a one-off that is very self-contained, with an open-ending that leads directly into the original 1977 space opera. It’s a really great character study on what it means to sacrifice for the greater good. What makes Rogue One so impressive is the exceptional attention to detail when it comes to Star Wars lore and the unique vision of director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla). Though the most impressive instance comes from the digital reconstructions of classic Star Wars characters.
Rouge One: A Star Wars Story may not be a “Skywalker Saga” film, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best stories in the Star Wars universe. Between some surprise cameos and that amazing Darth Vader scene (you know the one), there’s a lot to love about this installment.
4. Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
The original George Lucas classic, Star Wars, often referred to as A New Hope, became an instant cultural phenomenon. The plot is simple: young farmboy Luke Skywalker stumbles upon two droids who hold the message of the young Princess Leia. With the help of the wizened Ben Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Han Solo, and Chewbacca, he confronts the evil Darth Vader before he can rule the galaxy.
Taking its cues from Westerns, fantasy, and the space operas that inspired Lucas in his youth, Star Wars is just about everything you could ask for when it comes to a science-fiction blockbuster. Luke Skywalker’s hero’s journey will be remembered for ages to come, as will the faithful friends he makes along the way. This is where it all begins. What more can we say about this classic? Luke and Han’s invasion of the Death Star, Leia’s tough-as-nails attitude, and Darth Vader’s frightening presence have all stuck with us since.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope is Geroge Lucas’ masterpiece. This film is not only one of the greatest of all time, but one of the most influential. It was the first to teach us to “use the Force,” and we’ve been trying ever since.
3. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The epic conclusion to George Lucas’ original intended vision for the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith chronicles the end of the “Tragedy of Darth Vader” and leads directly into the original 1977 classic. The plot directly follows Obi-Wan and Anakin as they help end the Clone Wars by dispatching Count Dooku, taking out General Grievous (Matthew Wood), and uncovering the identity of the mysterious Sith Lord named Darth Sidious.
This science-fiction spectacle spans countless worlds and ends the Clone Wars with a bang. Between Anakin’s hard fall to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan’s fight for his soul, and the collapse of the entire Jedi Order, Episode III has a lot to offer. The exciting conclusion includes Anakin’s temptation from the light side of the Force by future Emperor Palpatine, who also manages to take on multiple Jedi on his own. This eventually spirals as Anakin has to deal with the possible reality of losing his pregnant wife and the destruction of his friendship with Obi-Wan.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is a pulse-pounding epic conclusion that brings Lucas’ original series (the originals and prequels) full-circle, while still leaving us with the possibility of a new hope to overcome the darkness. Episode III is incredibly underrated.
2. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Maybe not most people’s second pick as their favorite, but Return of the Jedi is Lucas, Kasdan, and the company’s original conclusion to the classic Star Wars saga. The plot sees the Empire’s construction of a second Death Star as the Rebel Alliance makes their final stand against them. Meanwhile, the battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader reaches its epic conclusion as the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance.
This one includes an incredible duel between Luke and Vader over the fate of the latter’s soul that has gone down in film history as one of the greatest. The opening at Jabba’s Palace sets the stage for the rest of the film, where it’s revealed Luke has graduated into a full-fledged Jedi Knight! Alongside all of that, the trip to the moon of Endor introduces Ewoks, continues the romance between Han and Leia, and initiates the final battle for the galaxy. There’s so much to love here, and, Ewoks aside, this flick is one of the most serious installments.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is all the conclusion to Star Wars that some will ever need. It has it all from an epic space battle to the final duel between father and son that will have you nearly in tears by the end. One thing is for sure, this one really wraps it all up.
1. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Objectively the greatest Star Wars film of all time, not to mention one of the greatest science-fiction films of a generation, The Empire Strikes Back took everything that made the original great and made it even better. The plot, set three years after Episode IV, continues the battle between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance as Luke travels with Yoda, while Leia, Han, and the others are on the run from Darth Vader.
Episode V is one of the most exciting films to ever be released into theaters. With more worldbuilding than the original, the steamy romance between Han and Leia, and Luke’s journey to becoming a Jedi finally at hand, there’s just so much to love. The introduction of Lando (Billy Dee Williams), Cloud City, and the final revelatory battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader really puts our heroes in a tight spot, with twists and turns you’d never see coming if it were your first time. What’s more, the whole opening sequence on Hoth is fantastic!
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back made incredible achievements in film that include one of the greatest plot twists in cinema history. Ultimately, if you want the best from Star Wars, then you’ve come to the right place!
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