In celebration of Star Wars Day, I’ve decided to rank the six films from my least favorite to favorite, with a brief explanation of why. Do you agree? Do you disagree? Sound off!
#6. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Great Scene: An early chase through the skies of Coruscant shows a rebellious Anakin, a grumpy Obi-Wan, and images filled with visual splendor, all setting up great expectations that aren’t ultimately met.
Worst Scene: Anakin and Padmé frolicking through the fields of Naboo, talking about childhood crushes and imperial dictatorships.
Why it’s #6: The film’s central role in the saga is to show that Anakin’s path toward the dark side was precipitated by his star-crossed romance. The problem is that the star-crossed romance sucks—in fact, it’s the worst part of the movie, and most of its scenes were removed in the final cut to allow for more action sequences.
#5. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Great Scene: A tie between the pod race scene, which is one of the best high-speed chases in all of film, and the epic battle between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Darth Maul, which is one of the best lightsaber fights in the saga.
Worst Scene: Anakin flying the Naboo fighter and unwittingly destroying the droid control ship crosses the line from exciting action into silliness.
Why it’s #5: This is the most underrated Star Wars movie. Fans give it flak for Jar Jar and midichlorians, neither of which plays a significant role in the story. Its only failure was not meeting unreachable expectations.
#4. Episode IV: A New Hope
Great Scene: Escaping from the Death Star. Sure, the space battles are fun, but the escape sequence is more entertaining today because it succeeds from its tight plotting and quirky, bickering characters. As Han Solo so eloquently puts while the heroes are trapped in a trash compactor, “One thing’s for sure: we’re all gonna be a lot thinner.”
Worst Scene: Luke hanging out at the farm. Sitting in chairs. Drinking blue milk. Talking about power converters.
Why it’s #4: This film gets off to a slow start—mainly because it has the task of providing exposition for an audience unfamiliar with Star Wars. Still, it holds up pretty well today because of its fun, wacky nature.
#3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Great Scene: The Battle of Endor. Three story threads interwoven: an eye-popping space battle, an epic ground battle, and an emotionally satisfying climactic duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader—this film wrapped up the original trilogy beautifully.
Worst Scene: I don’t hate the Ewoks as many fans do. But some of those middle scenes do drag on. C3PO as a god to teddy bears is funny—to a point.
Why It’s #3: Despite a slow start, wasting time at Jabba’s Palace, and a slow middle, wasting time in the Ewok village, this film has the sarlacc pit and Endor. ‘Nuff said.
#2. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Great Scene: Rescuing the Chancellor from General Grievous, Anakin and Obi-Wan crash land onto the Invisible Hand, fight their way to the bridge, and battle Count Dooku. This sequence foreshadows Anakin’s turn to the dark side and does a good job balancing light-hearted adventure with a sense of impending doom.
Worst Scene: “Hold me. Like you did by the lake on Naboo. So long ago when there was nothing but our love.” Gag.
Why it’s #2: In many ways, this movie is the heart of the saga. It contains everything that was hinted at in the originals—Anakin’s turn to the dark side, the fall of the Republic, the purge of the Jedi—and while it’s not always perfect, it’s a critical chapter in the series.
#1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Great Scene: A tie between the asteroid chase (some of the best film music ever) and Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing from the swamp (Dagobah: the soul of the saga).
Worst Scene: I don’t have much to complain about with this film, but could have done with a few seconds less of Chewbacca wrestling goblin men for C3PO’s parts.
Why it’s #1: This movie introduces Yoda, Lando, Bobba Fett, and the Imperial March. It establishes that the Force allows its users to move objects and see the future. It re-characterizes Luke, Han, and Leia, giving them more depth and nuance. It establishes Darth Vader as the ultimate movie bad guy AND reveals his identity as Luke’s father. And it does all of this while being even more entertaining and visually interesting than its predecessor.
What do you think? How would you rank them?