6. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
We’re now in the territory of actually good Star Wars films. Still, like many, many fans of made clear in the last 5 years, The Last Jedi is not without its problems – but still managed to take the franchise in a direction it hadn’t gone into before. The exact opposite to The Rise of Skywalker, The Last Jedi actually gets better the more you think about.
First, the positives – because there’s a lot of them. With a fresh take via Rian Johnson being at the helm, The Last Jedi is simply a gorgeous movie: abound with stunning cinematography, combining practical effects and seamless CGI which blend together perfectly. Crait, the red, salt-ridden mineral planet is stunning. The throne room brawl between Rey, Kylo, and Elite Praetorian Guard in the thrown room – breathtaking.
The remaining pros can be summarised in one key theme: the subverting of expectations. While everyone loved The Force Awakens as it came out, its revisiting of familiar story beats made predictions of what was coming next – well, predictable.
The Last Jedi, however, took the events that came before it, and grounded it under the scope of common sense. Seeing Luke had recessed to the role of a hermit was rough at first, but it ended up being such a great arc. Of course he would look back on the legacy of the Jedi poorly when he himself repeated history by pushing Ben away. Of course he might start to buckle under the weight of the legacy – that of his family and the legend he created. That just made his redemption and return to the light all the better.
Snoke, who seemed like he was to be the big bad of the whole trilogy, killed in an outstanding scene of mental and force manipulation by Kylo Ren – at the time making us wonder where the story could go next. Are Rey’s parents supposed to be special? Odds are, probably not, because each of us is the protagonist of our own story – meaning not all of us are destined for greatness.
What stops The Last Jedi from being ranked higher though? Basically, a third of the film is pretty subpar. Admiral Holdo deciding not to reveal her plan, leading to a mutiny and the deaths of many, still lacks logic to this day. Finn and Rose’s little side mission to a casino planet, trying to elaborating demonstrate the plight of war profiteering, comes off as forced and unnecessary. Ultimately, you could watch The Last Jedi, skip almost all scenes with Finn and Rose, and it wouldn’t make any difference.
5. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Like second films in a trilogy, the third can go two ways. It will either be a climax that ascends the entry that came before it, if not both – or the growing pains of a franchise will start to show. Episode XI is still in the top 5, but it’s merely the lesser of the original trilogy.
Return of the Jedi is an almost-great time throughout. Luke’s growth to a full-fledged Jedi, the slightly over-elaborate but fun heist in freeing Han from Jabba’s palace, the discovery of Leia being a Skywalker, the final set of firefights between the Rebellion and Empire – all make for a decent Star Wars adventure and end to the original trilogy.
Most notable of all, is the redemption of Darth Vader and the return of Anakin Skywalker. The scenes between Luke, the Emperor and Vader himself are simply captivating. All of the cast have come into their stride at this point and it truly shows. In this finale, we see a poignant end to one of the galaxy’s most feared villains, The Chosen One, and Luke’s father all at the same time.
What’s bad about Return of the Jedi? One word – Ewoks. Whenever you’d get immersed in one of the gripping Sith-to-Jedi scenes on the Death Star II, cutaways to the the furry and ridiculous walking teddy bear product placements on Endor take away from the whole experience. All Star Wars films are effectively adverts for merchandise, especially towards children, but Return of the Jedi is definitely one of the most blatant.
4. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Say what you will about the rest of the sequel trilogy, but The Force Awakens is still a fantastic Star Wars movie. Before The Last Jedi subverted our expectations, and The Rise of Skywalker threw them into the trash compactor, Episode VII managed to pull off a Star Wars story ideal for old and new fans alike.
Despite following the same story beats as A New Hope, J.J. Abrams put those events under the spectrum of the next generation along with the character growth of the heroes from the past – still making it an entirely unique experience, and feasible as the next organic step in the Skywalker Saga.
An example would be the pairing of the talented-and-optimistic scavenger Rey, and the jaded-yet-nostalgic Han Solo. Reminiscent of the latter’s with Luke, you see a lovable contrast to how far he’s come since the start of the original trilogy, whilst still being a joy to watch in its own right.
Along with the introduction of Kylo Ren, peeling back the layers as to what got him to this point as we go – like his inferiority complex with Darth Vader, The Force Awakens never fails to lose the viewer – being a consistently decent film all the way through.
Oh, and there’s Finn’s unique and refreshing arc as a Stormtrooper-turned-Rebel with potential to become a Jedi himself, before the rest of the trilogy decided to forget about it.
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Being the inspiration of many Disney Executives for the forgettable Solo, Rogue One has no business being as good as it is. However, with the right team and love for the IP they’re working on, Rogue One is a demonstration of how to take Star Wars in a new direction whilst all the way through, being faithful to what makes it great.
A back-to-back prequel to A New Hope, no-one thought we’d need to see how the rebels got the Death Star plans. However, once you fully accept this won’t be following the tropes of your typical Star Wars story, the experience is unforgettable. Essentially a war film, Rogue One is also a powerful story of loss, distrust, and overcoming your traumas to just once give into a flicker of hope.
Despite not knowing almost none of the characters beforehand, their stories that just as soon come full circle are emotionally epic. There is humour, but it’s only carefully woven in to show itself for when it absolutely needs to. Otherwise, the whole of Rogue One is a multi-layered character piece, complimented with compelling and mesmerising fight scenes.
The cherry on top of course, is the best live-action take on Darth Vader to date.
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
It may be the original, but there’s so much more as to why New Hope has survived the passage of time – still surpassing nearly all Star Wars movies that came before.
Most of all, it’s the singularity of it all. Before any sequels or extended media franchises were even a possibility. The mere premise of a local farm boy realising he can be a part of something far bigger than himself or any of us – an idea that so many of us can relate to and would want for ourselves.
Taken through the galaxy on a quest for answers, taking on his newfound family legacy whilst trying to save the galaxy – Episode IV never loses that sense of wonder. Compared to what modern day movies, TV series, games, and comics are able to depict in Star Wars today, A New Hope has of course aged. Nonetheless, the tale of teaming up with a scoundrel, a princess, some robots against a villainous regime – all part of a classic story about good vs evil – is as timeless as any.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Improving everything that came from the original – the action, story, and acting – Empire Strikes Back remains as not only the greatest Star Wars movie, but also in the concept of a movie’s sequel far surpassing the original.
Whereas the A New Hope is that iconic story of good vs evil, the light vs the darkness, the heroes always coming out on top – Empire pours cool water on the whole idea. Instead, it triumphantly delivers on the concept that the good guys don’t always win.
The entirety of Episode V is written and paced perfectly – building on what was introduced before and showing off more of the galaxy that so many fell in love with. The battle of the ice planet Hoth, the introduction of Yoda on the swamp planet Dagobah, meeting Lando in the wondrous Cloud City. All serve as the canvas for individual stories that, although separate before eventually coming together – all build up to one final clash – the duel between Luke and Vader.
Despite being over 4 decades old, this duel between father and son is still one of the most chilling in all Star Wars media. Luke’s initial cockiness soon disappears as his inexperience gets the better of him. Against his Sith Lord father, who is mostly merely toying with him, the face of our idolised young hero quickly replaces confidence with fear – paying the price for his haste and ignorance with the loss of his hand. Even though it’s now common knowledge, the reveal of “No. I am your father” – delivered by the impeccable vocal craft of James Earl Jones, is still so thrilling – being one of the finest in cinematic history.
All in all, this scene is simply the jewel on top of a masterpiece.
That completes our list of all of the Star Wars movies ranked! What do you think is the best Star Wars movie? Let us know across our socials or the poll below!
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Featured Image Credit: Disney