The galaxy far far away has given us one of the most successful and recognizable franchises in history. Eleven movies in and we still can’t help but get excited when that famous theme song plays.
Of course there is always debate about how good each movie in the franchise is when compared to one another so, here to throw more fuel on the fire, is the objective and honest ranking of the Star Wars movies from best to worst.
1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
“Do or do not…there is no try.”
The sequel to the very first Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back had the unenviable task of following up the smash hit that Star Wars was. George Lucas chose to tell a story of struggle, loss, and terrible truth as the tyrannical Empire hunted down the Rebel Alliance and forced them to flee at every turn.
Initial reception to this movie was mixed but the Force was strong with this one as time proved this movie’s story and themes to be truly ahead of its time. Now it ranks in the lists of greatest movies ever made and greatest sequels ever made.
2. Episode IV: A New Hope
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.”
The movie that started it all, A New Hope (or Star Wars, for the purists) created a galaxy far far away and gave us an inspiring story of an unlikely hero and a ragtag rebellion that fought for freedom against an Empire that strangled its citizens. We were also introduced to the Force and the eternal struggle between light and dark.
As the first Star Wars movie, the critical and financial success of A New Hope laid the foundation for this universe to become the juggernaut that it is now.
3. Episode VII: The Force Awakens
“Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth.”
32 years after the release of Episode VI we finally got a Star Wars movie that continued the stories George Lucas had started with Luke, Han, Leia, and the Rebellion. Anticipation for this movie was high and the risk of disappointment (given the Prequel Trilogy before) was just as high.
The Force Awakens followed a new band of heroes (Rey, Finn, and Poe) as they team up with Han Solo and Chewbacca to find Luke Skywalker and restore the Jedi Order. Pursuing them relentlessly was the First Order, led by the mysterious Snoke and the powerful but emotional Kylo Ren.
Despite the derivative story elements; stellar acting, cinematography, and top-notch special effects made The Force Awakens another smash hit. It still stands as the highest-grossing addition to the franchise (even when inflation adjustments are accounted for).
4. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
“Impressive…every word in that sentence was wrong.”
A new Star Wars movie just a year after the last one (Rogue One) seemed too good to be true. The hype surrounding Episode VIII in the Sequel Trilogy was, somehow, even higher than that of The Force Awakens.
Set in the immediate aftermath of Episode VII, The Last Jedi follows Rey, as she seeks guidance in the ways of the Force from Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, as he struggles to come to terms with his actions in the previous films, and Poe and Finn, as they try to protect the Rebellion from the First Order.
To say this movie was divisive…would be an understatement.
However, the actors and effects are still on top of their game. Some of the best action set pieces in Star Wars are set in The Last Jedi. The thematic elements are also grounded in genuine character motivations that do not feel farfetched or contrived.
Worthy of special note are the performances of Adam Driver and Mark Hamill as the conflicted Kylo Ren and the burdened Luke Skywalker. The Last Jedi may have divided the fandom but it is still a great Star Wars movie.
5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
“The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power, too.”
Return of the Jedi is the concluding chapter in the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. Set a year after Episode V, the Rebel Alliance seeks to strike at the Emperor during his inspection of the second Death Star as Luke Skywalker struggles to redeem Darth Vader and defeat Emperor Palpatine.
Return of the Jedi may not be the achievement that was the first two Star Wars movies but it managed to wrap up the trilogy in satisfying fashion without being dragged down by Ewoks and the reuse of the Death Star. Concluding the storyline of Darth Vader with his redemption was a fantastic representation of the central theme of Star Wars.
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
“I’m one with the Force and the Force is with me.”
Star Wars is an expansive universe with many stories falling between the cracks of exposition and conjecture. Rogue One was set to be the first of many movies dedicated to giving these moments and unsung heroes their more than deserved time in the spotlight.
The movie follows a hastily formed crew led by Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor as they search for a way to defeat the Empire’s newest weapon, the Death Star.
Even though the movie is filled with underdeveloped characters, it balances an engaging storyline with more mature themes and some much-needed grit and struggles as ground and aerial wars are actually fought in a Star Wars movie.
Also, it has the best Darth Vader action scene in any Star Wars movie.
7. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
“So…this is how liberty dies…with thunderous applause.”
The final chapter of the Prequel Trilogy, Revenge of the Sith tells the story of the end of the Clone Wars and the events of Order 66. It follows Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is tasked with killing the last leader of the Separatists, and Anakin Skywalker, as his fear of losing his wife allows Palpatine to manipulate him and turn him to the Dark Side.
Unarguably the best movie in the Prequel Trilogy, Revenge of the Sith manages an engaging storyline with some genuine moments of character emotion and mature themes. Ewan McGregor is on top of his game as are the likes of Jimmy Smits, Ian McDiarmid and Frank Oz.
Some incredibly stilted dialogue and Hayden Christensen’s performance do drag this movie down as does the CGI heavy effects but it is a watchable and enjoyable Star Wars movie.
8. Episode I: The Phantom Menace
“Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering”
The Prequel Trilogy began with this Star Wars movie, beginning the journey that takes Anakin Skywalker from an orphan living in slavery to a powerful Jedi and ends in the ruthless Sith Lord, Darth Vader.
Unfortunately, the mature themes and storytelling that filled the Original Trilogy were replaced with more…kid-friendly fare and ultimately boring storylines. The overuse of CGI thrusts this movie into the uncanny valley with way too many characters and effects using CGI that hadn’t advanced far enough yet.
Thankfully, there are still some good performances, particularly from our Jedi and Sith warriors that culminates in a great lightsaber battle.
But we can’t forget Jar Jar Binks…ugh.
9. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
“I’m just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.”
The second chapter of the Prequel Trilogy, Attack of the Clones followed Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Padawan, Anakin Skywalker, as they protected Padme and fought the Separatists led by Count Dooku.
Despite the increased action sequences, the storylines, acting and CG effects make this movie a cumbersome task to get through. It’s not without its enjoyable moments, like Yoda fighting Count Dooku and Ewan McGregor’s performance as Obi-Wan but they aren’t enough to save the movie.
One of the biggest complaints about this movie is the lackluster love story of Anakin and Padme, which was especially disappointing after the romance of Han and Leia.
And don’t forget the immortal “I hate sand” line…priceless.
10. Solo: A Star Wars Story
“Everything you’ve heard about me is true.”
The second (and probably last for a long while) Star Wars movie in the anthology collection, Solo chronicles the early days of Han Solo, everyone’s favorite scoundrel and con artist. With the likes of Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, and Donald Glover, to say the least, this had all the makings of a great addition to the Star Wars movies.
But, what we got was a movie more concerned with equipping Han Solo with his accessories, his sidekick, and even his last name than it was with showing us actual character development. Try as it might, it just couldn’t escape from the shadow cast by Harrison Ford’s previous portrayal and, after the events of The Force Awakens, Solo comes off as too little, too late.
More forgettable than truly awful, it still ranks this low because even the prequels are still talked about. Solo just seems to have disappeared into the Star Wars Legends continuum.
11. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
“The force will be with you, always”
The final Star Wars movie of the Sequel Trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker follows the Rebellion as they contend with return of Sheev Palpatine as he forms an alliance with Kylo Ren to conquer the rest of the galaxy. Rey, Finn and Poe lead a final stand against the Final Order as they search for the stronghold of Palpatine.
Even though it earned over a billion dollars, Rise of Skywalker acts more like a sequel to The Force Awakens, not The Last Jedi. It feels like a movie made in response to fan backlash that still fails to please them in any substantial way.
The conclusion works well enough but the uninspired storytelling, revisited plot points, lack of any kind of nuance, almost desperate attempts at fan service, and overuse of nostalgia drag everything down. The movie does succeed in one regard, it took a fandom split on The Last Jedi and united them into one common consensus…this movie sucks.
And that’s our list of Star Wars movies from the very best to the very worst. If you have very strong feelings about any of this, feel free to drop comment below.