With the saga complete, Steve ranks every Star Wars movie to date to determine his all-time favorite movie from the galaxy far, far away…
Now that the Skywalker saga is behind us, it is time for me to rank all of the live-action movies (I did not count the 2008 animated movie The Clone Wars on this list). I will start with, for lack of a better term, my least favorite of the films and ending with my absolute favorite of them all.
Please keep in mind that this is MY ranking and how I felt about the films. You will probably disagree with me, and that’s okay. You might have gotten something out of a particular film that I did not. Just remember that we are all fans of Star Wars even though our perspectives might be different.
Director: George Lucas
Release date: May 19, 1999
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this movie. I saw it in the theater several times (including a viewing of the 3D re-release with my son). I just happen to prefer all of the others over it. I loved the characters of the feel and I loved the way the movie set up the origins of the Skywalker saga, especially the introduction of Palpatine as a benevolent Senator before his rise to power to eventually become the Emperor. I did, however, have a couple of minor concerns with the film that contributed to its low ranking. I thought that the introduction of the idea of midi-chlorians took away some of the mystery of the Force. I also feel like the characters of Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn were built up too much prior to its release and felt like the killing off of Darth Maul so early in the trilogy was disappointing and unnecessary.
Director: George Lucas
Release Date: May 16, 2002
This movie is very close to The Phantom Menace in preference. That is, I only preferred it slightly more than that film and this one could have just as easily been in TPM’s place on this list. I felt like the film was a bit rushed and the plot seemed all over the place. I felt like Mr. Lucas could have done a better job in directing Hayden Christensen’s role as Anakin Skywalker. I think Christensen was a better Anakin than Jake Lloyd from TPM, and I felt like his portrayal of the character was much improved in Episode 3. With that being said, I think Hayden had the potential to do better in this film. I certainly enjoyed the story, specifically the blossoming romance of Anakin and Padme and the search for Jango Fett that eventually led the story to the beginning of The Clone Wars.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Release date: December 18, 2015
The Force Awakens was a good introduction into the Disney-era films as well as a great introduction to the new characters that the sequel trilogy would be focused on. I don’t have much else to say about this film. For me, it was the characters that made the movie for me and why it is higher in my ranking than TPM and AOTC.
8. A New Hope
Director: George Lucas
Release date: May 25, 1977
I know that the fact that this film being so low on the list could be somewhat controversial. The first one. The film that started it all. Why is this one so low in the ranking you ask? For me, while there isn’t anything specific about the movie that I did not like, I do not have the nostalgic feeling about this film as many Star Wars fans my age (and many not my age) have about this film. I did not see this movie when it originally came out in the theater. In fact, I did not see this movie at all in the theater until the 1997 special edition. The movie had good pacing and for 1977, the effects were amazing but I feel like the film movies somewhat slow compared to others.
Director: Ron Howard
Release date: May 25, 2018
The thing that I liked about this movie was that it dealt almost entirely with the underworld of Star Wars rather than the Jedi lore or the military/actual war aspect of the saga. The Star Wars underworld is one of my favorite things about Star Wars. Being able to see where Han’s origins and what eventually led him to becoming the captain of the Millennium Falcon was enjoyable. I would have liked to have seen a little more about his life prior to the events that the movie opens up with. I would have also liked to have seen more about his life during his time at the Imperial Academy. I guess there is only so much of the story that can be told in 135 minutes.
Director: Richard Marquand
Release date: May 25, 1983
This final film of the original trilogy closed out Act II of the Skywalker Saga and what a closing it was! From the opening sequence that took us back to Tatooine to the closing scene on Endor, this one was a thrill ride. In this one, we are not only introduced to a new species called Ewoks, but we also get to see Luke finally confront his father in a lightsaber duel for the ages. I have loved the look of the second Death Star ever since I laid eyes on it in ROTJ. Even to the point that I have a tattoo on it on my right arm. The main problem that I had with this film was that I felt it was unnecessary to kill off Boba Fett. And even if you had, just HAD, to kill off his character, it could have been done in a more honorable, climatic way rather than just falling to his death in the Sarlacc pit.
Director: Rian Johnson
Release date: December 15, 2017
I did not and do not have the strong hate for this movie that it seems such a large portion of the fandom had for it. The opening battle sequence was absolutely incredible! Poe’s dialogue with Hux during that scene was hilarious. The chemistry between Rey and Luke was great. The surprising appearance of Yoda on Ahch-To was great. I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced such as Rose Tico and DJ. I did not hate the Canto Bight storyline. And the “duel” between Luke and Kylo was fun. Overall, a great movie.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Release date: December 20, 2019
I had a time trying to decide where to rank this. Ultimately, it took a simple movie by movie comparison. Do I like it better than this one? Yes, it goes above that one. No? It goes below that one. Very simple strategy. This last film in the Skywalker saga was phenomenal, to say the least. It was very emotional. There are many fans that did not like that Palpatine was back. I loved it! He is the ultimate Star Wars villain so why would you not want him back for the last installment? His connection to Rey? Again, I’m a fan even though many are not. There is a common theme among those that were not fond of this idea where they felt like it took away from the idea that a nobody from nowhere and not just a Skywalker (or somebody of equal importance) could have the Force. While I understand that sentiment, people forget that this is the Skywalker saga. It is telling the story about the Skywalker family and those that are closely associated with the Skywalker family. I would have to say that the Palpatine lineage is very directly connected with the Skywalker family. If the saga were just about random people in the galaxy, then I could see how they should tell the story of a nobody that has this great power but this is, in fact, the story of a powerful lineage.
While I would have liked to have seen more of Rose Tico, I understand that the film had time constraints and I honestly don’t think that Rose was a major player in the story that they were trying to tell in this film. I absolutely loved the new characters introduced in this film. Jannah, Zorii Bliss, Babu Frik. All great characters that I want to learn more about. The Knights of Ren could have been used a little more but, again, time constraints. Were they essential to the story? Not really.
Director: George Lucas
Release date: May 19, 2005
Much of the reason that I was so fond of this film stems from the fact that it is telling the story of the fall of Anakin Skywalker. Ever since I had heard about Luke’s father in A New Hope, and then subsequently learning in the next film that Darth Vader was, in fact, Anakin, the idea of who he was before the fall and the hows and whys of his fall were a story that I wanted to hear, read, or see. This movie gave me that. Sure, we saw the beginning of his path toward the dark side in Attack of the Clones when he killed a village of sand people, but this movie really cemented his fall. Additionally, the lightsaber duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan in this film is my favorite lightsaber duel in the entire saga. The emotion and dynamic between master and pupil in that sequence really hit me.
Director: Irvin Kershner
Release date: May 21, 1980
This is the film that, for me, started it all. As I stated previously, I had not seen A New Hope when it originally came out in the theater. This one, however, I did see. I remember sitting in that theater and the impact that it had on me all those years ago. From then on, I was hooked. I was a Star Wars fan. The Battle of Hoth. The Dagobah training sequences. The imagery and impact of Cloud City. Seeing Boba Fett and the rest of the bounty hunters for the first time. In some ways, this movie was actually a little overwhelming, but in a good way. Part of the reason Empire ranks so high on my list could be the nostalgia factor but there is so much to love about this movie, it is completely understandable why there are a lot of fans out there that rank this was as their favorite.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Release date: December 16, 2016
It is extremely doubtful that this non-episodic film in the franchise will show up on too many lists as the #1 choice. It’s not episodic. It has nearly nothing to do with the Skywalkers. It has very little to do with the Force and the Jedi. To me though, this movie is more of a “war” film than any of the others. I like the idea that Disney decided to do a movie that was told from the perspective of those that were not “main” characters in the saga. I remember reading the opening crawl in A New Hope many years ago and noticing the mention of the rebel spies that stole the plans to the Death Star and thinking what about those people? What about their story? Why don’t we get to learn about these spies that have gained such a “victory” against the Empire as the opening crawl states? Well, Rogue One gave us that story and I could not be happier. This movie did not disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters in this film. Jyn Erso, obviously. Cassian Andor. Chirrut. Baze. Galen. And, of course, Saw Gerrera, who is one of my favorite Star Wars characters overall. The only thing I can say that is even slightly negative about this film is that I wish they would have spent a little more time developing Jyn Erso’s character but they only had so much time to tell the movie that they wanted to tell and I unquestionably loved the story that was told.
How would you rank them?
The Future of the Force. The future of pop culture writing.
Steve Long is a new addition to the Future of the Force roster. Aside from being a passionate Star Wars fan, he also co-hosts the Rogue One Radio Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @otter272 where he channels his passion frequently!