Ranking the Skywalker Saga

by Alan Rapp on April 20, 2020

in Top Tens & Lists

With all movies now available on home video, recently I watched the nine core Star Wars films in order from Episode I through Episode IX, ignoring standalone movies like Solo or Rogue One. Here then is my attempt to rank all nine films in the Skywalker Saga.

What I found when ranking the films were a group of four films at the top, one that belongs exactly in the middle, one obviously bringing up the rear, and the rest somewhere in-between. The hardest movies for me to rank on the list weren’t 1-3, but 6-8 where I think the obvious flaws of each, albeit still good, film make separation between them challenging. In the end, this is the list I ended up with.

9. Attack of the Clones

Sand… The weakest film of the lot, Episode II was the easiest to rank on the list. Of the nine, while I believe several of the other movies are flawed in various ways, it’s the only one I consider a bad film. The romantic dumpster fire that is Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), the bizarre climax through a factory which feels entirely made for a video game rather than a film followed by the odd sacrifice sequence and CGI overload of Jedi and droids, and the wasted opportunities of characters like Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison) and Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) leave this one firmly in last place. Read the full review

8. The Rise of Skywalker

The final entry to the saga shoehorns the Emperor (Ian McDiarmid) back into the storyline, without any lead-up, in an attempt to further connect the nine films together for one massive finale. The results are mixed. Rey‘s (Daisy Ridley) genealogy is revisited again with less-effective results, Ben Solo (Adam Driver) is given a chance at redemption, and director J.J. Abrams trips over all the fan service to deliver an adequate, but far from spectacular, final chapter. Read the full review

7. The Phantom Menace

Despite Jar Jar (Ahmed Best), despite the politically incorrect Trade Federation, despite the drier blockade storyline, despite introducing Anakin (Jake Lloyd) at too young an age, The Phantom Menace is more successful than Rise of Skywalker in broadening, rather than retreating into, the scope of the Star Wars universe. It offers us Darth Maul (Ray Park), the best lightsaber battle of any film in the saga, the podrace, and some intriguing behind-the-scenes manipulations of a Senator who would continue to rise in power over the next two movies. Read the full review

6. The Force Awakens

Both of Abrams films end in the bottom-half of our list. There’s nothing all that wrong with The Force Awakens, it’s actually quite an enjoyable film and has several new characters, predominately Rey, who set the stage for the next generation of the franchise. However, the film is also a bit too safe for its own good in offering the same storyline we’ve seen (twice) before involving a large-scale planet-destroying weapon and heroic attempt by Rebels to take it down. And while Kylo Ren would grow into a more interesting character in the next film, here the cry-baby emo son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is hard to take seriously as an heir to Vader. Read the full review

5. The Revenge of the Sith

The final, and best, of the prequel movies offers the reveal of the Emperor, the end of democracy in the galaxy (to thunderous applause), more insight into his corruption of Anakin Skywalker, the fall of the Jedi, and the birth of Darth Vader. Pieces of the film are certainly questionable including Jedi-killer General Grievous, the timing of a character’s death leading to all kinds of continuity errors with Return of the Jedi, and the unnecessary inclusion of Chewbacca to further tie back to the original trilogy. Read the full review

4. Return of the Jedi

Yub-Nub! While a bit too reminiscent of Star Wars in offering another Death Star, Return is full of great moments including the escape from Jabba the Hutt, the revelation of “another,” Scout Troopers, speeder bikes, and the battles in the wilderness of Endor, and the final confrontation between Vader and his offspring. While the “special” edition truncates the glorious Ewok celebration, and inserts a painful music number into Jabba’s palace, the film still works well as a conclusion to the original trilogy. Read the full review

3. The Last Jedi

The most controversial Star Wars film of the nine (although it’s gaining ground with its detractors and Empire was equally controversial following its release), The Last Jedi offers the return of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the training of Rey as a Jedi, a broadening connection between Rey and Kylo Ren, and a final stand for the Resistance where a lone figure holding a laser sword holds off the First Order on the salt plains of Crait and reignites the fire of rebellion across the galaxy. Even if Finn‘s (John Boyega) subplot on Cantonica is largely superfluous, it does introduce some interesting ideas that help the development of his still quite-naive character, the rest of the film is simply too good to rank it any lower on the list. Read the full review

2. The Empire Strikes Back

Most people would put Empire first on the list, but I think the gap between Star Wars and it’s first sequel is smaller than most and I’ll give credit to the original which Empire relies on to build so successfully here. As for moments, wow, does it have them: Degobah and Luke’s training, the introduction of Yoda, Cloud City and carbonite, and the revelation which would rock Luke Skywalker’s world. Not to mention AT-ATs, Wompas, asteroid fields, and Boba Fett. This one has it all. Read the full review

1.Star Wars

The original which lays the foundation for everything to follow is a perfect popcorn movie. In fact one could argue it’s the perfect popcorn movie. Its themes, along with stand-out lines and scenes, would all be continually mined and recreated in the eight films to follow. Continually referenced, built upon, homaged, and acknowledged, it is simply the best. It also features some of the most iconic moments in all of Star Wars history which set the stage for all that is to come from the opening Star Destroyer to Binary Sunset to Han shooting first to the destruction of the Death Star. No other film on this list would do as the best film of the Skywalker Saga. Read the full review

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