Welcome to the first post in my Worst to First category. In this category, I aim to rearrange various movie series in order of quality. Where better to start than with the grandest series of all?
As a lifelong fan, it doesn’t take much effort to get me to wax intellectual about Star Wars. With a fresh new episode being released at the end of the year, I felt it was the perfect time to revisit the series and try to discern which film deserves to sit at the very top of the pile.
It goes without saying that there are spoilers ahead, but then I doubt you would be reading this if you haven’t already seen the films.
So without further ado, here is my attempt at rearranging the series from worst to first, starting with …
#6. Attack of the Clones
Although it’s the weakest of the six, Attack of the Clones is still an enjoyable romp. The only reason it dwells at the bottom of this list is that it doesn’t really do much other than bridge the gap between episodes one and three.
An unexpected origin story of the Storm Troopers is the only noteworthy point here, but it answers a question that was never really asked. Although vital to the Star Wars experience, I doubt that many people were genuinely interested in who the Storm Troopers were before the Empire. In fact, Attack of the Clones ruins the mystique of the Troopers, which was arguably their best attribute.
The rest of the film centres on the budding romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. Seeing as we already know the outcome of this coupling, the forbidden love plotline fails to generate much interest.
On the plus side, Christopher Lee works wonders with a relatively weak villain in Count Dooku (despite the fact that it’s a blatant example of typecasting) and we finally see Yoda show off his duelling skills, which are equal parts impressive and baffling. Baffling because how could a creature so old be so agile? “Because … The Force” is an unacceptable and lazy answer.
HIGHLIGHT: Obi Wan Kenobi versus Jango Fett
#5 The Phantom Menace
The first Star Wars movie to be released outside of the original trilogy was always going to struggle with the stifling hype surrounding it. Unsurprisingly, The Phantom Menace failed to live up to expectations, but that’s not to say that it is a terrible film. On the contrary, if viewed solely as a Sci-Fi movie, it’s rather enjoyable.
A plot that deals with galactic politics is an interesting idea and surprisingly well implemented, it just detracts from what made the original trilogy so entertaining. At its heart, Star Wars is a family friendly story of good versus evil. The Phantom Menace keeps the family tone, but it feels at odds with the rest of the franchise due to the unnecessarily intricate story of galactic diplomacy.
There are still all the hallmarks of a good Star Wars film here. Epic lightsaber duels, charismatic heroes in Qui Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi, not to mention an excellent antagonist in Darth Maul. There’s enough to like about The Phantom Menace, but there’s plenty that holds it back too. Yes Jar Jar Binks, that means you.
Ultimately enjoyable, but not exactly the droid we were looking for … Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
HIGHLIGHT: Qui Gon Jin and Obi Wan Kenobi versus Darth Maul
#4 Revenge of the Sith
A satisfying conclusion to the prequel trilogy. It almost makes up for the errors of the previous two entrants by cramming everything remotely Star Wars-esque into its runtime. The inevitable showdown between Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi is a high point, worthy of the slow build-up.
With George Lucas seemingly obsessed with tying up all loose ends in this finale, at times Revenge of the Sith feels bloated and unbalanced. The pacing is relentless for the most part, which at times is a hindrance as we never seem to get enough time to let things sink in.
It’s a meritorious attempt by George Lucas to tie up all of the loose ends, but I can’t help but think that the entire prequel trilogy would have benefitted from him spreading out the story more, as opposed to cramming the majority of it into this last episode.
Still, Revenge of the Sith is an excellent Sci-Fi spectacle that answers more questions than it asks.
HIGHLIGHT: The first sounds of Darth Vader’s respirator.
#3 Return of the Jedi
The final instalment in the original trilogy, although a hugely exciting entrant, has a few niggling flaws that keep it behind the previous two films. Most notably the unnecessarily upbeat ending. For a saga where an entire galaxy is in jeopardy, Return of the Jedi wraps everything up a little too neatly. There should have been a high profile death, or at least something of a similar magnitude to make us feel that the fate of the galaxy really was in danger.
With that said, however, Return of the Jedi still has more than enough to appease your average Star Wars fanatic. Character revelations, large-scale battles and unforgettable lightsaber duels are all present and correct, as well as basically everything else that makes Star Wars great.
It’s a spectacular end to the series, just a little bit too clean for my tastes, but that’s just me.
HIGHLIGHT: Darth Vader’s shocking intervention.
#2 A New Hope
The one that started it all. An incredible introduction to the greatest saga ever committed to film. The inaugural lightsaber duel, the first appearance of iconic characters, the first introductory paragraph crawling up towards the stars, it’s the perfect foundation for the series. The unusually orchestral score was a masterstroke. Most Sci-Fi movies tend to create futuristic musical accompaniments which often tend to suffer with age. With Star Wars opting for the traditional film score, it only adds to the timeless feel of the whole experience.
After the release of the CGI heavy prequel trilogy, re-watching A New Hope is a refreshingly simple experience. A basic but captivating plot is acted out with aplomb by everybody involved, and is directed with an addictive flair and confidence by George Lucas. The practical effects have stood the test of time, perhaps more than the CGI of the later iterations ever will.
For the longest time, I had this down as my favourite Star Wars movie. However, looking back after years of re-watching the entire series, there was only one thing that could possibly have demoted this to second place …
HIGHLIGHT: The dog fight above the surface of the Death Star.
#1 The Empire Strikes Back
The ultimate Star Wars experience. The Empire Strikes Back builds on A New Hope in every possible way. Beloved characters are explored deeper and iconic new ones are introduced.
Luke’s transformation from impatient apprentice to Jedi Knight, and from a stroppy teen to the embodiment of good is riveting and entirely believable. Lando Calrissian is a memorable addition to the series who, despite having more faces than Mount Rushmore, positively oozes charm and charisma.
In the end, the top spot was decided by one thing. One scene that turned the entire franchise on its head, forcing every fan to look at the saga in a whole new light. The truth about Darth Vader’s identity. Vader’s revelation is one of the most memorable moments in cinema history. In my opinion, that was the only thing that could have dethroned A New Hope as the best film in the series.
HIGHLIGHT: “That’s not true, that’s impossible!”
So there you have my take on which is the best Star Wars film. Whether you agree or disagree, feel free to let me know in the comments below.