Happy Star Wars day everyone.
I have written a lot about the galaxy far far away and even though a fair bit of it has been negative, I still love a LOT about Star Wars. It’s probably because I love it so much that I’m so critical, and while that might sound contradictory I think it makes sense. If I didn’t care I wouldn’t write anything. Just look through all my movie reviews on this site; there’s not a Fast and Furious article to be found.
And now, on this annual day of celebration, and in the shadow of the final film in the Skywalker Saga (or so they say, I mean this saga has been finished three times now so who knows), I feel reminiscent. So let’s rank the nine movies in the Saga from bottom to best. Now, knowing me, I can knock out a thousand words on each of these without breaking a sweat, so let me challenge myself.
Here is my ranking of the Skywalker Saga, with a little something said about each of them…limited to one-hundred words or less.
And yes, I know the scores are different from various reviews I’ve written previously, that is because these scores are graded on a curve relative to the Saga, nothing more.
With that out of the way, on to the ranking!
I CAN’T WATCH THIS AGAIN
THE RISE OF SKYWALKER
There are several movies that I went into fully expecting to hate and came out pleasantly surprised. On the other hand, there are only a handful of films that I went into really excited about and walked out hating. I am usually a cheap first date. If I’m into you, I will talk myself into liking you, no matter how bad the dinner was. TROS is maybe the most disappointing film experience I’ve ever endured. It is a mess, rushed (horribly), confused, insulting to my intelligence, and the worst possible end to the saga I can fathom.
I JUST DO NOT LIKE THIS
ATTACK OF THE CLONES
Previously the trophy holder for “worst Star Wars movie.” The chasm between this live-action movie that looks and acts like a children’s cartoon, and the Clone Wars show that actually is a cartoon is staggering. AOTC is the herky-jerkiest movie in the saga, pulling you from breakneck action to sudden-halting romance, but with action that is so phony-looking you can’t admire it and romance so stilted you can’t appreciate it. After the disappointment of Episode 1, fans needed this to be good. Somehow it was worse and Star Wars fandom has never really recovered.
THE PHANTOM MENACE
The Phantom Menace failed because it did everything except be a movie. It set up a trilogy and a saga. It established a trilogy and a saga’s worth of heroes and villains. It featured groundbreaking special effects. It kicked off the second-era of Star Wars. It did a lot, but it wasn’t a good movie. It was unfocused, plodding, and boring. It gets a bump over AOTC due to a tremendous visual style. It feels like the most put-together movie of the prequels (probably because it had the longest production time), but there’s no there, there.
FLAWED AND I WANT TO LIKE IT, BUT NO
REVENGE OF THE SITH
Star Wars fans are far too kind to this movie. It has all the biggest moments we wanted to see in the prequels, but they happen without a good script, good acting, or even a sensical plot happening around it. If you had never seen Episodes 4-6, none of the big moments would make any sense, nor would they land with any dramatic weight. If you have to pause the movie and explain to a nonfan why these things are happening (because you have known the canon for twenty years), the movie failed to tell its story. That ROTS.
THE FORCE AWAKENS
When you give JJ Abrams a good screenplay he can do good things with it. The Force Awakens had a good screenplay. It wasn’t great; it was a bit too derivative for many fans, but it was good. It introduced a whole new batch of heroes and villains, teased a few mysteries, and built to a thrilling conclusion. It’s good. It’s not great compared to the best of the franchise, but it’s solid. There’s a nice visual flair going on, everyone puts in good performances, the music is great. It’s good. What’s everyone’s problem?
RETURN OF THE JEDI
Sure, it’s a step down from Empire. And sure, the story has a few problems, namely, it’s very rushed and yet somehow has very little to say in the first half, and also it’s a bit derivative with yet another Death Star to contend with. Nevertheless, it rises above its flaws by delivering tons of fun in the first half rescue of Han and plenty of pathos in the second half redemption of Darth Vader. It feels like several stories shoved into one (which it was) but the end result is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.
THE LAST JEDI
I will defend this movie to the bitter end. Rian Johnson gave us a visually stunning film, with surprising story beats, and a screenplay that wove together prequel, original, and sequel trilogy in a way that no other Star Wars movie has. Its greatest achievement is that it took fans on a journey and dared them to start in an uncomfortable place. Those who were willing, walked away immensely satisfied. Those who balked at the opening, have probably never recovered. For me, this is a magical film that rewards me the more times I see it.
A NEW HOPE
The history of how this film was made (and almost failed) is almost more entertaining than the movie itself. Put simply, Star Wars was a lightning in a bottle Hollywood miracle that made it across the finish line in the first place by a team of incredible people orbiting around George Lucas’ youthful drive and vision. No movie has ever replicated what this did in terms of behind the scenes drama leading to box office domination. The result is the great American fiction in film form. Oh, and stop calling it science fiction; this is a fairy tale in space.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
Film history is filled with successful movies that spawned despised sequels. Why? Because they were made purely for profit and so, playing it safe, they simply retreaded the same ground covered in the first movie. The result would be films that felt more like cheap knockoffs than worthwhile continuations. TESB walks the tightrope of being different from movie-one, while retaining the jen es se quoi that made ANH such a magical experience. It brought back enough beloved from the first, and introduced enough that was new and yet right at home. The shocker cliffhanger was just icing on the cake.
So that’s my ranking. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below and share how you would rank the nine films in the Skywalker Saga. And as always…
May the Fourth be with you.