With 12 movies under its belt, it’s difficult to determine which Star Wars movie is the best – if it’s even possible. However, not all of them are great, which at least makes things a little easier. And opinions also vary. After all, film is entirely subjective, and no two rankings are likely to be the same. So yours will probably be very different to ours!
Either way, we decided to binge-watch all 12 movies from the faraway galaxy and put them in order, going from worst to best. Some of them were easily placed, others not so much. And sometimes positions can be interchangeable, but we’ve tried to make ours as solid and as unmoving as possible. Here it is!
12. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The final trailer for the last movie in the Skywalker Saga was full of such promise, showcasing what looked to be a truly epic finale. But perhaps Avengers: Endgame raised our expectations too high, or maybe Episode IX really is that bad. Even if you put poor storytelling aside, the movie lacks any sort of emotion and stakes, instead opting for cheap thrills and a handful of fake-out deaths. The trailer’s bombastic and soulful rendition of the iconic John Williams theme is also absent, leaving the final fight feeling as lifeless as Poe Dameron’s pre-battle speech.
With the exception of some impressive fight scenes between Rey and Kylo Ren and a thrilling showdown between the two and Emperor Palpatine, the truth is that there’s very little to write home about. A number of loose ends also suggest there’s either some footage on the cutting room floor or that the writing really is incompetent. The film even inexplicably spends so much time introducing new characters, that it forgets the ones it’s spent the best part of three films setting up. Needless to say, this movie did not bring balance to the Force like we had hoped.
11. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
You probably aren’t surprised that The Last Jedi follows closely behind The Rise of Skywalker, seeing as it’s the first Star Wars movie that well and truly split the fanbase down the middle like a hot lightsaber through butter. The movie is vastly flawed and fans wasted no time in reacting upon its release, instantly taking to social media platforms to voice their disbelief at the way many things were handled in the film, with one of the main problems being the portrayal of Luke Skywalker, whose first scene sees him tossing his lightsaber aside like it means nothing to him.
And there really are so many things wrong with the film – not only is the iconic hero now a bitter and disenfranchised Jedi and not the optimist we know and love from the original trilogy, but the film is filled with “gotcha” moments instead of properly earned twists. But perhaps the real problem is that it doesn’t feel like Star Wars, which might be largely due to the misplaced humor throughout. It’s not all bad, though – the Battle of Crait is spectacular, even if we do end up losing Luke in the process. And Luke was right all along – this did not go the way we thought it would.
10. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
It comes with some measure of guilt to have the 2008 animated movie so low on our list, but that’s only because it isn’t particularly engaging or memorable. The film is the first – and to date, only – animated film in the Star Wars series, and forms part of the long-running and critically-acclaimed CG series of the same name that ran from 2008 to 2020. It drops us right in the middle of the Clone Wars, as Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the excellent Ahsoka Tano (in her first appearance) are tasked with rescuing Jabba the Hutt’s son from Separatists.
To say that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a bad film in any way, shape or form would be a lie. The only real problem besides the ones we’ve mentioned is that it may as well be an episode within the series. And in many ways it is – if you follow the series in chronological order, it’s actually the third on the list. If it wasn’t for the 1 hour 40 minute runtime and the fact that Samuel L Jackson reprises his role as Jedi Mace Windu, you’d probably forget it ever had a theatrical release. Nevertheless, the film is a solid effort and without it we’d have never met the now-iconic Ahsoka Tano.
9. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
While the other two films in the prequel trilogy have gone on to become more appreciated over the years, Attack of the Clones remains something of a mixed bag within the fan community. The film isn’t a waste of time, though, as it introduces us to the Clone Wars, something that has since become so integral to Star Wars history that two animated shows and a theatrical movie were released just to flesh it all out. What is problematic is the overuse of green-screen used to depict battles, something that remains a bone of contention for the prequel trilogy as a whole.
With all that said, Attack of the Clones isn’t a bad film – it’s just a little boring. The chemistry between Anakin and Obi-Wan is believable, though, even if the dialogue isn’t (although the criticism of Hayden Christensen’s acting abilities is unwarranted – his confession of slaughtering Tuskan Raiders carries a lot of conviction). But there’s plenty of action, and seeing Mace Windu lay waste to Jango Fett is one of the most memorable scenes in the film. If you don’t like sand, though, the chances are you probably won’t like this entry (there’s a lot of it!).
8. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
You might also think it’s odd to see Return of the Jedi so low on this list, considering it’s undoubtedly one of the more classic Star Wars movies and the concluding chapter in the original trilogy. There are so many things to love about this film – the terrifying rancor scene, Leia giving Jabba a taste of his own medicine, the deadly sarlac, speeder chases through forests, Han and Chewie sharing a hug, the Battle of Endor, and the long-awaited showdown between Luke, Vader and the Emperor. But unfortunately there’s just as much wrong with the film as there is right with it.
Think nothing of seeing this movie so close to the likes of The Rise of Skywalker and The Last Jedi – our only real issue with it is the first act, which sees Luke and the gang attempt to rescue Han Solo from the clutches of the vile gangster Jabba the Hutt. The scene goes on way too long and ultimately holds the film back. Once it gets going, though, it’s a lot of fun with a huge pay-off, and seeing the Emperor get overthrown (literally) by Vader is still jaw-dropping. The Force is strong in this trilogy of films – this one has it, its predecessor has it, and even the one before has it!
7. Star Wars: A Solo Story (2018)
It wouldn’t feel right putting Solo any lower on this list, but it would feel just as wrong putting it any higher, as it’s easily the one film in the entire series fans never asked for. The idea of a Solo backstory was met with much resistance (no pun intended), and the fact that Harrison Ford wasn’t going to be filling those boots didn’t help matters. However, the film is a prequel and casting Ford into a role that is three or four decades his senior makes no sense whatsoever, and besides, Alden Ehrenreich gives a serviceable performance as the nerf herder.
The film offers up buckets of action and some fun exchanges between Han and Chewie, which mirrors the chemistry between Ford and Mayhew. There are times when Ehrenreich even looks a bit like Ford, but you have to look very closely. As for the rest of the characters, the only real stand-out is Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra. All in all, it’s pretty entertaining, even if getting a backstory to every single thing we know about Han Solo spoils the fun, such as clearing up the whole ‘Who shot first’ mystery! We’re just surprised it didn’t tell us who really kills Han in The Force Awakens!
6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Phantom Menace isn’t exactly regarded as one of the best Star Wars movies, but we think it’s somewhat underrated – at least to some extent. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the film isn’t what fans were expecting, as not only does it look vastly different to the original Star Wars trilogy, it’s also a lot cheesier and relies heavily on special effects to get by. With that said, George Lucas has gone on record to admit that it was his intention to give each Star Wars trilogy its own identity, which is plain to see from watching the prequels.
And then there’s Jar Jar Binks, who is indeed among the most annoying Star Wars characters. But putting all the bad stuff aside, The Phantom Menace isn’t a bad film. There are some excellent sequences, including the iconic Pod Race and the ‘Duel of the Fates’, in which Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan go up against Darth Maul, who remains one of the best things to have emerged from the prequel trilogy. The film also introduces other new characters, including a young Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. So it’s not a terrible film by any means – and there’s always a bigger fish!
5. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Are you shocked that the very first Star Wars film hasn’t made it on to the top of our rankings? As much as we love it, we feel that there are a number of other movies in the series that win out. Nevertheless, A New Hope is of course the original film, kickstarting a franchise that would go on to become one of the most iconic in cinematic history. And rightly so – Episode IV is a classic, with wonderful heroes, terrifying villains, mind-blowing locations, compelling storylines, rich histories, unique weapons and iconic music.
The film is also filled with memorable quotes, costumes, names and all sorts of other things that fill almost each frame. It’s also great to see how George Lucas achieved so much with so very little. And while the film and its two sequels have since undergone many ‘re-masterings’, we actually don’t mind ‘seeing the strings’ from time to time, as it brings a charm that all the CGI in the world couldn’t capture. The only negative thing we have to say about this film is Darth Vader (yes, shock horror) – he feels a little too robotic, and it’s clear the sequels ‘retconned’ him somewhat.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rogue One serves as a direct prequel to A New Hope, depicting the events of a team of rebels as they make efforts to retrieve the blueprints to the Death Star, with the hope of wiping it out before it destroys any more planets in the faraway galaxy. Gareth Edwards’ first galactic rodeo is very much a war movie, though there’s also emphasis on the stars too. Directed with such grit, the Star Wars spin-off instantly made a name for itself as one of the more solid entries in the series (even if it is technically based off a single line in A New Hope’s text crawl).
It’s not perfect, though. Its lead character Jyn Erso is one you can get behind, however the others – with the exception of Chirrut Imwe – leave something to be desired. Either way, there’s plenty of heart here – something newer Star Wars films struggle with on a major level. As for the spectacle, of course there’s plenty, and there are also OG character cameos – Darth Vader, Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia, with the latter two recreated with the aid of CGI. There might be times when Rogue One doesn’t quite feel like a Star Wars film, but then it is about rebels. Therefore it rebels.
3. Episode IX: The Force Awakens (2015)
Say what you will about The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, but the first entry in Disney’s sequel trilogy is a solid effort. The Force Awakens was even met with relatively positive reviews on its release, and while fans were quick to point out its similarities to A New Hope – which are all very obvious – it’s clear now that it was probably the right move at the time. We only wish that Disney and Lucasfilm had set out a roadmap from the get-go, which clearly wasn’t the case looking at how things turned out with the last two films in the trilogy.
If you can enjoy Episode IX as its own entity, though – which is tricky given all the false promises – then you might realize that it’s one of the best Star Wars films in the saga. While such a statement will likely be scoffed at my many, this is probably because the entry is dragged down by its sequels. Nevertheless, newcomers Rey, Poe, Finn and Kylo Ren are engaging (oh, but how things changed), while Han and Chewie bring some much-needed vintage Star Wars to the fold. As for its two sequels, perhaps First Order Trooper TR-8R would say it best: “Traitors!”
2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back is an odd film – and we mean that as a compliment. A superb follow-up to A New Hope, the sequel takes us deeper into the world of the Force as Luke Skywalker trains to become a Jedi with a senile and retired Master Yoda. It’s difficult to pinpoint the most violent Star Wars movie, but Episode V certainly has its fair share – which mostly involves the cutting off of limbs in true Star Wars fashion – and its tone is similar to that of Rogue One. Simply put, Empire feels like a war movie, but it also feels oddly futuristic at the same time.
It’s likely the settings, as we do start the film in a rebel base beneath the snow on Hoth. Characters also don hi-tech visors as they take to the hills on tauntauns, and there are also things such as a robotic hands and so on. Either way, futuristic sci-fi or space opera fantasy, the second Star Wars film is a force to be reckoned with, and its third act twist has gone down as one of the most iconic in cinema history. There’s plenty in the way of action too, with the Battle of Hoth being equally memorable. If you haven’t already guessed, we love the film. Go on, tell us you “know”.
1. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2004)
Surprised? Well what’s Star Wars without a little controversy. Come to think of it, we can’t think of a single film that hasn’t carried some measure of controversy. Solo’s production was rocky, Rogue One is allegedly the umpteenth cut, The Phantom Menace actor Ahmed Best received hate mail for playing Jar Jar, and don’t even get us started on the sequel trilogy! But on a serious note – and this film is very serious – Revenge of the Sith couldn’t have been a more fitting end to the prequel trilogy. And it’s easily the darkest film in the entire series, which is why we love it so much.
It’s not without flaw, though, as the film is plagued with green-screen just like its predecessors. But what it lacks in visuals it makes up for in rising tension and the culmination of events that have led to this moment. Episode III is a thrilling ride, and watching Anakin give in to the dark side, Palpatine rise to power, Order 66 wipe out the Jedi, and Padme lose her life during childbirth, is utterly tragic. But somehow, it seems that tragedy is what a Star Wars movie needs. That, and some real challenges for each character (here’s looking at you, Rey).
That completes our ranking of all 12 Star Wars movies – but only for the time being, as there are more on the horizon. There are two untitled projects in the works, one being helmed by Taika Waititi and the other by Kevin Feige, and then there’s Rogue Squadron, which comes flying into theaters in December, 2023.