Ranking all Star Wars films, from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens and The Empire Strikes Back

Over 10 feature films across 42 years, the Star Wars franchise has captured the mind of the public like no series before.

Nandhu Sundaram December 18, 2019 07:58:16 IST
Ranking all Star Wars films, from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens and The Empire Strikes Back

It wasn’t like there were no movies set in space in Hollywood before Star Wars IV: A New Hope. The golden age of science fiction had come and gone in the 1950s — and it was almost a decade until Stanley Kubrick’s definitive masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey. But when Star Wars was released in 1977, the queue outside theatres was a mile long, which gave a new-found status to sci-fi movies. Movie brat George Lucas, creator of the space-opera, had truly arrived in style.

Over 10 feature films across 42 years, the Star Wars franchise has captured the mind of the viewer like no series before. The first three films chronicled the heroic adventures of Luke Skywalker, his sister Leia and smuggler Han Solo. In the prequel trilogy that followed, the story of Anakin Skywalker and his turn to the dark side is told. The sequel series tells the story of Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron against the First Order led by Kylo Ren.

On 20 December, 2019, just ahead of Christmas, The Rise of Skywalker will be released. This will be the last film in the sequel trilogy and is being directed by JJ Abrams. And so, it is only fair to rank all Star Wars films, including the anthology pictures.

Ranking all Star Wars films from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens and The Empire Strikes Back

A collage of all Star Wars films. Image from Youtube.

10. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) 

Why does it take Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi all movie to meet Anakin Skywalker? Who the hell is Jar Jar Binks anyway and why is his accent so irritable? Lucas had waited nearly 16 years since Return of the Jedi for CGI to become advanced and the film had some of the best special effects seen in a long time. Despite an all-star cast that included Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman, Lucas, who was director, failed to inhabit his movie with strong characters. The dialogues were wooden and the film turned out to be a gross disappointment.

9. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

This was the weakest movie of the original trilogy. We knew the Jedi would hit back at the Empire and they did. The concept of the second Death Star sounded quite unoriginal and the movie and was hindered by myriad unnecessary plot twists before it meandered towards its climax. As Jedi’s budget had significantly increased after the blockbuster success of the first two films, the onus seemed to be on creating spectacular special effects. This made characterisation and plot rather weak.

8. Solo: A Star Wars story (2018)

This is the first movie in the franchise that officially “bombed”. Made on a budget of $275 million, the film made $372 million, making it the least profitable film in the series. The movie tells the story of Han Solo played by Alden Ehrenreich. The film ran into production hell and its original directors were fired and replaced by Ron Howard. Ultimately, critics loved the movie, but audiences stayed away. This is the second film in the anthology series.

7. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) 

Expectations were sky high for this movie and this critic was quite befuddled by the movie’s lacklustre action sequences and razor-thin plot. Anakin’s internal darkness too was overhyped. Some critics even considered the picture the worst of all Star Wars films. But the film was a box-office success despite its long running time, the sketchy screenplay and dull dialogue.

6. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) 

The film was a monster hit worldwide, making $1.3 billion at the box-office, becoming the highest grossing film of 2017. As with most Star Wars films, this one too boasted an ensemble cast led by Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega and Oscar Issac. The plot follows the Resistance attempts to fight the First Order even as Rey receives training from Luke Skywalker. We had to drop this film to the number 6 spot as the list got crowded at the top.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) 

Starring Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, the movie, set just before the events of A New Hope, follows a group of rebels as they try to steal the plans of the Death Star. This was the first film to be produced that was not part of the “Skywalker Saga”.

4. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

The film that began it all. The first film of the original trilogy became responsible for starting the madness worldwide. It was called Star Wars and is now known as Episode IV: A New Hope. Directed by Lucas, the film became a major hit after its widespread release during the summer of 1977. Praised by critics, the epic space-opera had groundbreaking visual effects and featured a theme everyone could identify with: the fight of good over evil. John Williams’ score and opening credits went on to become easily identifiable across the world.

3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

We need to look back on this one. This was the movie that redeemed the prequel trilogy after the disaster of the first two episodes. The light saber duel between Kenobi and Anakin is a memorable sequence set in the fictional lava-laden land of Mustafar. The darkness pervading inside Anakin (Hayden Christensen) as he fears for the life of his wife Padme (Natalie Portman) and his children finally engaged us emotionally and provided the movie with a gripping subtext.

2: Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

JJ Abrams. He was the first to straddle the two distinctly geeky worlds of Star Wars and Star Trek. His magic touch made the movie the fourth highest grossing of all-time, crossing the crucial $2 billion mark at the box-office. The movie is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi and was made almost 10 years after Revenge of the Sith.

1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The first few minutes are often not mentioned because of the focus on the final showdown between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. But the graphics of the opening sequence is as convincing as any you can find in the modern era. When the villain is more powerful than the hero, it sets up an interesting conflict and Lucas is acutely aware of this — and so the Skywalker family is filled up with complicated characters. The leisurely sequences involving Luke’s studying the Force under Jedi Master Yoda are a pleasure to watch. Rarely have sequels ever done well as The Empire Strikes Back. 

 

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