Best known for creating the Star Wars universe, George Lucas has had a profound and timeless impact on cinema as both an art form with his era-defining work and cinema as a business with his founding of Lucasfilm. As well as a famed creator, Lucas has had an almost incomparable impact as a producer, the films he helped bring to the screen in the 70s, 80s and 90s being among some of the most iconic of the latter 20th century, his company’s special effects house Idustrial Light and Magic providing the very best CG of every era since the mid-70s, evolving cinema with each and every contribution.
As a director however, Lucas’ career is one of reluctance rather than passion, the filmmaker’s overall output limited to just 6 films over a 34 year period, 4 of which have been Star Wars movies. Now with his beloved multi-billion dollar franchise, production house and special effects house sold to the giant mouse, there seems like no better time to revisit the directorial work of this important and instantly recognisable creator than right now. That’s why, in this edition of Ranked, we’re ranking each of George Lucas’ directed movies from worst to best, basing our rankings on a mix of artistry, reception and popular consensus.
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6. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Arguably the least significant of all the Skywalker Saga Star Wars films in terms of overall canon, and featuring one of the most notoriously terrible romance arcs in the history of cinema – “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse, rough and irritating.” – Lucas’ 2nd prequel trilogy entry Attack of the Clones was, unlike the original trilogy’s middle release Empire Strikes Back, totally missable. Attack of the Clones was everything the underwhelming The Phantom Menace was without the excitement of seeing Star Wars return to the big screen for the first time in close to 20 years, and it remains perhaps the most well known example of a filmmaker being given too much creative freedom (and too much access to CGI). From a business standpoint, and from the perspective of Lucas’ production company Lucasfilm, Attack of the Clones was a strong release, but from an artistic and creative perspective, this Star Wars entry was a black mark on the career of a directorial legend; an at least underwhelming and at most quite terrible movie lacking in the timeless, philosophical features of its director’s better work.
5. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
When it was revealed that George Lucas, the man who hadn’t directed a film in the 20-plus year period following his work on Star Wars (1977) was to resurrect his beloved franchise with a prequel that would tell of the rise of the Empire and Darth Vader, optimism was high. Lucas, a filmmaker with real directorial pedigree and even more respect as a producer and creator, was the only person fans could ever trust to bring back Star Wars after its near perfect original trilogy had left such a profound cultural impact. In The Phantom Menace, much of that optimism was quelled, the long-awaited prequel being too reliant upon the use of relatively primitive CGI; CGI that not only took away the immersiveness associated with Lucas’ original 1977 release, but CG that also was never going to hold up to the test of time. Narratively, Lucas at least tried new and interesting things in The Phantom Menace before settling for more traditional and safe options in the following two prequels, and the film’s climactic lightsaber duel is truly a thing of beauty; arguably the best Lucas ever created. The Phantom Menace was never good, but it felt large in scale, ambitious from a creative standpoint and like it had something it was trying to say, placing it leaps and bounds above Attack of the Clones in this list of George Lucas releases.
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