9. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
What happens? – Anakin gives in to his urges and is consumed by the dark side of the force. After battling with his master Obi-Wan and losing Padmé, he is reconstructed as the iconic Darth Vader.
Three films into the reconstruction of Star Wars lore and Revenge of the Sith finally offered what had been promised since Star Wars in 1977, the battle that would leave Anakin Skywalker entirely reliant upon a suit of armor to stay alive, the brutal moment in which Anakin would be yielded and Obi-Wan prove his immense and special talents with the force.
The dark tone of this movie was central to the picture’s success as Anakin’s journey finally became identifiable to the hopeful and equally expectant fans. The CGI was perhaps the best it had been at any other point in the prequel franchise too, making the opening battle scenes and the fight between Obi-Wan and Anakin that bit more special. Yoda was specifically well portrayed in this movie, with the animated character showing so much emotion that it really hit the hearts of the die-hard fans who’d followed his development as the wise and driven jedi master who had otherwise seemed free of the humanity afforded to other characters in the form of empathy.
Revenge of the Sith did, however, equally earn the mire of audiences and critics alike for its overly clunky dialogue that was littered with exposition. More so, the film was simply unable to distance itself from the slow pace and cheesiness of its predecessor, and was ultimately a film that most people watch during a Star Wars marathon exclusively to get onto the better films in the original trilogy. There were certainly high points in Revenge of the Sith, but so far as the great plethora of Star Wars movies go, it was hardly the classic of the bunch despite its obvious and substantial improvements on the other entries outlined so far in this list.
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8. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
What happens? – Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn confide in a young Anakin Skywalker in the hope that he may one day bring balance to a force that the Sith is battling to take control of.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars franchise entry to benefit from the passing of time, this largely average science fiction film earning the benefit of the doubt it deserved (by being related to the original trilogy), and doing just about enough to warrant its Star Wars name.
While much has been made of how The Phantom Menace sadly welcomed an era of below par Wars films that would lessen the legacy of both the franchise and its creator George Lucas – much of which focuses on the arguably racist presentation of side characters such as Jar Jar Binks and Watto as well as the overuse of primitive CGI techniques – the very first story from the galaxy far, far away also brought with it the same ignition of imagination as was present in the original trilogy and, at least in part, a genuine hope that what the new Star Wars had to offer would be something exciting and lore-building at the very least.
With arguably the best and certainly the most complex score of John Williams’ superb collection, and a number of fantastic moments that acted to both widen the perspective of the universe and act as fan service – notably the double-sided lightsaber wielded by the dark side’s Darth Maul (a character very much still beloved for his overall presentation of the force at its absolute peak) – The Phantom Menace does offer a lot more than the general consensus would argue, though Lucas’ insistence upon deconstructing elements of the universe that need not be deconstucted as well as his desire to push LucasArts’ new CG technology did do as much as they could to bring hatred upon this particular Star Wars entry, a hatred that continues to make it one of the most divisive Star Wars films in history.
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7. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
What Happens? – The Skywalker Saga is brought to an end as the light and dark sides of the force clash in a huge climactic battle.
Arguably even more divisive than the sequel trilogy’s hotly debated middle entry, The Rise of Skywalker was very much the Disney-Lucasfilm brand in full damage-protection mode.
Originally, The Rise of Skywalker was going to be written and directed by Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, but the filmmaker was fired following the monumental critical and box office failure of his 2017 film The Book of Henry, with The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams returning to finish the trilogy he’d opened several years prior. This made for several creative issues…
In The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had made a number of decisions in his screenplay that wiped out elements of the trilogy’s story that Abrams had set in place in Episode VII, so when it came to The Rise of Skywalker Abrams looked to course correct, Disney holding his hand in an attempt to win back the angry swathes of fans who hadn’t taken too well to The Last Jedi. The result was a film that felt like it was purposefully being as safe and as corporately Star Wars as possible, and while this offered a number of distinctly satisfying moments, the end product felt like exactly that… a product.
The Rise of Skywalker was more parts fan service and attempting to appease potential unrest among the fan base than it was creative highs and moments of inspiration or true catharsis; a spectacular movie in parts, but only in parts; a film not too unlike Solo in how it unfortunately had corporate fingerprints all over it.