3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
What happens? – A new band of heroes are led by Han Solo across the universe as, nearly three decades after Return of the Jedi, the battle between good and evil continues.
The Force Awakens is officially the fourth highest grossing movie of all time, and the highest grossing movie ever in North America, making it the most successful Star Wars movie of the entire franchise at the box office, owing much of that success to the way director J.J. Abrams and company returned the Skywalker Saga to its roots with practical visual effects, a heavy bedrock of Jedi mythology and a brand new audience pleasing blockbuster adventure of a narrative.
Blending fresh characters and challenges with everyone’s heavy sense of nostalgia for the original trilogy made for one of the most satisfying multi-billion dollar releases of the decade and almost every single fan of the original trilogy clamouring for even more. In-keeping with its intent to be a love letter to the originals, The Force Awakens was also shot on celluloid and looked every bit as cinematic as the greats, though its story’s reliance upon revisiting similar narrative beats to A New Hope did bring about criticisms towards Abrams and the film as regards its lack of originality.
While criticisms regarding originality and the film’s overt reliance upon nostalgia are warranted, The Force Awakens remains an exciting, nay red-hot, debut for the franchise under the Disney banner; a genuine moment in time for movie goers that thrilled for its entire run-time through original trilogy call backs, heart-stopping action and moments of true inspiration; one of the best of the entire Star Wars live-action library released thus far.
2. Star Wars (1977)
What happens? – Fate brings a young Luke Skywalker across two droids who lead him to Ben Kenobi, a man who helps him to find his inner Jedi and begin a battle against an oppressive empire.
If you weren’t there at the time, just imagine what it must have been like to go and see the first Star Wars movie in 1977.
Star Wars, now referred to as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, changed the game for the film industry and fired big budget special effects driven pictures into the mainstream – it also did a lot to make such movies the norm in the decades that followed.
Episode IV was a huge international success at the box office and in merchandising, making it not only vitally important for the film industry at the time, but also a cultural phenomenon that won the hearts and minds of just about everyone.
In the film, each character introduction felt necessary and, perhaps even more impressively, each story-beat added meaning and momentum to the overall narrative. Unlike a lot of modern blockbusters, Star Wars also had real stakes and was always keen to press home the enormity of the task at the feet of the under-privileged and inexperienced hero at its centre.
A New Hope was the catalyst for one of the greatest movie franchises of all time and acted as our first glimpse at the wider galaxy that was to come in the decades to follow. It misses out on our top spot because we all know that the second act is where all the drama happens…
Recommended for you: 5 Most Profound Scenes in Star Wars (1977)
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
What happens? – Luke is trained in exile by Jedi master Yoda as Darth Vader pursues his friends in an attempt to find the young protégé.
The most emotionally engaging and thought-provoking movie of the entire Star Wars franchise is without a doubt The Empire Strikes Back.
This film contains so many iconic and fantastic moments that it has changed the entire context of cinema and has even forged its own corner in pop culture.
“I love you”, “I know”, is perhaps the coolest moment of the entire franchise and is without a doubt one of the most quotable movie moments of all time.
“No, I am your father” is another great quote that has exceeded the limitations of the form to become well known even by people who have never seen a Star Wars movie.
This was a spectacular hit in every single way, from performance to script, direction to music – one of those rare moments in movie history where a film becomes the dominant aspect of popular culture and is timeless from the moment it’s released.
A visual extravaganza unlike anything we’d seen up until that point, and featuring the most eclectic cast of characters in the entire franchise (Yoda and Lando Calrissian each making their debuts), The Empire Strikes Back struck a chord with our collective predisposition to mythology and is an intelligently put together masterpiece in its own right, but its masterstroke was perhaps in how it placed such a focus on the villainous Darth Vader, this film more than any other making an icon out of his all-black, full-body suit and threatening demeanour.
Star Wars was a classic, but The Empire Strikes Back is one of the few examples of a sequel surpassing the original, Episode V even now (some 4 decades later) remaining the high bar to which all other action, sci-fi, fantasy and blockbuster movies aspire to; the greatest adventure in one of the greatest stories ever put to screen.
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