In this edition of Ranked, we’re going to rank every live-action Star Wars movie from worst to best. As is always the case with this column, some of you may disagree with the order. If so, feel free to leave a comment in the designated section at the end of the piece or tweet us directly. Just try to keep it fun!
Now that the formalities are out of the way…
10. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
What happens: Obi-Wan Kenobi and jedi master turned mentor 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 was probably the most underwhelming movie ever released. After waiting 16 long years, audiences clamored to see The Phantom Menace, yet it seemed like every single one of them was left disappointed. The worst thing… It wasn’t even good as a standalone sci-fi film.
Star Wars Episode One’s CGI didn’t stand up against the advances in technology that brought the likes of Jurassic Park, Independence Day and Armageddon to life in 1993, ’96 and ’98 respectively; the slow-moving political drama that the plot was centered around had little by the way of risk and therefore lacked any reason to become invested in the characters involved, and the “romance” story was not only incredibly shallow but its blossoming was also portrayed on-screen by 9 year old Jake Lloyd and the much older (17) Natalie Portman… and that’s just wrong. I’m not even going to get into how stupid it was to make the first Star Wars movie in 16 years be, for all intents and purposes, a sci-fi version of Home Alone.
Luckily for the Star Wars fans who’d rather forget that most of the film ever happened, The Phantom Menace had one awesome trick up its sleeve, Darth Maul. The red and black painted sith-hired-assassin was not only an epic on-screen presence, but he also possessed the first dual lightsaber ever seen in the Star Wars movie universe. His unveiling of the weapon, as John Williams’ iconic score kicked in, will forever be a memorable sci-fi and Star Wars movie moment and acted as the catalyst for one of the best sword-fighting action scenes ever. It was the best of a bad movie and by far the worst in the Star Wars franchise.
9. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
What happens: Anakin and Padmé begin a forbidden romance as Obi-Wan discovers a clone army built to destroy the jedi.
Episode II was everything that Episode I was with the dial turned up to 11.
This was both bad and good, as it meant that we were not only subject to way more of the shallow love angle that was heavily criticised in its predecessor, but it also meant that we got a whole heap of jedi fights; and who doesn’t love those? The biggest criticism of Attack of the Clones was that Anakin Skywalker, the guy that we all knew was set to become the baddest man in the universe in Episode IV, had developed from the annoying brat kid of the first instalment to an even more annoying teenager who was portrayed with as much emotional range as… well… Hayden Christensen. The character was supposed to be torn between what he wanted and what he was meant to do, with a traumatising history to boot, but Christensen played him as moody in the most shallow sense, switching audiences off from his emotional journey and essentially removing us from a position of empathy for the picture’s key protagonist. Was it all bad? No. We got our first chance to see Yoda fight during his prime, and seeing Mace Windu epically beheading the enemy was more than worth the price of admission. Even so, it wasn’t good, and that’s why it’s the second worst Star Wars film of all time.
8. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
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 figure.
Revenge of the Sith was the undisputed classic of the prequel trilogy, if such a thing exists. Padmé died, we got to see the very best of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Anakin Skywalker finally became Darth Vader. If that doesn’t sell this film to you, then I don’t know what will.
The dark tone of the movie was central to this 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 emotion. The pinnacle of Revenge of the Sith however, was the scene displayed in the gif above: the becoming of Darth Vader and the return of James Earl Jones for the final dialogue of the prequels – “Nooooooooooooooooo”. Sure it was cheesy, but what wasn’t cheesy about the Star Wars prequels?
7. Solo: A Star Wars Story
What happens: The origins of Han Solo’s journey in a galaxy far, far away see the exuberant young renegade team up with a band of merry men and women to conduct a heist that’ll keep him away from the slave-like existence of his youth.
For all its production problems, Solo: A Star Wars Story actually turned out pretty well. It was coherent, which is always a bonus, and actually felt like a Star Wars movie, owing much to the course correction of incoming director Ron Howard and a cast of talented performers playing characters each with a previously earned legendary status or a notable presence within Solo’s narrative. It wasn’t without its issues however, with the multiple times the movie seemed to come to an end before continuing being one of them – it’s not often you feel yourself checking for your watch in a Star Wars movie. Solo also seemed light on stakes and/or consequences, and much of the story didn’t seem to move far from where it began. Most of all, this film suffered from not having the level of connections to the central franchise as Rogue One had, because despite the presence of Han, Chewwie and Lando, little was done to enhance their importance as regards the entire Star Wars universe and as such left a distinct aftertaste of disappointment for the first time under the Disney banner.