6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
What happens: A team of good guys defy the orders of the rebel alliance and attempt to steel the plans for the Death Star after hearing it has a previously unidentified weak spot.
If ever there had been trepidation in creating spin-offs to the central Star Wars franchise, then the work of Gareth Edwards and his team on Rogue One was surely enough to set aside such concerns. Rogue One was a fantastic introduction to a side of the Star Wars universe that hadn’t been celebrated so often in the central franchise – the resistance – and in centring on non-Jedi characters with a difficult yet easy-to-understand goal, the film was able to build on the universe’s mythos of fulfilled destiny and everyone having an importance to a grander story in what was a thrilling film filled with phenomenal visuals. It didn’t hurt that this film featured the first true female lead of the franchise and showcased a Darth Vader cameo so spectacularly that he seemed scarier than at any point in the franchise’s rich history.
This was much better than fellow spin-off Solo and marks the beginning of the top echelon of Star Wars films in this list, but misses out on the top 5 because of slight editing problems caused by re-shoots and the disjointed nature of the movie being a prequel to A New Hope, a movie that already had three prequels. It only made the “which order should I watch Star Wars in” debate that much more intense.
5. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
What happens: Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren seek to eradicate the growing resistance to their regime, facing off with the Skywalkers and Rey along the way.
Undoubtedly the most controversial and divisive Star Wars movie in the entire franchise, The Last Jedi was likened by some to the somewhat revolutionary and similarly as shocking Empire Strikes Back by some, but compared less favourably to our number 9 Attack of the Clones by others. We’re leaning more towards the former, but with a backlash so large and profound as what this movie had, we’re not going to deny that The Last Jedi had its problems.
What wasn’t arguable is that the movie looked excellent and there was some really creative work on show in terms of set design particularly, with the big armoured vehicle battles seeming more epic than ever due to some excellent CG work. The movie also featured one of the most exciting cameos in the franchise’s history and made bold steps in redirecting the franchise; for better or for worse. Whether the shoulder wipe was your cup of tea or not, and whether the somewhat debatable Mary Poppins moment was too Disney or not, The Last Jedi did everything in its power to ensure that the future of the franchise was placed in the hands of new, interesting, youthful characters with their own journeys to complete, and as such reaches our number 5 spot.
Sometimes bravery is worth appreciating, even when lots of things don’t hit the mark.
4. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
What happens: Luke and company bring balance back to the force by overthrowing the empire in the final instalment of the original trilogy.
Return of the Jedi seemed like the perfect wrapping up of an excellent trilogy that changed the lives of millions of people between the release of A New Hope in 1977 and this film’s release in 1983. Cute Ewoks aside, this film was filled with some truly iconic moments of power and bravery, as well as some of the greatest and most recognisable Hollywood film fights in history. These elements, when cut together, made for an emotional roller coaster that culminated in the epic final act in which Darth Vader sacrificed himself to save his son and restore balance to the force once and for all (or so we thought). It’s perhaps a given that Return of the Jedi is considered the most emotional of the franchise, but this film was also a spectacular example of how CGI and other special effects can greatly improve certain cinematic stories. It may not have the same level of peril as its predecessors, or feel as natural and awe inspiring as episode’s 4 and 5, but it’s still a fantastic film and the 4th best Star Wars movie in the franchise.