Let’s re-rank the Star Wars films, because … ha, ha, ha! Like I need a reason!
Actually, I even have one: “Rogue One” is making its home video debut right now (I like calling it “home video” to recall the awesome-sauce that was VHS tapes), so now is as good a time as any. I last performed this exercise when there were six films. Now there are eight. And no, I’m not counting the Ewok movies, the Clone Wars cartoon, the Holiday Special, or even that shoddy-looking fan film you think is better than TFA and everyone else just sort of sadly nods at you in abject pity.
No, NOT EVEN THAT.
There are eight major live-action releases, so this is a ranking of those eight.
And with that, we engage. (Cross-pollination geek joke alert!)
- The Phantom Menace — My classic spiel about this movie can be found in my previous rankings linked above. Suffice it to say, I tend to make apologies for not outright hating this movie, and while maybe I shouldn’t have to feel that way, it is what it is.
But our own circumstances do tend to determine our ultimate enjoyment. So if you’ve got some loud kid on his cell phone kicking your chair, you’re probably less likely to enjoy. Same with overhyped expectations, which um, yeah … this movie is basically the posterchild for that. I don’t really blame Lucas & co. for that because they needed to make as much money as humanly possible and so I get it, but certainly the hype train colored some people’s thinking here.
Ultimately, I don’t go silly and over-the-top here. I enjoy it as part of the saga (and did from the very beginning), but I also rank it lowest of what we’ve gotten. I tend to think that’s fair, but I still respect anyone who differs (in either direction).
- Rogue One – There’s seriously nothing wrong with this film. I really enjoyed everything about it. From the natural character progression to the cinematography and cool battle sequences, there’s a great sense of forward momentum and danger throughout. And I seriously love how it ties into A New Hope … these two movies now feel like they belong together. I’d even go so far as to say that Rogue One enhances the original Star Wars.
So how does it end up one spot from the bottom? I think it’s just not as rewatchable as the others, at least not yet, and it suffers some from Phantom Menace syndrome in terms of its scope. It’s not heavy on the Force or the Skywalkers and well, while neither of those things is a deal-breaker, it is also a pretty radical departure in tone. It’s not a fun space adventure. Even the darker episodes of the Skywalker saga have some radical tonal shifts … not just dark, dark, dark, like this one. I mean, innocents getting maimed by Darth Vader is sort of an uplifting moment within the scope of this sucker.
It’s a great addition to the universe, and I enjoy so much of it, but there’s no question it’s of a different voice than the others. And if we’re being honest, these rankings kinda come down to feel. How does the movie make me feel? Does it make me can’t wait to watch it again (and again … and again …)? Does it make me all emotionally squishy inside? If the answer is no, then the movie goes toward the bottom. Sorry, them’s the rules.
- Attack of the Clones — Like Phantom Menace, this movie gets way too much shit. Yeah, it’s flawed as balls, but it’s not unwatchable Hollywood sewage. Yeah I’m a biased fanboy, but I ENJOY Star Wars. I don’t get it when people rip this stuff to shreds … that seems to defeat the purpose. *Insert Dave shrugging emoji*
On the Dave gets the feels/wants to watch scale, this movie has actually done pretty well over the years, though to be perfectly clear, there are certainly moments of wince. But those do not outweigh the audacity on display throughout. This film tries to do so much. It leaves a bunch of interesting threads hanging … which the sequel then mostly drops. I kind of hate that for this movie, as it was diminished by Part 3 without question, but it’s nothing worth spending too much time thinking about either. These movies basically are what they are, regardless of what kind of help they get from the others. A New Hope gets helped by Rogue One. Attack of the Clones gets damaged by Revenge of the Sith. So it goes.
- The Force Awakens – This movie continues to grow on me (I wasn’t weeping with joy upon first viewing), with entertaining characters and a closing sequence to rival most any other in the series. Plus it really builds in a cool way (the stuff to open the movie is stellar).
Ask me which of the movies I’d want to watch today, and this would be in my top 2, but I also acknowledge that freshness is still a factor in that. I’m actually pretty sure this movie is one of the weaker in the collection (if not the weakest overall), but the stuff with Han Solo is really powerful and hooks me in a major way.
- Revenge of the Sith — I had a strong desire to watch this movie as much as humanly possible when it debuted, though naturally its hold has faded some over time. But if we’re going to go with that as being a point in its favor, that will propel it beyond the likes of the films below it.
- Return of the Jedi — It’s really the scene at the end in the throne room, isn’t it? There’s a lot more to enjoy here, of course, but the film is pretty uneven and has plenty of issues and it would be easy to nitpick this thing to death.
But man, that scene with Vader saving his son. So good.
- The Empire Strikes Back – This should perhaps be in a tie for first, since I swap them regularly, but that’s cheating. Also, right now, I prefer the exciting space adventure to the moody character piece. It’s just where I am at the moment.
- Star Wars (A New Hope) – Perhaps it’s the Rogue One effect (which is kind of funny with Rogue One being so low on my list), but I love this movie now as much as I ever have.
This movie is the absolute GOAT.