The Definitive Ranking Of All Seven Star Wars Films

From The Phantom Menace to The Force Awakens, we’ve got them from worst to best.

With nearly four decades of films and more than two trilogies, Star Wars is the story that all mainstream stories want to be. The franchise has certain had its ups and downs over the years with many films hitting the mark and others considered disappointments. But which films fall in each end of the spectrum?

So, here’s our ranking for the Star Wars saga, in order of ascending quality. Where does The Force Awakens fall? You’ll have to read on to find out.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

AOTC-depth

What should have been the most interesting of the prequels is dragged down by a terribly written love story, wooden acting, and flat direction. While the actual plot behind the creation of the Clone army and the start of the Clone Wars is pretty cool, it’s hard to care when a lot of the plot centers around unwanted fan service (such as the pointless origin of Boba Fett). It also has the worst lightsaber duel of the saga, with Anakin and Obi-Wan versus Dooku being a pretty lifeless affair.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Darth-Maul

In many ways, The Phantom Menace is a worse movie than Attack of the Clones. Less happens, it has far worse pacing, it makes a ton of story missteps in the interest of tying parts of the saga together that really have no business having connections (we still don’t know why Anakin had to build C-3PO), and Jar Jar is just a blight in every frame he’s in. However, the acting here is much better than the other prequels with Liam Neeson and Pernilla August adding a lot of gravitas to the film. The use of actual sets and film stock also make this only one of the prequels that really feels close to the original trilogy. We’re also okay with admitting the three way lightsaber battle is pretty kick ass.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

ROTS-Duel

While the actual events of this film are by far the most interesting of the prequel era, the pay offs here are built on a very shaky foundation. We finally get to see Anakin fall to the dark side and the Republic become the Empire, but it felt emotionally unearned. Like the rest of the prequels, this movie suffers from awkward scenes, subpar characterization, and bland direction… but what’s going on is at least interesting.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

KR

Far above the prequel films in execution, The Force Awakens in full of charm, exciting action, and engaging characters. However, it suffers from a lack of room to breathe which makes it hard to fully appreciate the character moments when we’re already moving to the next set piece. There’s also little in the way of world building. A very incomplete picture of the current state of the galaxy is presented, making the stakes somewhat murky and the plot relies on one too many coincidences to hold together.

Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

ROTJ-Duel

While this one may not reach the heights of the other two original films, Return of the Jedi ties up the plotlines of its trilogy in a very satisfying way. Luke is a total bad ass Jedi, his relationship with Vader is riveting, and the Galactic Civil War reaches a thrilling climax. Unfortunately, Han and Leia don’t have much to do this time around, the Ewoks can be pretty awkward in places, and it lacks the creative restraint that made A New Hope and Empire such successes.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

ANH-sunset

An absolutely wonderful film that juggles so much and yet manages never to drop anything. The characters, the conflicts, and narrative structure, and the production design are so spectacular they instantly became iconic. It perfectly pulled off the classic hero’s journey in a universe that’s incredibly well realized. This is a classic for a reason.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

ESB-Duel-2

A perfect film, Empire takes the threads from A New Hope and turns them completely on their head in every way. The universe is expanded, yet it’s also Star Wars at its most personal. The stakes in this film fall solely with the characters, who are so well realized that by the time Luke raises his lightsaber against Vader there’s more tension on screen than a thousand space battles. Lawrence Kasdan’s script, Irvin Kershner’s direction, and the cast’s performances hit every note completely out of the park in ways people never expected from a Star Wars sequel. The pinnacle of the series.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

7 Comments

  1. empire strikes back is definately the best. i think it has to do with seeing the imperial fleet and executor. and that scene…….luke im your father. phantom menace was good because of maul. i think revenge of the sith tried to do too much in one movie and the way anakin turned was well just awkward. ive been in love with starwars since 1978. it was my first movie on the big screen 🙂

  2. Spot on. There are so many idiots out there that rank ROTS above ROTJ and TFA when it’s barely even better than the other two train wrecks in the PT.

  3. I know that this sounds crazy but I like Phantom Menace for the light saber fight. It is easily the most magnificent sword fight in cinematic history. I hate Return of the Jedi for the idiotic “Teddy bears defeating stormtroopers” sequence. Indeed, one of my prime measures of the quality of a movie is the degree to which it insults my intelligence, and there are a LOT of scenes in the seven movies that insult my intelligence: After the death of Mace Windo, Anakin Skywalker turns into a zombie and switches from the light side to the dark side. Amydala dies of a broken heart just when she has two babies.
    My biggest complaint with Force Awakens is its utter lack of imagination. It is as if Disney disassembled A New Hope, revised the components, and put them back together in a slightly different order. There’s nothing original in it. Nothing that surprised me.
    I agree that Empire Strikes Back is a damn good movie, very possibly the best. The walkers were an imaginative idea, and the snow battle is very well done. It has some of the most iconic lines in all the movies: “Would it help if I got out and pushed?” “No. I am your father” “There is no try. There is only do or do not.”

    1. I think the ONLY things Force Awakens got right was the dialogue between the new characters – which was the most clever and funny since Empire – and the character of Kylo Ren, who managed to be both childishly petulant and genuinely scary. If only Annakin had been dealt with so adeptly in the prequels.

      I LOVED the scene where the terrified officer has to report the bad news to Kylo, and both gets strangled and witnesses his silly lightsaber hissy fit. Truly unhinged.

    2. I honestly believe you are correct about The Force Awakens, but I think they did it on purpose. You don’t yet know anything about the universe, and that is fine. In A New Hope they start naming planets and events and expect the audience to keep up, and it worked, so this isn’t a bad thing. It also sets up the plot for Episodes VIII and IX perfectly, giving them so many places to go and so many plot twists to make. I agree as a stand alone film, TFA was a disappointment to the Star Wars Saga, but as part of a trilogy, it is writing genius.

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