TDF Ranks... The Star Wars Films

TDF Ranks... The Star Wars Films

Now that Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has hit the cinema we've taken the time to rank the Star Wars films in order from best to worst - including the latest film in the saga.

We've also linked to our reviews for each film - we were far more positive about the prequel trilogy at the time of its release!

Do you agree? Let us know in the comments below...

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The most controversial film in the Star Wars series, Rian Johnson's masterpiece is both revelatory and utterly respectful of the series to date. It is also the best looking Star Wars film - from the stunning silent moments after the much discussed 'Holdo' manoeuvre, to the beautiful race across the beach of Canto Bight and on to the contrasting colours of the final battle on Crait. The Last Jedi looks beautiful.

It's also a story about how anyone can be a hero - dispensing with much of the 'legacy' of the series it sets up a new direction for Star Wars and opens up the conclusion of the saga so that almost anything can happen. Our expectations are taken, thrown around and left in tatters and it makes the film the most revelatory of the entire series.

The Last Jedi might be hated by some, but we rate it as one of the best films in the franchise.

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2. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

When George Lucas saw just how big a hit Star Wars was he quickly moved on to turning his one film into a franchise - rewriting history by claiming the first film was just one of the middle parts of a much larger saga, he retitled it as Episode IV - A New Hope and kicked off the development of what would then be a stone cold science fiction classic.

While Lucas held onto the reigns of the overall story, he handed over scriptwriting to Leigh Brackett. She unfortunately passed away after a battle with cancer after handing in the first draft, from which Laurence Kasdan further developed the film and script.

Lucas also stepped back from directing the film, bringing in Irvin Kershner to oversee bringing the film to market. And the end result was something, bigger, better and also much more affecting than anything in the first film.

The Empire Strikes Back worked both as a standalone film and as the middle part of a series; setting up what was then to be the final big conflict between the light and dark sides of the Force.

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3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One was the first of the modern Star Wars spin-offs - slightly off the track of the overall 'Skywalker' saga it still acts as a direct prequel to the original Star Wars - ending just minutes or hours before the events of that film.

Telling the story of the Rebellion's attempts to recover the plans for the Death Star and identify a weakness in the Empire's super weapon, it wasn't necessarily a tale that needed to be told and production problems and much publicised reshoots that saw Tony Gilroy drafted in to restructure and reshoot the ending of the film hinted that there could have been problems. However, the concerns weren't necessary.

An all out war film unlike any other in the Star Wars series, it was darker, grittier and showed some uncomfortable truths about the Rebel Alliance methods but at its core it was as much a Star Wars film as any other in this list. There were moments - especially in the last few minutes - that demonstrated the true power of the Empire and of Darth Vader himself.

Rogue One might be a spin-off but it's still deservedly high on this list.

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4: Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

Our first visit to a Galaxy Far Far Away - it was a film like no other. A sweeping science fiction epic inspired by some of the greatest films in Japanese cinema, it ushered in a new era in film.

The film that introduced us to the young farm boy, Luke Skywalker; the strong and exciting Princess Leia; the evil, all-powerful Darth Vader and the wise, mystical Obi Wan Kenobi might not have had the sharpest script in the world (Alec Guinness was famously unimpressed despite signing up to appear in two more films in the series) but the ideas, images and effects ensured that cinemagoers in 1977 were all entranced and excited by the miracle that George Lucas has brought to screen.

That it remains one of the most influential films of all time over forty years later is testament to just how important a film Star Wars was.

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5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Until 2012 it was looking unlikely that George Lucas would return to the Star Wars films and that we might be looking at Return of the Jedi being the last official instalment in the series - and then the news broke that Lucas had sold his company - and Star Wars - to Disney and that we were about to see a whole new era in Star Wars films (and television... and theme parks... and who knows what else?).

With the news of the sale came the announcement that there was to be a whole new trilogy of Star Wars films picking up a number of years after the deaths of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader. Fans were both excited and worried about what might be next - what would Disney do to the films they loved?

The answer was The Force Awakens - a film that embraced the series that it was to relaunch; it felt more like Star Wars than any of the prequels and while it might have been criticised by some for being a rehash of the original those criticisms were unfair. It broke new ground and managed to everything it needed to to introduce the franchise to a whole new generation.  There were plenty of fan pleasing moments - Han and Chewie on board the Falcon was probably the highlight and the young cast instantly became icons for kids and long-time fans in equal measure.

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6. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

As divisive as The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker had an almost impossible task - to bring together a fan base split over the story of Rian Johnson's film, to close off both the sequel trilogy AND the wider saga and to do so while dealing with the most toxic of fan bases of any entertainment property. Let's be honest JJ Abrams had no chance of achieving all of that and yet The Rise of Skywalker, despite its messy structure, abandoned plot threads and retconning of earlier story points manages to be a fitting end to a saga 42 years in the making. It's not the best Star Wars film, but it is probably the film that manages to at least have something for every fan; no matter how many of them are unhappy with the end result.

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7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

So much better than it has any right to be - Solo might well be a story no-one was asking for but it is great fun and the cast is fantastic.

While production problems with the film are legendary - the original directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord left the film due to their vision not lining up with what Disney and Lucasfilm wanted only to be replaced by safe pair of hands, Ron Howard. Howard reportedly reshot 70% of the film - from the same script from Laurence Kasdan - and the end result was brilliant.

Disappointing then that it was a box office bomb - and its poor performance lead to the scrapping of the Star Wars Story films. Why the film failed is really more about timing than anything else. Solo was released just six months after The Last Jedi and the vocally aggressive fan campaign against that film was still ongoing. Had the film been released in December as with all of the other Star Wars films since The Force Awakens reignited the franchise we think it would have faired a lot, lot better.

As it is, Solo has left a lot of dangling plot threads that we're now hoping will be picked up in the upcoming Disney+ Obi Wan TV series which is reportedly set in the same period.

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8. Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi

The original saga finale was a brilliant film that had unfair criticism levelled at it mainly aimed at the Ewoks. Originally planned to be Wookiees, Lucas was forced to trim back his plans when it became clear that the budget couldn't stretch to handle the costs of lots of tall walking carpets. It was a lot cheaper to create the much more diminutive and tribal teddy bears that we now know.

And you know what - they're fine. The Star Wars films have always been aimed at kids and young adults and children LOVE the Ewoks. So much that TWO further spin-off Ewok films were created and while they're no longer canon, they weren't all that bad.

Return of the Jedi itself was a great end to the series and the three-thread finale that saw Luke take on Vader for the last time, the rebel fleet take on the Empire forces above the Forest Moon of Endor AND the rebel forces on the planet working with the Ewoks to disable the shields protecting the second Death Star was perfectly timed and directed. Everything about the last act was perfection.

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9. Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith

The last of the prequels was our pick for the best - for the very reason we get to see the fight between Obi Wan and the recently turned Darth Vader that resulted in the mechanical monster we love to hate in the original series of films.

The lightsaber fight on Mustafar was astounding with great effects and was truly edge of your seat stuff. The film also featured the beautiful Order 66 moment that saw the  Emperor's clone army turn against and kill almost all of the Jedi. Those two moments were enough to elevate the film above the rest of the prequels.

We have issues with how Anakin Skywalker was brought to join the Sith alongside the Emperor - there could have been a far more engaging story to be told here. And there were nonsensical moments such as Padme not knowing, despite all the technology around her, that she was carrying twins but as a closing chapter to the prequel films it was satisfying enough.

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10. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Going to the cinema in 1999 to see the first new Star Wars film in sixteen years was one of the formative experiences of many people now in their thirties and forties. It might not be the best film ever made, but no-one can argue that the effects were stunning for their time and Lucas had a definitive vision that he attempted to bring to screen.

There were missteps - Jar Jar Binks for one, although as with the Ewoks he does appeal to kids, he's just a little bit to irritating to adults - and the choice to make Anakin so young in the first film (a choice that made his pairing with Padme in later films uncomfortable). There were also some similarly uncomfortable racial stereotypes peppered through the film. However along with those missteps we also got the phenomenal pod racing sequence and the beautifully choreographed lightsaber fight between Darth Maul, Qui Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi - which to this day is still one of the most gripping moments of swordplay in the entire saga.

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11. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones is the hardest film to write about. It features the worst of the acting and the writing in the whole saga - we really don't care about Anakin's feelings towards sand.

It almost feels redundant - but the story is far from it. It's the film that kicks off the clone wars; that then take place almost entirely in the separate animated Clone Wars TV series. It's also the love story that brings Anakin and Padme together, but Lucas' stilted writing never makes this convincing - in fact, Anakin feels more creepy than anything.

There are hints of Anakin's darkness bubbling away under the surface as he slaughters an entire village of Tusken Raiders - including the children - following the death of his mother at their hands.

What Attack of the Clones suffers from most is Lucas' broad brush stroke direction and lack of restraint in his writing - it could be a much better film in more delicate hands.

As Harrison Ford said on the set of The Empire Strikes Back 'You can type this shit, but you sure can't say it!", and in the case of the prequels and Attack of the Clones in particular it feels like Lucas never had this kind of push back resulting in a film that is probably as close to the creator's vision as it could be but at its own detriment.

Attack of the Clones isn't the worst of Star Wars committed to celluloid - the legendary 'Christmas Special' gets that accolade - but it does feel like a film that was a missed opportunity. The story - one that sets up so much - had the ingredients to make it stand out but the execution meant it never had the chance.

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Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
Dir: George Lucas | Cast: Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman | Writer: George Lucas

Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
Dir: George Lucas | Cast: Christopher Lee, Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman | Writers: George Lucas (screenplay by), George Lucas (story by), Jonathan Hales (screenplay by)

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Dir: George Lucas | Cast: Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Natalie Portman | Writer: George Lucas

Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
Dir: George Lucas | Cast: Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Peter Cushing | Writer: George Lucas

Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Dir: Irvin Kershner | Cast: Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill | Writers: George Lucas (story by), Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay by), Leigh Brackett (screenplay by)

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Dir: Richard Marquand | Cast: Billy Dee Williams, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill | Writers: George Lucas (screenplay by), George Lucas (story by), Lawrence Kasdan (screenplay by)

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
Dir: J.J. Abrams | Cast: Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill | Writers: George Lucas (based on characters created by), J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Dir: Rian Johnson | Cast: Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill | Writers: George Lucas (based on characters created by), Rian Johnson

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Dir: J.J. Abrams | Cast: Adam Driver, Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac | Writers: Chris Terrio, Chris Terrio (screenplay by), Chris Terrio (story by), Colin Trevorrow, Colin Trevorrow (story by), Derek Connolly, Derek Connolly (story by), George Lucas (based on characters created by), J.J. Abrams, J.J. Abrams (screenplay by), J.J. Abrams (story by)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Dir: Gareth Edwards | Cast: alan tudyk, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Felicity Jones | Writers: Chris Weitz (screenplay by), Gary Whitta (story by), George Lucas (based on characters created by), John Knoll (story by), Tony Gilroy (screenplay by)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Dir: Ron Howard | Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Emilia Clarke, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson | Writers: George Lucas (based on characters created by), Jonathan Kasdan, Lawrence Kasdan


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