What are the Star Wars movies ranked? In all the years since A New Hope came out, Star Wars has remained a consistent cinematic touchstone. From a young scrappy George Lucas trying to capture pulpy genre fiction on celluloid, to the heights of Disney’s blockbusters, the franchise is the standard by which many of us measure large-scale filmmaking.
Ranking every feature-length instalment in the Star Wars series is a contentious undertaking. We all (generally) agree on the good ones, and (mostly) see eye-to-eye on the bad ones, but the definitive ranking of the best science fiction movies? Certain choices could turn any night out into a furious scrap, or at the very least leave you open to a boozy lecture on why you’re fundamentally wrong on one of the best Star Wars characters or another.
Alas, we here at The Digital Fix fear no hot takes. This is the Star Wars movies ranked. Only live-action, mind, and purely theatrical releases. That excludes The Clone Wars, Caravan of Courage, The Battle for Endor, and yes, The Holiday Special – for now at least. That qualification out of the way, get some bantha milk, and enjoy.
The Star Wars movies ranked, from worst to best:
- The Rise of Skywalker
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Attack of the Clones
- Return of the Jedi
- The Phantom Menace
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- The Force Awakens
- Revenge of the Sith
- A New Hope
- The Empire Strikes Back
- The Last Jedi
The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
After the triumphant but predictable The Force Awakens, and divisive The Last Jedi, the Skywalker Saga ends on a dud with this malaise of fan service and half-cooked ideas. The inexplicable re-emergence of Emperor Palpatine sets the tone: throwing tauntaun excrement at the wall to see what sticks.
Rey’s entire arc is upended, Kylo Ren’s redemption is knee-capped, Poe is minimised, and Finn and Rose Tico are sidelined for a mediocre, slapdash blockbuster that doesn’t even do nostalgia well. Memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Make a list of the most inane questions you can think of about Han Solo and Chewbacca in the Original Trilogy, and you’ll be halfway done rewriting this spin-off. Not even the charms of Woody Harrelson, Alden Ehrenreich, and Donald Glover in this Star Wars cast can redeem a tepid origin story that fails to justify itself.
A particular Sith return, the occasional decent gag, and glimpses of a good caper stop it from being the worst. It’ll always be the mystery that makes Han enthralling, and nothing here does much to change that.
Attack of the Clones (2002)
Middle chapters are tough. Attack of the Clones has plenty of solid ways to bridge The Phantom Menace with Revenge of the Sith, but fails to make them cohesive. Obi-Wan Kenobi uncovering a conspiracy, Anakin Skywalker and Amidala’s budding romance, the dissolution of the Galactic Republic, all good ideas executed in what seems the most boring way possible.
In the end, it’s almost like the film just gives up trying to get them right and erupts into a gigantic Jedi, clone, and a skirmish involving some of the best Star Wars droids. The kind of thing we were all waiting for since we first heard Obi-Wan utter the phrase “clone wars”. Sadly, too little too late.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
We’re pro-Ewoks here, and always will be (Editor’s note: speak for yourself). However, after The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas, Richard Marquand, and Lawrence Kasdan delivered a concluding chapter that just doesn’t have the same spark as its predecessors.
Moving to a forest planet is a welcome reprieve from the desert, as is the introduction of speeder bikes for the action on Endor. The Sarlacc Pit, too, makes for inventive nightmare fuel. If it weren’t for another Death Star, beginning the bad habit of reusing that Galactic Empire set-piece, this would almost be a classic. Check out our Return of the Jedi review for more.
The Phantom Menace (1999)
Yes, midichlorians were a misstep, but Jar-Jar Binks is funnier than you remember. The opener of the Prequel Trilogy injects new energy into the franchise with the established Jedi order, massive, vivacious space battles, and the glory of pod-racing.
Darth Vader‘s shadow hangs heavy on bright-eyed young Anakin, who gets the chance of a lifetime from Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn and Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. Neeson and McGregor are ideal as the inquisitive Jedi, matched by the quietly menacing Darth Maul. Confident and creative.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Finally, Star Wars gets the chance to deliver one of the best war movies. Rogue One steps away from lightsabers and the Force to put us on the ground with the Rebellion‘s efforts to stand against the Galactic Empire. People continuously risking their lives to resist oppression, building toward one massive effort to put a stop to the Empire once and for all.
Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor lead a ragtag group behind enemy lines to find out about the latest Imperial superweapon, while Galen Erso’s guilt as the architect of the Death Star makes for a solemn Oppenheimer analogue. Gareth Edwards’s direction turns AT-ATs and Star Destroyers into mechanical kaiju, tyrannous beasts designed to stamp out opposition. Still, doesn’t quite spend enough time in the trenches.
The Force Awakens (2015)
After some years in stasis, Star Wars roared back to life after Lucasfilm was acquired by Disney with this rollercoaster through what we love about the franchise. New heroes Rey, Finn, and Poe – each carrying the legacy in their own way – join General Leia’s Resistance, who’re facing the growing numbers of Empire-wannabes the First Order.
Kylo Ren fancies himself the new Darth Vader, and it all looks like it’s going to repeat what came before. Sometimes back to basics is just what you need, though, and Rey piloting the Millennium Falcon is pure cinematic wish fulfilment. As an aged Han tells Chewie: “We’re home.”
Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Anakin’s inevitable downfall paints a bloody picture of the inadequacies of the Jedi, and the state of galactic politics pre-Empire. Stretched thin, the Jedi fail to notice Emperor Palpatine living a double life as a Sith Lord, and inadvertently push an emotionally frayed Anakin right into his hands.
Obi-Wan Kenobi shoulders our shock at Order 66 and the eradication of the Jedi order, forced to watch his best friend become something he hates. Their last fight is heart-breaking by the sheer preventability of it all. It didn’t have to be this way, but it is. Lucas’s finest hour on his own merits.
A New Hope (1977)
The film that started it all. That opening shot of the Star Destroyer chasing Princess Leia‘s ship, Darth Vader leading the Stormtroopers, Luke Skywalker staring into the horizon of Tatooine’s twin suns, it’s all utterly beguiling in its grandeur.
Then there’s John Williams’s beautiful, starry music, and a script full of references to a universe that seems massive and thriving. Lucas wanted to create a tribute to the action and sci-fi cinema he grew up with, and what was achieved – thanks largely to Marcia Lucas’s shrewd editing, for which she won an Oscar – stretches far beyond that.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
One of the greatest sequels ever made. After A New Hope builds us up with Luke, Leia, and Han’s journey to defeat Darth Vader and blow up the Death Star, The Empire Strikes Back tears our hearts out and leaves us on the edge of our seats begging for more.
The snowy battle of Hoth, Luke’s training with Yoda in the swamps Dagobah, meeting Lando Calrissian on the technocratic Cloud City; Irvine Kirscher imbues Empire with confident, ambitious filmmaking that squeezes as much of the galaxy in as possible. Darth Vader and the Empire become a much more prescient threat, holding a fleet of warships at the ready. Losing Han coupled with Vader’s last line is a one-two cliffhanger for the ages.
The Last Jedi (2017)
Coming from The Force Awakens, Rian Johnson decided to examine what’s allowed Star Wars to stand the test of time, and made a sequel about challenging what came before. The Last Jedi is masterful, gorgeous, savvy storytelling in which it doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s about who you choose to be.
Why does it matter who Rey’s parents are? Why is Kylo Ren automatically a baddie because he’s of the Dark Side? Why does one of the best Star Wars villains, Snoke, need an elaborate backstory? The Last Jedi seeks deeper meaning than surface-level canon, and treats the cast, both old and new, as flawed human beings who, even with the purest of intentions, often falter.
Life rarely turns out how we imagine it. Doubtless Leia and Luke foresaw their reunion under better circumstances than a disused outpost on Crait, and the whole system being outdated probably didn’t figure into Rey’s dreams of Jedi training. Finn, Rose, and Poe certainly never stopped to think their attempt at subterfuge might fail.
Such is being alive. The Last Jedi asks that we not let ourselves be trapped by history, or how we’d like things to be. The future can be whatever we want, if we dare to try, and such poignant inspiration is what makes The Last Jedi the best Star Wars movie.
That’s our ranking of every Star Wars film thus far. For more from Star Wars, here’s our list of the best Star Wars cameos and the best Star Wars scenes. Alternatively, take a deep dive into Andor with our guide to Andor season 2 release date, as well as our explainer on the Andor cast.
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