I know I said that I was retiring my blog, Box Office Buzz, but I couldn’t resist returning one more time to update my Star Wars rankings now that both “The Rise of Skywalker” and “The Mandalorian” have been released. I also recognize that my list has grown more controversial over time 😉 but this is an honest ranking of what Star Wars stories I love the most.
Tier 1 – I love it!
1. The Last Jedi
TLJ proved to be surprisingly divisive amongst the Star Wars fan base. However, I love it more and more each time I see it, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it’s my favorite thing about Star Wars. I like that Lucasfilm took some risks and didn’t play it safe. I love that they dared to give us a more broken, flawed Luke than we expected to see. I love that they explored themes like balance and failure, and added complex layers to characters like Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. It also has a couple of my all-time favorite scenes in the Star Wars franchise: the fight in Snoke’s throne room and Luke’s Force projection across the galaxy.
2. Return of the Jedi
At one point, ROTJ was actually in the bottom half of my Star Wars list. But it’s really grown on me over the years, just because I think it’s such a satisfying resolution to the original trilogy. The poignant ending with Darth Vader finally discovering freedom from the dark side and sacrificing himself to save his son always makes me a bit misty-eyed (darn that emotional John Williams music!).
3. The Rise of Skywalker
I know that this movie just came out, and, like “The Last Jedi,” it’s proving to be controversial. But even with its flaws, this movie really spoke to me. Daisy Ridley OWNS this movie, and seeing her complete Rey’s arc made me just as emotional as watching “Return of the Jedi.” The final scene is perfection.
4. The Empire Strikes Back
For a long time, I listed “The Empire Strikes Back” as my all-time favorite movie. There’s so much I love about this film, but I think for a while I felt pressured to list it as my favorite simply because it’s widely regarded as the best Star Wars film. However, if there’s one thing being a part of the Star Wars fandom has taught me, it’s that at a certain point you have to stop worrying about what other fans think, and just love what you love. The “Luke I am your father” moment is still my all-time favorite plot twist in Star Wars, and the Skywalker family connection elevates the villain dynamic from “good” to “great.” There’s so many great moments, from the asteroid field, to the battle on Hoth, to Vader and Luke’s showdown on Cloud City.
5. Rogue One
At one point, I think “Rogue One” was as high as #2 on my list. It was cool to see a Star Wars film that felt more like a war movie than a space opera. It’s really about a bunch of ordinary people — no chosen ones with heavy legacies this time — who rise up and become heroes…and make the ultimate sacrifice. I’m so glad Disney/Lucasfilm had the courage to give us a bittersweet ending with all the characters sacrificing themselves; it’s a powerful gut-punch that drives home the film’s theme. And that Darth Vader in the hallway scene is another Star Wars highlight for me.
6. The Force Awakens
I know some have criticized “The Force Awakens” for feeling too much like “A New Hope,” but I didn’t see it that way. While it does play things a little safe (safer than “The Last Jedi”), this movie has a lot of wonderful details that it doesn’t always receive credit for. It’s a fun, nostalgic film that brings back some beloved characters and introduces some new ones. I also loved its use of actual sets (rather than an overload of CGI), making the universe feel more natural and “lived in” once again.
7. The Clone Wars
When people say they don’t like the prequels, I immediately have to ask, “But have you seen ‘The Clone Wars’?” This series does a great job of redeeming some of the characters, themes, and plot lines that were poorly executed in the prequels. Although it’s animated, don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s “just a kids show.” “The Clone Wars” manages to tackle some surprisingly deep and nuanced themes. It dives into the ethics of clone warfare and shows that the clones were still people with personalities, dreams, and fears. It does a better job demonstrating how and why Anakin falls to the dark side, and it also shows the fun side of Anakin and Obi-Wan’s friendship.
Yes, I really have ranked “Solo” above one of the films in the original trilogy. I promise, I don’t mean for this ranking to have a spicy tone, but I’ve gotten a little tired of receiving grief for my Star Wars opinions so I’m just embracing how I actually feel about these movies. 😉 With all the drama taking place behind the scenes of this film (the director shake-up, reshoots, etc.), “Solo” is better than it has any right to be. It’s a really fun heist movie with some cool action scenes. Plus, Qi’ra makes my list of top 5 favorite Star Wars characters.
9. A New Hope
It feels weird putting the first Star Wars movie so far down the list, especially since it’s the one that started it all. I don’t want it to seem that I like this movie less than I do (I really love it!). It’s a fun space opera that will always be an entertaining adventure to watch. I do prefer the later films, though, which are an emotionally deeper viewing experience, at least for me.
10. The Mandalorian
It also feels weird to only put “The Mandalorian” at #10 because I’m so in love with this show (and, of course, Baby Yoda). I think I’ve reached a point where I just really love Star Wars, and pretty much all the movies/TV shows in tier 1 make me giddy with excitement. I can’t wait for season 2!
Tier 2 – I like it!
There’s a lot to like about the Star Wars animated show “Rebels.” It introduces some cool new characters and even works some old Expanded Universe characters back into the canon (it’s good to see you again, Grand Admiral Thrawn!). However, I don’t like this as much as “The Clone Wars.” The animation doesn’t feel quite as polished, and it’s not as deep as “The Clone Wars” was (although the final season has some really powerful moments).
12. Revenge of the Sith
Ah, the Star Wars prequels. I actually used to be a prequels apologist; I enjoyed them when I was younger but found they haven’t held up well over time, at least for me. I’ve found it harder to overlook some of the acting, dialogue, and directing issues, especially after seeing the sequel trilogy. However, there are still some bright spots in these movies, even though they could have been so much more.
I’ve been catching up with the animated series “Star Wars: Resistance” on Disney+, which is set around the time of my favorite Star Wars era, the sequel trilogy. It’s a fun show, but it’s just not as much my thing as some of the other content.
Tier 3 – It’s meh…
14. The Phantom Menace
I commonly see TPM listed as the worst of the Star Wars movies, but I think it’s actually better than “Attack of the Clones.” I won’t get into all the issues with the film here. But the parts I did like were Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi (who’s my favorite part of the prequels overall) and Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn. And that double-bladed lightsaber battle with Darth Maul is still pretty cool, as is John Williams’ epic choral piece “Duel of the Fates.”
15. Attack of the Clones
I really liked the Jedi and clones vs. droid army battle pictured above, as well as the theme that the Jedi Order’s moral compromises and inability to see the truth later lead to their own downfall. But the Anakin/Padmé romance (and accompanying dialogue) are difficult to watch. And the over-reliance on CGI really stands out, especially in comparison to the sequel trilogy films, which feel less computerized.