I know this isn’t the most original topic for a post, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I’ll start by saying that I’ve never hated any of the films. Did I think most of the prequels were weak? Yes. But hate them? No. I’ve grown up on these movies. I remember my dad tracking down Empire Strikes Back when it first came to video stores in the Regina where I grew up. He managed to get it the first weekend it was out for his two and three-year old sons who happened to be obsessed with Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and Darth Vader. I remember going to see Return of the Jedi in its first theatrical run, and ducking behind the seat in front of me when the rancor first appeared. I’ve been sharing the films and animated series with my own kids as well. They aren’t as obsessed as I was, but my daughter did request to go as Ashoka Tano for Halloween a couple of years ago. I’ll call that a win.
So even when I do criticize some of these films, I am doing it from a place of love. I can’t say I’ll never watch my least favourite ever again, because that would be a bold-faced lie. I have watched it, multiple times, both on vhs and television. I even watched it with my kids, and they liked it a lot more than I did.
Here we go!
Attack of the Clones 2002
This is my least favourite by far. Though it did not have any child actors in major roles, it did have Hayden Christensen, who was wooden and petulant, rather than the great hero Anakin Skywalker was thought to be. Thankfully Ewan McGregor was solid as Obi-Wan Kenobi and saved this film from being truly terrible. Though it ended with a pretty fun duel, I found that Yoda’s acrobatics actually took away from the film, even though my son lost his mind when he saw that. My opinion is that Yoda should have been able to easily crush Dooku with the Force and not even have to draw his lightsaber. That said, if I turn on a TV and this is on, I’ll still watch it.
The Phantom Menace 1999
I know this one is usually placed by most people as the worst of the series, but I actually thought it was better acted and better written than Attack of the Clones. It missed out on giving a greater role to Darth Maul, and had Jar Jar Binks, who was terrible. But it also delivered the best duel in the series. That duel alone keeps it out of last place.
Revenge of the Sith 2005
The only episode of the prequel trilogy I haven’t shown my kids, and also one of two Star Wars films I’ve seen in the theater more than once. This one was far better than the other two chapters of the prequel trilogy, and opened with the best space battle of the series thus far. Hell, Anakin almost came across as a hero to start this one. However, terrible dialogue and some bad acting took some of the thunder out of the chapter that showcased Anakin’s fall.
The Clone Wars 2008
Yes I know this one was animated, but it did receive a theatrical release, so I’m including it. This is the film that kicked off the Clone Wars animated series. It introduced my daughters favourite character, and showed us Anakin as the daring hero I’d always envisioned him to be. Very clearly aimed at a younger audience, I still found it fun, and it injected some life back into the franchise.
The Force Awakens 2015
This is where it gets tougher to rank. I really enjoyed this film, but it also felt like it was playing it safe, a lot. It brought us our first live action Star Wars film in a decade, and I enjoyed the new characters, but it doesn’t hold up as well as A New Hope does on repeated viewings. Still, the duel at the end was awesome, and introduced tension in a lightsaber battle that I hadn’t felt since The Phantom Menace.
A New Hope 1977
Our introduction to the Star Wars universe. While Luke is a whiny farm boy in this episode, we have an excellent supporting cast around him to help him grow. The scoundrel Han Solo, the wise Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the badass Princess Leia. Not to mention the imposing figure of Darth Vader, the most iconic villain in film history. This is the movie that hooked two-year old me.
Rogue One 2016
This movie is so good just because of how different it feels from the rest of the saga, yet still feeling like a Star Wars movie. We have a great and diverse cast, a great story, and some excellent performances from the cast. There is honestly still a part of me that can’t believe they killed off the entire main cast, yet not doing so would have cheapened the story. That and how seamlessly it ties in with A New Hope, and the Darth Vader scene at the end. Wow, just wow. We finally got to see why Vader is so feared. This is the other film in the saga I’ve seen in the theater more than once.
The Last Jedi 2017
Ranking this one this high is probably the most controversial part of my list, but you know what? I loved this movie. I liked that it took chances and moved the saga forward. It’s an evolution of the series, of the lore and the canon to keep Star Wars from going stale. I liked how it further established Kylo Ren as a true villain, I liked Luke’s arc, and some of the scenes were visually breathtaking. The battle with Snoke’s guards, Holdo’s jump to lightspeed, and the speeders on Crait. This is a movie that in twenty years could be regarded much like Empire is today.
The Empire Strikes Back 1980
Arguably the most critically acclaimed of the entire saga, Empire changed the way people did sequels. The story and acting were improved over A New Hope, and the revelation in Cloud City caught everyone by surprise and changed everything. It was also the darkest of the original trilogy, and young me was sitting on the edge of his seat waiting to see if the heroes would escape.
Return of the Jedi 1983
Maybe listing this as my favourite of the series is the most controversial thing I’ll write in this post. That said, this was the first movie I remember seeing in the theater, and the visuals of the Dune Sea, the Battle of Endor, the final duel between Luke and Vader, and the Rancor all are stuck firmly in my memories. I even loved the Ewoks, still do in fact. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this movie over one hundred times, and I still try to watch it at least once a year.