Every Star Wars Movie, Ranked From Worst to Best
To be a Star Wars fan is to be in eternal conflict. That is to say, Star Wars fans are always mad for some reason or another—whether it's about independent contractors used to build the second Death Star, about the mass marketable cuteness of aliens, about Disney's attempts to make up for decades of lackluster representation in movies, a lush tapestry of plot holes, or simply about which film is the best one. Star Wars is a culture of debate, a culture of constant arguments—sometimes healthy and fun or sometimes toxic—about the subtle nuances of A Galaxy Far Far Away and the art of moviemaking and their place in our hearts.
There's no right answer and there's no wrong answer when it comes to ranking every Star Wars movie. Because—and this is very important to remember—they are movies that captured our imaginations as children and are powerful enough to linger still today, for better or worse. So with that, here's every Star Wars movie ranked from worst to best.
11| Attack of the Clones
Okay, yes, they significantly cut back on the amount of Jar Jar in this second prequel, but George Lucas's garbage dialogue made for an absolutely cringeworthy pivotal romance. It also doesn't help that Hayden Christensen is completely unequipped to make the best of an already bad situation. This is the love that sent Anakin Skywalker down the path of the Dark Side, that destroyed the balance to the Force—yet here it plays out like an embarrassing high school drama adaptation of a Nicolas Sparks book.
10| The Phantom Menace
Despite the introduction of Jar Jar Binks, The Phantom Menace has enough redeeming qualities to place it above Episode II. Although he was tragically underused, Darth Maul is possibly the best Star Wars villain this side of Darth Vader. In my memory, this film is 50 percent the final Maul fight scene and 50 percent podracing, which makes for a not entirely shitty movie.
9| Solo: A Star Wars Story
Rather than expand the mythology of Han Solo, Solo instead flattens one of the most beloved film characters of all time. Yes, there’s backstabbing, chases, laser fights, cocky piloting, alien gambling—all the things you’d expect from a Han Solo story. But that’s exactly the problem. It’s a film that makes very little effort to go beyond expectations—especially compared to the bold filmmaking of The Last Jedi. Solo is a completely average film that is anchored by obtuse references to the original series.
8| The Return of the Jedi
A few minor missteps in Return of the Jedi set the Star Wars franchise on an unfortunate path that it has yet to shake. First, there are the Ewoks, the cuddly teddy bear-like creatures that are the spiritual grandparents to Jar Jar Binks (that is, characters George Lucas likely created for the merchandising opportunities). Second is the repetitive storytelling, which involved another Death Star, the likes of which we basically saw again 32 years later. Plus, I haven't been able to stop thinking about all the independent contractors killed on the half-built Death Star or the fact that under the mask of the greatest villain in movie history is some chunky white dude.
7| The Rise of Skywalker
I'm entirely sympathetic to the monumental challenge that J.J. Abrams was tasked with in wrapping up a four-decade-long saga—the most beloved sci-fi story in human history. One could only imagine the immense pressure to conclude nine movies (plus spinoffs and an entire world of auxiliary canon and non-canon content). And with The Rise of Skywalker Abrams did find an end. There are emotional, powerful moments from the new and classic characters. There's a lot of action that fans will not complain about. But, most of the power of this movie comes from our sense of nostalgia—our childhoods being manipulated into manufactured feelings. With a paper thin plot, predictable turns, and an outright reversal of the groundbreaking storytelling Rian Johnson wove in The Last Jedi—the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga is not bold or groundbreaking. It's just an ending. Hopefully.6|
6| The Force Awakens
With The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams did the impossible. He rebooted the Star Wars universe in a way that didn't completely ruin the integrity of the franchise. More importantly, he stuck to the heart of Star Wars, while making the narrative more inclusive, setting a sturdy foundation for a new trilogy, and writing a new cast of solid characters. But here's the problem: it relies on the same old Star Wars tropes so egregiously that it feels like a reboot of A New Hope.
5| Rogue One
Plot holes aside, Rogue One should get immense credit for allowing this franchise to finally break from its repetition. This is a darker side of Star Wars, one that's deep in the trenches of a war and aims to highlight the sacrifices of Rebel soldiers. Did anyone see Disney killing off every single main character? Hell no! Plus, the final scene, which ties in perfectly with the first scene of A New Hope, is possibly the most exciting storytelling trick that Star Wars has pulled off yet.
4| Revenge of the Sith
After Clone Wars someone finally taught our boy Hayden how to act. Certainly, he's not good, by any means, but he's at least not so bad it's distracting. I'm convinced he was only cast for his ability to scowl and murder children. But here, Lucas deserves credit for tying this uneven prequel trilogy up in a satisfying way. The passion of Anakin's betrayal, the rise of the Empire, the destruction of the Jedi—it's all brutally executed to near perfection.
3| The Last Jedi
Star Wars movies aren't known for being complex. They're not supposed to be dark or polarizing. Love it or hate it, Rian Johnson made a movie that does all of these things. Yes, Space Cow and Casino Planet were bad, but those are forgivable outliers in an otherwise beautiful movie. This is the first film in the franchise in which good and evil exists on a spectrum. The Last Jedi explores these nuances of morality and psychology in a much more complicated way than any previous Star Wars film. It's a visually beautiful middle chapter that doesn't mirror Empire too heavily and deviates from the repetition of Star Wars as a whole.
2| A New Hope
It's the movie that changed pop culture forever. If Star Wars had ended here, it would still be regarded as one of the greatest movies in film history. Yet Star Wars launched a franchise that four decades later is stronger and bigger than ever. The opening scene alone—with the crawl and the Star Destroyer and John Williams's score—is one of the most iconic movie moments of all time. Only some points deducted for Luke kissing his sister for the first time.
1| Empire Strikes Back
Empire Strikes Back vividly captures love, loss, pain, and fear—even for a kid who knew nothing these emotions. (Lines like "I know" and "I am your father" have stuck with me through life.) Characters like Han, Leia, and Luke represented the best of us. They weren't just heroes, they were, for so many millions of people, real-life people that could feel heartbreak, fear, or uncertainty. This movie put these characters through incredibly difficult challenges, yet there was always hope, right down to the stunning final image of Luke, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3P0 watching the Millennium Falcon fly off in search of Han. Sure, Luke kisses his sister for a second time, but this film represents what a perfect Star Wars movie can do.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.