Ever ask a Star Wars fan to rank their favorite Star Wars movies? If you have, you’ve probably gotten a variation of the above response. And then you’ve probably tried to rank them yourself and kept changing your answer depending on your mood, or because you just saw one of the movies on TV, or read a certain book, or whatever.
Star Wars Celebration is next week and we’re all pumped and ready to go and frankly out of brain space for intelligent column ideas. Not to mention the entire six movies were just released digitally for the first time ever. So I thought it would be a great idea to do the impossible and rank our favorite Star Wars movies! And not just rank them, but explain the rankings, too.
Okay, maybe this won’t be as brainless as I thought…
Mental hand-wringing under the cut! (Soon to be made null and void with the release of The Force Awakens.)
- Return of the Jedi – I love Luke being a badass at the Sarlacc Pit. I love all the Luke/Vader/Emperor stuff on the second Death Star. The Battle of Endor is the best space battle ever to be put on film. Hell yeah, I’m ranking it better than Empire. WHAT ABOUT IT?
- A New Hope – This is one I go back and forth on all the time. Jedi is always listed first, no questions asked. But then I have to decide between Hope, Empire, or Sith, and it’s just toooo haaaaaard waaaaaaaah. Because it was the first, and because the Battle of Yavin is amazing, I’ll rank Hope next.
- The Empire Strikes Back – I’ll admit it. I’m only ranking this one higher than Sith because of the Dagobah scenes. I realize this probably would make some Star Wars fans say I’m not a “true fan” or some other such bullshit, but I don’t caaaaaare. I love all the mythology stuff, and sometimes I think Empire is my favorite Star Wars movie, but I can never rank it higher because I love my happy endings too much.
- Revenge of the Sith – It’s a great movie, even with the dumb”lost the will to live” ending and Padme otherwise being pointless. I love the dual fights between Anakin/Obi-Wan and Yoda/Palpatine. And the Battle of Coruscant is amazing and I wish we had an entire movie of Anakin and Obi-Wan snarking at each other like that. We could’ve had it alllllll. Again it’s not ranked higher because this one is the ultimate bummer of an ending.
- Attack of the Clones – Many people say this is their least favorite prequel. I disagree, because Clones is my all-time favorite movie going experience ever and will be extremely hard to top. The crowd was totally into it: cheering at the right parts and quieting immediately afterwards. I bounced like a lunatic when Mace Windu showed up on Geonosis, and let me tell you, not watching the Yoda/Dooku fight beforehand was absolutely the right decision. I have never laughed with glee so hard during a movie. And while the middle of the movie can get super boring (they totally should have hidden on Alderaan instead of Naboo), the end of the movie is like crack and I immediately want to watch it over and over again.
- The Phantom Menace – I saw it 11 times in the theatre. The podrace and Duel of the Fates were totally worth it. The music is amazing. And I love Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan (although I really wish Qui-Gon had been a woman). I think Menace gets a lot of crap it doesn’t deserve, but it does suffer from being boring at times. (Hello, Tatooine.) It’ll be interesting to see if The Force Awakens gets a similar backlash from people who’ve been expecting the sequels to be a certain way for 20+ years.
- Return of the Jedi – When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be an X-wing pilot. Jedi tops my list partly due to nostalgia. I burned a hole in a couple VHS copies of the film all in the same spot: the Battle of Endor. I maintain that was the finest shot and edited battle sequence in the entire saga. It also helps that you get Luke being totally awesome.
- The Empire Strikes Back – There are days when I can waffle as to whether it’s Jedi or Empire that’s my favorite. What can you say about Empire that hasn’t already been said? It’s brilliantly written, directed, shot, and edited. It’s definitely a film you appreciate more as you age, though. It was my least favorite growing up, but now I adore it.
- A New Hope – The film that started it all. It is remarkable that nearly four decades later, that first scene holds up so well visually and thematically. Sure, theres a lot of cheese in the dialog, but it succeeds so well in building this huge, sprawling, lived-in universe.
- Revenge of the Sith – It’s a film of highs and lows for me. The last third or last half are pretty great and include some of the most profound moments in the entire saga. The first half, though, drags a bit for me. I’d probably rank it ahead of ANH if Padme hadn’t been so badly written.
- Attack of the Clones – Duel at the end? Awesome. Awkward dialog and chemistry in the middle between Padme and Anakin? Less than awesome. For all the faults, though, the film has legitimately great moments. The arena was absolutely awesome. Across the Stars is one of the finest compositions in the saga.
- The Phantom Menace – In a vacuum, I think I may have enjoyed Phantom Menace a little more than Attack of the Clones. The problem, though, is that I’ve never fully felt that this was an absolutely necessary film. I almost think you can just start at Attack of the Clones and get everything you need. Despite that, Duel of the Fates. What more do you need to know?
I’d like to say that I’m doing this under duress and that I hate having to choose between these six lovely films and that these rankings are only valid for this particular moment in time. I’m fickle like that.
- A New Hope – There’s something just so perfect about this movie. We get this huge, fantastic galaxy and tossed into a galactic war. I love that it stands by itself as one cohesive story but can then easily expand. Sir Alec really helps sell it as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Carrie Fisher’s Leia will forever be my hero. This is the film that I can pop in whenever I’m feeling down and just lose myself in for a few hours.
- The Empire Strikes Back – It’s iconic because it’s so damn good. It deserves all the praise heaped on it. As a kid, I thought the middle section dragged a little but as an adult, I’ve really grown to appreciate and enjoy it. Everything on Bespin… oh man…
- Revenge of the Sith – I got almost everything out of the film that I wanted which is basically a ton of crying. All it’s missing is that glorious Padmé political subplot. I unabashedly love this movie and sob during the “You were my brother!” speech.
- Return of the Jedi – If you asked me years ago, I would’ve ranked this first because EWOKS ARE SO CUTE. I still definitely enjoy it though and the Death Star II space battle is AMAZING.
- The Phantom Menace – Okay yeah. The podrace goes on until the end of time BUT this is the film that gives us Queen Amidala and her badass Handmaidens. These are capable ladies who kick butt! I mean, we also got Qui-Gon and the Duel of the Fates which were both pretty rad. Duel of the Fates is the best lightsaber fight in the series. Oh! And Shmi! I adore Shmi Skywalker. I think this movie gets a lot of hate because it wasn’t what people expected and because of bb!Anakin but honestly, he’s a kid. Have y’all been around kids before?
- Attack of the Clones – Despite it falling at the bottom of the list, I do still really like this movie. It’s a gorgeous movie with costumes that make me drool. Plus, that duel at the end? Awesome.
- The Empire Strikes Back – Each of the original three has been my favorite movie at one point or another but Empire Strikes Back has held that spot for the longest time. It has some of my favorite scenes in the franchise and nearly all of my favorite locations in the films: Hoth, Bespin, and the asteroid field. And the character interaction…oh, I love the character interaction. And it introduces Lando! So much banter. This film is just so well done.
- A New Hope – This does such a good job introducing a whole new galaxy. And it’s such a classic! And the character interaction and growth and the way it works so well even by itself and ahhhhhh, just everything! This movie is just so good and so well put together. It set the foundation for all the rest of this whole universe.
- Return of the Jedi – This was my first favorite movie. I love Endor. I love Luke’s bizarrely complicated rescue plan. And the speeder bike scene. Oh, I love the speeder bike scene. And I really love how the characters have grown and the sense of victory at the end. So much of this movie just makes me happy.
- The Phantom Menace – The prequels are trickier for me to rank because, well, I haven’t seen them nearly as many times as the original trilogy. Next time I watch them, their order is almost certain to change, but as it stands, Phantom Menace is my favorite of the three. This movie has a good number of awkward scenes and dialogue choices and, as many have pointed out, you can probably skip this one without missing much essential to the story of the saga as a whole but it gave us some really great things. Duel of Fates, both the scene and the score, are memorable for a reason. Theed is gorgeous. This movie gave us Padmé. And, I have to admit, I love the podrace. But most of all, it gave us more Star Wars. Every time I watch this movie I remember how excited I was when tiny me first saw it.
- Attack of the Clones – I love the arena scene. And this movie gives us more Padmé. And Across the Stars is such a great song. And there are a lot of really fun to watch scenes in this movie. The romance plot is…I have a tough time getting through it. But so much else of the movie is so enjoyable for me.
- Revenge of the Sith – This movie starts off at a disadvantage for me because it’s the one I’ve seen the fewest times by far, as well as the one I’ve seen the least recently. I love a lot in this movie: there is a lot of emotion and striking images, some really great scenes, and some great performances. Out of all six films, however, this movie had the most story decisions that baffled me and Padmé’s treatment at the end doesn’t leave me with the best taste in my mouth. It was definitely still enjoyable and I definitely need to watch it more. After I next watch through the films, who knows? It may end up much nearer to the top.