Anyone who knows me or reads any of my stuff knows that I am a HUGE Star Wars dork. As a kid, these movies were more than just “movies” to me – they were my toys, my heroes, my villains and when each new one came out were “mark your calendar and wait in lines” events. To this day I tell my parents the greatest Hanukkah present I ever received from them was the Millennium Falcon when I was 11. That thing was awesome! I also still remember how jealous I was of my friend Jason Stone who had the Death Star with the trash compactor (and the trash compactor monster too). No lie – I still give my folks crap about never getting me that. C’mon Mr. and Mrs. Nathanson! Needless to say, Star Wars was and still is a BIG deal to me. As an adult, we got the prequels, which when they were announced I was beyond nerdgasm. Unfortunately, they lacked the magic (to me and any sane Star Wars fan) of what made the first trilogy so awesome (more to come below). Finally, two years ago we got “The Force Awakens” which not only captured that magic again but introduced a whole new set of characters that made all of us hardcore Star Wars fans care for again. Faith restored. Then came “Rogue One” which went, for the first time, off of the Skywalker story line in film (not TV) and gave us another awesome film to dork out on and also filling in a lot of plot holes we hardcore fans always wondered about. Then came this past weekend, which was the debut of “The Last Jedi”. As of this writing, I have seen it twice – and more viewing planned in the next few weeks too. I had a post I wrote a year ago ranking the Star Wars movies, and felt it necessary (OK – not necessary but to me it is!) to re-think these rankings as well as discuss this new movie too (SO MANY THOUGHTS) and where it sits in the Star Wars universe. Spoilers ahead – so if you have not seen “The Last Jedi” and don’t want any spoilers you should stop reading now. Here we go – with my updated rankings of every Star Wars movie to date. This list will go from worst to first – because unlike the prequels I have some idea how to tell a story.
- The Phantom Menace – Ugh. This movie was soooo anticipated after almost 20 years of no new Star Wars movies, and was going to give us the rise and fall of Annakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Instead, what it gave us was a whiny little bitch kid and “midichlorians”, The effects were not up to par, the acting wooden and in some cases (I am looking at you kid) horrible. The dialogue was terrible and the story weak. I think you can sense by now I did not like this movie despite really wanting to love it. Look – the force is supposed to be mystical and special – not due to some crap in your blood. The pod race scene was OK, but what is with all the political BS about trade federations? I love backstory and drama, but that shit was ridiculous. Also – CGI droids are the enemy? Please. Enough has also been said about Jar Jar Binks that doesn’t even deserve repeating here. There were some redeeming factors though. Qiui-Gonn Jin was badass and Liam Neeson always delivers. Ewan McGregor nailed Obi-Wan. Senator Palpatine was definitely cool and the menace (pun intended) lurking below his “good” exterior was awesome. Darth Maul was fantastic but incredibly underused. The fight between Qui-Gonn, Obi Wan and Darth Maul remains one of the best light saber fights in the whole Star Wars series. Unfortunately, this movie despite those things was colossally disappointing and still tough to watch on repeat viewings.
- Attack of The Clones – Even though “The Phantom Menace” was a big dud, I was still very hopeful the sequel would make that a distant memory. Nope. Oi-Wan was still awesome, and we got some Jango and Boba Fett action (always a bonus) but the story was still really boring and even worse we got teenage/young man Annakin Skywalker. Hayden fucking Christensen made Darth Vader look really weak, naggy and (I can’t believe I am about to type this)… stupid. Damn – to this day his performance pisses me off. Darth Vader – the baddest Sith Lord in the universe, was once a brooding, moody and dumb little bitch-ass, Ugh. Again with all the federation politics BS too. Not only that, but we also learn that our beloved Storm Troopers were all clones of Jango Fett and that Boba Fett is also a clone. Yay. Way to destroy anything cool about these characters. This movie, like Menace, does have some cool things going for it. The Count Dooku vs Annakin vs. Obi Wan lightsaber fight was really cool. Yoda vs Dooku was AWESOME and we got see Yoda kick butt for the first time ever. Bonus points for the chills when Yoda shows up ready to throw down. The fight with all the Jedi vs the Droids in the pit with the crazy space animals was cool too (but too obvious CGI). Mace Windu got some sweet spots here as well – “I don’t think so” delivered by Samuel L, Jackson was great. Alas, there was way too much dumb pontificating about the chosen one, lots of Annakin bitchiness and still not up to par CGI effects. Not as bad as Menace, but only slightly better. PS – Natalie Portman is a GREAT actress. Why does she suck so bad in all three prequels?
- Revenge of The Sith – As much as I loathe the prequels (I love/hate you George Lucas) I have to admit I seriously debated putting this one higher on my list. Not much higher, but higher. In the end, I just cannot get over Hayden Christensen and his horrible acting and poorly written character (I just said that about DARTH VADER – WTF PREQUELS!?!). This movie finally gave us the Emperor and Ian McdIarmid was fantastic throughout the prequels. He is the secret MVP of all three movies in my mind. We have Annakin chopping off Dooku’s head, Obi Wan vs, General Grievous in a pretty sweet fight (minus giant lizard chases), and the transformation to Darth Vader. How he became Vader was a little weak though in my opinion. He does it for love? Really Lucas? He then, like a switch, kills all the Jedi including the Younglings and immediately becomes 100% evil and an apprentice to Palpatine – all in like 5 seconds. The dual fight scenes at the end – Emperor vs Yoda and Obi Wan vs Vader make this movie special though. Those fight scenes are amazing and what we waited for through two prior dud movies. “Order 66” was also cool and heartbreaking to watch. We got to see the birth and early fates of Luke and Leia too. True to the mediocrity of the prequels, we get convenient story “tie-ups” that seem forced like “oh, let’s wipe C3PO’s memory so we can still have the next three happen without us nerds questioning the continuity”. Argh. Finally – the “Nooooooooo” scene when Vader finds out Padme died. Cringe city. “No” indeed.
- The Last Jedi – I know some of you might be surprised to see this movie, that has a 93% Rotten Tomatoes score and countless glowing critical reviews this low on my list. I did love it – a lot. But after two viewings and a lot of processing of this movie in my brain, I think I loved it so much because it was Star Wars – NOT because it was a fantastic movie. There are without a doubt some of the great moments in the franchise’s history in here (more to come on that shortly) but there were also A LOT of both wasted story-lines/plots and risks/chances taken with the lore that was just too much for me to swallow. I will start with what I did NOT like. First off is the whole Finn/Rose story-line. To me, this was both not necessary and also a big waste of screen time. The whole Canto Bright Casino scene felt VERY “prequel-ish” and could have been accomplished in 5 minutes instead of thirty. I like Finn and Rose was also nice, but in a movie where lots of stuff happens this felt really out of place and more like “we need to get Finn something to do” and less important to the overall story. Also – Phasma was a big waste with a lot of hype. Then we have the whole “should be exciting but is actually not” resistance being too far from the ships for actual laser damage chase scene. Again – that could have been much tighter. On a side note – lasers are lobbed like cannons in space? No no no – they are frickin lasers! The whole Leia floating in space and then wakes up and becomes Mary Poppins? I know the force is mysterious and powerful but this scene was a HUGE reach. Last but certainly not least – way too much time on the island. Now on to the stuff I really loved. The whole Snoke throne room scene was FANTASTIC. Seriously – that scene might be my most favorite scene in ANY Star Wars movie. Kylo Ren was tremendous throughout this movie (I really think it was his movie more than anyone else), Rey was very cool as always and Luke had SUCH an epic moment at the end that I literally had goosebumps. I loved the humor (especially the Chewie and Porgs scene) and really loved the force connection scenes between Rey and Kylo. Yoda making an appearance is also ALWAYS appreciated. I did not want Luke to go, but he went out in a way I think honors his character really well. I really did love this movie, but if I am being honest it does not surpass the ones coming ahead. PS – RIP Admiral Ackbar.
- Return of the Jedi – The finale (we thought for a while) for the series. This movie is polarizing in the Star Wars fan universe. Some liken it to the prequels because Ewoks. Some, like me, think it is light years ahead of the prequels for many reasons (including the Ewoks – those dudes were cute!). We start off with the rescue of Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba The Hutt from all our faves – Leia, Luke, Lando, Chewie, 3PO and R2. We saw Boba Fett fighting for the first time, the Sarlacc pit and Bikini slave Leia killing Jabba. Luke was now a full-fledged Jedi with newfound confidence in his powers. Han was back and with as much swagger as ever. Lando was now piloting the Falcon in battle and two words – Admiral Akbar. It’s a trap! The speeder bike chase on Endor was thrilling, the battles with the Empire on Endor also great even though Ewoks were involved. This was the payoff movie for what we had all been wanting to see – the final confrontation between Vader and Luke and our first real glimpse of The Emperor who up to this point had only been referred to or seen on hologram. The final scenes with Vader, Luke and The Emperor remain, in my mind, some of the best scenes in the whole franchise. I still quote them constantly – “Your overconfidence is your weakness”. “Your faith in your friends is yours”. Epic. Obviously, the emotion of Vader finally turning to the light and killing the Emperor was the penultimate moment, but for me it was just the capper on a truly great movie – suck it Ewok haters.
- Rogue One – This movie really surprised me. I went in not knowing what to expect – only that it was the story of how the rebels got the plans to the Death Star for “A New Hope”. There was a line in that movie that said “many died to get us these plans” – well here we really get to know not just how – but why. The characters, even though none of the heroes make it out alive, were really well done and did what the three prequels could never do – get me to care about them. From Jyn Erso to Captain Cassian to especially K2-SO these were people (and droids) we had an emotional investment in, which makes their sacrifice and fate so much more emotionally potent when we see their ends. The story was straight up and the plot moves along fast. Director Krennic was a cool villain and also showed us some of the inner workings and politics of the Empire (always appreciated). The whole climax was suspenseful and really well done. The very reason for the “fatal flaw” in the Death Star was awesome and carried a lot of emotion with it – fathers and daughters stuff (is it dusty in here?). The word “stardust” will always get me right in the feels moving forward because of this movie. The action was great, and the stakes high. Of course, the high-point of this movie was (and most Star Wars fans would agree) the Vader scene at the end. Holy Shit. I did not have a problem with the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin nor Leia. They were needed to make the story hit its landing and loved their presence in this movie. This one was just a lot of fun and gets better upon repeat viewings.
- A New Hope – The beginning of it all for people of my generation. This movie was amazing and for the time it came out groundbreaking too. Based on the Archetype myth theory put forward by Joseph Campbell, this was a by the book “hero’s journey”. This movie blew me away as a kid and launched a whole universe of characters and planets to follow. There is so many good things here – Vader, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Alec Guiness as Obi Wan, Leia and of course, the Death Star. We forget many years later how cool all of this really was. Luke was thrown into a whole new universe and in the end saves everyone by using the force. The Tatooine scenes were amazing, especially in Mos Eisly Cantina and with that awesome landspeeder too. Obi Wan’s death was tragic, Vader was menacing and scary, and Han was the guy we all aspired to be. Just a fantastic movie from start to finish that all these years later still stands up. For most this would be their number 1 because it was the first – but for me that theory does not hold water. “The Godfather” was first, and while undoubtedly amazing, is eclipsed by “Godfather 2”. In this case, there are two movies in my mind that are slightly better.
- The Force Awakens – I bet many will be surprised to see this as #2 on this list. You shouldn’t be though, because this movie was certified amazeballs. The argument most have against this movie is that is a re-hash of “A New Hope”. Droid has plans, person on desert planet helps get those plans to rebels, bad guys chase, end up blowing up their base. Yes – that is all true – and intended. After the huge misfire on the prequels we needed to get back that magic of the original trilogy and this movie did that and then some. What the prequels never got was that while spaceships and effects are cool, the real reason the originals were awesome is that we truly cared for these characters. They also cared for each other and there were real stakes involved. The prequel characters, outside of Obi Wan we could give two craps about. The other piece missing was humor – the prequels were all so damn serious. What they got wrong the Force Awakens got right – big time. I openly admit I have a mad crush on Rey. She is, even after only one movie, one of my all time favorite movie heroines. Finn was comedic relief with a good backstory I can’t wait to explore more. Kylo Ren was a great baddie – and played amazingly by Adam Driver. We feel his struggle between dark and the light as well as his determination to do the Vader legacy justice. The New Order is really cool and they mystery of Snoke makes him even more alluring. Han Solo is back and cool as ever, which makes his death more heartbreaking. There are just simply too many geek out moments in this movie to list. My favorite? When Kylo Ren is force grabbing Luke’s light saber and it whizzes past him to the waiting hands of Rey. John Williams score crescendos and….chills city. Team Rey all day, every day here. LOVE this movie with every fiber of my being.
1.The Empire Strikes Back – Not only the best Star Wars movie, perhaps one of the best movies ever – period. After the celebratory ending of A New Hope we get a much, much darker sequel that does not end well for our heroes. Han is frozen in carbonite and Luke has no hand and faced Vader only to learn that he is his father. Bummer city. We start with the magnificent scenes and battle on Hoth, where we see the true bonds that have built among our heroes. We get our first glimpses of “force ghosts”, and Luke is off to meet the great Yoda on Dagobah. R2 gets some great moments there too. We meet the smoothest dude in the whole universe, Lando Calrissian and get to see the very cool Cloud City. We see C3PO torn apart but brought back (still in pieces), Han captured by Vader and Boba Fett and frozen in Carbonite. Here’s where Han delivers the coolest line in movie history in response to Leia telling him she loves him – “I know”. We also get the first battle between Luke and Vader. “Impressive – most impressive” Vader says as he sees Luke skills in action. We learn Vader is his father (!) which at the time blew everyone’s minds. Damn this movie is perfection.
There you have it. Even though I loathe the prequels I will still watch them when they are on TV because Star Wars but they just don’t cut the mustard in my mind. How would you rank them? Let me know in the comments below!