Movies & TV / Columns

Ranking the Star Wars Films From Worst to Best

May 7, 2021 | Posted by Michael Thomas
Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope

I gathered some friends together, and we ranked the live-action, theatrically released Star Wars films! Here are the voters:
Matt Waters
Jerome Cusson [411 alumni!]
Kevin Ford [411 alumni!]
Ben Phillips
Mike Thomas [That is me!]


11. Attack of the Colones (dir. George Lucas)

Here’s the thing. This movie has a bad reputation because of some historically bad dialogue. George Lucas never should have attempted to write romantic dialogue, but the idea of a love story in this universe is appealing. The execution is just so terribly wrong. Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman had no chemistry. Christensen’s Anakin spends so much time whining, and that’s probably the other aspect of this film that’s most well known. Let’s highlight some positives: John Williams score for the romance is very good and saves it from feeling completely awful. Yoda fighting Dooku is still cool even with the CGI not looking that great. The final sequence is great in theory even though, again, in practice, it may not have aged well. Ewan McGregor is also a very good Obi-Wan Kenobi, too.
– Jerome Cusson

10. Rise of Skywalker (dir. JJ Abrams)

This is one of the funniest pieces of shit ever to be released in a movie theater. There is virtually nothing redeemable about beyond Adam Driver saying “Ow” and that the last line Adam Driver will hopefully ever utter in a Star Wars film was “Ow.” Everything substantive about this film suggests that the entire Disney Star Wars filmmaking process is completely lost and has no idea what it is doing nor what makes Star Wars interesting and fun. It’s a fairly remarkable achievement in that regard.
– Mike Thomas

9. Revenge of the Sith (dir. George Lucas)

For a long time I held the opinion this was the only good one in the prequel trilogy. Many still think this. Probably because the good guy goes emo and puts his hood up and murders a bunch of kids. It’s the kind of thing that seems rad as hell when you’re a teenager. But as time goes by whatever positives I once gleaned from this movie have faded and I can’t help but feel The Phantom Menace is a superior, if profoundly weird movie.

Things start well with Anakin straight-up beheading the unbeatable antagonist of the previous movie in the first 10 minutes as part of a goofy in a good way opening mission. It’s not that anything goes dramatically wrong from there, it’s just that it’s only a Very Okay movie. Perhaps that’s why it enjoys a better reputation than its two predecessors, as there’s no particular lightning rod scene for hatred. Except when Anakin and Obi Wan just spin their lightsabers for no reason whatsoever. That was dumb.

It’s not about what is here, it’s about what isn’t: The charismatic calm of possible racist Liam Neeson. Naboo’s charming visual design. The breakneck fun of pod racing. A dope man with a double-ended red lightsaber. The electrifying discourse about trade regulations!
– Matt Waters


7. [tied] Solo (dir. Ron Howard)

It almost feels like a struggle to even try a full paragraph about this movie because it’s so darn forgettable. Alden Ehrenreich is woefully miscast. Ron Howard was never the right person to play in this universe in the 21st century. Donald Glover is cool as Lando, but he’s cool no matter what. Unless the movie was going to be about him, then he’s just window dressing.

Despite being a prequel, this movie very clearly hints at potential sequels and an expansion of the universe as Darth Maul returns to the movies for the first time since Episode 1. I think the biggest sin of this movie is that it takes Han Solo and makes him just another character. A lot of the specialness is robbed without Harrison Ford. There are a lot of other cases where multiple actors can play one character, and it can work. Ford’s energy and performance are so specific that I can’t imagine anyone else playing Han Solo. Even after watching Solo, I still can’t imagine it.
– Jerome Cusson

7. [tied] The Phantom Menace (dir. George Lucas)

I’m not going to come out and say that The Phantom Menace is some great underrated gem in the Star Wars canon. Most of the complaints lobbied at the movie are completely valid – so many of the aliens are gross racial stereotypes, the attempts at comedy are not great, and the movie flails around in search of a protagonist for most of its run time.

Saying that, it is by far the best movie of the Prequel Trilogy, in so far as it feels like an actual movie. There are real sets! People are reacting to things that are actually happening! The “Duel of the Fates” fucks! Of course, the warning signs are all there for the technological hole that Lucas will eventually fall into during the next two movies; but for seemingly one last time, we get to see what made him such a creative force in the 70s before he is entirely subsumed by his worst impulses.

– Ben Phillips

6. The Force Awakens (dir. JJ Abrams)

There are a million things this film could have done better. It was however a film that actually made Star Wars enjoyable once again, and it is hard to calculate just how necessary that was after the incredibly flawed and poorly executed prequel films. None of the mistakes were irreversible though, and it did a fine job of bringing closure to the Han Solo character while simultaneously setting the stage with four new main characters.
– Mike Thomas

5. Return of the Jedi(dir. Richard Marquand)

My hottest take about this movie is that the first forty minutes is probably the best extended sequence in the entirety of the Original Trilogy. Just one long extended heist sequence, paying off the Han Solo cliffhanger from the end of Empire, properly introducing Jabba the Hutt, and letting our heroes be badasses for a moment. Not even the most egregious additions from Lucas in the subsequent releases are able to derail the momentum. Still, the movie gets mired in an incredibly stodgy act two. I am not turning this into an Ewok hate screed; I just find Endor incredibly dull.

Return of the Jedi showcases the very best and worst of Lucas’ instincts. The strong pulp storytelling impulses are there, but they butt heads with the marketing genius who turned Star Wars into a merchandising empire. When this movie works, it sings and stands as a testament to the very best of Star Wars. But… they really should have killed off Han Solo like Harrison Ford wanted.

– Ben Phillips

4. Rogue One (dir. Gareth Edwards)

I don’t think I’ve met anyone else as high on Rogue One as me. I’ve heard the criticisms (frequently from Ben) and my response is an apathetic shrug, because controversial as it may be, this is my favourite Star Wars anything.

By moving the focus away from the special fated golden children and giving some shine to the ordinary people of the galaxy (though admittedly Jinn is essentially a Chosen One due to her father designing the Death Star), it made the universe feel far more fleshed out than I’d seen it presented on film before. I know objectively there is more to the lore than whatever Luke, Leia, Han etc. happen to be doing at any given moment, but Rogue One was the first time I saw and felt the ramifications galactic war had on the populous. Debate has waged for decades about whether or not Han shot first. Cassian straight up assassinates people. I’m not saying he’s cooler by any means, but he perfectly embodies the idea that even ‘the good guys’ have to do ugly things in war.

While it may sound like my favourite thing about this film is how much it wasn’t at all like Star Wars, it’s in fact the ways in which it stitched together the prequels to the original trilogy. From the uncanny CGI resurrections of dead actors, to explaining away the Death Star having a weak spot, the film tied together what have always felt like completely different properties to me, with the gripping final sequence leading us right into the opening of A New Hope. And Darth Vader has never been more terrifying.

I think the most impressive thing for me is that despite knowing none of these characters were going to make it, I found Jinn and Cassian’s (shockingly non-romantic) sacrifice emotionally devastating.

– Matt Waters

3. The Last Jedi (dir. Rian Johnson)

Star Wars was never my go-to franchise as a kid. My dad borrowed the VHSes from someone at work, but they had to be returned before they could become a steady part of my childhood movie rotation. The lack of nostalgia on my parents’ part meant I did not see The Phantom Menace on DVD. Instead, I eventually saw it on TV and had to bluff my way along with plot details I had gleaned from playing “Jedi Power Battles” on the PS1. So, when The Force Awakens came out, it felt like nostalgia from someone else’s childhood. I still enjoyed that movie, but it wasn’t “mine.”

And then The Last Jedi happened. Up to that point, none of the Star Wars media that I had explored was interested in the things that I was, and then this movie came along like a bolt of lightning. It is still recognisably Star Wars, but the things it bends and breaks were things I always felt needed bending and breaking (obviously to the chagrin of many “fans”). Objectively, it is probably not as good, or as ground-breaking, as A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back, but seeing it in IMAX on opening night, I felt that childhood nostalgia for Star Wars that I never had. And that is why it is my favourite Star Wars.

– Ben Phillips

2. Star Wars (dir. George Lucas)

There is one thing that needs to be remembered about the original Star Wars films and the first one in particular: they are really fucking weird. The pacing is bizarre. Some of the sequences are inexplicable. The costumes are hilarious. The dialogue is often trite. But the film undeniably works and is pure magic.

Despite all major studios now subscribing to the blockbuster model, this one still stands out as being far different and far more unique than virtually anything that came after it. There is still plenty to learn from it, and it would be nice if the corporation that now owns Star Wars actually would study it.

– Mike Thomas

1. The Empire Strikes Back (dir. Irvin Kershner)

My family once played a “game” (for wont of a better world) where we all went in a circle and named the film we wish we could watch for the first time again. I have always truly treasured the first viewing experience of a film. While that viewpoint often gets caught up in discussion of SPOILERS or whatever, I truly relish being able to watch any film with as little information as possible about the film once I decide I am going to see it.

Darth Vader being Luke’s father is something everyone knows. There’s no not knowing it. You either watch the movie as a kid before that moment can truly emotionally impact you or you see it as an adult by which point you have absorbed that particular pop culture by some other means. I just want to want to experience that climatic emotional moment in one of my favorite films ever as if I have never see it.

There is no film I would want to watch more for the first time again than Empire. It’s everything you want from a giant film.

– Mike Thomas

article topics :

Star Wars, Michael Thomas