Star Wars Movies Ranked

We recently rewatched the Star Wars movies. We decided to individually rank the movies from favorite to least favorite, then compare notes. First, our brief thoughts on each movie individually.

Star Wars Movies We Own

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Erik: Visually beautiful, but the plot drags and the dialogue is ludicrous. Like the other prequel movies, it at least has a clear narrative purpose that operates on two levels: the corruption of Anakin Skywalker and the fall of the Republic.

Eppu: Too messy all round; a travesty of writing not helped by (some of) the acting.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Eppu: Least bad of the prequels; only Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman save the movie.

Erik: Despite its weaknesses (especially in the Anakin/Padme storyline), this film comes the closest to the series’ classic pulp sci-fi inspirations.

Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith

Erik: More weak plot and ridiculous dialogue, but there is an atmosphere to this film that sustains it, a palpable sense of an age of beauty and light coming to an end.

Eppu: An intelligent woman—and playing the Smurfette part to boot—is reduced to a walking womb. Yuck.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Eppu: The learning-to-work-together aspect and found family vibes with a heaping of nostalgia offset the grimdark.

Erik: A love letter to the original trilogy, filled with great characters.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Erik: An unnecessary, self-indulgent piece of fanfiction with neither the spirit of the original trilogy nor the narrative purpose of the prequels.

Eppu: It’s just weak all round, and Alden Ehrenreich certainly can’t pull off the role of young Han. (Well, except for propping, sets, and CGI, which at least are very professionally done if not always terribly imaginative.)

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

Eppu: Can’t beat a classic: well edited, scored, acted, with decent if at times very concise writing. Feels a little sparse or basic compared to today’s movie plots, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Erik: There is beauty in how spare the writing and worldbuilding are, giving us just enough that our imaginations can fill in the rest.

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

Erik: Some great action sequences and character development, but it doesn’t feel like they all belong in the same movie.

Eppu: Darker and more desperate, again well constructed. Nostalgia helps here, too.

Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi

Eppu: Loved it as a kid, but the present me sees the ridiculousness of Ewoks fighting stormtroopers.

Erik: I love seeing Luke’s growth as a Jedi, both in skills and self-awareness, and I like Ewoks versus stormtroopers.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Erik: While the movie is overly focused on being as Star Wars-y as possible, the new characters are all clearly defined and well acted.

Eppu: Tries to hit all of the same spots as the original trilogy, but ends up trying too much.

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

Eppu: Despite its confusion on what the movie wants to be, General Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo kick ass. The entertaining side plot with Rose is also a plus.

Erik: So much wasted potential. This could have been the best movie in the entire series, but it is too obsessed with its concepts to actually tell a story with them.

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Erik: An overstuffed mess of contrived events, plot gimmicks, and fanservice for the worst parts of the Internet.

Eppu: I like best the Rey plus Kylo Ren conflict-turns-into-understanding arc. Palpatine and his cronies are comically, hilariously dark and corny, which almost makes me snort my way through those parts.

Here’s our individual rankings.

Erik’sEppu’s
1Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the JediRogue One: A Star Wars Story
2Rogue One: A Star Wars StoryStar Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
3Star Wars: Episode IV – A New HopeStar Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
4Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force AwakensStar Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
5Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes BackStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
6Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the ClonesStar Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
7Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last JediStar Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
8Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the SithStar Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
9Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom MenaceStar Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
10Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of SkywalkerStar Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
11Solo: A Star Wars StorySolo: A Star Wars Story

Erik’s comments:

I put Return of the Jedi first for a couple of reasons. First, I love the opening act with the rescue of Han from Jabba’s palace. It’s so well structured, gradually reintroducing us to all the heroes and showing us Luke’s growth as a Jedi. Second, I’m a sucker for any fight in which low-tech beats high-tech, and the Endor battle is one of my favorites.

I like The Force Awakens more than The Empire Strikes Back. I’ve never really been a fan of Empire, although I know it’s widely considered the best movie of the original trilogy. I won’t argue about the strengths of Empire or the weaknesses of Force, but I just enjoy watching Rey discover her Jedi powers and Finn find his footing in the Resistance more than I enjoy watching Luke run around a swamp and Han try to kickstart the Falcon.

I didn’t think there could be a Star Wars movie worse than The Phantom Menace, but then came Solo and The Rise of Skywalker. Phantom at least has beautiful sets and costumes, an action hero queen, and a fantastic lightsaber fight. Rise is a jumbled and unnecessary mess, and Solo is just answering questions that didn’t need answers.

Eppu’s comments:

Overall, I found the nods towards the original trilogy in Rogue One an absolute delight the very first time we watched the movie, and I’ve continued to enjoy them a lot despite the fact that many of them are basically direct copies of dialogue or shots. For me, it’s very close to a perfect combination of homage plus original material. Director Krennic is the only acting job that comes close to unbearable ham (but that may have been how Ben Mendelsohn was directed, as he’s great in other productions).

The strength of Empire for me is the exploration of Luke’s, Leia’s, and Han’s characters when they each hit a rough patch, which is why I ranked it higher than Return. Also Lando turns out to have more depth right from the bat than, say, Count Dooku.

Sadly, the sequels are almost as bad a mess storywise as the prequels, but fortunately they picked more talented core actors and did *not* write in an inept, ham-fisted Asian caricature. (Then again, I gather that the production of the sequels was exceptionally convoluted and involved lots of back-end drama.) Cinematographically, though, the sequels are light years ahead of any of the others, I think.

In hindsight, maybe I should’ve bumped Clones a step down and Phantom a step up—Anakin behaves so fecking creepily towards Padme it’s upsetting to watch. At least in Phantom he behaves more maturely, as odd as it is to say about a little kid, and, like Erik said, there’s pretties to see.

There’s a marked difference in quality between the original and prequel trilogies. I’ve often wondered why that is. (Not having really cared to look for an answer online, though, I can only speculate.) I do have a vague impression of having read somewhere that one reason for the success of the original trilogy was that the editing team—if I remember right, especially Marcia Lucas—wove the storylines into a cohesive, tight, smoothly moving arc. In the prequels, the core of the story largely gets lost among the bling. In a way, it feels like once Lucas effectively was the boss, it was to the detriment of the story.

Granted, we finally got the fight scenes worthy of the jedi; that, plus improved effects (including makeup and costuming), are what the prequels did absolutely right. In the end, however, they visuals are not enough in themselves to pull the prequels up from the bottom.

From the point of view of current viewer (i.e., setting aside any past significance from a technological point of view), action scenes and special effects have improved so much in the past few decades that the prequels cannot offer anything memorable. It’s the strength of the story, the characters, and the acting that a movie must stand on now. In that sense, the prequels have very little to offer me. Moreover, it’s actually rather impressive that we both ranked Solo as the absolutely last one, below the prequels—a mark of a true washout. I’m only sad that the tanking of Solo means my fellow Finn Joonas Suotamo likely won’t get hired for more Chewbacca roles.

There’s so much you could say about all of the movies. At times ranking really wasn’t very straightforward. (How do you properly gauge the messiness of the prequels, for instance. I’m sure if you were to ask me two years from now, I’d list some of the movies differently.)

We know other people have different opinions from ours; we’d like to hear yours!

Image by Eppu Jensen

In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.

First Trailer Is out for Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

The gloomily hilarious Knives Out is getting a sequel. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is also both written and directed by Rian Johnson, and the first trailer is now out:

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery | Official Teaser Trailer | Netflix on YouTube

The cast seems great, but otherwise it’s a little difficult to say what exactly to expect, except it feels like a cross between an escape room and the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. Although, for my mysteries, I could completely do without the gratuitous gunplay, thank you very much; I’ll go to action movies for that.

At this writing, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is expected on December 23, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Trailer for Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

I had completely missed the news that there was a big budget D&D movie in the making! On the basis of this trailer, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves looks kinda bad, but fun kind of bad. Take a look yourself:

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves – Official Trailer | Comic Con 2022 by IGN on YouTube

I’ve been playing so much World of Warcraft in recent years that I’m woefully out of date with D&D, but I think I spotted familiar things in the trailer. Also handsome, at least on a quick view; they sure churn out decent special effects these days.

At this writing, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is expected to release in theaters on March 03, 2023.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The first official trailer for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has now been out for a few weeks:

Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

OMG, what a different choice of music for the trailer—at first just a neat, atypical choice, then getting more and more sinister when juxtaposed with the imagery. Brr!

The underwater events and Mesoamericans scenes completely took me by surprise. (Seems surprisingly similar to the Avatar sequel about to be released this year, doesn’t it, or am I the only one to make the connection?) Looks awesome, though, and has so much potential for very inventive storytelling.

On the other hand, the tribute to Chadwick Boseman I did expect—or would’ve been surprised to see omitted. RIP; the world lost a huge talent.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler did such a fantastic job with the first Black Panther that I’ve no doubt that this sequel will be amazing. (Finally, FINALLY, there are A LOT of serious, powerful, purposeful roles for women!) I can’t wait!

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Official Trailer for Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor rambles on in Thor: Love and Thunder, this time partnered with another deity capable of throwing lightning around:

Marvel Studios’ Thor: Love and Thunder | Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Jane Foster wielding Mjölnir will be something to see! I have no idea of the comic book storylines, so I can’t say how the tidbits we see compare to those—I have literally no idea—but the main antagonist, Gorr, seems musty and uninspired. We’ll see if that’s just that trailers always lie.

I do find the realm with a fancy, floating (although quite open) city interesting, and all of the other sets, props, costumes, and effects are handsome, as usual. Since this is another Thor movie co-written and directed by Taika Waititi, I’m inclined to see it in the theater.

Thor: Love and Thunder is set to debut on July 08, 2022, in the U.S.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Trailer for Jurassic World Dominion

Good grief! Either I haven’t been paying attention, or there really is a whole slew of SFFnal trailers out in the past month for me to blog about and comment on. Here we go…

The end cap for the dinosaur park franchise(s), Jurassic World Dominion, puts together characters from the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy. And dinos, of course:

Jurassic World Dominion | Trailer 2 [4K] by Jurassic World on YouTube

I was surprised to learn the movie takes place four years after the preceding one; it will be interesting to see how the writing team will have figured humans and dinosaurs might coexist. It will also be very nice to see some of the older characters, and I hope there will be less time spent on my least favorite faces and more on the nicer ones.

There is, however, one thing I will NEVER want to see again: high heels that stay glued to the female protagonist’s feet while she’s running through the jungle. Oh, hello?! Yuckkk!

At this writing, Jurassic World Dominion will be released on June 10, 2022 in the U.S.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

The Obligatory Male Protagonist

Tv shows or movies with an ensemble cast will nearly always have a man as de facto main character. (Studios, networks, and advertisers have apparently not yet caught on to the fact that people who aren’t 18-35-year-old white men also watch tv and go to the movies.) These obligatory protagonists come in a few different varieties. Here’s a spotter’s guide for some of the major types (mind you, more than a few characters cross the lines from one category to another).

Captain Competence

James Kirk from Star Trek via IMDb; Gil Grissom from CSI via CSI Fandom; Gregory House from House via IMDb

He’s better than everyone at everything. He always has the right answer. While other characters may have their particular areas of expertise, he’s always the one to solve the real problem. To be frank, the only reason there are other people on the show is so that he has someone to be better than.

The Fixer-Upper

Nate Ford from Leverage via IMDb; Mal from Firefly via IMDb; Jeff Winger from Community via IMDb

He’s a damaged, bitter, broken man, but that doesn’t stop him from being the center of attention. Expect the women in the cast to do a lot of emotional work for him, such as holding his hand while he cries, calming him down when he lashes out, and making excuses for him to the people he hurts. He may pull himself together over time. Then again, he may not.

The Overgrown Child

Phil Dunfy from Modern Family via IMDb; Castle from Castle via IMDb; Jake Peralta from Brooklyn 99 via IMDb

This guy just never grew up. He lives his adult life with the blissful joy of a child, which would be fine except that it also means he never takes responsibility for anything, is clueless about how his actions affect the people around him, and gets pouty and petty when things don’t go his way. The women in his life usually fall into the role of surrogate mother, saying “no” to his worst ideas and cleaning up his messes when he does them anyway.

The Plot-Jacker

Peter Quill (and Gamora) from Guardians of the Galaxy via IMDb; Emmet (and Wild Style) from The Lego Movie via IMDb; Owen (and Claire) from Jurassic World via IMDb

(Also known as the “Chris Pratt Special.”) There’s a female character in the cast who not only has the knowledge, skills, and background to be the hero of the story, but also has a good reason to take on the mission or challenge the big bad. Then this guy wanders in out of nowhere and takes over, doing better by sheer guts and grit than she did with all her knowledge and skill. Expect her to fall into his arms at the end.

If you spot any of these types in the wild, you know what to expect.

In Character is an occasional feature looking at some of our favorite characters from written works and media to see what drives them, what makes them work, and what makes us love them so much.

Second Trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

The release date for the next movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is approaching. Here is the second official trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness:

Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Official Trailer by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

To me, the creepiest thing in the trailer is the mention of a repeating dream Strange says he’s having. Brr, merely the thought is hair-raising. (Not to mention that I can’t even think of the kinds of nightmares you might have if your reality had shifted to a multiverse of possibilities. Anyway.) Apparently MoM is the first MCU film to be released under the horror genre, so that sounds appropriate.

The trailer looks as astounding as all of the MCU movies do; indeed, technical accomplishments have never been Marvel’s weakness. Where it might fall is the story. I don’t recognize the writing team for MoM at all: Michael Waldron (who’s apparently written the Loki series) and Jade Halley Bartlett (with a total of four credits to her name in IMDB).

Another aspect I’m completely ignorant of is superhero America Chavez, played in MoM by Xochitl Gomez, who will be introduced in this film. I’ve sometimes wondered whether I’d be enjoying the MCU more had I read Marvel’s superhero comics as a kid instead of the mutant ones, but it hasn’t been a big deal so far. In phase four, however, as the stories are moving further away from the biggest names and most popular heroes, it might make a difference.

I’m also ambivalent towards the director Sam Raimi. His Spider-Man trilogy certainly faded from my memory soon enough. MoM is also Raimi’s first film in nine years. I have to wonder whether directing is like riding a bicycle—will he be able to handle the reins of a massive production again?

Apparently the events will also tie in with the series Loki and WandaVision. As I haven’t seen either, I hope any links will be clear enough anyway. I guess we will see. It’ll surely be nice to see more of Wong (Benedict Wong) and Dr. Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams).

The release day for MoM is still listed as May 06, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

First Trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Marvel Cinematic Universe’s next installment, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, has its first trailer out.

Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Official Teaser by Marvel Entertainment on YouTube

Due to pandemic restrictions and some bad luck, we still haven’t seen Spider-Man: No Way Home, so I don’t yet know what relevance, if any, Peter Parker and Doctor Strange’s shenanigans in that movie might have to Strange’s second solo adventure.

(Come to think of it, I completely missed posting the trailers for No Way Home. For my information, here are links to the first official NWH trailer and the second official NWH trailer.)

Strange has never been one of my favorite characters, and so far this trailer doesn’t remedy that. We do see a number of repeat performances by supporting characters (Wong, Mordo, Dr. Christine Palmer; Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin) and a few tantalizing glimpses of entirely new acquaintances. The inclusion of Wanda Maximoff was a pleasant surprise; I hope we’ll see as much of her as possible.

At this writing, MoM is set to release on May 06, 2022.

Hey, look! We found a thing on the internet! We thought it was cool, and wanted to share it with you.

Mashup of Themes from Avengers and The Lord of the Rings

Perfection can be improved on occasion. Bearing witness is this inventive mashup of various themes from The Lord of the Rings by Howard Shore and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers by Alan Silvestri:

The Lord of The Rings X Avengers EPIC ORCHESTRAL MASHUP by Samuel Kim Music on YouTube

The mashup was arranged and orchestrated by Samuel Kim. I don’t have enough formal musical education to tell you why it works—both movie scores certainly are epic enough—I just know it does. 🙂 Kudos!

An occasional feature on music and sound-related notions.