Ranked: Star Wars

A ranking of the world’s most iconic sci-fi movie series

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In 1977, A New Hope hit theaters ushering in a new genre of movie making: Science Fiction. Ever since then, Star Wars has acquired a following that has amassed over time all over the globe. As of 2021, there have been 11 movies released, six of them made by George Lucas and five made by Disney. It has been a tradition that after every episode, fans rank them in comparison to the others. My goal is exactly this: to rank the episodes from best to worst. The criteria for my ranking of the Skywalker Saga and Star Wars story movies are based on plot development.

 

The Star Wars movies in chronological order:

 

Prequel Trilogy

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Star Wars Stories

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Original Trilogy

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Sequel Trilogy

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

 

The Star Wars movies are ranked as following:

 

1. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

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Coming in at first, The Empire Strikes Back has the most well developed plot sequence stemming from A New Hope. It is a classic story of good versus evil where Luke Skywalker with the Rebel Alliance goes up against Darth Vador and Darth Sidious with the Empire. Filled with iconic characters like Han Solo, Chewbacca, C3PO, R2D2, and Princess Leia, their development through the episode is close to perfection. It ends with the act on Bespin with the greatest plot twist in Star Wars history, that Darth Vador is Luke Skywalker’s father. With this almost defeating ending, the abduction of Han Solo by Boba Fett, sets up the foundation for the next episode. 

2. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Rogue One comes in at second as it takes place between episodes III and IV. This episode shows more of the Empire’s side of the war against the Rebels as the architect of the Death Star, Galen Erso leaks information on the formidable weapon. With the absence of the Jedi, the episode is able to tell the story of the rebellion facing the Empire before it was intertwined with the wielders of the Force. In a refreshing underdog versus giant story, Jyn Erso (the architect’s daughter), leads a mission to steal the plans from the Imperial security complex on Scarif. It culminates with the Rebels stealing the plans of the Death Star leading to where A New Hope begins with Darth Vador furiously looking to get the plans back. Because of this, the plot is enriched in a new way as the viewer gets context for how the iconic original came into being.

3. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

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Revenge of the Sith finds its way in third place being of the most dynamic episodes in the Star Wars saga, it answers numerous questions that lingered after the original trilogy was released through the interwoven story lines of Anakin, Padmé, Chancellor Palpatine, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The birth of Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vador, the Empire, Leia, and Luke Skywalker are all explained in this episode to add context as to why the original trilogy happened the way it did. Because the plot is so dynamic and filled with action at every turn, it easily earns its way at third.

4. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

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Return of the Jedi is a culmination of the original trilogy and is the climax of the character development of individuals on the side of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. The episode starts off with Luke Skywalker saving Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. The rest of the episode is filled with suspense as the plot thickens with a new and more powerful version of the Death Star. It ends with a twist as Luke was saved by his father, Darth Vador, from Darth Sidious. As Luke was able to turn his father back to light, it ends with hope as the Empire is destroyed. The Rebel Alliance succeeded in defeating the Death Star, ending the war and the trilogy.

5. Episode IV – A New Hope

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A New Hope was the start of Star Wars as the world knows it and through this episode, ten other movies were made. The movie itself sets up the foundation of the Skywalker saga as the world knows it as the plot is about getting the Death Star Plans to the rebels and to destroy the Death Star. Although the plot is still developing in this episode, the iconic characters that make their appearance are seen throughout the rest of the saga. A New Hope is really a door to the Star Wars universe and its plot is a starting point for all the movies before and after it.

6. Episode I – The Phantom Menace

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The Phantom Menace is the official start to the Skywalker saga as it takes place on the planets of Naboo, Tatooine, and Coruscant. In this episode, young Anakin Skywalker is introduced and the foreshadowing of his dark future is evident in the film. Also, foreshadowing of the return of the Sith and the suspicious Senator Palpatine is also seen. Although the excessive CGI and the somewhat questionable character choice of Jar Jar Binks, the development of Anakin, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Palpatine, and Padmé are important to the rest of the saga.

7. Episode II – Attack of the Clones

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Attack of the Clones begins as the young Anakin in Episode I has grown to become the Padawan of master Obi Wan Kenobi. Much of the plot has to do with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin investigating the attempted murder of Queen Amidala. This episode is considerably the slowest paced episode in the saga, as the action only starts towards the end of the episode with the battle between the Clones of the Republic fight the Droids of the Separatists on Geonosis. It adds to the plot in that it continues Anakin’s progress to the Dark side and Emperor Palpatine’s manipulation of the Senate.

8. Solo: A Star Wars Story

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Solo is not a part of the Skywalker saga, but it does give context for the pilot and smuggler, Han Solo. Not only this, but it also gives context for Lando Calrissian and why he knew Han Solo as an old friend in The Empire Strikes Back. Although it is good context for these two characters, it does little else to add to the saga as it is filled with almost impossible coincidences. It also includes a scene with Darth Maul and this could mean another movie is coming out about it. Overall, it is a decent stand alone, but does little to add to the Skywalker saga.

9. Episode VII – The Force Awakens

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The Force Awakens was the beginning of the disappointment of many Star Wars fans. The plot lacks innovation as it’s basically a copied overall plot of A New Hope with a different story line. The episode starts with the First Order wanting to dominate the galaxy as Kylo Ren hunts for Luke Skywalker who has gone into hiding. It makes no sense that Luke Skywalker would go into hiding as he had just helped the Rebellion destroy the Empire and was at peace with his father. Also, where did the First Order even come from? Characters in the original series can be compared to many of the new characters in this episode as copies. Along with this, Starkiller Base is just another Death Star, just with upgraded powers. The only thing that this episode has going for it is that characters from the original trilogy like Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia who give it plot depth.

10. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

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The Last Jedi is an episode filled with too many coincidences and a somewhat predictable plot. The episode starts off with the First Order catching the Resistance in the middle of evacuation from the planet D’Qar. Somehow in the midst of the chaos, they take down a Dreadnought in the midst of a Star Destroyer Fleet. They jump to hyperspace and get away only to be followed by the same fleet. During this time, Princess Leia is shot into space and in a very cheesy scene, uses the force to return to the ship. Somehow the Resistance is able to escape to an old Rebel base on Crait, which is conveniently a planet right next to them. At this point, there are just too many coincidences to make up a good plot. Also, Luke Skywalker is portrayed as a cynical old man instead of the once powerful and optimistic Jedi Knight he was 30 years earlier. The episode ends with the Resistance barely escaping the New Order, yet again. Luke Skywalker does pass away in an epic scene at the end where he taunts the New Order, putting an end to the Jedi Knight. So, this episode just doesn’t have a plot that is innovative enough to make it any better than The Force Awakens.

11. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

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The Rise of Skywalker is hands down the worst episode out of the Skywalker saga. With so many plot points opened up in the previous two sequel movies, Episode IX tries to wrap everything up from these plot points, but to do so the pacing is so fast that it hardly gives the viewer time to unpack the plot points. First off, the opening crawl spoils the information that Emperor Palpatine had returned, instead of building up suspense to it. The whole deal with Rey’s parents being nobody is bashed by finding out that her father is Darth Sidious’s son, meaning all this hype from the previous two movies about her parents turns out to be nothing. It honestly feels like the writers threw this in and didn’t think it through. It somewhat makes sense that Darth Sidious survives the fall during the Return of the Jedi and comes back, but how in the world was he able to build up an entire Star Destroyer fleet with turbo blasters capable of blowing up planets when it took a whole planet at Starkiller Base to do that in The Force Awakens. Also, Rey is able to force heal a Vexis on Pasaana as a Jedi. If a Jedi had this ability, then there would be no reason for Anakin to turn to the Dark side in Revenge of the Sith as he would be able to heal Padamé as a Jedi. The whole battle on Exegol could have been averted if Palpatine didn’t broadcast his return and just let the fleet rise, so there is really no point of the episode actually happening. I could honestly go on and on about this movie but I will end with this, the episode totally veers off from Star Wars lore and misses an exciting opportunity to end the saga. In short, the film was “Disney-fied” and made into something much different from the Star Wars many know and love.