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All 8 Movies From The “Star Wars” Franchise Ranked From Worst To Best

27 May 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Ian Flanagan

Some people watch Star Wars and see the peak cultural touchstone of their young lives. Others see Spaceballs minus the parody. Somewhere in between the casual filmgoer has been exposed in some way to the monstrous film series that is Star Wars, be it an original, prequel, or one of Disney’s new attempts at further box office domination.

While the fanboy population rides the hype train for Episode XIII in the coming seven months, here’s all of the series’ live action films ranked from worst to best from the non-fan perspective.


8. The Phantom Menace

Jar Jar Binks - Star Wars I The Phantom Menace

Likely one of the most miscalculated and excessive efforts ever put to film, the first of the eagerly anticipated Star Wars prequels would end up being the most narratively unimportant to the saga.

The events of The Phantom Menace are trivial, as the rest of the series continues ten years after the story of our false protagonist, Anakin Skywalker,here played by a tiny, insufferable Jake Lloyd. Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon Jinn has at least twice the time onscreen as Lloyd, but his considerable talents are among the chief to fall to the hand of George Lucas’s profound deficiency at writing dialogue and connecting his stories with internal logic.

The Phantom Menace is a rough starting point for the series’ chronology, and an unpleasant one to have unfold before your eyes. From tarnishing the mythology of the originals, to the firmly established overuse of the false, phony and clean CGI for a vast majority of the film, Lucas’s entire vision is misguided and disjointed.

John Williams’ music is the only consistent saving grace of the prequels – his talent is wasted on the worst of blockbusters here, but throughout these films he is able to elevate the sour tone of the visuals and the script. Without William’s, each of the three movies in question would play out like an embarrassing spoof – he is magically able to string together the bland editing and now very dated visual effects with unwarranted, furious intent.

Jar Jar Bink stops a list of bafflingly stupid cinematic choices, which also includes midi-chlorians and killing of Darth Maul, who is the only vaguely interesting figure amidst a sea of robotic, vanilla characters, despite how little he is seen. As Lucas bit off more than he could chew, the grandiosity of Anakin’s downfall has to be foreshadowed with a virgin birth and one of the dumbest uses of the likes of prophecies and chosen ones.

And his new emphasis on the supposed intellectualism of space politics only further cements the prequel trilogy as failures across the board. The particularly disagreeable version of space fantasy that culminates in Episode I just happens to be the series’ worst.


7. Attack of the Clones

Attack of the Clones

After the mother of all palette cleansers with Episode I, Lucas seems to try to correct his overall self-indulgence at least a little with Attack of the Clones. Though just as ineptly scripted as the first, this film’s only benefit is its lack of as many repulsive elements – and from time to time a scene won’t ring completely false.

Episode II has more time for this trilogy’s finest casting choice in Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi, but his larger role just means some extra quipping. Jar Jar’s role is thankfully greatly reduced here, and at least a child isn’t playing Darth Vader the youngling. An angsty adolescent instead is a small step up though – Hayden Christiansen is a poor actor to begin with, but Lucas’s lines turn him into a whiny, short-tempered and furthermore unsympathetic main character.

The arc of Anakin’s tragic downfall is less Shakespearean and more soap opera. The quarter-baked romance between he and Natalie Portman’s Amidala is some of the most worthy hate-watch material that the infamous prequels have to offer. This emphatically clichéd love story forms the spineless emotional backbone to a wildly overblown and often comical film trilogy.

And Obi-Wan’s subplot in discovering the missing Clone-creating planet Kamino just serves as padding to push the romantic aspects as forcefully as possible. By the time it seems our star-crossed lovers are doomed, and Amidala confesses to Anakin that she “truly, deeply” loves him, our first instinct is to roll our eyes rather than dab them.

A few moments go over well enough in a cinematic sense. After that horrid bit of dialogue just mentioned, Anakin, Obi-Wan and Padme’s fight with monsters in the Geonosis gladiator arena is an entertaining set piece. But this is the longest entry of the series and nearly the least justified – did we need the video game-ready factory scene, or a Yoda lightsaber duel?

Though not bursting at the seams with as much of the tacky filler of Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones exists mostly to set up the aforementioned The Clone Wars and put everything in place for the only prequel that even remotely justified its existence in the first place.


6. Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith

As the lesser of three evils, Revenge of the Sith most often gets a pass from audiences – it remains certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and when it was released A. O. Scott called in better than the 1977 original.

But in the scope of the saga as we see it today, it’s a stretch that Obi-Wan’s bit of backstory on Darth Vader needed a two and a half hour epic to explain. Nonetheless the least repulsive of the three prequels tries to balance Lucas’s love for childlike humor and cartoonish action sequences with the inevitable impending dark side, which includes the serial murder of children and some domestic abuse.

Full of inherent contradictions, Revenge of the Sith is a microcosm of the ambition and potential of Lucas’s concept for these newer films, and also reveals all of his worst tendencies of the series – flat dialogue, tensionless fight sequences, unintentional humor, all of which has contributed to an entire subreddit’s page worth of memes over the years.

It’s ironic that as the prequels got progressively gloomier, the mistakes and poor filmmaking choices became more noticeable even if they are fewer.

Chock full of betrayal, manipulation, anger and murder, this film, for mostly worse, feels like a genuine space opera, oscillating between grand scale sci-fi fantasy and cheesy, dutifully melodramatic dialogue. Revenge of the Sith is the most enjoyable prequel because for once Lucas’s ultimate intentions are somewhat clear, and the entertainment value, intended or not, is surprisingly high.

When this film’s ending tries its darndest to end up essentially at the beginning of A New Hope, it becomes obvious that for as much as Lucas aspired to here, these films still only rely on the original trilogy’s notoriety and the unbound but creatively bankrupt mind of its architect. Episode III conjures a cocktail of the bloodless familiar and disturbing, uninspired creations.

The prequels deserve all the hate they get because everything new is grotesque and disagreeable to behold, and everything that existed before is either recycled or simply ruined.


5. Rogue One

Though from a filmmaking perspective Rogue One is more than just fine, it’s nearly as bad as the prequels in conception alone, but in the opposite way. A slew of silly space operas now chronologically shift to a gritty, humorless war film.Just as drawn out as Lucas’s ego-stroking prequels, this is one of the least engaging entries of the series, a heaping slice of fan service disguised as something greater and more important.

But A New Hope never dwelled on how the Death Star plans were nabbed – it was a plot device ready to set the entire original film into motion. Now the convoluted story of a drab, one-note collection of misfits trying to obtain what we already know they steal forms a truer prequel to the original.

While The Force Awakens admittedly updates all of the elements that made the world crazy about the first film, it doesn’t reside entirely in fanboy-baiting nostalgia. What distinguishes Rogue One from Disney’s first try and frankly the rest of series is that it sorely lacks in fun. Star Wars was supposed to be space fantasy adventure right? Since when did I have to take it as deadly serious as Apocalypse Now?

The actual story of Rogue One could have been a nifty heist spin-off film, but, just like Gareth Edwards spoiled the potential of the promising 2014 Godzilla remake, he does the same here – both even had similarly misleading marketing.

Maybe Disney made Rogue One too safe for the sake box office numbers, so Edwards can’t be left entirely to blame. But just like everyone thought the Darth Vader parts were the best of the movie, they were just so – a calculated last minute decision by a corporation that may always squander the potential for originality with a penchant for the nostalgic.



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  • Zwei

    Attack of the Clones is the worst, The Phantom Menace at least have that cool five minutes with darth maul, lol .

    • Agreed. Clones is the worst with nearly no redeemable qualities whereas Menace isn’t that great, but more because of its inconsistency.
      Sith is probably properly rated, but it’s better than people give it credit for

    • Stephus

      Tbh all episodes 1,2 and 3 are the worst.

  • Andy Kidd

    Accurate list.

  • gustavomda

    Rogue One is the worst by far.

    • I mean, it’s fine if you want to say it’s the worst, but to add “by far” completely nullifies this opinion

    • Lugh

      Yeah gustavomda, that phrase is just beyond the pale… oh… dear… did I just nullify my opinion with that phrase?

      • Just wanted to notify you that you’ve been nullified

        • Lugh

          Eh, no, still here, still got lots of opinions, you must have lost your special powers there Brandy.

  • bluesborn

    I have an embarrassing admission to make.I like the Phantom Menace.At least I don’t hate it as much as apparently everyone else does. The whole flick is a like a lazy afternoon hashish dream to me. Jar Jar is annoying of course but he also makes me laugh at times as do the rest of his aquatic clan. I don’t know,I just don’t take any of it that seriously I guess. I was never a huge Star Wars guy anyway even though I’m old enough to have seen the first one in the theater.

  • I’ve made 2 lists. One of the official series here and anything such as the spin-offs or anything related to the series here including the abomination that is the Holiday Special.

    • Iván Solorio (SanS)

      Steven. We do not talk about the Holiday Special *cleans eyes with bleacher*

      • I wish I couldn’t but… I still bear the scars of what I saw…. *sobs*

    • Iván Solorio (SanS)

      I agree with your Official series list. Except that I’ll exchange the places of The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

  • Mortimer

    Ranking is right. The Empire Strikes Back is the only great movie on the list.

  • Lars Franssen

    I concur.

  • Djuxer

    The Force Awakens is too far up, that movie has no “Star Wars” vibe in it

  • Tim O’Hare

    Rogue One was so utterly forgettable.

  • JayCommenting

    100% correct. It’s actually amazing the goodwill of the original trilogy has survived despite all the insults that came after it. It’s hard to beat Empire; it’s just a great film… one of the best.

  • The Gov Lackey

    I actually liked Rogue One.

  • Exit Exit Quit

    For all the vitriol that the prequels receive, at least they took the story to new places, unlike that safe, unimaginative rehash The Force Awakens.

    • Lugh

      The Force Awakens was a safe, unimaginative rehash because of the inexcusably inept and frankly insulting cash grab that was the prequel trilogy. The poisonous legacy of those movies forced Disney to play it safe in order to rehabilitate the series. TFA did its job – the series is in recovery and will now go from strength to strength.

      • Wyatt W.B

        I agree, the series needed to re-ground itself with The Force Awakens.

    • Stephus

      To the realm of cheesiness

  • Nick Botton

    oh jeez, how predictable. Honestly I disliked Rogue One more than the prequels (except maybe for Phantom Menace).

    • sailor monsoon

      That’s insanity

  • Revenge of the sith should be in top 3. It’s even better than the Force Awakens and The Return of the Jedi. The force is strong in this one.
    & Attack of the clones should be the last.

  • Brian Gregory

    You’ll get the ‘I can’t believe that….’ comments but I enjoyed this article and more or less agree with the placings.

  • Gabriel Medina Blackman

    Pretty acurate, but I like Force awakens better than jedi because of the focused script

  • Henrik Vinther Sørensen

    I would rank Star Wars above Empire Strikes Back, and Phantom Menace above Attack of the Clones. Otherwise I agree. But they are all extremely overrated in my opinion.

  • Kevin M.

    I know I’m against popular arguments here… but Rogue One is the best film in the franchise IMO. Just the fact that it can still gives you the thrill and excitement even though you already know the fate of the characters is just a piece of magic. Plus, it has the coolest Darth Vader scene ever. I’m talking of course about the hallway massacre at the end of the film.

  • Stephus

    The order should be
    The phantom menace
    The force awakens
    Revenge of the sith
    Clone wars
    Return of the Jedi
    A new hope
    Rogue one
    The empire strikes back

    • Cristian Andrés Muñoz Levill


  • Iván Solorio (SanS)

    Tbh Attack of the Clones is the worst. Boring and uneven pace, plus the whole wooden act by the main cast. Phantom Menace’s unforgivable crime is Jar Jar Binks but it still has that 3rd Act with Darth Maul

  • Wyatt W.B

    Spot on

  • jason malinoski

    One thing articles like this prove to me. It all comes down to personal taste in the end.