Where does The Force Awakens rank?
**Please note, Star Wars spoilers below for all 7 films**
I’ve been a Star Wars fan just about my entire life. It is with great joy and tough internal debate that I rank the 7 Star Wars films. I love each and every one of the films (including The Phantom Menace, to a degree, despite its shortcomings) for different reasons. The Star Wars franchise itself ranks as my favorite of any movie franchise ever.
7. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Phantom Menace was one of, if not the most anticipated film of all time when it debuted in 1999 after a 15 year absence from the big screen. Parts of the film can be dry (taxing trade routes?) and goofy (thanks for giving us Jar Jar Binks) at times, but the setup for what was to follow is intriguing. Darth Maul remains a fan favorite despite having less than 20 words of dialogue. We get to see a young, perfectly cast Obi-Wan Kenobi. The lightsaber duel between Kenobi, Maul, and Qui-Gon Jinn is one of the best in the entire saga and is the first one that featured such precision and intensity in the heyday of the Jedi Knights. Unless the Jar Jar Binks, Sith Lord theory is ever proven or confirmed, The Phantom Menace will likely keep its spot on this list.
6. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
A pivotal final battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire ensues after the crew rescues Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba The Hutt. The greatest moments of ROTJ (originally titled “Revenge of the Jedi” before George Lucas decided that Jedi don’t seek revenge) see Luke Skywalker grow into Jedi Knighthood, facing his father Darth Vader in one last Lightsaber duel for the fate of the balance of the Force. Ultimately, this is the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader, the Chosen One.
5. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The highly anticipated Lightsaber battle between Obi-Wan Kenobi & Anakin Skywalker did not disappoint, clocking in at approximately 13 minutes in total, the longest of the saga. This movie packs a lot into it, effectively ending the Clone Wars, the Republic, the Jedi (just about), and many heroes and villains (Padme Amidala Skywalker, Count Dooku and General Grievous come to mind). Darth Vader’s infamous black armor comes back to the big screen after a 22 year absence. If there’s a complaint to be had, it the imbalance of CG effects and practical effects. Episode II was a near-perfect mix of the two, but Episode III has a vast over-reliance on CG which takes away from the film’s overall scope.
4. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
The original movie, “Star Wars” is a beautiful blend of a fun plot, stunning visuals that hold up nearly 40 years later (with a few revisions), and features the introduction of the characters we’ve come to see as beloved. Setting the stage for the galaxy’s major events, A New Hope features a little of everything.
3. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
The feeling I got while watching Attack of the Clones in theaters was purely magical (much like every other Star Wars film). I saw this 3 times in theaters. Attack of the Clones features the saga’s best mix of intensity and darkness since The Empire Strikes Back, with a feeling of impending doom looming throughout the film. Witnessing Anakin Skywalker in Jedi training while seeing missteps that lead him towards his path to the Dark Side was disturbing, knowing we would not witness his full transformation to Darth Vader until Episode III. A simple line from Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV set the stage for The Clone Wars. Episode II features an exciting, tone setting start with the bombing of Padme’s ship, the most exciting speeder chase featuring Jango Fett’s accomplice Zam Wessell, a dark mystery surrounding the creation of the Clone army, a strong new villain in Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku, the phenomenal Geonosis Droid Factory & Execution Arena sequences that show us Clones in action, the most exciting Lightsaber duel that features Yoda, Count Dooku, Anakin, & Obi-Wan, and that final chilling scene that shows (Emperor) Palpatine overlooking the Clones’ deployment, set to the sound of the Imperial March.
2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Arguably the most perfect film, Empire is action packed from the get-go with iconic action sequences that include the Imperial Walker attack on Hoth, the Millenium Falcon’s trek through an asteroid belt, and so much more. We meet Yoda and see a ton of parallels between Luke’s young traits and Anakin’s. Han Solo continues showing us why he is such a badass. Darth Vader’s obsession with finding young Skywalker becomes apparent with the biggest twist/reveal in cinema history. Left in shambles, the Rebel Alliance is a mess at the end of the movie, setting the stage for the ultimate showdown and a big cliff hanger to ponder while waiting for ROTJ.
1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
It was going to take an absolute ton for The Force Awakens to takeover spot #1 on this list but lo and behold, it has. The most anticipated movie of all time (numbers don’t lie – look at presale numbers and look at the massive list of records it has smashed so far) goes above and beyond its out-of-this-world expectations, somehow surpassing them. The quickest movie to $1 billion, The Force Awakens introduces us to a new generation of heroes and villains, perfectly blending the original trilogy’s heroes and nostalgia with the new. Setting the stage for a new trilogy and era of Star Wars movies, The Force Awakens will make you a believer if you weren’t already one. Oh & it’s John Williams’ best work yet (at age 83). Magic doesn’t begin to describe it.
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Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s foremost authority on all things Star Wars. Watch him host The Geekiverse Show on Youtube.