“Rogue One” is out, it’s already a huge hit and chances are you have already seen it. But, how does it compare to the other movies in the “Star Wars” canon? For this list, only eight movies will be counted, “Rogue One” along with the saga films. So yes, I understand there was an animated Clone Wars movie. I also understand that there were two Ewok movies! Two! I mean it’s one thing to have five “Transformer” movies but two movies about the Ewoks, that seems absurd! Oh and let’s not forget the infamous “Christmas Special,” which I would post below just because you hopefully haven’t heard of it but trust me, you have numerous better things to do with your life that watch that pile of garbage. Anyway, the reason all those will be left off the list is simple…they’re bad – scratch that – they’re so unfathomably awful that there is almost no point ranking them because that would kind of be like deciding to eat a rotten apple or a rotten pear.
8. “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”
Which one is that? Something about trade disputes, a princess in danger, a little boy who is some Christ-like figure, political discourse among aliens…you know what, just skip this section.
What works? Oh! There’s the lightsaber fight at the end with Darth Maul (the movie’s super cool villain who’s barely in the movie) and….um…the first couple minutes of the pod-race?
What doesn’t work? Where to begin? First of all, the movie is boring and “Star Wars” movies should not be boring. But when you’re not falling asleep to talks of trade disputes, midicholrians (don’t ask) and political discourse, you are sure to be bombarded with an abundance of bad acting and some of the most laughable dialogue you’ll hear in this, or any, galaxy. As also mentioned above, the movie introduces a pretty terrifying looking villain, only to give him little over ten minutes of screen time. But what really makes “Phantom Menace” the weakest of the “Star Wars” movies is the two outrageously annoying characters that get pushed to the front. The First is Jar-Jar-Binks, the clumsy, amphibious creature designed to be the film’s comic relief but has since become maybe the most hated character in the entire franchise. Then there is young Anakin Skywalker, yes the same one who will one day become Darth Vader, here seen as a wide eyed child and seems fit for a silly kids film, if not for all the boring talk about trade.
7. “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”
Which one is that? Senator/Princess Padmé (Natalie Portman) becomes the victim of a series of assassination attempts, leaving Jedi and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiansen) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to come to her assistance. Anakin acts as Padmé’s bodyguard and the two eventually fall for each other, while Kenobi attempts to track down her attackers, leading him to a plan to create a mass clone army.
What works? There is a pretty awesome lightsaber fight between Yoda and the film’s villain, Count Dooku, and the bits of Obi-Wan playing detective have its moments. Depending on your fondness for massive dispensable CGI armies, the final battle to kick off the clone wars can be thrilling to watch.
What doesn’t work? Though only slightly better than “Phantom Menace,” in that there are one or two more exciting moments, “Attack of the Clones” is still a rather boring and unentertaining movie. It isn’t until the film’s third act that any kind of momentum appears in the story. Much of the film alternates between Obi-Wan playing detective, which is occasionally fun but gets slowed down by Lucas cutting to Anakin and Padmé falling for each other. That might not necessarily be a bad thing, if not for the fact that the two actors have zero chemistry, with Portman being fairly wooden and Christiansen playing young Skywalker as a whinny brat. “Attack of the Clones” has also not aged terribly well in terms of special effects, with almost all of the movie being actors in front of a green screen, taking a sense of realism out of the picture.
6. “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
Which one is that? Essentially, “Revenge of the Sith” is the movie that shows the transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, the eradication of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire.
What works? The final chapter in the prequel trilogy, “Revenge of the Sith” is arguably the only one of the three that one can walk away from feeling at least somewhat satisfied. Lucas largely keeps the movie moving at a fairly good pace with only a few spots dragging. Not only one of the franchises more action packed outings but also one of its darkest in tone. The visuals here are the primary driving force (no pun intended) and as long as Lucas keeps things on a visual level, the movie is pretty spectacular. The final showdown between dark-side turned Anakin and Obi-Wan is one of the franchises most emotional and jaw dropping set pieces, as long as no one is talking.
What doesn’t work? Many of the same problems of the first two prequels still remain present here. The dialogue can still be laughably bad and Christiansen’s performance continues to bring down what is essentially a tragic character. It’s this performance that’s really the center of the movie but whether it just be the way Anakin is written or the direction Christiansen gets from Lucas, something gets lost. It also doesn’t help that most of that laughably bad dialogue gets thrown Christiansen’s way. There is also the reveal of Senator Palpatine as the evil Sith Lord, which is so blatantly obvious you wonder if Lucas meant it to be a surprise.
5. “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi”
Which one is that? Luke Skywalker finally becomes a Jedi and rescues Han Solo from space mobster Jabba the Hutt, with the help of Princess Leia, Chewbacca, etc. From there, the rebels attempt to knock out the Empire once and for all while Luke confronts Darth Vader, known at this point to be his father.
What works? “Return of the Jedi” is certainly a fun movie and definitely one of the lighter, more kid-friendly installments in the franchise. There are several thrilling set pieces, such as the escape from Jabba or the speeder chase at the center of the movie. Even when “Jedi’s” quality begins to dip in the third act, Luke’s attempt to turn his father away from the dark side and the evil Sith Emperor remains deeply compelling.
What doesn’t work? As mentioned, the movie’s third act kind of falls on its face. The movie cuts back and forth between Luke confronting Vader, Han and Leia fighting on the moon of Endor and the rebel fleet attempting to destroy a second Death Star. However, the Death Star section comes across as rather derivative and the section on Endor is largely hurt by the presence of the Ewoks. Whether or not you reject or embrace the cuddly teddy bear looking species largely depends on your age. Children love them, which explains why kids always seem to site “Jedi” as one of their favorites but those of an older demographic tend to find them rather silly.
4. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Which one is that? Taking place directly before the original 1977 “Star Wars,” the film shows of the rebels managed to get ahold of the plans that would be used to destroy the Death Star.
What works? Director Gareth Edwards delivers possibly the best looking of all the “Star Wars” films. The action sequences and set pieces, particularly the one that takes up the last third of the film, are absolutely breathtaking and Edwards manages to showcase his talent for demonstrating scale in a blockbuster film. The movie is also decidedly grittier than most other “Star Wars” movies and features a terrifically diverse ensemble cast.
What doesn’t work? As diverse as the cast may be, many of the characters can’t help but feeling a little flat. There is also plenty of nods and references to the original “Star Wars” film, whether it be blue milk or a CGI recreated Grand Moff Tarkin, that tend to distract or take you out of the movie. Oddly enough, the score, which is usually a highlight of most “Star Wars” movies, feels out of place in a film that strives to be more a war film than an action adventure. The movie’s first third is also a bit of a mess, with characters and setting being thrown in a way that makes you feel rather disjointed. Luckily, once the movie brings together its characters and the mission kicks in, things begin to really take off.
3. “Episode VII: The Force Awakens”
Which one is that? The grandson of Darth Vader is attempting to finish what his grandfather started and it’s up to a new batch of heroes to team with the likes of Han Solo and Princess Leia to help protect the galaxy.
What works? The film is outrageously fun, acting as a bridge between the original trilogy and the future installments of the franchise. The CGI green screen of the prequels is tossed aside for real locations and practical effects, generating lived-in tactile sense of place not felt since “Jedi.” The original cast of characters are a joy to have back but it’s newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega that really steal the show. Adam Driver also manages to be the series strongest villain since Vader, demonstrating what the Anakin character should have been written as in the prequels.
What doesn’t work? Director JJ Abrams is so concerned with recapturing the look and feel of the originals that he essentially winds up just remaking the original ’77 film. There are loads of similarities between the two and it is hard to escape the feeling that what you are watching is a film that simply ties in dozens of iconic “Star Wars” elements into a plot rather than pave its own ground. As a celebration of the franchise it works but it’s anything but original.
2. “Episode IV: A New Hope”
Which one is that? The O.G. and one that started it all. Young farmboy Luke Skywalker joins forces with Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi, droids C-3PO and R2-D2 and smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca to rescue Princess Leia from the clutches of the evil Darth Vader.
What works? Writer/Director George Lucas takes the heroes journey blueprint laid out by Joseph Campbell and crafts his own cinematic mythology. It’s a movie that is simple in its archetypal set-up, yet still incredibly identifiable. The movie is also outrageously fun and has managed to be accessible across multiple generations and cultures. It’s a love letter to storytelling at its most basic and universal form.
What doesn’t work? The original “Star Wars” does lack a certain wow factor in terms of special effects but most of that is a product of the time it was made. The dialogue here is also a little silly in places, George Lucas has admitted to never being the best at this aspect of screenwriting. However, these are small set-backs to an otherwise iconic movie.
1. “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
Which one is that? The one where everything goes to hell for the rebels. Han Solo and Princess Leia go on the run and fall in each other’s arms, Luke heads to train with Yoda and Darth Vader reveals he is actually Luke’s father.
What works? A pillar of excellence in blockbuster filmmaking, “Empire” takes the mythology Lucas started with the original and adds to it an extra layer of depth. The stakes are higher, the characters richer and the dialogue (beefed up by Lawrence Kasdan) sharper. It’s so hard to pick a best piece of this movie but the one who really steals it away is Harrison Ford as Han Solo, who reaches his status as maybe the franchises best character in this film. It also doesn’t hurt that “Empire” had three times the budget of the original “Star Wars” and still looks great to this day.
What doesn’t work? Nothing! Hell, this is a near perfect movie!