I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.
I shouldn’t do this. Media members (did I just refer to myself as a member of the media? ugh) are advised to stay away from politics and religion. But there is a third member of that trinity: Star Wars. Don’t talk about Star Wars Ty. You are bringing this on yourself. If I thought the backlash for the queso blog was bad (I’m so sorry I so deeply offended the Mont’s loyalists), then just wait til I try to rank the installments of everyone’s favorite Intergalactic saga. But when I set out to become a blogger, I pledged to cover the tough issues, so I must press on. Like Cherrut Imwe’s suicidal stroll for the Master Switch, I now press forward into blaster fire, blind and without a lightsaber to protect me. But…. I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.
*I’ll start with the worst and make my way to the best. The only criteria are my own experiences and opinions. If you don’t like my criteria, get your own blog.
8. Revenge of the Sith
Yes, I know that this was actually the most critically acclaimed of the prequels, but hear me out. It’s fitting really. Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One with the greatest potential in Jedi history, yet he let everyone down and cut Samuel L. Jackson’s hands off. In similar fashion, Revenge of the Sith had incredible potential. The stage was set. We all knew how it had to end, and all the producers, cast, and crew had to do was connect the dots. For the most part, they did their jobs well, but with one exception….. HAYDEN CHRISTENSON. Yes, I am putting it all on you. Anakin was a whiny, cocky, emotional teenager in Attack of the Clones. His character was annoying, but necessary to create the persona needed. In Revenge, he HAD to grow up into a powerful, competent Jedi knight with an undercurrent of rage and resentment in order for the film to fulfill its lofty expectations. What came across the screen was the same whiny, immature, unstable boy with a penchant for throwing Force-filled temper tantrums. His dialogue with Padme was vomit-inducing, despite Natalie Portman being a very highly regarded actress. I almost got the feeling that she started pressing trying to make up for his performance and the end result was that her overperforming compounded his mistakes. With a spectacular performance by Anakin, this film could have been absolutely astounding. But due to Christenson’s performance (and an over-reliance on CGI), Revenge of the Sith was a huge letdown for me.
7. The Phantom Menace
This is everyone’s favorite film to hate, and there are some good reasons; Jar Jar Binks being one of them. Another major mistake was making the enemy an army of droids. It was as if the scriptwriters looked to the Star Wars nation’s love for R2D2 and C-3PO and used it as an excuse to replicate thousands of lifeless, personality-less villains.
What was particularly disappointing was the premature demise of possibly the best new characters: Qui-Gon Ginn and Darth Maul. Both characters showed incredible promise, yet Phantom was the end of their roles in the movies. By allowing Qui-Gon to die, The Phantom Menace broke a cardinal rule of film-making: You don’t kill Liam Neeson.
6. Attack of the Clones
Set 10 years after Phantom, Attack of the Clones starts to bring all the pieces together. We see the creation of the Clone Army as the foundation of the Stormtroopers. We are introduced to Jango Fett and his young son Boba. We get to see Yoda in a lightsaber battle (!!!). There was a lot to get excited about in Attack of the Clones, though some of the thrills were blatant appeals to the nostalgia of Star Wars lovers (The Fetts, Yoda, etc.). If you’re anything like me, you were already getting annoyed with Hayden Christenson as Anakin and his awkward/creepy crush on the older Padme Amidala. The dialogue between them was cheesy, but I gave them a free pass because they were supposed to be young and immature. They got no such pass in Revenge of the Sith (see above).
5. Rogue One
I feel badly about placing Rogue One in the back half of the movies because I thought it was absolutely fantastic. The gap between Rogue One and the prequels is considerable, while the margin between Rogue One and the next film on the list is thin.
Rogue One proved that Star Wars can exist without a Skywalker, and that the storyline is compelling enough to carry itself without any previous characters playing major roles. I thought the filmmakers did an unbelievable job of evoking memories of previous Star Wars films through tiny details like the squadron sign in (“This is Red Leader standing by”), Jyn climbing out of a massive wind tunnel in contrast to Luke falling down on Bespin, K2SO pulling his pistol EXACTLY like Han Solo, and Vader’s palace at the site of his disfiguration. Quite possibly, the best thing about this movie was that EVERYONE DIED. It was so shocking. That doesn’t happen in Star Wars. That sure as heck doesn’t happen in Disney. But the characters were all expendable, and they were used to make an emphatic statement about the mortality of the Rebellion (which at times has seemed unbelievably lucky over and over again). Oh… and did I mention the Vader scene at the end? CHILLS. Never before have we truly witnessed Vader’s destructive power. I want MORE.
My only critique of Rogue One would be that it was set up for success. The filmmakers were given a great deal of artistic freedom. They knew they had to get the Death Star plans to Princess Leia aboard Tantive IV. That’s about it as far as limitations go. They weren’t constrained by maintaining character integrity or by having to stay within a certain storyline. Some could say that makes their job harder, but I think it made the task easier.
4. A New Hope
The original. This first installment set the stage for DECADES of legendary films, books, TV series, and an unprecedented fan following. The Star Wars universe doesn’t exist without A New Hope, and the film should get credit for that. A New Hope took a concept that had been denied over and over again, combined it with a bunch of no name actors, and struck the jackpot.
3. The Empire Strikes Back
As a kid, I hated The Empire Strikes Back. It was depressing and scary.
Looking back, I now realize that was why it was so incredible, and that it deserves all of its critical acclaim. Empire establishes the power and reach of the Galactic Empire, introduces the nefarious Emperor, and, most importantly, reveals that Luke is in fact the son of the Galaxy’s Face of Evil: Darth Vader. Along the way, Empire takes the viewer to far away worlds and diverse climates that testify to the expanse of this “galaxy far far away.” While A New Hope concludes in the triumph of the Rebellion and the anticipation of what’s to come, The Empire Strikes Back leaves us betrayed, missing a hand, and frozen in Carbonite. The pendulum swung quite severely.
But, in the end, I must stick with my 10 year old gut: I don’t like it; it makes me sad. So it will stay at #3, rather than at #1 where many would say it belongs.
2. The Force Awakens
“This is sacrilege! How could you place such a recent film that high on the list??!”
Quite simply: Because it was that good.
The Star Wars Fandom had every reason to be apprehensive. No George Lucas. The disappointment of the prequels. The new ownership of Disney. The Force Awakens had to blow it out of the water just to overcome the skepticism of some critics, and it did just that. It took elements of the classic characters and the plot of the original Trilogy, combined them with a new set of heroes and a fresh storyline, and created the foundational work of what looks to be a strong resurgence after the flop of the prequels.
I reserve the right to reevaluate this film after the second installment of the trilogy debuts a year from now. The development of Kylo Ren is crucial. If he is as annoying, childish, and unintimidating as he was in The Force Awakens, he will have become the bane of this trilogy and Adam Driver will take his place alongside Hayden Christenson on the Star Wars Wall of Shame. Also, Rey better not be a Skywalker. That’s too repetitive. The series needs a hero with a new name.
1. Return of the Jedi
It may not be as critically acclaimed as Empire, but Return of the Jedi holds a very special place in my heart. I watched it over and over and over again in my grandmom’s living room as a little kid, and I desperately wanted a pet Ewok.
Early on, the rescue of Han Solo was the perfect stage to show the audience that this is not the same Luke Skywalker that was stuck in a diaper in a fishtank the last time we saw him. Then, Luke’s premature goodbye to Yoda leaves the viewer very unsettled because we know that Luke may not be fully ready for his inevitable reunion with his father. Unlike in the prequels, you see the three main characters mature and evolve, and that process is completed by the end of the movie. By the climax, the stage has been set beautifully for multiple internal and external conflicts to be played out on the screen simultaneously. In the culmination of the original trilogy, it all comes together. It is revealed that Leia is Luke’s twin sister, Luke confronts Vader and the Emperor, and ultimately the Rebellion overcomes the evil Galactic Empire, with the help of some furry friends.
The final scene of the film, when Luke looks towards his ghostly predecessors, may just be the feel good moment of the 20th century! I guess I’m just a sucker for happy endings.
You most likely think my list is bantha fodder, but The Force itself guided me to these conclusions.
May the Force be with you,