Ranking the Star Wars Skywalker Films
For many of us, Star Wars is a veritable highlight of our childhoods. It was my personal gateway to science fiction, and thus spawned my love for all things genre-related. Princess Leia was someone I idolized. Our family had the original trilogy on VHS tape, and to say I wore those tapes thin would be an understatement.
Star Wars paved the way for sci-fi as we know it. Its impact is still felt to this day, as we introduce younger generations to the inimitable magic of a galaxy far, far away.
Now, all of this reminiscing has inspired me to rank the Skywalker saga films. Yes, all nine of them. Well, the Force made me do it. That’s a viable excuse, right?
DISCLAIMER: these are solely my humble opinions. They’re not affiliated with Sideshow Collectibles. Read at your own peril!
9. Episode I – The Phantom Menace
“Every saga has a beginning,” was the tagline for 1999’s Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. It tells the tale of young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who eventually trains with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) to become a Jedi himself. The Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film in 16 years. Thus, the anticipation for this newest (well, oldest really) chapter was off the charts.
However, the general consensus was mixed – the movie underwhelmed more than anything. I’d have to agree. Now, I appreciate this film from an exposition standpoint and its narrative contribution to the overall saga. However, Neeson is excellent as Qui-Gon Jinn, and I wish we had more time with his character besides one movie.
8. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker
Frankly, this one is painful. Painful in that I wanted this final installment in the Skywalker saga to be better than it was. Of course, Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker has some wonderful moments embedded in its rushed writing and off-kilter pacing. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver churn out brilliantly nuanced performances as Rey and Ben Solo, respectively. Rey and Ben’s romance feels forced and more like fan service than an organic coupling that aids the overarching story.
Rey is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter? Not sure I buy that. Carrie Fisher‘s presence as General Leia Organa felt disjointed to me. It’s quite clear the Powers That Be strung together found footage of the late, great actress. On a lighter note: John Williams‘ score is just as vibrantly galactic as ever.
7. Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Three words to start, folks: Jar Jar Binks. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is better than its predecessor, despite the aforementioned setback. Samuel L. Jackson is introduced as Mace Windu, and it’s statistically proven that Jackson makes every film exponentially better with his presence. So, one would think Windu would cancel out Binks, right?
Unfortunately, the movie’s token comedic gimmick doesn’t work in its favor. However, Anakin does form a romantic entanglement with Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), and we know where that leads…
6. Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Now, fast forward 10 years after the final film in the prequel trilogy. In actuality, it’s three decades’ time within the saga. A new potential Jedi rises amid the ashes of the former Jedi Council. Rey (Ridley) has a murky past coupled with incredible Force abilities. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens feels like a carbon copy of Episode IV at times, but overall I enjoyed this flick.
Again, anticipation climbed to soaring heights, especially in the age of social media. We have a new trio comprised of Rey, Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac). Yes, this does mirror Luke, Han, and Leia. However, I thoroughly dug the Easter eggs and callbacks to the original trilogy. Call it nostalgia, because it definitely is. Nostalgia is a form of currency these days.
On a sadder note – Han Solo (Harrison Ford) biting the dust was a weepy moment for me.
5. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
In my humble opinion, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is the best installment in the prequel trilogy. We’ve seen Anakin’s (Hayden Christensen) transition to the Dark side thanks to Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid), and this movie solidifies him as a bona fide baddie.
Ultimately, Darth Vader is born during a showdown with Obi-Wan Kenobi. You know, Luke and Leia’s villainous, sinister father. That’s an immensely crucial, defining event in the Skywalker saga.
4. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
Now, you may be surprised to find this particular flick snagging the fourth slot in my list. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is the most cohesive movie in the sequel trilogy, hands down. Of course, Mark Hamill‘s return as Luke Skywalker is Memory Lane personified. His interaction with Rey and subsequent mentorship is wonderful to watch unfold.
In addition, Luke’s brief reunion with Leia is equal parts touching and tragic. Not to mention, we explore Leia’s Force abilities like never before, proving that the former is more than just Force sensitive. This film felt more like an original Star Wars installment, as opposed to a carbon copy of a past movie.
3. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
Naturally, the original trilogy occupies the top three slots. It’s difficult not to categorize them as such. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is a triumphant win for our Rebels. Luke definitively defeats his father Darth Vader. There’s the Han Solo and Leia rescue mission, wherein Luke infiltrates Jabba the Hutt’s encampment. A gravely ill Yoda becomes one with the Force.
There are numerous iconic scenes in this film. Almost too many to name in just one sitting. Return of the Jedi also introduces us to Ewoks, and who doesn’t love those adorable little buggers? In terms of narration, this flick embodies the true essence of Star Wars.
2. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
“I love you.” “I know.” Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back gives birth to a slew of quintessential phrases in geek culture that’ll stand the test of time. Not to mention the oft-misremembered – “No, I am your father.” Who could forget that moment? It’s the plot twist to end all plot twists.
There’s the Battle of Hoth, Han being frozen in carbonite, and Luke’s eye-opening duel with Vader. Oh, and Luke training with Yoda on Dagobah! “Do or do not. There is no try.” Seriously, I could quote The Empire Strikes Back until the proverbial cows come home. It very much deserves to stand on the podium with its fellows.
1. Episode IV – A New Hope
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” Drum roll, please…Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope occupies the top slot in my list! How could it not? A New Hope opened a portal to a new world: a fully-formed and fleshed out universe. George Lucas‘ mythology is airtight and intricate, which makes it ripe for exploration. Well, potential incest aside, that is.
We’ll forgive Luke and Leia for their ignorance, folks. This is the film that started it all – that ignited the flames of a revolutionary franchise. A New Hope will always hold a special place in my heart. It epitomizes hope and just how powerful it truly is.
Well, that’s all I wrote, my fellow Rebel scum! What did you think of my list? How would you rank the Skywalker saga? Sound off in the comments below!