Choosing the best “Star Wars” movie, for me, is what I imagine parents would feel when asked to choose their favorite child. It’s an impossible task; each has brought me hours of joy and escapism. But, having just seen “Solo,” this is my current ranking of the “Star Wars” filmography. Maybe upon subsequent rewatches, this will change. Let me know your personal order in the comments.
10. The Phantom Menace
I remember leaving school and heading to the Bridgwater Mall to see the opening-night showing of TPM. While I had seen the theatrical re-releases in 1997 of Episodes IV, V, and VI, this would be the first new “Star Wars” movie on screen for me in my life. While not the complete trainwreck it’s made out to be, to me it is clearly the worst of the “Star Wars” films. Loses points for, among other things, Jar Jar Binks and trying to make the word “wizard!” sound cool. But that Darth Maul fight at the end is pretty great.
Best Scene: The podrace
9. Attack of the Clones
The first (but not the last) of the films that I saw at a midnight screening. Billed as a love story between Anakin and Natalie Portman’s Padme, this movie suffers from too much green screen. That said, despite what some would call wooden acting, Hayden Christensen’s Anakin >>>>>>> Jake Lloyd’s.
Best Scene: Obi-Wan/Jango Fett on Kimino
8. Rogue One
Reviews for “Rogue One” last year were pretty stellar, but having watched it a few times now, I’m not so sure that it’s an all-time classic. Perhaps it got sullied in reshoots, but the plot seems to be “go to this planet, stuff blows up, go to a different planet, stuff blows up, go to a third planet, stuff blows up, -Fin-.” I appreciate that [SPOILER ALERT] the movie serves to resolve a plot hole from the original “A New Hope,” and I really do like these characters (especially Jyn and Bodhi and K2-SO). But this standalone isn’t the first one I’d rewatch if I had my choice.
Best Scene: The Hallway scene. Obviously.
Actually much better than what I expected, with some really fun scenes (the train “heist,” the actual Kessel run, meeting Lando) feeling like exceptional Star Wars moments. The movie loses points because a) it fills in gaps that probably didn’t need filling (“he’s alone! that’s why they call him ‘Solo!'”) and b) it’s hard to move past what the movie could have been if Lord and Miller had stayed on as directors. It’s also a dark movie, and I don’t mean tonally – I mean, I felt like I was squinting while watching half of it.
Best scene: The Kessel Run
6. The Last Jedi
For those who (still) haven’t seen it, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but suffice it to say I really enjoyed certain characters (Rey, Kylo, and especially BB-8 and Poe) and felt some other character beats went on a little long (DJ) or interrupted the main narrative (Finn and everything in the Canto Bight casino).
Best Scene: Rey and Kylo in Snoke’s Chamber
5. Revenge of the Sith
The movie I’ve seen most in theaters. When it came out in 2005, I thought this would be the last “Star Wars” movie ever, and so I relished the opportunity to see it on the big screen….seven times. Loses points for one of the most unintended funny lines in history: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes.” Oh really, Obi-Wan?
Best Scene: The end, with Leia off to Alderaan and Luke on Tattoine
4. Return of the Jedi
When I was growing up, there were a few people who were responsible for my “Star Wars” fandom. My parents rented the three original movies from our local Palmer Video, and we watched them all on successive nights. My brother used to rent the movies for me (and he usually insisted on getting me “Empire Strikes Back” because it had the best lightsaber scene – still true!). I remember one year, my parents brought me to a friend’s Christmas party. I must have been about 5 or 6, and didn’t know any of the people at the party. They (smartly) had brought along a VHS copy of “Return of the Jedi,” and I sat in front of the TV and watched it three times in a row. As a kid, it was my favorite – not just because of the Ewoks, but because it had a conclusive ending. As an adult, I appreciate the ambiguous note that “Empire” ends on, but as a child, the idea of “here is the end, and the good guys win and celebrate with their Ewok friends” was ideal.
Best Scene: RIP, Yoda
3. Force Awakens
In some ways, I still can’t believe “Star Wars” is back, and making new movies. “Force Awakens” had a daunting task of mixing in Han Solo and
Princess General Organa and, of course, R2-D2 (and Luke, and C3PO, too) with new characters Rey, Finn, and Poe. And man, did it work, to the point that going in to “Last Jedi” I was truly invested in Poe’s journey (would he take a bigger role with the Resistance?), Finn (would he confront his stormtrooper past?) and Rey (would her Jedi skills grow?) Even Kylo Ren is the best villain the films have had since the Emperor. I know a lot of people said it was just “A New Hope” redux, but to me this might be the most fun (and funny) “Star Wars” movie yet. Plus – it gave us BB-8. BB-8!
Best Scene: Rey’s Force Vision, which I’ve watched about 100 times as thought it’s the Zapruder film
2. Empire Strikes Back
What? “Empire Strikes Back” isn’t your number one, you say? But this is the internet, where everyone agrees that’s the best one? I know. I know it’s the one that introduces Yoda, and Lando, and has Darth telling Luke he’s his father, and has the best lightsaber scene, and also introuces Boba Fett, and has the awesome Hoth battle to start. I know. It’s an amazing movie! It’s just not my personal favorite.
Best Scene: Well, since the “I am your father” scene is so iconic, let’s go with the one I like the most, which is Luke facing off with himself in the cave on Dagobah
1. A New Hope
So there are a few reasons why this is the best “Star Wars” movie. First and foremost, it is the only film that requires you having seen no other movie. It stands completely on its own, and tells a coherent story that’s entirely self-contained. You could watch just this movie and feel totally satisfied that a band of rebels led by pilot Luke Skywalker, his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, his two loyal droids, his rogue pilot-for-hire Han Solo, Han’s friend Chewbacca, and the princess they all worked to rescue helped blow up the evil Death Star and strike a blow against the Galactic Empire. Second, this is the only one of the original films to have so much Alec Guinness, and he is amazing as Obi-Wan – to the point that he earned an Academy Award nomination. Third is something random and personal (but what better place to write that out than on a blog?). When I was in high school, we had to write a paper for my sophomore year English class. We were studying literary criticism, and specifically Freudian and Jungian interpretation. My teacher said that we could interpret anything we want under one of those rubrics. Now, you see where this is going, of course – I chose “Star Wars.” A lightsaber? Classic phallic symbol. Luke shooting two small pods down a narrow canal to blow up the Death Star? Classic phallic imagery. Now, I cheated a little, because in the paper I also mentioned how Luke fights his father, Darth Vader – which of course, we don’t learn until “Empire.” (Classic Oedipus complex.) But I remember talking to my teacher after the class, and saying how much I’d enjoyed rewatching “Star Wars” (both for fun and for the sake of the assignment.) And that’s still true today – if I could only watch one movie from now on (which, oof, that sounds awful and who would actually hold me to that?), it would be “Star Wars.” No hesitation about it.
Best Scene: Rescuing Leia from the Detention Center
No matter in what order you put them, the “Star Wars” movies preach balance, and that no good path stems from fear, anger, or hatred. And so I say, may the force be with you.