The Last Jedi is going to split the fanbase. It is a bold film — one that takes your favorite characters and your preconceived notions of this galaxy far, far away and totally guts them like a frozen tauntaun. It’s also a beautiful film, both in cinematography and symbolism. The critics seem to mostly love it. The “fans” are ecstatic and angry.
But I’m not here to tell you what to expect or how to think when you see Episode VIII. Rather, I’m here to rank things. And while for me — a guy who has invested nearly all 41 years of his life into watching, analyzing and loving everything about this saga — The Last Jedi is well deserving of a spot on the “good” side, it’s still not the best Star Wars has to offer.
9 | Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones is mostly abysmal. I can admit that today.
I remember seeing it in a Dallas theater back in May 2002 and walking out trying to convince myself it was good. “I guess the Yoda things was cool?” “Obi Wan was good, I guess.” “There were Fetts.”
But I was kidding myself. The Yoda fight, in retrospect, is dumb. Teenage Anakin has some of the worst-written and worst-delivered lines in modern-day blockbuster history, and the story itself was simple and void of surprises.
It’s not just a bad Star Wars movie. It’s a bad movie. I can say that now. I’m OK with that.
8 | The Phantom Menace
Another case where a solid ending sends you out of the theater with positive feelings. Yet, from the get-go, The Phantom Menace takes everything that made the original trilogy such a classic — solid characters, a “lived-in” environment, menacing bad guys, memorable (not always terrific) dialogue and mystery — and tossed it aside for the sake of one-note characters, bad CGI, cool-looking bad guys with no backstory or purpose, awful dialogue and not one surprise. And Jar Jar. It had Jar Jar.
Qui-Gon Jinn, an innovative-in-its-time podrace and an excellent lightsaber battle in the end keep this from being the worst. It’s watchable, if you tune out the Gungans.
7 | Revenge of the Sith
Better than the other two, by a mile. But the memorable moments — the duel(s), Order 66, the opening space battle — were still surrounded by bad acting (Samuel L. Jackson makes me cringe in all three movies) and rushed pacing. Anankin’s “turn” — the moment we’d waited three movies for — doesn’t make sense when it happens.
My kids love this movie though, so what do I know?
6 | Return of the Jedi
It’s odd that a film in the lower half of my rankings contains my all-time favorite Star Wars scene — the final battle between Luke and Vader. It’s beautiful. It’s violent. The Emperor is an asshole. The line, “like my father before me.” And Vader’s turn to the light. It’s perfect. Also, this movie delivers the space battle A New Hope only dreamed of achieving, effects wise.
But it’s bookended by the Jabba the Hutt scene — which looks cool and contains some great lines, but is mostly pointless and seems to take way too much time — and the Ewoks crushing the Empire with rocks and logs.
I do go back to the kid in me, though, and remember the hours and hours I spent playing with my Jabba’s Palace and Ewok village sets. The marketing in this movie is terrific.
5. Rogue One
We’re getting into “these are all solid movies” territory, but someone has to rank them, and I’m one of about a million writers brave enough to do it.
Rogue One was a fun movie and proved to Disney execs that these stand-alones will be just fine, money-wise. I think as the years roll on, this will become a mostly-forgotten film, overall, but damn … that ending was pretty sweet.
4 | The Force Awakens
Because we live in a world where trolls rule the comment section, you may have heard once or twice that The Force Awakens is nothing but a rehash of A New Hope, and therefore, isn’t deserving of the acclaim critics have given it.
Yes, it mirrors a lot of ANH elements. But look at what The Force Awakens did:
It revitalized a franchise that took a beating over the eight-year prequel period. It introduced instantly recognizable and loved characters in Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren. It made us all forget about C-3PO and R2-D2 and fall in love with an orange rolling ball. And it justified the 133 Star Wars movies we’ll get in the next 133 years.
Aside from all that, it’s a pretty damned good, fun movie. The Millennium Falcon chase through the wasteland of Jakku, the introductions of all of these characters and that final battle in the snow are classic Star Wars scenes, and they’ve only been around for two years.
Don’t let the trolls win. This is a fine film.
3 | The Last Jedi
I wanted this to be my favorite of the bunch. It had Luke Skywalker coming back — my favorite movie character of all time — and it had porgs. Seriously, that’s all it needed.
Why it’s not the best: It’s long, and no spoilers here, but there are a few scenes that could have easily been trimmed for length-sake. With A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, you get the sense every scene was needed. Every scene built a character (even the space worm on the asteroid allowed time for Han to try his moves on Leia). There are some scenes in this film that feel like you’re just buying time to get back to Luke and Rey and Kylo and Snoke.
Why it’s a pretty good flick: Again, no spoilers. But Luke Skywalker. The debate will rage on for years (or until the next Avengers movie distracts nerddom) about how Luke’s character arc was treated in this film. I, personally, loved it. I won’t go into why. But I loved it.
Also, director Rian Johnson takes some scenes that you think you’re familiar with — scenes you think are going to end a certain way because they end this way in EVERY film of this genre ever made — and flips the script almost every time. I knew no spoilers heading into this movie, and I’m thankful for it. I was surprised numerous times. I didn’t always agree with the “decision,” but I was surprised.
Repeated viewings may strengthen or weaken my first reaction to this movie, but there will definitely be repeated viewings. Even if it’s too much at times, this movie has a lot.
Shit, that was pretty much a review, wasn’t it?
2 | A New Hope
The scene where Luke meets Obi-Wan, they go to his old man house in the desert, and Obi-Wan lays out the jist of an entire religion that will forever change the fantasy and sci-fi film genre — is perfect. I started my kids on this one, and I hope every parent who loves these films does this in the future.
1 | Empire Strikes Back
The movie by which all sequels are judged. This movie took an already pop culture giant and added the following: The Imperial March, Boba Fett, Yoda, Lando, force-lifting ships, carbonite, AT-ATs, the Emperor, and (spoiler alert) “I’m your father.”
I’m guessing there will never be an equal. I’m content with that.
— Billy Liggett is co-founder of The Rant and a Star Wars fan, obvs. Feel free to rank them in the comments below. Realize that “The Last Jedi” hate will be accepted, but disagreed with mightily.