Story by Originally published on Total Film • 17 Apr
Ranking from worst to best, our team has put together a definitive list of all 11 Star Wars movies. With a mix of sequels, prequels, the original trilogy, and spin-offs, choosing where to begin can be overwhelming. The franchise has also sparked controversy, with movies such as The Last Jedi causing divided opinions.
To create this list, we only included major installments, excluding non-major ones like the Clone Wars and Christmas special. Our team carefully considered each film, and the top spot was a very close call. To find out which movies made our list of the best Star Wars movies, keep reading.
Written by GamesRadar staff.
11. Attack of the Clones (2002)
Taking the eleventh spot on our list is Attack of the Clones (2002). While not burdened by trade negotiations, this film is considered the weakest installment in the prequel trilogy. Ewan McGregor delivers a consistently excellent performance as Obi-Wan Kenobi, who acts as a detective trying to uncover the mystery on Kamino, making for a fun space adventure. The fight with Jango Fett, fueled by jetpacks, is also enjoyable.
However, the movie suffers from the dull romance between Anakin and Padme. Hayden Christensen’s portrayal of the future Darth Vader as a mopey, creepy teenager falls short, and Natalie Portman’s performance feels lackluster. On the bright side, the highlight of Episode 2 is the epic Yoda and Count Dooku fight.
10. The Phantom Menace (1999)
Although The Phantom Menace has several flaws, there are still some great elements that shouldn’t be overlooked. Unfortunately, Jake Lloyd’s portrayal of Anakin is irritating, and several alien designs are offensive caricatures. Jar-Jar Binks’ character’s existence also contributes to the movie’s problems.
However, the movie’s gorgeous backdrops expand the Star Wars universe, including Naboo’s rainforests, underwater cities, and utopian palaces. The podracing scene, a fun take on Ben-Hur’s chariot race, is enjoyable. The grand finale lightsaber duel between Darth Maul, wielding a double-bladed lightsaber, and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is one of the best fight scenes in the entire series.
9. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
As expected, the prequels take the bottom three spots on our list. Revenge of the Sith is the best of the three, but still not without its flaws. General Grievous is underutilized, Mace Windu’s character arc falls short of expectations, Anakin’s murder of younglings is cringe-worthy, and the dialogue remains questionable.
Despite these issues, Revenge of the Sith has an oddly satisfying feel to it. Ewan McGregor’s performance as a dashing yet weary Obi-Wan is impressive. Another Yoda fight provides some enjoyable, silly fun. The Emperor’s speech about cheating death is excellent. While we don’t rank the prequel trilogy highly, there are certainly elements to appreciate throughout all three films.
8. Solo (2018)
When Disney announced a Han Solo spin-off, fans were hopeful for interesting new Star Wars stories. However, the concern remained whether any actor could match the charisma and swagger of Harrison Ford. Fortunately, Alden Ehrenreich manages to embody Solo almost perfectly, despite a somewhat tepid performance at the outset.
Solo: A Star Wars Story takes us on a raucous and imperfect adventure, and while an origin story for Han’s name may not have been necessary, the movie feels more akin to the original trilogy than any of the prequels or Rogue One. Donald Glover also impresses as Lando Calrissian, embodying the character so well that it seems like he was made for the role.
7. The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Concluding the trilogy of trilogies was a daunting task that J.J. Abrams took on, and while not everyone was satisfied with Episode 9, there were enough awe-inspiring moments to even leave the most skeptical fans with goosebumps. Nevertheless, The Rise of Skywalker is not without its flaws, with plot holes being a major issue. The return of Palpatine is not fully explained, and the revelation of Rey’s parents’ true identity has not been well received by many. Nonetheless, the inclusion of some fan-favorite characters, along with new additions such as Babu Frik, helps to elevate the final installment in the Skywalker Saga and place it relatively high on this list.
6. Rogue One (2016)
Rogue One is a standalone Star Wars story that takes place just before the events of A New Hope. The film follows Jyn Erso, daughter of a brilliant engineer who has been forcibly conscripted into building the Empire’s superweapon, the Death Star. Along with a ragtag group of rebels, Jyn sets out on a dangerous mission to steal the plans for the Death Star and give the Alliance a chance to destroy it.
The film stands out from the other Star Wars movies in that it has a more grounded, gritty feel and lacks the traditional opening crawl. However, it still manages to capture the spirit of the franchise with its exciting action sequences, memorable characters, and nods to the original trilogy. The third act, in particular, is a tour de force of action and emotion that leads directly into the opening moments of A New Hope. Rogue One may not feature any Jedi or lightsabers, but it’s a must-watch for any Star Wars fan.
5. The Force Awakens (2015)
“The Force Awakens” marks the triumphant return of the Star Wars franchise, introducing a new generation of heroes and villains while also paying homage to the classic trilogy. J.J. Abrams’ direction manages to blend the nostalgia of the original films with exciting new elements that feel fresh and innovative.
The new characters, including Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn, are well-developed and instantly lovable, while the return of old favorites like Han Solo and Chewbacca is sure to delight fans. The story follows a familiar pattern of a band of rebels taking on an evil empire, but with enough twists and surprises to keep the audience engaged.
While some may criticize “The Force Awakens” for being too similar to the original trilogy, it’s hard to deny the sheer joy and excitement that comes with seeing the Millennium Falcon back in action and hearing John Williams’ iconic score once again. It’s a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon and sets the stage for an exciting new chapter in the saga.
4. The Last Jedi (2017)
The Last Jedi is the most divisive of the sequel trilogy, with some fans hailing it as the best Star Wars movie in years, while others were left disappointed by the choices made by director Rian Johnson. The movie takes risks with the characters and the plot, and not all of them pay off.
On the positive side, The Last Jedi boasts some of the best action scenes and special effects of the entire series, as well as standout performances from Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. The movie also delivers some emotional gut-punches, particularly in its treatment of Luke Skywalker and his relationship with Rey.
However, some fans were unhappy with the portrayal of Luke, feeling that the character was out of step with the original trilogy. The subplot involving Finn and Rose Tico was also criticized for feeling like a distraction from the main plot. Ultimately, The Last Jedi is a bold and ambitious entry in the Star Wars franchise, but not all fans were on board with the choices made by the filmmakers.
3. Return of the Jedi (1983)
- The original title for the movie was “Revenge of the Jedi”, but it was later changed to “Return of the Jedi” because George Lucas felt that revenge was not a concept that the Jedi would seek.
- Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia, had to wear a metal bikini for the scenes where she was held captive by Jabba the Hutt. The costume has become iconic and is still referenced in pop culture today.
- The character of Emperor Palpatine was originally played by Marjorie Eaton in “The Empire Strikes Back”, but in “Return of the Jedi” he was played by Ian McDiarmid, who would go on to play the character in the prequel trilogy as well.
- The scenes on the forest moon of Endor were filmed in the Redwood National Park in California. The production team built the Ewok village and had to use special effects to make it look larger than it actually was.
- The final lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader was originally choreographed to be much longer, but was eventually cut down in the final version of the film.
- The speeder bike chase on Endor was achieved using a combination of practical effects and models, as well as footage shot on location with actors on real bikes.
- The special edition release of “Return of the Jedi” in 1997 added several new scenes, including a musical number in Jabba’s palace and a shot of the celebrations across the galaxy after the defeat of the Empire.
2. A New Hope (1977)
“Star Wars: A New Hope,” originally released in 1977, was the first film in the Star Wars franchise, and it revolutionized the way movies were made and marketed. Some interesting facts about the film include:
- The film’s original title was “The Star Wars,” but it was changed during production.
- “A New Hope” was not the film’s original subtitle. It was added when the movie was re-released in 1981 after the release of “The Empire Strikes Back.”
- George Lucas wrote the screenplay for “A New Hope” in only four months.
- The film’s groundbreaking special effects were created by Industrial Light & Magic, a company founded by George Lucas specifically for the film’s production.
- The character of Han Solo was originally offered to several other actors, including Al Pacino, Burt Reynolds, and Jack Nicholson, before eventually being cast with Harrison Ford.
- The iconic sound of the lightsabers was created by sound designer Ben Burtt by combining the hum of an idling 35mm movie projector with the sound of a television picture tube that had just been turned off.
- The role of Obi-Wan Kenobi was originally offered to Alec Guinness, who was initially reluctant to accept the part but later came to enjoy playing the character.
- “A New Hope” was a huge commercial success, grossing over $775 million worldwide, and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, ultimately winning six, including Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score.
1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
“The Empire Strikes Back” is widely considered one of the best sequels of all time, and with good reason. It takes the original “Star Wars” movie and expands upon its universe in new and exciting ways. Here are some interesting facts about “The Empire Strikes Back”:
- The movie’s original title was “Star Wars: Episode II – The Empire Strikes Back,” but it was eventually shortened to just “The Empire Strikes Back.”
- The film was directed by Irvin Kershner, who was chosen by George Lucas because of his experience working with actors. Lucas himself didn’t want to direct the movie because he found it too emotionally draining.
- The famous reveal of Darth Vader being Luke Skywalker’s father was kept secret even from the cast until just before they shot the scene. The only people who knew were George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, and Mark Hamill.
- The movie’s most famous line, “No, I am your father,” is often misquoted as “Luke, I am your father.” The actual line spoken by Darth Vader is “No, I am your father.”
- The character of Yoda was originally meant to be played by a monkey in a mask, but the idea was eventually scrapped in favor of a puppet designed by Jim Henson’s company.
- The scene in which Han Solo is frozen in carbonite was added because Harrison Ford was unsure if he wanted to return for a third “Star Wars” movie, so it was a way to potentially write him out of the series if necessary.
- The Hoth battle scene was filmed in Norway, and the extreme weather conditions caused several issues during filming, including the cameras freezing and Mark Hamill getting frostbite.
- The final lightsaber battle between Luke and Darth Vader was choreographed by legendary swordmaster Bob Anderson, who also played the role of Vader during the fight scenes.
- “The Empire Strikes Back” was the highest-grossing movie of 1980 and received rave reviews from critics, who praised its darker tone and expanded universe.
- The film was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Sound, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Original Score.