STAR WARS: Which Movies Are Better Than Others?

I finally got my hands on the Solo: A Star Wars Tale and have watched it a few times at home. Having fully processed all the movies out right now I thought I could finally reevaluate my rankings of all the Star Wars films.  I have them broken into three categories.  Page 1 is the worst of the worst.  I will always watch anything Star Wars, but the movies on page 1 were quite horrid.  Page 2 are the mediocre films.  They are good but not counted amongst the best.  The final page are the movies I feel are truly exceptional and are pretty much interchangeable for the top spot.  Here is my ranking of the films from worst to best:

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The Clone Wars

In a lot of ways, it pains me to put this one so low.  Yes, it sucked.  I didn’t have as big an issue with it as others because I realized it was for kids, but there were so many fond memories of this movie.  I did see it in theaters, but I saw it with a bunch of Star Wars miniatures buddies while we were at Gencon that year.  As a group we had a great time.  Also, while this movie did suck by itself, we can’t forget it did launch the great series it evolved into.  While it introduced one of the top 3 most annoying characters in Star Wars, that same annoying character would evolve into perhaps THE most beloved character in the whole saga – Ahsoka Tano. This movie shows even the least of things can grow into something much bigger and greater.

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Attack of the Clones

To me this is a tale of two movies. The first half of the movie, before the action picks up on Geonosis, is an example of everything wrong with Master George and his directing style.  Great actors are extremely flat.  Camera angles are fixed.  Movement is blocky and telegraphed like you are reading the script.  The dialogue is atrocious!  Even Ewan and Ian, the two best actors in the prequels, often fail to deliver solid performances; However, once the action picks up on Geonosis and the war breaks out, this movie gets light years better and would jump up higher on my list.  It sports the worst lightsaber fight in all of Star Wars (Dooku vs Anakin).  On the other hand, it showcases one of the two most fan-chilling, theater moments in all of Star Wars.  The first I will get to in that movie.  The second, show-cased here, was Yoda himself.

Puppet reviews of Yoda from Episode I were pretty bad.  That and given where technology was jumping to, word leaked out Yoda would in fact be CGI in this movie.  Not only that, but we would see this 860-year-old Jedi get to fight for the first time.  When he walks into the hanger, a small cheer went up in the theater.  It quieted down while the force battle ensued with Dooku, but the second he swept his cape aside, force-drew his lightsaber, and ignited it, the theater went Insane!  The cheering continued through most of the fight and gave me chills to experience it.

Sadly, while we got a great arena scene of mass Jedi battle, it doesn’t make up for the stomach-churning dialogue and blocky directing found through out most of the movie.

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The Phantom Menace

Interestingly enough, the second greatest movie theater moment comes from this film.  I’ve been around since Ep4.  I lived through the death of Star Wars in the late 80s.  We had our three great films and now it was time for the toys to fade away for good. Except in the early 90s I walked into my comic shop and all of a sudden there were Star Wars models on the shelves.  Tales of the Jedi, Dark Empire and Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire were released.  Star Wars was back!  Then came the news and build up for the release of The Phantom Menace.  In the theater opening weekend, there was lots of cosplay, a line around the block, and reminiscing galore.  As the screen darkened the theater went dead quiet.  When the Star Wars title and John William’s first note blared to life, the theater screamed and yelled for joy louder than any sporting event.

While at the time we were ignorant with joy, the truth would later settle in.  As many great things as this movie did, it was not that good.   We had ground breaking special effects with the pod races.  We had real Jedi running around with lightsabers for the first time, using them. We even had Darth Maul and John William’s score. Sadly, we also had all the problems that would plague Lucas’ next two movies as well in blocky movement, stunted dialogue, a meandering story and of course Jar Jar Binks. It was a George Lucas visual orgasm.  He could now do everything he wanted.  So much so that he forgot how to direct and focus.

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Return of the Jedi

This movie seems to be the beginning of the problems George would have later.  At the time the visuals were well above and beyond anything else being done, but the acting and directing began to suffer.  It is well known Harrison wanted out of the series.  In fact that was the whole point to the carbon freezing chamber to begin with.  If they could not get Harrison back for the last film, this was the way around that.  Actors were not signed to multi-picture deals back then the way they are today.  A thought out trilogy or saga was unheard of back then.  Harrison was just flat.  Most of his charisma was gone, and he was extremely wooden.  That didn’t give the others a lot to play off of the way they did in previous films.

Jedi also has the second worst lightsaber fight of all the movies.  While the teasing and testing going on in the throne room was ok, once Luke gives in to the dark side and charges Vader, the choreography and swordsmanship go to shit.  Oh, and let’s not forget the fighting on Jabba’s sail barge.  It had a lot of cool moments, but c’mon – the kick?!   See everyone knows what I’m talking about.  Luke’s kick on the skiff that is clearly 8’ away from the guard, but the guard goes flying anyways.

The lone shining spot to this film is of course Ian McDairmid.  He was a brilliant Emperor, and it was his performance that set up everything Sidious would later be known for.  Had he not delivered as he did, we would see the Emperor much differently today.  His acting was incredible.

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The Force Awakens

This is the first of the non-horrid movies.  In fact if this movie were not a blatant rip off of Episode 4 it would score a lot higher.  I really don’t mind the fact it was a rip off.  This movie had one over-arching goal – to be the first of the new era of movies, apologizing for the prequels and showing what the new era would be like.  It did that stupendously.  It was a fun movie.  It went back to the old school animatronics and puppetry as much as possible, leaving the 90% blue screen days in the past. The visuals were incredible.  We got our new generation of actors set up, and probably this film’s largest perk – “Chewie, We’re home.”  That’s right, Han Solo was not only back but in perfect smuggler form.  He truly was the life of this movie.  Every time I watch it, it’s Harrison’s performance that constantly makes me laugh and smile.

My biggest drawbacks to this movie were as I said, its a beat per beat copy of Episode 4. While many of the visuals were great and the CGI was top notch, too often I get jarred out of the moment because the scene causes a flashback to 1977.  The other thing was that JJ was too committed to practical effects over CGI.  You use both where needed and let the script determine which is which.  For example, the scene on Jakku after Rey saves BB-8 from Tito.  The creature Tito is on turns and walks away.  Its motion is HORRIBLE!  Just CGI the damn thing as it moves away and call it good.

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Revenge of the Sith

This was one of two movies where I walked out of the theater saying – I needed to see it again just to process it and decide what I thought about it.  It was so much so fast, I couldn’t make up my mind on it after only one showing.  In one of the interviews Lucas did, George talked about when he sat down to script the prequels.  He said somewhere around 75% of the story was in Episode 3.  Episodes 1 and 2 were filler.  That is why they aren’t as tight.  Most of the story that needed telling was Episode 3.  He crammed so much into this last film (while still leaving a ton out) that it was an overload.

This is easily the best of the prequels.  Ian and Ewan shine brighter than ever with their performances, and outside of Portman, there really wasn’t that much bad acting.  Kinda like with the pod races though, George got buried in the final fight and had it take up a lot of the movie even after cutting its duration in half.

There is so much great story and mythology and action in here that RotS is one of my favorites to watch even though it still has problems.  The opening scene above Coruscant is my favorite opening of all the films.  The special effects are amazing as always as are the lightsaber fights.  There is also so much philosophical material here if you look for it, that it is fun to go back over.

My biggest negative used to be Padme’s death scene.  She is perfectly healthy but lost the will to live – yeah right – puh-lease!  Sadly, I now give that scene a pass after what happened to Carrie Fisher and then immediately after her death, the death of her mother, Debbie.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story

This movie is just plain FUN!  While I missed Harrison’s witticisms and mannerisms, this wasn’t the Solo we were used too.  Alden gets to play a young, optimistic, “I have a great feeling about this” character.  This Han hasn’t had to talk himself out of everything going wrong yet. Donald Glover was the epitome of everything Billie Dee Willaims set up back in the 80s.  In fact in the opening scene where we meet Lando, I keep having to do a double take because I swear they dubbed over Billie Dee’s voice its so close.

We get to see how Han and Chewie’s relationship forms.  While it is different from what we had in legends, it works just as well.  They are true equals and become good friends instead of Chewie having a feeling of debt to Han.  We also finally get to see what it means to piss off a wookiee and see Chewie in full wookiee fighting form.

My only real drawback to this movie was L3.  I really could have done without the political whining and grandstanding.  Her manner was very jarring and irritating.  Even then she does have her moments that makes one laugh.  Her final assimilation into the Falcon was a nice touch.

I think the greatest part of the movie is the ending.  It was a perfect set up to what the sequel would be.  It would be rich with characters we want more of and would tell a story we do not really know the end to, other than where certain people have to be within a few years.  Sadly, the tea leaves and bad calls by Bob Iger killed any chance of a sequel being made.

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The Last Jedi

This was the second movie I said I had to see again before formulating a decision.  It was so different than what the rumors had suggested and from what we thought we knew of Luke, that my head was spinning.

This is the first of the great movies.  Yup I said it.  The Last Jedi is a great movie.  Rian did what JJ did not.  He took risks.  He did not stick to the same formulaic happenings of the previous movies.  He had a vision and went for it.  In fact, all of haters of this movie all comes down to one thing – That is not my Luke Skywalker.   This is not Legends Luke.  If you change Luke’s name and make him someone else, the views of the negative people would change greatly.

Yes, this film has some detractions.  Most films do.  Canto Bight could have been much shorter.  Leia’s “Marry Poppins” scene could have been shot different (even though it is 100% credible). I wont even mention “tulip girl,” but that’s about it.

The only other problem with this film wasn’t actually Rian’s fault but Kennedy’s.  This is a great film, but that does not make it part of a great trilogy.  Rumor has it episode 9 is only a year after TLJ, so maybe the pacing will even out.  The problem is that since this movie takes place on the heels of TFA, it handicaps what can be done in Episode 9.  To have two films back to back and the final one years down the road just doesn’t feel right in a trilogy.  Kennedy should have had a story overseer.  She needed someone who knew the trilogy from start to finish that could say “do what you want but you have to be this many years later, hitting these plot points.”

The visuals and color palate Rian used were brilliant.  The subtleties in the foot work on Crait as Kylo and Luke squared off, telling you what was going on, was amazing.  While this is the first of the saga films to not have a lightsaber vs lightsaber fight, the throne room chamber fight was believable and fun to watch.  While Rian strayed away from the saga template on how a movie should be laid out, he told a brilliant story that in the end made Master Skywalker not only more powerful and more altruistic than anything from legends, but the Legend of Luke Skywalker will be larger than anything before him.

What Rian did with this film was to sit back and tell a brilliant story.  I can’t wait to see what he does with his own characters and his own world when he makes his trilogy.

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Empire Strikes Back

For those I didn’t piss off with the last post, this should cover the rest.  What most people have at #1 I have at #3.  Do not get me wrong.  This is a brilliant film with tons of positives and next to no negatives.  Here is the thing.  Whenever a “best of” list comes out, there are two types of people – Those that hold originals so sacred that nothing could ever touch them, or those that will allow new films to surpass the original benchmarks.  I am of the latter group.  This is a great film.  There are just things I like in films #1 and #2 more.

I can praise this movie up and down and find next to nothing wrong with it.  It is amazing if you can look up all the behind the scenes information you can find on Empire.  All the things that went “wrong” or all the arguments on how it was to be made, it is amazing how great this film came out.  The only thing missing was an epic space battle.

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A New hope

This has been my favorite film for the longest time.  Talk about disasters that turned out brilliant. This film was one of the greatest disasters in movie history.  We heard the tales of Rogue One and Solo, this was worse!  Over budget and behind schedule on a film no studio wanted.  This film was almost canned several times including mere weeks before release when special effects still weren’t ready.  Thankfully for the world, it was released, and the world changed forever.

The reason I used to put this film at #1 was the acting.  Sir Alec Guinness, even though he forever hated the role, was amazing as Old Ben.  We all got to follow the path of young Luke as he advanced through the complicated universe.  We both saw a new and amazing world at the same time.

More than even that were the performances of Sir Alec and Phil Brown.  Whenever the past was mentioned, the looks on both their faces and their performances were so detailed and descriptive you could see it.  Once we got the prequels and were let in on past happenings, you could see all those events in their performances.  Performances that were given before those events were even scripted.

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Rogue One

Lastly, we have my #1 film, Rogue One.  How could a film with such editing problems be in the top spot?  Simple.  Just because something needs to be reordered, doesn’t mean what was there wasn’t great.  Re-edit the prequels and they become much greater than they are.

It is weird.  This is my number one film not because of the new ground it broke, which was far less than the original trilogy movies, but because it captured the magic of the originals and updated them.  It played off the greatness of those that came before in such a way that it makes the whole even better.

The visuals were terrific.  The fight over Scarif brought back old memories without copying them.  The dogfight over Scarif was the near perfect space fight.  The characters captured the old Star Wars humor in a way none of the other new films have managed so far.  Alan Tudyk as K2-S0 is spot on brilliant.  How is it you feel more for the death of a droid than the rest of the crew?

All the latter films have had cameos that serve as fan service, but Rogue One interwove cameos and old episode IV footage so seamlessly that it was not only believable but brought great memories of the old films.  I don’t know that we will ever see another film do so well on its own while accenting the movies that came before.

And note – I’m not even factoring in the single greatest scene in all of Star Wars at the end.