Greetings, and welcome back to JJ’s Fan Feature! Last week we talked about the possibility of bringing Shadows of the Empire back into Star Wars canon. This week’s topic is a little more divisive, and comes straight from the Star Wars Fanatics Facebook message boards. Several surveys, informal or otherwise, have cropped up lately with respect to the Star Wars films. Today we tackle one of the most often debated questions in Star Wars fandom: What is the best Star Wars movie?
A lot of times the answers to this question fall along generational lines. Fans of the original trilogy have one favorite. Younger fans that grew up with the prequel trilogy generally tend to favor another. Namely, those fans often claim Revenge of the Sith should take the top spot. (We’ll tackle that topic in another post.) However, there is usually one film that stands above all others as the best Star Wars movie.
Why The Empire Strikes Back is the Best Star Wars Movie
That film is, of course, The Empire Strikes Back. Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett produced a deeply compelling, and often times downright dark screenplay for the original trilogy’s middle installment. Episode V gave us stunning visuals, character development, outrage, and heartbreak. It shocked us. It left us with a cliffhanger. And it did so keeping us on the edge of our seats all the while. Yes, there are many reasons the film is regarded as the best Star Wars movie of all time. Who can forget the infamous words Darth Vader spoke to Luke Skywalker in Cloud City:
The Empire Strikes Back is the best Star Wars movie; the total package. It seamlessly combined practical and special effects without detracting from the story. The inability to do that, incidentally, is one of the biggest criticisms of the prequel trilogy. That, for me, is a huge factor in me not placing any of those films even in my top five. Still, some compare ESB to the Last Jedi, and use this film’s excellence as reasoning to argue in support of Episode VIII.
Comparing Empire and The Last Jedi Just Doesn’t Work
Empire, like The Last Jedi, wasn’t critically well received in 1980. In fact, by today’s numbers, it’s still one of the lowest-grossing films of the saga. (Despite being the best Star Wars movie there is.) Though, for me, the comparison ends there, Mashable still tried to make it back in December of 2017.
Comparing Empire and The Last Jedi is nevertheless like comparing apples and oranges. While it’s true some fans were critical of Empire, the criticism is based on wholly different factors. Star Wars (a New Hope) could have been, and still could be, a stand-alone film. Fans had no real expectations with respect to its sequel. The biggest critique was the cliffhanger ending, something seldom seen back then. Now, it’s seen as one of the film’s most compelling features.
The Last Jedi is no Empire Strikes Back
Conversely, The Last Jedi will never grow into critical acclaim the way Empire did for one simple reason. The Last Jedi took forty years of character development and fan expectation and seemingly dismissed it for no apparent reason. While I disagree with the manner in which many fans expressed their displeasure with the film, I cannot discount the criticism. I’m not afraid to call it now: The Last Jedi will never become the best Star Wars movie the way Empire has.
This debate will rage on long after Star Wars Episode IX has come and gone. Nevertheless, I don’t ever foresee any other film stripping the mantel of best Star Wars movie from The Empire Strikes Back.
Thanks to the fans for this week’s JJ’s Fan Feature topic. I look forward to reading your comments and opinions!