It’s hard to believe that in 3 weeks another installment of the Star Wars saga will be hitting the big screens. Rogue One is set to release on December 16th, almost exactly one year after the highly anticipated film The Force Awakens revitalized the Star Wars franchise, becoming highest grossing film of all time in the domestic market. One could even argue that Star Wars is the most successful movie franchise of all time with its influence spanning nearly four decades, achieving worldwide fame. With seven installments in the acclaimed saga there has been a lot of discussion as to which one comes out on top as the all time greatest of the series. In this article The Daily Diatribe ranks all the Star Wars films from worst to best in terms of scale, vision, characterization and influence.
Number 7–Episode I: The Phantom Menace
The first attempt to revive the original franchise, The Phantom Menace rocked the the theaters with new vision, new characters, and whole lotta green screen CGI glory. People waited in line for days on end to catch the long awaited premier–and for the most part they left the theater happy. Most of this happiness was a direct result from seeing Star Wars on the big screen again but there were several moments of the movie that were sure to thrill including a long-awaited Vader backstory, an exciting original type Boonta Eve podrace, and a mysterious and intimidating villain in the form of Darth Maul whose double-bladed lightsaber sent fans into toe curling nerdgasms. However compared to the rest of the Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace pales in comparison. With some shoddy script-writing, laughable battle droids, childish plot developments, and some pretty bad editing, the brand new installment seemed to trade conviction and class for excitement and thrills that appealed largely to children. Not to mention The Phantom Menace boasts the single most obnoxious character in all of cinema, the Gungan Jar-Jar Binks who was meant to serve as an endearing, down-to-earth, source of comic relief. He proved to be none of these things. Granted, The Phantom Menace has its moments–the lightsaber fight at the end of the film could easily be named among the top five in the entire Star Wars franchise, and the very presence of Darth Maul almost saves the movie–but overall as a herald for a revival of the most successful movie franchise of all time, The Phantom Menace is found wanting.
Number 6–Episode II–The Attack of the Clones
If the Attack of the Clones is better than The Phantom Menace it’s by a very small margin–like… a midichlorian size margin. There’s really not a whole lot to like about Attack of the Clones. The love affair between a teenage angst Anakin Skywalker played by Hayden Christenson and Padmé Amidala played by a young Natalie Portman consumes the entire film with some of the most cringe-worthy lines ever spoken onscreen in the throes of forbidden romance. You know–lines such as:
“I don’t like sand. It’s course and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything’s soft… and smooth…”–Anakin Skywalker
You can uncover your eyes. I said it already. Not only are we forced to watch this love affair reminiscent of a poorly written teenage romance novel, but we’re also subjected to a brooding and sometimes whiny Anakin Skywalker whose seeds of rebellion are slowly planted into the soil of subversion against the Jedi Order. Christenson and McGregor (Obi-Wan-Kenobi) don’t seem to mesh well as the master/apprentice duo which robs the audience of the ability to really empathize with the stakes at hand–which is the point of the whole installment. This is the main problem with the film but other issues carry over from The Phantom Menace such as the slipshod writing, overabundance of CGI shenanigans, and corny scene transitions that defined the new franchise and can also be found on Windows Movie Maker ’08. What makes it better than The Phantom Menace however is the intrigue and originality found in the concept of the clone army and the subsequent characters involved such as Jango and Boba Fett, Count Dooku played by the late Christopher Lee, and a much improved Master Yoda–the greatest CGI accomplishment of the film. While the Anakin Padmé drama barely holds water, the Clone Wars plot line adds an exciting and interesting dynamic that helps the movie stay afloat and consequently leads to some pretty awesome battle sequences and lightsaber duels.
Number 5–Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
I know, I know you’re starting to see a pattern and you’re probably wondering why you’ve spent so much time reading this predictable post but honestly it’s hard to argue that any of the prequels top the originals. The first three films, as dated as they are, capture the nuance and integrity of the franchise that formed its great success and the prequels just don’t have that magic. That being said, the third prequel The Revenge of the Sith isn’t half bad. In fact, one could argue that it’s actually good. Anakin’s path to the Dark Side reaches its culmination under the strong and assured manipulation of Chancellor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious who masterfully turns Anakin against his master, the Jedi Order, and the Light Side of the Force in a cunning way that is both believable and intriguing. Set against the backdrop of the Clone Army vs. The Federation led by General Grievous, the story flows much better without the crowding of competing emphases in plot development that the previous two films had. With the focus of the trilogy primarily being on the rise of the Sith this third installment accumulates the Dark Side’s corruption with a fascinating look into the revelation of the dark Lord of a new age and his apprentice who would become one of the most menacing and recognizable villains in all of cinema. The first Star Wars film to recieve a PG-13 rating, Revenge of the Sith doesn’t hold back, showing the true nature of the Dark Side such as the scene of Anakin killing younglings or the twisted and mangled transformation of the Emperor in his chamber and Anakin in the flames of Mustafar. Admittedly it has its faults such as the overly hyped up nature of General Grievous who was actually cool until he whipped out four lightsabers and proceeded to get his butt kicked–like really? There’s also some of the really bad dialogue that plagued the other prequels but despite its flaws Revenge of the Sith shines in comparison to its counterparts and acts as a suitable link between the originals and their predecessors.
Number 4: Episode 7: The Force Awakens
Maybe it was the hype. Maybe it was the directing. Maybe is was the slew of new characters, events, and possibilities. Regardless, The Force Awakens shook the world with its release becoming the highest grossing film in the United States of all time. Going back to the basics of what made the originals good, The Force Awakens was a revival done right. Although still highly effects driven the movie introduced some new and fascinating characters with intriguing and mysterious backgrounds, resurrected some classics like Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo with his co-pilot Chewbacca. Although TFA had many similar plot constructs as A New Hope (an Empire threatens a rebellion with a weapon possessing the power to destroy planets which is exploited by a teenager from a desert planet, an unlikely ally, and of course Han Solo and Chewy) it had enough originality to make its mark in the franchise. For example, while Kylo Ren takes on the Darth Vader archetype villain mantle his approach is far more reckless, passionate, and emotional–the signs of a conflicted and struggling fanatic trying to fill the shoes of his predecessor. This contrasts well with Rey who’s reluctant to pick up the mantle left for her. It’s these little nuances that helps TFA climb the ladder to surpass the prequals and perhaps even rival The Return of the Jedi in terms of plot, pacing, and character development. There’s some pretty lame attempts at action and intrigue–the Rathtars are just ridiculous and Maz Katana (Rey’s Force mentor of sorts) is no where near as endearing as the beloved Yoda. However this film is still impressive in its ability to stand up against all the pressure from millions of fans disappointed by the prequels and looking for something at least close to the original Star Wars that they fell in love with so long ago. In this respect The Force Awakens delivers.
Number 3–Episode Six: The Return of the Jedi
I’ll probably get the most outrage from this one being that I’ve ranked it so high. Yes this movie has the stupid Jabba’s Palace scenes with the overabundance of corny costumes and wacky puppets and yes this film has the Ewoks or as I like to call them, Care Bears on meth who assist in taking down the entire galactic Empire. However it can’t be denied that the conclusion of the original trilogy is emotionally driven, adrenaline fueled, and masterfully directed satisfying the viewer on multiple spectrums. The powerful themes of redemption, heroism in the face of uncertainty, loyalty, and familial ties ring loud and clear in this finale of the most epic space odyssey of all time. The actors are at their best, the drama is at its height, and the effects are just as visually pleasing as they are intellectually stimulating. The final scene of Luke hacking away at his estranged father, Darth Vader only to toss his lightsaber aside to deny the corruption of the Dark Side is still considered one of the most powerful scenes in all of cinema. Despite its flaws and occasional silliness, Return of the Jedi is number three in the list–and there are many reasons why it deserves to stay right there.
Number 2–Episode Five: The Empire Strikes Back
Widely considered by critics as the greatest Star Wars movie of all time The Empire Strikes Back is a glorious romp around the galaxy. With an abundance, of planets, asteroids, monsters and aliens, spaceships, and memorable characters continuing to make their stamp on cinema history this second installment of the franchise continues to amaze. From the swamps of Dagobah to the carbonation chambers of Cloud City, The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece. The dialogue is crisp and and self assured, the deeper themes established by the roots of the first installment begin to take shape, and fans everywhere were stunned and still remember fondly the iconic revelation that “No Luke–I am your father.” Following Luke Skywalker’s journey from a naive and desperate farm boy gone hero to a honored and revered Jedi Knight under the tutelage of the wise and endearing sage fondly known as Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back is not afraid to delve into other plot developments as well that culminate into a story that is just as awe-inspiring as it is revolutionary. It was this film that proved to the world that A New Hope was more than just a one hit wonder–it proved that Star Wars in all its grandeur from the opening theme to the bone-chilling Imperial March was here to stay.
Number 1–Episode IV: A New Hope
This movie not only comes in as the best Star Wars movie of all time it could also be considered one the best movies of all time–period. Star Wars: A New Hope not only redefined a genre, it revitalized the classic themes of knighthood, chivalry, heroism, and the titanic struggle between good and evil against the backdrop of a sleek, streamlined and wondrous space odyssey that left the world in awe. Considered for the most part to be in the space opera genre A New Hope transcends stereotypes to become magical in its fantastical scale, imagination, and ambition. Following the tale of a humble farm boy with high aspirations, an endangered princess, a rogue smuggler, and a villain who embodied a level of fear and respect that very few antagonists have captured since, Star Wars took the formula for everything that works–and made it better. With hours upon hours spent on pre-production, special effects, and sound mixing, George Lucas and team created a world unparalleled in scale and vision in a happy romance between ancient lore and futuristic wonder. A New Hope takes the gold in this ranking not just because of the legacy it began but also because of its unprecedented strides in cinematic wonder, capturing the hearts of generations to come.
Rogue One has a large act to follow–seven acts actually. Will it hold up to the high standard set by its predecessors? On December 16th we’ll find out!