It’s May the Fourth, and you know what that means! Yes, it’s time for some Star Wars Hot Takes, and I am ready to share them with you. It feels like only yesterday I was banging on about The Mandalorian, but that has not sated my need to dump my Big Fat Opinions on you right here, right now. And what better than a ranking of all the Star Wars movies (which I just so happen to have written a retrospective on, by the way, should you fancy some deeper-dives into the cinematic universe)? I know there’s going to be some deeply unpopular opinions here, but honestly, I’m ready to get them out there – and ready to hear your rankings, too. From worst to best!
12. Solo: A Star Wars Story
I thought long and hard about what to put at the bottom, but there is only one real standout for me – a movie that I have literally not one ounce of interest in watching again, a film that manages to make Paul Bettany boring, a prequel that misses the point of the character it purports to investigate. It’s dull, prosaic, blunderingly obvious, and generally just pretty poorly put-together, despite a promising cast and some cool character returns. Solo was a thoroughly unenjoyable experience for me from top to bottom, and I am hoping to see it sink into the fiery Sarlak pits where it belongs.
11. Attack of the Clones
It’s only fair and right. Attack of the Clones is objectively a very, extremely, terribly awful movie, in which the clones don’t even bloody attack, and even though I secretly do enjoy a few scattered bits and pieces of it (the gladiatorial fight on Geonosis, for one), it’s still the biggest and most blatant abuse of Lucas’ power over the franchise; a dreadful Hayden Christensen, a dire romance plot, unrestrained stupidity in the main story that falls apart the very milisecond you look at it too closely. All of that and less in the main saga’s worst entry, even if The Clone Wars does nearly make up for it.
10. The Rise of Skywalker
When I first walked out of the cinema after seeing RoS, I really didn’t think that I was going to come to dislike the film as much as I have. But here we are – there’s no denying that the final part of the Skywalker saga fumbled the ending in a near-catastrophically unforgivable way, wasting what remained of Rey’s plot, failing to fix Finn’s, and pivoting to focus on Kylo Ren and Palpatine instead of striking out into new territory that its predecessors had promised. It made for fun watching in the moment, but in retrospect, it’s a huge swing and a miss for me, and that’s a real damn shame.
9. The Clone Wars
No, not the brilliant TV show – the average movie, which really doesn’t feel like very much at all in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think there is anything screamingly wrong with The Clone Wars film, but it is upended by the brilliance of what was to come from it – and, with such an amazing TV show and universe to follow up on it, it pales in comparison.
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Oh, Jesus, I can feel the sniper sights lining up on me now. Look, I’ve really fucking tried with Rogue One – I want to like it, and hell, I even do quite appreciate several pieces of the story and the themes and the direction and all of that. But as a whole, it’s just a clunky mess, poorly-executed with jagged, inhuman dialogue that renders the whole thing just a bit too silly for its self-serious iteration. I know a lot of people love this movie, and I am happy for you and am going to let you finish, but – actually, no, I’m not. This is my list. Rogue One sucks. The end.
7. The Last Jedi
I dithered about the placements of this film and the next one for a while, but this is what feels right to me. I respect a lot of what The Last Jedi does, and I even downright enjoy some parts of it, but Rian Johnson’s only entry into the Star Wars canon is just…not quite it, for me. I appreciate the effort of trying something different, but this particular something different just doesn’t sit right with me – especially with a whole sub-plot that has nothing to do with the outcome of the film. It’s also the beginning of the sidelining of Finn, which I will never forgive the franchise for, and therefore my contempt is hard to contain.
6. The Revenge of the Sith
Revenge of the Sith has been a grower, not a show-er, for me; I didn’t care for it originally, but the more time that’s past, the more fondness I have for it. A big part of that is the success of The Clone Wars series in informing the conflicts and relationships in this film (Obi-Wan and Anakin actually really hits hard with that in mind), but honestly, even without that, I think Sith still pretty much works. It’s got a killer lightsabre battle at the end, Grievous is a moderately good villain, and Hayden Christensen and Ewan McGregor have a solid chemistry that helps buoy the film past some wobbles. Even if Padme would never have died of a broken heart, you bastards.
5. The Phantom Menace
My heart says to put this at number one, but it’s just not correct. The Phantom Menace is an utter piece of nostalgia for me, a delightful throwback to my childhood, and I still get that same kidlike joy from sitting through it; the podracing sequence, the Duel of the Fates battle, the assault on the Naboo palace…it’s just got that good shit that takes me somewhere special, even though I know there are problems here. This will always be a comfort movie for me, that warm place to come back to, even if Jar Jar is a racist stereotype and Qui-Gon can measure midichlorians now.
4. Return of the Jedi
I know, I know. I gave this a pretty dodgy review when I did my retrospective a couple of years back, but my mind has changed, alright? Return of the Jedi has its problems, but it’s still just a really good slice of action-adventure sci-fi storytelling that I can’t deny. I have no issue with the Ewoks – in fact, I think some of the action of the moon of Endor is genuinely tremendous – and as a climax to Luke’s story, which is one of my favourites of the whole franchise, it’s really about as perfect as they come. Should Leia have snogged her brother? Obviously not, but that doesn’t take away from what a fun exploration of the universe this is, and what a bloody good time it is to fly with those speederbikes through the trees.
3. The Empire Strikes Back
I don’t need to tell you why I love this film, do I? Alright, let me give it a go: the Vader/Luke fight, shot like a horror movie, unfolding like a nightmare. Cloud City. Leia, an all-round badass. Hoth. Young Mark Hamill serving looks. The way it looks, the way it feels, the way it sounds, the way it takes me somewhere so far from home for just a little while; that’s something that I can’t deny about this film, being swept along on this much darker side of the adventure after the bittersweetness of A New Hope. I know this is a top pick for many Star Wars fans, and I’m never going to begrudge anyone that.
2. The Force Awakens
I cried in the cinema when I saw The Force Awakens for the first time and I am not ashamed to admit it. I know that this is a controversial pick for a lot of people, but The Force Awakens is a delightfully quintessential Star Wars movie for me: it’s got the gorgeous visuals, simple but strongly-drawn characters (Finn’s wordless characterisation in the opening scene? Genuinely superb), great action, and a propulsive forward momentum that doesn’t bother to slow down to let you catch your breath for a moment. Add in Kylo Ren as the best villain (at least, he is in this iteration) the franchise had seen in ages, and you’ve just got a banger of a movie that never fails to bring me a great deal of joy.
- A New Hope
A New Hope is a film that always makes me emotional, to be honest. It’s home to me – it’s watching it on VHS with my family, it’s looking at those two suns setting over Tatooine while Luke gazes on and feeling the enormity of the universe that surrounds him, Obi-Wan’s heartfelt performance and sacrifice; it’s everything and way more than that, too. A New Hope gets me right in the soft parts, and I just can’t in good faith put anything else top here but that. I hear that music swell and I know that everything is going to be okay for a while, and that’s all that I can ask from a movie, right?
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it, please check out my Star Wars series, and our other cinematic universe retrospective – for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Jurassic Park movies, and the Batman cinematic universe. You can check out more of my work on my personal blog, The Cutprice Guignol!
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via StarWars.com)