The 10 Best Lucasfilm Movies (Excluding Star Wars And Indiana Jones)

When you think Lucasfilm, you probably think of two things: Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Both creations of filmmaker George Lucas, those two franchises put Lucasfilm on the map and made the company what is today: an entity that cost Disney $4 billion. But Lucasfilm isn't only Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Proof of that hit theaters this past weekend as they released Strange Magic, an animated fairy tale Lucas himself conceived and produced.

That got us thinking, what else has Lucasfilm done? What are they without their two big superstars? The answer is "a lot" and "something pretty special." Below, read our ranking of the 10 best Lucasfilm movies, minus Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

So, to be clear, the films not allowed on this list are as follows:

  • Star Wars
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Header art by Drew Struzan.

The 10 Best Lucasfilm Movies...Minus Star Wars and Indiana Jones

10. Strange Magic (2015) Directed by Gary Rydstrom

We'd heard whispers of George Lucas' fairy film for years before Lucasfilm finally unveiled it with very little warning. Sadly, it turns out it wasn't much worth the wait. Strange Magic certainly has its heart in the right place. It is a relentlessly earnest fable boasting the tagline "Everyone deserves to be loved," and it gets points for creativity. (When's the last time you saw a fairy army marching to the beat of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance"?) On the other hand, the story is laughably juvenile, the characters are thinly drawn, the animation is uneven, and the overall effect is more grating than lovable. Strange Magic is the latest Lucasfilm product and, unfortunately, among its least worthy.

9. Red Tails (2012) Directed by Anthony Hemingway

Red Tails is a very well-intentioned movie. George Lucas himself had for a long time been talking about making an action movie about the African-American fighter pilots who flew in World War II. The resulting film has an absolutely staggering cast - Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Tristan Wilds, Michael B. Jordan, Andrew Royo and Bryan Cranston – and there are minor moments of entertainment. But for the most part, it's a misfire, lacking emotion and depth. The film turns a powerful true story into a traditional, forgettable, but passable action film.

8. Radioland Murders (1994) Directed by Mel Smith

So many of the films George Lucas released via Lucasfilm are about things he loved as a child. Radioland Murders is a fast-paced, slapstick comedy set in the world of 1930s/1940s radio plays, which was probably how Lucas heard many of the stories that influenced his better movies. This movie is a suitably unique look into that world but it never really gives the audience much to grasp. The dialogue is snappy and jokes are non-stop, but ultimately the movie only partially works as a comedy, murder mystery, or anything else for that matter. It just kind of sits there.

7. Howard the Duck (1986) Directed by Willard Huyck

If you grew up in the Eighties, and have memories of Howard the Duck, they're probably fond memories. The film – one of the first big screen Marvel Comics adaptations – was a legendary failure. So people who do remember it probably saw it at the age where quality didn't matter. As a more mature film fan, it's hard to deny the movie has an undeniably weird charm, but it's creepy and not particularly engaging beyond that. The script is lacking, the performances are subpar but there is definitely something about the film you can't take your eyes off. That stands for something.

6. Willow (1988) Directed by Ron Howard

Willow is a fun movie. It's got action, adventure, huge sweeping set pieces, an amazing score and lots of great, quirky performances. It's not up to the level you may remember when you saw it as a child, but it's a solid fantasy film that's worth revising from time to time. Ron Howard – a Lucasfilm alum from a decade before – had made some big hits before this, but Willow is really where he became a big time blockbuster filmmaker.

5. Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

The Oscar-winning director of The Godfather teamed up with his old friend George Lucas to make this flashy, interesting biopic. Jeff Bridges shines as Preston Tucker, a automobile inventor whose life was riddled with controversy and conflict. Boasting a wonderful supporting cast (Joan Allen, Martin Landau, Elias Koteas, Christian Slater) Tucker is heartbreaking American story and one of Coppola's most underrated movies.

4. Labyrinth (1986) Directed by Jim Henson

When you were a kid, you probably didn't realize that Jim Henson and his creations always worked on multiple levels. There was always an obvious superficial story, but there was always something "off" about them, too. Something subversive. That's one of the reasons Labyrinth remains such a classic. Jennifer Connolly plays a young girl who must traverse a maze to find her missing brother, meeting innumerable different characters and creatures along the way. Among them, the Goblin King played by David Bowie, who also provided the film's soundtrack. Labyrinth isn't perfect by any means, but it's wholly unique and memorable nonetheless.

3. THX-1138 (1971) Directed by George Lucas

Long before he invented a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas created a far more cold and creepy vision of the future. In Lucas' feature debut Robert Duvall stars as the title character, an anonymous worker who ends up trying to break out of the oppressive world he lives in. For a first-time feature director, Lucas shows incredible vision and filmmaking skill. Everything in the movie has a unique look, yet it feels plausible. The film's themes about technology remain relevant almost half a century later. And while the film doesn't have the rewatchability of some of these other Lucasfilm movies, it's pretty groundbreaking stuff.

2. The Land Before Time (1988) Directed by Don Bluth

Any film that spawned twelve sequels has to be good. Such is the case with The Land Before Time, a touching and exciting kids movie about a young dinosaur who is forced to go on the run after his mother is killed. Sure, none of those 12 follow-ups went to theaters like this movie, but they're great examples of the power and emotion present in this original movie. Though it sometimes gets overshadowed by the Disney classics that were released soon after, it's as timeless a family film as those.

1. American Graffiti (1973) Directed by George Lucas

Really, was there any doubt of what the best non-Star Wars or Indiana Jones Lucasfilm project would be? In fact, it's not even close. This electric, slice of life teen film features an unbelievable cast, an even better soundtrack and remains one of a small number of films almost universally agreed upon to be the film of its generation. If you grew up in the Fifties and walked into a theater in 1973, you would have seen George Lucas capturing a version of your life. All the characters are so rich, the storylines are captivating and it hums along like a finely tuned engine.

Note: Lucasfilm released four more non-Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, but I've never seen them, so they were not considered in this list. They are More American Graffiti (1979), Twice Upon A Time (1983), Latino (1985) and Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters (1985). Of the four, only Mishima has a positive score on Rotten Tomatoes.