/Film Ranks The 'Star Wars' Saga

Hey...did you know that a new Star Wars movie came out a few days ago?

If the box office numbers are any indication, everyone reading this sentence found some time to check out Rogue One: A Star Wars Story over the weekend, which means that everyone reading this sentence probably has a Very Serious Opinion about the first standalone film in the sprawling universe George Lucas built nearly 40 years ago. And since this is the internet, there is only one thing to do now: rank all eight movies.

To ensure the validity and accuracy of this list, each member of the /Film team contributed their own personal ranking of all eight movies in the saga. The combined results are the most scientifically sound and tasteful Star Wars you are reading at this very moment. You. Are. Welcome.

If you read our top 15 movies of 2015 group list, you're already familiar with the system we're using here. Each writer ranked the eight Star Wars movies from least favorite to favorite, with their number one film receiving eight points, their second favorite receiving seven points, and so on. That means the highest possible score an individual film on this list could receive was 40 points while the lowest possible score was 5 points. We like this system because it allows for interesting swings if a writer feels passionate about a film that others aren't don't necessarily love.

With that bookkeeping out of the way, let's get on with the main event.

ranking star wars

8. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Score: 8

If there's one thing George Lucas figured out with the second installment of the prequel trilogy, it's finding the right tone of humor from the original trilogy. Unfortunately, it's still held back by some of the worst performances that Academy Award-worthy actors like Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman have ever given. It's not their fault, as they're clearly trying to fit in with the style George Lucas wanted, but it certainly doesn't help much. Count Dooku and the speeder chase through Coruscant are bright spots, at least. -Ethan Anderton

A romance that doesn't hold a candle to what Han and Leia have in the original trilogy. Even when you take Anakin and Padmé's love story on its own terms, it lacks passion. There's just nothing there, nothing to make you actually care and provide a sense of foreboding and sadness for what's to come. This prequel has some fine set pieces, but it's terribly cold and distant in a way the original trilogy is not. -Jack Giroux

If we exclude The Star Wars Holiday Special (and you should always exclude The Star Wars Holiday Special), Attack of the Clones is the nadir of the Star Wars saga. It's not clear which relationship is more grating and poorly defined: the friendship between Anakin and Obi-Wan or the romantic partnering of Anakin and Padmé. However, the failure of both is a crushing blow to characters – we are never given an opportunity to fall in love with these mannequins. And unlike The Phantom Menace, which still utilized its fair share of practical effects, this shakily acted nonsense takes place in an almost purely digital world...and the years have been unkind. Few things get my eye twitching quite like watching Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu command a squad of CGI Clone Troopers.  -Jacob Hall

I like the idea of this one so much more than I like the execution. Still, it looks nice, and Yoda gets his nice little action moment, so... sure? Credit where it's due: that sand line is jaw-droppingly terrible, but so memorable I still quote it all the time. -Angie Han

A laughable love story with too much galactic politics. -Peter Sciretta

ranking star wars

7. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Score: 10

Some fans have backtracked on their hate for this movie somewhat in recent years (at least some that I've talked to), but it's almost impossible for me to overlook not only the abomination that is Jar Jar Binks but also the awful child acting that comes from Jake Lloyd. There is no way this kid can become Darth Vader and this movie is just so bogged down with the Trade Federation and planetary politics and zzZZzzzZZzz. The podrace is a fun sequence, albeit a truly pointless one, but the best thing about this movie is the all-too-short duel between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Maul. -Ethan Anderton

What's most disappointing about The Phantom Menace is that every once in a while it gets your hopes up, with the podracing sequence or whenever Darth Maul (a truly killer design) appears. Those hopes are often dashed by serious instances of miscasting, Jar-Jar Binks, the Trade Federation, and plenty of other issues.  -Jack Giroux

Oh, boy. The most maligned of the prequels (making it one of the most maligned movies of all time) is actually the best of this particular trilogy. It's incomprehensible and wooden and best watched between closed fingers, but there are little moments of joy to be had here. Darth Maul does look cool. The podracing scene does work if you watch it on mute. Liam Neeson does bring a sense of genuine wisdom to a character who doesn't make much sense at all. But in the end, it's sloppily constructed and too silly for its own good, putting far too much faith in the abominable Jar Jar Binks being the next great Star Wars sidekick. -Jacob Hall

I hated this one less than other people did at the time because, fun fact, this was the first Star Wars movie I ever saw (unless you count Spaceballs). I wasn't so much disappointed as I was kind of perplexed — like, really? THIS is the film series everyone is so obsessed with? It's kind of boring and kind of racist and the less said about it the better. -Angie Han

I love the podracing sequence, Darth Maul, and that final lightsaber duel is one of the best in Star Wars history, especially since it's combined with one of John Williams' best compositions from this franchise (which is really saying something). -Peter Sciretta

ranking star wars

6. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Score: 12

It's a shame it took until the third prequel for George Lucas to figure out how to make Star Wars movies right again. But at the same time, the movie is still held back by Lucas seemingly misunderstanding what makes Star Wars great. For a man who has said Star Wars isn't just about spaceships and lightsaber battles, he certainly had no problem adding more and more of them as the prequels went on when fans would have preferred an origin story worthy of one of the most iconic villains of all time. We come close with Revenge of the Sith, but it's hard to love a movie where Anakin Skywalker says, "Love can't save you, Padmé. Only my new powers can do that." Ugh. -Ethan Anderton

Ewan McGregor ultimately overcomes some clunky dialogue and delivers the prequels' standout performance in Revenge of the Sith. The pain Obi-Wan experiences watching Anakin transform into a monster is the most believable emotion in these films. Revenge of the Sith finishes strong, thanks to McGregor and the final lightsaber battle, but the rest of the movie, for the most part, isn't as captivating as his performance.  -Jack Giroux

Revenge of the Sith could have been pretty good if its dramatic payoffs were the culmination of anything we actually cared about. It's all Big Loud Noises in service of people we don't especially like in a trilogy that has offered us little to love. Even the impressive staged set pieces don't quite work: Obi-Wan and Anakin's big battle becomes a Looney Tunes segment; Yoda squaring off against Palpatine is the physical brawl no one asked for in the meeting of two characters defined by their intellects. This movie will always be interesting because it really does go there with its dark choices and because George Lucas gets back to wearing his politics as a badge of honor, but it will never be good. -Jacob Hall

I honestly don't know if Episode III is better than Episode II, because I haven't seen them all the way through in a long time. I just know I was burnt out on the series by this point and ready for it to be over. If the Anakin/Padmé romance was clumsy and unconvincing in Episode II, it definitely only gets dumber here. The climactic battle against Obi-Wan should've been a big emotional moment but just reads as silly. -Angie Han

A strong dark ending for the Star Wars prequels, but ultimately the bad outshines the good. -Peter Sciretta

rogue one: a star wars story international trailer 2

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Score: 21

Admittedly, I had some trouble figuring out whether this deserved to be placed above The Force Awakens. But I was more enamored with The Force Awakens when I left the theater and I think it stands stronger as a whole film. But Rogue One does some things much better than Force Awakens, like putting us back in the lived-in sci-fi universe with an aesthetic that's much closer to the original trilogy than the more vibrant, polished Force Awakens. It also has some of the best action the franchise has ever seen, with a third act that gave me goosebumps. -Ethan Anderton

Gareth Edwards' film presents parts of this galaxy previously unexplored. The Godzilla director – and screenwriters Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz – show us characters who previously lurked in the shadows, raise new questions about the Rebel Alliance, and tell a story that's not entirely black-and-white. Its glaring problems – strangely thin villains, an unconvincing arc or two, and a distracting CG character –  are sometimes frustrating. Rogue One doesn't reach its full potential, but when it does, it's exciting and thrilling to watch some characters bring different perspectives to this universe. -Jack Giroux

Rogue One is the work of people who have been thinking about, and dreaming about, Star Wars for their entire lives. It's interested in the tiny details, in repairing the little fractures, in answering small questions that have been demanding a response for decades. It wants to turn the cameras away from the Skywalker tribe and ask what real people are doing just off-frame, to explore ordinary heroism and sacrifice amongst men and women who don't have ghosts to guide them or super-powers to employ. And it wants to do it while being the biggest, hardest-hitting, most jaw-droppingly cinematic science fiction action movie in recent memory. When Rogue One is a take-no-prisoners war movie, it is a true accomplishment. When it is relying on superb actors to force us to care about thinly written characters, it stumbles. -Jacob Hall

Huge in scope, gorgeous to look at, a genuinely thrilling and different direction for the Star Wars franchise...but it falters where the best Star Wars movies soar: serving up great characters. Good enough to make me frustrated it's not great. -Angie Han

A kick-ass war movie that makes A New Hope a better movie. This has some of the best action scenes in any of the Star Wars movies and probably the most badass Darth Vader scene of the series. But as much as I like the ragtag group of rebels, they are thinly written, requiring the actors to do the heavy lifting. -Peter Sciretta

ranking star wars

4. Return of the Jedi

Score: 27

Despite some missteps with the Ewoks, the recycling of the Death Star (it wouldn't be the last time) and the poorly handled reveal of "another Skywalker," this sequel still has plenty of excitement and a hell of an ending between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader to make up for those shortcomings. -Ethan Anderton

The first hour of episode six is often excellent. Between Luke Skywalker's introduction, Jabba's seedy palace, and the Sarlaac sequence, things get off to a fine start. But the second act is where Return of the Jedi begins to lose its entertainment value, though director Richard Marquand gains some of it back with an emotional and satisfying climax. The Ewoks are what they are, but not even they can detract from Luke and his father's final moments together. -Jack Giroux

Return of the Jedi features one of the great sequences in all of Star Wars: Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader in a duel for each other's soul, in the throne room of the closest thing this series has to the devil himself. It's powerful and moving and, most importantly, tough. It's hard to watch Luke face his own father. It's hard to accept the redemption of a monster. It's remarkable filmmaking. But it's also remarkable filmmaking surrounded by teddy bear guerrillas (not nearly as cool as it sounds), a completely wasted Han Solo, a defanged Lando Calrissian, and that interminable first act at Jabba's palace that feels like a waste of time. There are great scenes here, magnificent moments, but it doesn't hang together or conclude in a truly satisfying way. It's pretty much okay, which isn't what you want to say about the sequel to The Empire Strikes Back-Jacob Hall

It's entertaining, and I don't dislike the Ewoks as much as some people seem to. But it's a bit of a letdown after the rich darkness of The Empire Strikes Back. The reveal that Leia is Luke's sister is handled so clumsily as to be totally pointless, Luke totally lets Obi-Wan off the hook for lying to him about his father, Boba Fett gets killed off in service of a burp joke, and I'm still not sure I buy Darth Vader's redemption. -Angie Han

This was my favorite Star Wars movie as a child. I know most fans love to hate on this film, but I just love it so much, from the opening at Jabba's palace to the Speeder bike chase to the climactic battle. And fuck it, I'll say it: I love the Ewoks. -Peter Sciretta

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3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Score: 29

While the sequel that arrived 32 years after Return of the Jedi has been chastised for being a rehash of A New Hope, the magic I felt in theaters, which still lingers in repeat viewings, made me feel like the kid who fell in love with Star Wars. The combination of nostalgia (which was overwhelming and misplaced at times) with some spectacularly crafted new characters to carry the torch make this a promising new beginning for the latest era of Star Wars-Ethan Anderton

With The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams reminds audiences of the awe and wonder this series is capable of achieving. Unlike the prequels, the characters are just as exciting as the world itself. Rey, Finn, Han, Chewie, and most of the ensemble are characters you genuinely want to see on an adventure. Not only because they're immensely charming, but to see where their arcs go and, completely in the vein of Star Wars, how they'll stick together through the worst of times. What issues the movie has are often covered up by Abrams'  great eye for pacing.  -Jack Giroux

There is magic in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There is magic in Rey and Finn and Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron, characters who arrive so fully formed and are played to such charismatic perfection that it's impossible to not love them. There is a darker magic in seeing the return of Han Solo, Leia Organa, and Luke Skywalker, and learning that the celebration at the end of Return of the Jedi wasn't a victory, but a brief pitstop on the road to more tragedy. The Force Awakens may walk a too-familiar path and hit too many familiar beats, but that may be appropriate for a movie about legacies and the cyclical nature of history. There is a sadness here – the glories of our past will always be out of reach. But there is also hope – someone else can come along to pick up our legacy and run with it. Hey, do you think they're talking about Star Wars itself? -Jacob Hall

Yes, it's basically a New Hope rehash. But as a way to resurrect a beloved franchise for the next generation, it really can't be beat. It's everything we love about Star Wars, made new and fresh again. Plus, BB-8 is THE CUTEST character ever in the history of cinema and Finn is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters. -Angie Han

Maybe the most emotional of all the Star Wars films – I cried two and a half times while watching Force Awakens. Yes, it emulates A New Hope, but it serves its purpose well. The new characters the film introduces are compelling and exciting. -Peter Sciretta

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2. Star Wars

Score: 34

The one that started it all still holds up for the most part after all these years. It's not flawless and it feels a little too hokey at times thanks to some hammy performances, but it's revolutionary and exciting and is pure adventure. Cinema had never seen a movie like this, and plenty of movies tried to replicate it for a reason after it blew audiences away in 1977. -Ethan Anderton

The opening shot still transports me to this universe as swiftly as it did when I first watched A New Hope. From frame one, George Lucas makes you suspend disbelief and invest in Luke's journey. When Luke is staring out at the beautiful binary sunset as John Williams' score soars, it's not only a great piece of visual storytelling showing you the hero's yearning, but it makes you excited to see what else is out there with him.  -Jack Giroux

This is the Star Wars saga at its purest. A fairy tale adventure. A moral fable. A fantasy quest through a galaxy whose dilapidated, authoritarian nature suggests the America George Lucas was reacting to when he created his "escapist" world. The beauty of Star Wars is that it's a simple story about a complex universe, told with gumption and care and humor. It certainly helps that the great Alec Guinness anchors the film with his mere presence and that Mark Hamill isn't afraid to play Luke as a whiny little shit, making his transformation into a Jedi and hero all the more powerful. -Jacob Hall

I love this one. Even many years and many more Star Wars movies later, this one makes me so excited to embark on an incredible new adventure. Also, I kind of love how janky everything looks. Later films would have much bigger budgets and therefore much better production/costume design, but the scrappiness is really endearing here and suits the series' rebellious spirit. -Angie Han

The original, but not the best. There is so much to love about this movie, but I have come to love the follow-ups even more. My head wants to rank this film higher but my heart just loves some of the other films more. -Peter Sciretta

ranking star wars

1. The Empire Strikes Back

Score: 39

Not just the best Star Wars movie, but one of the best sequels of all time. I love the way it throws us somewhere completely unknown right from the start with no real indication as to how much time has passed. The action in this movie is vastly superior to A New Hope, as is the acting and humor. This is the movie that made Darth Vader such an iconic villain, and it's the movie that gave all sequels that followed something to strive for. -Ethan Anderton

George Lucas and the late Irvin Kershner go to some bleak and miserable territory with this sequel. Nothing is easy in this movie. The Empire Strikes Back challenges its characters, and it doesn't care to provide the audience with some big emotional catharsis at the end of it all. It's a pure, masterfully orchestrated piece of spectacle willing to show its heroes at their most defeated. Also, Yoda's introduction? "Luke, I am your father"? Han Solo getting frozen in carbonite? The list of iconic scenes just goes on and on. -Jack Giroux

This is where everyone involved in the Star Wars series made their most important decision – they proved they were unafraid to rough up the good guys. The Empire Strikes Back should feel like an endurance test: Luke continuously fails the wise Yoda; Han and Leia continuously escape one crisis to fall into another; friends betray friends; some good guys make bad decisions while others get frozen in carbonite and shipped off to criminal space slugs; our hero learns the horrible truth about his parentage. And yet, all of this darkness, all of these dark events that punish everyone to their core, serve to break these wonderful characters down so they can be built up even stronger. How do you stand back up when you've truly reached rock bottom and see no escape? The Empire Strikes Back is the rare blockbuster masterpiece to explore that question, fueling that darkness with wit and scope and a sense of pure adventure. -Jacob Hall

Holy crap, that lightsaber duel takes my breath away. And Lando! I will never get over his sweet space capes. And Han's sacrifice! That kiss! Hoth! Ultimately I prefer the feisty spirit of A New Hope, but Empire is a very close second. I think it's got the most depth and is the best showcase for our wonderfully complicated heroes. -Angie Han

The darkest and most dramatic Star Wars film to date. Between Darth Vader's big reveal to Luke, Lando's introduction, the AT-AT battle on Hoth, and Han being encased in carbonite, what is there to not love about this film? Also, this movie does the cliffhanger right. -Peter Sciretta

***

On the next page, see our individual ballots.

han solo

Ethan Anderton's Ranking

8. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

7. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

6. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

3. Return of the Jedi

2. Star Wars

1. The Empire Strikes Back

Jack Giroux's Ranking

8. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

7. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

6. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4. Return of the Jedi

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2.  Star Wars

1. The Empire Strikes Back

The Force Awakens trailer footage

Jacob Hall's Ranking

8. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

7. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

6. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

5. Return of the Jedi

4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2. Star Wars

1. The Empire Strikes Back

BB-8 Car Charger

Angie Han's Ranking

8. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

7. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

6. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4. Return of the Jedi

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2. The Empire Strikes Back

1. Star Wars

Peter Sciretta's Ranking

8. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones

7. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

6. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

4. Star Wars

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

2. Return of the Jedi

1. The Empire Strikes Back

And if you haven't yet, check out our previous Rogue One coverage:

  • Rogue One Reshoots: What the missing Rogue One trailer footage tells us about the original version of the film.