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Ranking the films in the Star Wars franchise

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In just a few short days, one of the biggest movie releases in literally years will occur when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens. Yesterday was the World Premiere in Los Angeles, with later today being the day most critics and pundits lay eyes on it (in fact, as you’re reading this, some of us might be actually watching it). Thursday night is the moment of truth for audiences in general, with anticipation at a literal fever pitch. In honor of the impending release, I wanted to take a look at the franchise so far, giving it the same treatment that I’ve previously given to the Rocky series and others. There will be plenty more on Star Wars this/next week too, so sit tight…

Here now is how I would rank the films in the Star Wars saga so far, and keep in mind…this is just how I see things. Here we go:

6. Attack of the Clones (Episode II) – The only installment so far that I think can be safely dismissed, this is a very mediocre action flick that fills in backstory we didn’t need. The prequels all did that, but this one just seems the most empty and useless. None of the characters introduced do much, the romance between Anakin and Padme is laughable, and George Lucas almost seems disinterested. That’s the part that rubs you the wrong way too, as this is his vision. Not a bad movie, but the one that you can skip and not lose anything from doing so.

5. The Phantom Menace (Episode I) – What saves this one from being in the basement is the admittedly very cool pod racing sequence, along with Darth Maul. It’s the most overt installment aimed at kids, though the droning on about trade routes and such is a bore no matter who you are. This is a very flawed flick, but it’s not a complete waste of time, so that’s a plus.

4. Return of the Jedi (Episode VI) – This and the next one are basically tied for me, in that they’re a step down from the apex of the franchise, but still really solid and a lot better than what a lot of the competition puts up. There’s iconic stuff here, including Jabba the Hut and the Ewoks. It might not be perfect, but it wraps up wonderfully, bringing the story of Luke and (as we know now) Anakin Skywalker to at least a momentary conclusion. It drops us off where The Force Awakens will soon pick us up.

3. Revenge of the Sith (Episode III) – As just mentioned, this prequel, which is the best of that bunch, is tied with Episode VI essentially, so consider this 3A and 3B, if you will. I do really like getting to see the birth of Darth Vader, even if his first words do leave a lot to be desired. Seeing how we got to the original trilogy has a lot of charm though, so I remain somewhat under its spell.

2. The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V) – Is this technically the best film of the bunch? Yes. So why isn’t it in the top spot? I’ll explain more below, but this is another tie, so it’s more 1B than 2. It’s nearly as iconic as Episode IV, especially with the introduction of Yoda and the big reveal during the climax. It’s an absolute classic, for sure, something that will undoubtedly stand the test of time. If you asked me again next week, who knows, I might swap these two around, but for now…this is where I put Episode VI.

1. Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) – The one that started it all gets the top spot in a tight race, just due to how much of an impact it had on me as a young boy. The first time you see Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and company on their adventure, it changes you. It’s hard to explain, really, but this is a special film. We all have our thoughts on whether A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back is superior, and while the latter is probably the better movie, the former is the more important and more special one…

Stay tuned to see where Star Wars: The Force Awakens fits into the rankings when it opens everywhere this week!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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