FilmExodus Ranks the ‘Star Wars’ Films

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) — 54.5 points

  • It’s a very well-made movie, full of fun, thrills and excitement, and surely the best SW movie in terms of effects, acting and general production values… but it’s just fucking episode 4 all over again! I’m sorry, but that’s a deal-breaker for me, I wanted this universe to be expanded! The whole overdone and simplistic Empire/Rebels status quo is back for some barely mentioned reason, Han Solo’s still the same smuggler guy 40 years later, and another fucking Death Star that’s 1000 times bigger just because? Come on! – Galaxion
  • Nostalgic but energetic and fully brings life back to the franchise with new faces and great spectacle. It reminded me WHY I love this series without loosing any of its charm in the process. – The Dead Fellow
  • While I understand that Lucasfilm had to play it safe after the prequels, it’s baffling that they thought they had to play it this safe. The movie nails the hard stuff — like giving us characters to fill the Big Three’s shoes and providing iconic moments — with aplomb, but somehow flubs the simple stuff like, oh, having a new plot. I’m giving the series a mulligan here, considering the circumstances, but don’t do this again, Lucasfilm. – Resonance Cascade
  • This was the first Star Wars movie I saw, so I guess it swept me into the universe. Poe Dameron is a suave, badass and Harrison Ford proved he could still act and tug at the right heart strings. – M. Karlston
  • I really do not get the hate for this one as it encapsulates everything fans love about Star Wars as a series. Rey, Finn and Poe are all interesting new main characters and BB-8 is a welcome addition as the new main droid.  I’m glad that they did not go with the original plan of killing off Poe because Oscar Isaac is always fantastic in whatever he happens to be in.  The Rey scene of her using The Force to look into the past, present and future through Anakin’s/Luke’s lightsaber in Maz’s possession was expertly done.  We could argue that she is a “Mary-Sue”, but I think that belittles her as a character that has only been in one entry.  I know that it has been said before, but Kylo Ren/Ben Solo is exactly how the prequel trilogy should have portrayed Anakin.  In fact, knowing less of his past makes him a much more interesting character. I really do not see it as too much of a rehash of A New Hope, as some do, and believe that it stands on its own very well.  The lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo is probably one of the best in the series aside from the ones involving Luke and Vader.  J.J. Abrams has crafted a film that stands alongside the original trilogy in a way that the prequel films never could. – Joe Newman

3. Return of the Jedi (1983) — 66 points

  • Luke is such a badass here, and Chewbacca’s hair looks great. – Jack Slater IV
  • It’s hard to think of what to say about the OT, other than “it’s classic”, but I’m really into all of the Jabba’s Palace stuff, the space battle at the end was for the longest time the most spectacular I’d ever seen, and the final confrontation between Luke and Vader really delivers in every way. Best thing in the movie: James Earl Jones. – dnwilliams
  • By far my favorite of the saga and the one I’ve watched the most. And I say all of that with AND without nostalgia. If that ending funeral doesn’t make you feel SOMETHING, then I really don’t want to know what’s wrong with ya. – The Dead Fellow
  • Many people point to this as the moment that 70’s George Lucas turned into Modern George Lucas, and not in a good way. Yes, there are guerilla teddy bears and an orgy palace of muppets and another Death Star…but there’s also the birth of Luke Skywalker as a true Jedi Knight. The scenes of Luke resisting the mysterious Emperor and redeeming his father make it a worthy, if imperfect, capstone to Lucas’ saga. – Resonance Cascade
  • I don’t know if it’s because the sequels in the OT were released in the 80s, but damn are they both enjoyable. Return of the Jedi has the slight edge,and I think that’s mostly because of that epic speeder bike chase. – M. Karlston
  • Starts off strong, but gets a little too cartoony as it goes on. I have nothing against the Ewoks. I just think they wanted to sell more toys at that point. – King Alvarez
  • You can say what you will about the Ewoks, but this is a fantastic finale to the original trilogy. Luke is finally a badass and walks into Jabba’s palace like it is nothing, and Force-chokes anyone that tries to get in his way.  Bounty Hunter Leia is a great and nice surprise reveal for first time viewers and, also, she is holding a thermal detonator!  Unlike Lando’s disguise, she is completely hidden from the audience until the reveal when she releases Han.  I feel like this is the film that George Lucas altered the most of any of the original trilogy.  Original Jabba’s Palace Song and Yub Nub forever!  Despite the changes, the film still holds up with fantastic moments such as the reversal of the “I love you” and “I know” lines in a completely different context with Leia and Han.
    The Emperor’s throne room scenes are some of my favorites as they are the ultimate culmination of the original trilogy.  “I’m afraid” followed by “quite operational” is often used in my family in many different circumstances.  This is my second favorite lightsaber battle because of Luke and Vader’s mental battle adds so much more to the duel.  After cutting off his father’s hand, Luke looks to his own robotic hand and realizes that he is becoming just like his father and throws down his lightsaber.  The Emperor is not pleased that Luke rejects his offer of killing his father and taking his place at his side, so he decides to kill him with some force lighting.  Vader is truly the true hero as he takes down the Emperor by throwing him down a shaft, even though his own fate is sealed.  He is the Samwise to Luke’s Frodo by making the true heroic gesture in the saga.  Another Death Star is destroyed, but by a supporting character (Lando) this time and Darth Vader’s body is burned ceremoniously by Luke.  This is followed by an Ewok party with the Rebellion that includes drumming on Imperial helmets, but more importantly, Force ghosts show up as an older version of Anakin joins Obi-Wan and Yoda because a younger version would make absolutely no sense and is a terrible idea.  The reason I like this one so much are the culminating moments it is able to provide and I argue that is more important to Star Wars as a franchise than A New Hope. – Joe Newman

2. Star Wars (1977) — 68.5 points

  • The one that started it all. It’s certainly a great and flawlessly structured movie, and it perfectly introduces some of Pop Culture’s most memorable and enduring characters. However, for me at least, I think it suffers from the Seinfeld effect: it all feels a little quaint and dated. Also, most of the acting is quite bad here which doesn’t help. – Galaxion
  • The one that started it all, for both the franchise and blockbuster movie making as a whole. Even after all these years it still holds up, despite some clunky acting/writing (the seams are showing, Lucas). – The Dead Fellow
  • This movie is a miracle. It’s like some insane piece of calculus that a mad genius discovered almost by accident. Take away any single part — the art design, the music, the main cast members, the special effects — and you risk completely ruining the equation. While his contemporary “movie brats” like Spielberg and Coppolla were busy making great movies, George Lucas was making modern mythology. Unbeatable. – Resonance Cascade
  • You can never beat an iconic and classic movie. This is the movie that started it all and kicked off the franchise we know and love and is the hope of cinema. Luke goes on and adventure after Leia sends him on a mission to destroy the Death Star and he meets R2-D2 and C-3PO and Han –Freaking– Solo and Lando and trains with Obi Wan. Obi Wan fighting Darth Vader and his death was very funny as he just vanishes and his robe stays. Looks like Obi Wan dropped his robe! Luke learns the force and how to fight and the scene where they blow up the death star is probably one of the best scenes in any Star Wars movies ever and the stormtroopers were funny and ! The music is so iconic and the scrolling opening became main stays in this series. – J-Mart
  • The one that started it all!  This is truly groundbreaking and the only one of the films to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and although it lost to Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977) that year, it did pick up six other Oscars (yes, this was a very different time).  This introduced us to a world that even the filmmakers did not think would take the world by storm and concept art even appeared at the an early version of the San Diego Comic-Con, before it was the SDCC that we currently know today.  The cantina scene in Mos Eisley is what really introduces us to this new and immersive world with the varying alien creatures that inhabit it.  There would be no Star Wars without this film and it was extremely groundbreaking for Sci-Fi in film and I would even go so far as to say that it has as much of a cultural impact as Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982) on the genre.  No matter how you feel about this franchise, you can never discount that original film’s influence on pop-culture.  I mean, who doesn’t know “may the force be with you” at this point in most parts of the world? – Joe Newman
  • This movie is the Beatles of film.  It caused an explosion of pop culture that hasn’t really been equaled by a film since.  Star Wars was my obsession from the ages of 7 to 12.  I can’t over-state the profound effect this movie had on Generation X as children, particularly boys. – Dry But Soupy

1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980) — 78.5 points

  • There’s a reason this is the touchstone for every would-be franchise out there. It’s a masterclass in continuing a story, expanding a world, giving the audience everything they wanted and everything they didn’t know they needed. It’s easy to take for granted now, but it’s still an outlier and it could have not worked at all. There’s no space battle in this movie. There’s no desert wasteland. Every single character fails in some way. They introduce a puppet with weird grammar as a main character. They introduce the most impractical military vehicles ever conceived. ‘The Imperial March’ didn’t exist before this movie. And it’s all perfect. Best thing in the movie: Billy Dee Williams. – dnwilliams
  • No question there, Empire is a phenomenal movie from start to finish: it’s exciting, surprising, fleshes out the characters, and just does everything a sequel is supposed to in terms of raising the stakes and expanding the universe. I can only imagine what it must have been to see it in cinemas, and then having to wait 3 years to get the answers to that dark cliffhanger ending! – Galaxion
  • A genuine improvement on A New Hope in every way – until the cliffhanger ending hits. I understand how trilogies work, but personally speaking, I’d argue you can add an ending that makes the film feel complete while also adding major plot threads to be resolved (see X2). – The Dead Fellow
  • It’s an upgrade from A New Hope in many ways and still the best sequel ever made. Lawrence Kasdan’s perfect dialogue, the subversion of the same cliches that the first movie embraced, the sickening feeling you get in your gut the first time you’re left on that cliffhanger ending — the list could go on and on. – Resonance Cascade
  • 5 words… I love you… I know. – King Alvarez
  • This is probably one of the best if not the greatest movie sequel of all time as it improves everything that made the original a timeless classic and makes this film and even more memorable classic with the most shocking and iconic twist of Darth Vader being Luke’s father and Leia’s sister. Luke training to fight Vader with the badass and wise Yoda in the swamp was great as well. It’s more action packed, has a fantastic story and expands the characters and has a steady pace on the plot and the music, my god is the music so freaking good. Luke doing something Leonardo DiCaprio ripped off in The Revenant was disgusting but he was just trying to survive and you would do anything to live. Also, Han and Leia’s relationship fully prosper and is genuine and not rushed. All these and more make The Empire Strikes Back the best Star Wars movie ever made period and it didn’t even have a Death Star exploding. – J-Mart
  • Is there really any argument here?  When it comes to franchises, there are very few movies that can stand on their own.  Empire is a movie that you could show someone that has never seen a Star Wars movie and they will both understand and enjoy it. There are a lot of iconic moments to love in this film that I could name off the top of my head with the Lando betrayal/Vader and Fett surprise dinner scene being one of the best as it shows how helpless our heroes truly are. The “down-ending” that Clerks (Kevin Smith, 1994) points out is also something that makes it stand apart from the other films.  They have lost Solo, Luke lost a hand and they realize they are severely outmatched by the Empire.  I would rank this as one of my favorite films without it even being part of the Star Wars saga.  In that way, it stands alone for my personal critiques as a solid standalone film. – Joe Newman
  • The text book example of a sequel done right.  This film doesn’t have the profound cultural significance of A New Hope, but it’s a better movie all-around.  The characters grow and the plot thickens.  Darth Vader being Luke’s father was huge.  The Han Solo cliffhanger was just as unexpected – Dry Soupy

Head over to the next page for our individual rankings.