Top 10 Star Wars Movies

Ah, this author still recalls going to his local theatre to catch a rare triple-bill showing of the three original Star Wars films. We watched Star Wars: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi on the big screen in one day. As a kid things could not get any better than this. The movies meant everything to us back then, as did the many, many toys and figures. As time marches on, so did the series. Along came the Special Editions and the prequels in the late ’90s, then things died down for a while. In 2012 Disney bought Lucasfilm and, along with it, the Star Wars franchise. Now the plan is to release a new Star Wars movie every year, forever. Anyway, it’s now 2017, and the original Star Wars movie from 1977 celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so what better way to celebrate Star Wars Day (May 4th) than to run through the top 10 movies in the franchise so far?


10. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Where do I start with this? There are so many things wrong with it. First off, the film suffers in a similar way to the prequel trilogy: we know the outcome of the film before we have seen it. Then there is the slow pace of the film, only to be kickstarted into overdrive in the last half hour. The main characters, who we are meant to care for, are underdeveloped and poorly acted by their performers. So poorly developed are the characters that by the time of the climax, I didn’t feel any emotion for them. In fact, the only character who I felt a little bit for was the droid, who sacrificed himself for his human colleagues. Then there was the needless and jarring inclusion of CGI Tarkin and Leia. Not to mention the small appearances by Darth Vader, which seemed needless. In fact, all three of these characters were not needed to tell this story. This was lazy fan service gone overboard. For a standalone film, it’s not truly standalone is it? It’s Star Wars Episode 3.9 even. A true standalone film should not be tied in with the main mythology of the ongoing series. A better direction for a standalone film would have been set in the same galaxy a long, long time ago, like The Knights of the Old Republic. That PC role-playing game would make an excellent Star Wars film, with its new set of characters (new Jedi, new sith, new droids) and new plot. A world away from what we know, but still set in the Star Wars galaxy. That’s what a true standalone Star Wars movie should be. As it stands, Rogue One: A Star Wars story scrapes into the top 10 Star Wars films just ahead of the Star Wars Holiday Special.


9. Star Wars: The Clone Wars

What’s this? An animated film set between the events of Episode II and III? While it continues the story line set in motion by Episode II, the film still manages to bring in some interesting new characters and exciting action scenes–take note, Rogue One. However, as interesting as it is, this is still a let down with a poorly written script that is basically a drawn out episode and could have been an average 20 minute episode for the Clone Wars TV series that followed.


8. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

Ewoks: The Battle for Endor is a TV movie that initially premiered on ABC in 1985. This is actually the follow up to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure, a TV movie itself. The story follows the plight of the Ewoks as they defend their village against the attacks of Marauders. Critical response to the movie was pretty muted, and it did not fair too well at the box office, either, so the planned sequel was canned. However, the film isn’t a total flop; it’s an okay fantasy film set in between Episodes IV (The Empire Strikes Back) and V (Return of the Jedi). A Star Wars film set in the same universe and same timeline of the original trilogy, but it doesn’t rely heavily on previous characters?


7. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

A very limp opener to the prequel trilogy, where all actors seemed uncomfortable with the dialogue and their green screen surroundings. That is probably one of the film’s main failing–and the prequel trilogy as a whole: Overuse of green screen, even when a real set would have been the more obvious choice. Sure, we get Darth Maul, an underused Sith Apprentice, but he is killed off, with no chance of further development. The two main characters are underwhelming, the young Anakin is overly annoying, probably more so than Jar Jar. The plot also meanders through many political trade standoffs and senate meetings to the point of boredom. Oh, and what a terrible title. Tsk.


6. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

This was meant to be the prequel trilogy’s The Empire Strikes Back, but perhaps that was a tad ambitious for the film and its crew. While this just sneaks ahead of The Phantom Menace, both movies suffer from the same problems. Here, Anakin is older, but only slightly less annoying. The overuse of green screen is back, but this time it’s even more in your face. The final half of the film is an overlong sequence of fights with Jedi, clones, and droids filling every little space on the screen–sometimes, less is more. Just because you can film a massive CGI fight scene with thousands of fighters, doesn’t mean you should.


5. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Removing itself from the prequel trilogy was a smart move, but it couldn’t remove itself from the original trilogy, and in particular, Episode IV. Essentially, The Force Awakens is a soft-reboot of Episode IV, virtually retelling the original film’s main plot. It reintroduces old fans to characters we know while bringing in some new characters to carry the new trilogy onwards. A carefully managed mix of old and new. Thankfully, the acting is good here, saving the film from being a total disaster. And the main characters are given some screen time to develop. Hopefully, the next episode (The Last Jedi) can tread its own path rather than relying on familiar territory.


4. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

While the original trilogy trailed off at the end of its run, the prequel trilogy is better at its end. Discounting the prevailent green screen nonsense, Revenge of the Sith is almost a decent film. That is mainly down to Ian McDiarmond, who is at his fiendishly best as Emperor Palpatine. The actual downfall of Anakin–while seeming a tad forced–makes for an interesting turn to the film. Like The Empire Strikes Back, the memorable moments are the more downbeat ones. There are still problems that plagued the whole prequel trilogy on display here, though: green screen, poor dialogue, poor script choice. The final fight also drags on forever in an equally silly location.


3. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Admittedly, a rather average finale to the original trilogy, with some fairly average scenes patched together, but overall, it did a decent job. This was when we originally got to see the Emperor, played excellently by Ian McDiarmond. There are some good scenes in here, particularly the Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and the Emperor moments in the last act. The film also rounds off the trilogy neatly, even if the overall plot does retread familiar ground.


2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

All the classic film making pieces are here: the young kid apprentice, the old wise wizard, the princess, the evil dark lord, and the loveable rogue pilot. It was always going to be hard to justify not giving A New Hope top spot, but the movie is not perfect: dialogue, visuals, acting can be suspect in places. But overall, it comes together to tell a classic sci-fi story.


1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

This just nudges in to top spot due to having a more polished script. The story is spot on, the dialogue is tighter, and the film itself takes on a more appropriate sombre tone–compared to A New Hope‘s hap-hap-happy ending. There is more character development going on, too. Luke, Han, and Leia are all noticeably developed through this middle part of this trilogy. Some restrained and gritty fight scenes. And an almighty cliffhanger ending.

So that’s the Top 10 Star Wars films. Join us in a couple of years time when there will probably be enough new films for a Top 20 Star Wars films rundown. Remember, kids, Star Wars will be with you, always.

Neil Reive

An avid retrogamer who has worked on various projects, magazines, and fanzines. He is also a big fan of films when they were actually good and put an emphasis on story rather than computer generated vistas.

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