The High Ground - Which is the best Star Wars movie?

The High Ground - Which is the best Star Wars movie?

Space. John Williams' score kicks in. The big yellow Star Wars logo flashes up onto the screen and we're off again. Having grown up watching the original trilogy and playing with the toys and buying the stickers, I'm always hyped for a new Star Wars outing (or almost always). We've had twelve so far, but which movie from a galaxy far, far away has the high ground, and which is just poodoo? Here's all the Star Wars films, ranked as I see it:

12) Attack of the Clones

The dubious title of 'Worst Star Wars Movie Ever' easily goes to Attack of the Clones, on account of it being one of the worst movies ever made. Despite bombarding us with ropey CGI in every shot and featuring Obi Wan riding a freaking lizard, this film's biggest let down is our introduction to Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker; who we know will become one of the greatest movie villains of all time: Darth Vader. We'd seen him as a kid, but what was he like as a man? Turns out he was a wooden, whiny guy who hates sand and rides weird CGI creatures in meadows. And Yoda flipping around? Please George, just make it stop.

11) Solo

I had a bad feeling about this (ha!) before it even came out. First, the bantha in the room: Harrison Ford is amazing as Han Solo, so it was always going to be an uphill struggle to accept someone else in the role. With so many other characters they could focus on (several of which wear helmets all the time), did we even need a Han Solo prequel movie?

Whenever a new Star Wars film is announced, you're  hoping for a new and interesting story, but I feared this might end up a box-ticking exercise showing us how Han got into debt with Jabba, how he met Chewy, how he did the Kessel run, how he won the Falcon from Lando etc.

Unfortunately my fears came true, and though there's some cool scenes and Alden Ehrenreich does as good a job as anyone could have, I could never shake the feeling that this film just didn't need to exist.

Worst of all, it sets itself up for a sequel that will now never be made; leaving a gaping hole in the story of Han where he seemingly forgets that the love of his life needs rescuing, does a bit of smuggling, joins the resistance and never speaks of her again. Ouch.

X) The Clone Wars

Sorry Clone Wars fans, this list is just for live action Star Wars movies because they're the only ones that count in my personal head canon. But here's where The Clone Wars would land on the list if I hadn't arbitrarily dismissed it.

10) The Last Jedi

If this was to be the last stand of Luke Skywalker, then he deserved so much better than what he gets here. The film mostly concentrates on some bad spaceships trying to catch up with some good spaceships, who are ever-so-slightly out of range of their space guns. Because obviously, all the ships have the exact same top speed (!?), so they'll just need to wait for them to run out of space fuel (!?).

It's such a lame plot device that in the cinema I was convinced they couldn't keep it going throughout the film, but unfortunately I was wrong. Our heroes go off on reasonably entertaining but ultimately pointless side quests while the slowest space chase in movie history unfolds uneventfully in the background. And then at the end the good guys spot a planet or something and just go there so Luke can phone in his final scenes. This one is only worth watching for the spectacle of it (Rey and Kylo fighting Snoke and his guards is admittedly pretty awesome).

9) Revenge of the Sith

OK so here's where we get to see what pushed Anakin over the edge into full-on dark side mode. What cunning tricks did the manipulative Palpatine use to twist his mind?

Turns out he tells him he'll save Padme's life if Anakin will just butcher a load of innocent kids for him. "OK" says Anakin and gets busy butchering.

General Grievous is introduced and proceeds to forever cheapen the hallowed lightsaber by waving them about like helicopter blades (ugh). But then comes the showdown we've all been waiting for - its Anakin vs Obi Wan (we already know what's going to happen, but still - fight!!).

It starts as a pretty entertaining dust-up, then ends with the 'high ground' scene in which Obi Wan is able to cut off Ani's arms and legs in one deft manoeuvre because he is standing two feet higher up the beach apparently. This is after we've just watched them battle across giant walkways and towers, leaping around like super heroes. But to be fair Obi Wan did warn him first.

8) The Rise of Skywalker

The final chapter of the 'Skywalker Saga' lands here, firmly in in 'meh' territory. Palpatine turns up out of the blue, we wish a tearful fairwell to Leia, and Rey and Ren finally get their fight/smooch on. It's a mixed bag and it really stretches what we know of the force from previous movies, but overall this one is OK.

Given the impossible task of wrapping up a nine movie arc spanning three generations, Rise of Skywalker delivers probably as good a final chapter as we could have hoped for, considering where we were going into it. It's an entertaining movie at least and does gives us some closure for the major players. Seeing Palpatine one more time is fun even if it feels really forced (no pun intended). Also, we have Luke, Han and Leia all appearing one more time (even if it wasn't even close to the reunion we should have seen somewhere in the sequels); and Rey was the Skywalker of the title all along, who'da thunk it?

7) The Force Awakens

Not just my favourite of the sequel trilogy, but the first Star Wars film on this list that I thoroughly enjoy. Yes, the movie relies way too much on themes plucked right out of the original (a droid with secret files escapes to a desert planet, is found by a force-sensitive soon-to-be Jedi hero and yadda yadda yadda), but I still think this one stands on its own as a great movie.

While the film unashamedly targets your nostalgia for most of its appeal, the biggest plus for me are the characters. While the plot feels recycled, Rey, Kylo, Finn and Poe feel fresh, and this film just feels so comfortably Star Wars-y, but with a slick, updated aesthetic. It probably helped that it had been 10 years since we had last experienced a cinematic journey to the galaxy far, far away, with all the awesome sound effects, music and lightsabers that go with it.; but JJ got a lot right here. The Force Awakens was a solid start to what could have been a brilliant sequel trilogy. They probably should have let him make all three.

6) Return of the Jedi

Shock, Horror! One of the original trilogy already?

Return of the Jedi is obviously a classic and we're into the top six now which is hallowed territory; but this one falls short of the other two originals for me. Remember this is where the Ewoks turn up to save the galaxy with their big logs and a hang glider. Like or hate those fuzzy little b*stards, it's far cry from the amazing Hoth sequences of the previous film.

Also to be honest I never really liked fully-trained-Jedi-Luke as much as cocky-kid-Luke. Something about him in this film always seemed a bit smug.

I only mention these things by way of almost excusing myself for only placing ROTJ sixth; as this is still a really entertaining time with iconic moments like the Sarlacc Pit sequence, the Rancor Monster and of course Luke's final battle with his dear old Dad and Palpatine. As I said, it's a classic, but there are better Star Wars films still to come...

5) The Mandalorian

Look, I know I said movies but The Madalorian is just too awesome to leave off the list. Disney should just hand the keys to Star Wars over to Favreau already and let's see what he can do on the big screen. 

Right from the off, this anthology series really feels like it 'gets' Star Wars, playing like a greatest hits while injecting a cool western/samurai vibe. And Baby Yoda is cute.

If this is what Star Wars TV can do I'm hyped for the Obi Wan show coming soon.

4) The Phantom Menace

Yup, The Phantom Menace is my fourth favourite Star Wars film of all time. Deal with it.

OK, it's not a perfect movie and there's things in here that I'd rather weren't (Gungans, mostly). On the other hand there's some of my all-time favourite Star Wars stuff to behold in this one. My favourite Jedi? Qui-Gon: the most 'Jedi' Jedi of all the Jedi. My fave Sith? Why, Maul of course. The best lightsaber fight in the entire saga? Definitely the 'duel of the fates' with all its double-bladed, weird-laser-door goodness. Also, Ewan McGregor is on fire here (before seemingly losing his passion for the project in the next one - but we won't speak of that any more).

Just like The Force Awakens, this one was massively boosted because of the previous movies having been a long time ago (ha!); and for me, this was the first Star Wars I saw on the big screen. Is that a fair way to judge it? Well, no, but it's true nonetheless. To say I was hyped for this movie is a massive understatement and it didn't disappoint. I can handle Anakin being a happy kid (yippees and all). I love the podracing sequence to this day. Even Jar Jar honestly didn't bother me much the first few times I watched (he grates now because hating Jar Jar became an international sport, so I guess I notice him more).

Sadly my favourite two characters bite it during the movie (the prequels needed more Darth Maul!!) but just like The Force Awakens, this could have been the start of something great. Oh well.

3) Rogue One

The film that proves beyond question that Star Wars spin-offs can work, Rogue One has a uniquely serious tone that sets it apart from the rest of the saga. Characters such as Director Krennic and and Galen Erso bring an edge to the movie not seen since the Grand Moff Tarkin. It's bleak, you know its not going to end well, and yet it's captivating and exhilarating. Add to that the most badass Vader scene in the entire series and my favourite Star Wars droid (K-2SO, just beating out BB8) and you have a movie truly worthy of its parentage.

Rather than following the route of Solo, which mostly expanded on throwaway lines from the originals, Rogue One takes one thing we knew (the rebels managed to steal the Death Star plans just before the events of the original trilogy), and gave us an entirely new story and characters to show us how that happened. It also went to great lengths to preserve continuity with the existing movies, despite having been filmed decades later. CGI Tarkin and Leia may have been a little dodgy, but original Stormtroopers and Jimmy Smitz more than make up for that.

This is the best 'new' Star Wars film by a mile.

2) The Empire Strikes Back

It's mostly regarded as the king, but for me Empire just misses out on the top spot. Don't let that fool you though, this film is amazing.

From our first introductions to the likes of of Boba Fett and Lando, to Han being frozen in carbonite, this film is loaded with absoulte Star Wars gold. Luke using the speeder to tie up the AT-AT's legs is right up there with my favourite Star Wars scenes, and this where we hear Vader utters the immortal line "No, I am your father." So why's Empire not top of the podium you ask? Well, for me the way it ends just lets it down a bit

Don't get me wrong, obviously the film is designed as the first half of a two film arc, I know that, and that's cool. But taken as an individual movie in its own right the melancholy cliffhanger ending just knocks it back from being the ultimate Star Wars film, instead picking up a very respectable silver medal.

1) Star Wars

And the gold medals for top spot (as you have all worked out by now) go to the original and best Star Wars movie: Star Wars.

Except Chewie. Chewie doesn't get a medal for some reason.

Star Wars was of course long ago renamed "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope", but on the cover of the VHS copy I wore out as kid it just said "Star Wars", so that'll forever be the name of the movie for me. And this one has it all. Where Empire ends so abruptly, here we have the most complete tale of the entire saga. There were no promises of a sequel, so this movie is a self-contained story, and all the better for it.

This was our first glimpse into this universe, an awesome mixture of sci-fi and fantasy, with lightsabers (definitely the coolest movie weapon of all time) and Darth freaking Vader. We see Luke go from living on an obscure dust planet to becoming a rebel pilot, learning he can use the force and blowing up the Death Star. Which by the way is just the coolest way to possibly end a Star Wars movie; so cool in fact that they used it again in Return of the Jedi. Oh, and again in The Force Awakens. But I digress.

If you were only ever going to watch one Star Wars movie in your life, you should watch this one. And then watch the rest obviously, I mean, it's Star Wars.

OK, maybe skip Attack of the Clones.

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