The Skywalker Saga as we know it has been over for the better part of a month now, so Jon and I decided that it would be a fun idea to go over the 42-year-old (and counting!) history of the Star Wars Galaxy. The two of us spent nearly three hours presenting our carefully constructed individual rankings of the films (ALL of them), making plenty of stops along the way to justify our varied positions.
The episode concludes with the formulation of a definitive Cinemaholics ranking, with the moral assistance of Will Ashton’s list. Feel free to read over the final list below, and listen to the full episode to hear the process as it happened!
15. The Star Wars Holiday Special
Jon and I had no difficulties placing the infamous 1978 Television special at the very bottom of the list. Everything from the shabby production value to the pure lack of enthusiasm throughout makes for an utterly dreadful experience. There’s a reason that almost none of the cast and crew will acknowledge this thing’s existence, even if there are some who take enjoyment in the bountiful absurdity of it all.
14. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure
The first of two Made-for-TV movies centering on Ewoks, the fuzzy and bloodthirsty carnivores introduced in Return of the Jedi, is an interminably uneventful story rivaling the perfunctory callousness of The Holiday Special. Jon was (fortunately) unfamiliar with this particular forest adventure, but I made sure to keep it as close to the bottom of the list as possible.
13. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Before the immensely popular and beloved animated series focusing on The Clone Wars, the summer of 2008 yielded what was essentially a feature-length pilot for the show, presumably in an effort to give viewers an idea of what they could expect from the series itself. As such, it’s a jumbled collection of incidents and characters that unfortunately amount to something rather unremarkable. It holds a place in the hearts of a certain demographic, but you’re probably better off going straight to the actual series.
12. Ewoks: The Battle For Endor
The second Ewok-focused movie (let that sink in) is only a marginal improvement over the first, largely due to the general sidelining of the less interesting human characters in favor of more broad, fantastical archetypes. There’s an uncomplicated fun time to be had here, but it’s not worth extensively seeking out by any means.
11. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
The proper episodic saga’s first entry on this list is none other than George Lucas’s second prequel to the original trilogy, a movie that may have the most infamous reputation of them all. Jon and Will were adamant that this should be very low on the list, and although I do find bits of enjoyment throughout, it’s hard to deny the uniformly poor execution of this middle chapter.
10. Solo: A Star Wars Story
Despite coming out less than two years ago, Ron Howard’s Solo is a movie that has produced very little conversation outside of its initial release. I can find very little to latch onto here, and although Jon had it placed significantly higher, we could both agree that there’s nothing especially profound or significant with this one.
9. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
The conclusion of the Saga as we know it has proven to be (expectedly) rather divisive, and the two of us didn’t shy away from representing that. Jon was much more willing to seek out the redeeming qualities of Abrams’ culmination, in everything from the welcomed galactic spectacle to the effective performances, in spite of the simplicity and hesitance of the overarching story. Though I didn’t hate everything about the movie, it did nothing to temper my hesitation going in, and I ultimately found it to be a rather disappointing continuation of this story.
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Jon and I were in relative agreement with Rogue One, a movie hindered almost exclusively by the unremarkable cast of characters and heavy reliance on intertextuality. It attempts to incorporate heavy portent and myth into a story where there probably shouldn’t be any, and what results is a terse and unknowable (though still watchable) action flick.
7. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Hindsight has been quite kind to The Phantom Menace, so we weren’t nearly as hard on this one as you might expect, with Jon going so far as to outwardly like this one. Though I haven’t quite gotten to that level, I find myself much more willing to look past the MANY glaring flaws of this movie with each subsequent viewing.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The true return to form that is The Force Awakens has fallen in public estimation over the past 4 years, but all three of us could still agree that it should be very close to the top of the list for how impressively it manages to juggle an impossible checklist and bring us back to the Star Wars galaxy all these years later. It’s an exciting, if relatively simple blast of a movie that somehow managed to do almost everything it set out to do, a feat even more commendable in hindsight.
5. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Unanimously agreed upon as the best of the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith is a movie that I’ve always felt a connection to, an affection that remains strong to this day. Though not quite as forgiving as myself, Jon could certainly agree that the outspoken tragic overtone lends a good deal of heft to the entire movie, a quality that builds upon the greatest elements of the original trilogy and reminds us why we’re all so wrapped up into this enormous story.
4. Return of the Jedi
Often cited as the weakest of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi still possesses no shortage of imagination – Jabba’s Palace ALONE boasts enough of this for several movies – or powerful character drama, a quality most evident in the iconic final showdown between good and evil. I had this exciting and victorious conclusion even higher on my list, but Jon and I were in agreement that this one holds up quite well.
3. Star Wars
Before all of the mythology and interconnectivity that we all know like the back of our hand, Star Wars began as little more than an exciting space adventure in a galaxy far, far away, and the fact that it’s hardly aged a day earns it a very high spot on this list. Though not the heaviest of the saga by any means, it might be the most impressive and ambitious in the context of its time. Star Wars shook the world in 1977, and the fact that we’re still feeling aftershocks in spades should handily justify this ranking.
2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Quite possibly the most divisive movie in decades, Rian Johnson’s continuation challenges the very nature of what we thought Star Wars was. It just so happens that the Cinemaholics are all about that kind of subversion, and I even went so far as to give it the top spot on my list. The ideas and images within this movie provoke no shortage of thrill or thought within us, and we were in total agreement that this is something special.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
What, did you think this wasn’t gonna be number 1? The Empire Strikes Back has been cited as one of the greatest of all sci-fi/fantasy stories for decades now, and is almost universally dubbed the greatest of the Star Wars saga. It exponentially enlarged the pulpy adventure of George Lucas’s original film into something legitimately profound and engaging, an act that nearly every chapter since has tried to live up to in one way or another. It’s the ultimate Star Wars movie for a reason.
And with that, our very thorough list has concluded! What did you think of our rankings? How would you place them differently? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks as always for reading and listening!
Sam is a frequent contributor to Cinemaholics, former co-host of Anyway, That’s All I Got, and currently hosts the weekly Extra Milestone podcast. He’ll watch anything once, but makes no guarantees about whether or not he’ll remember it.