The only thing Star Wars fans love more than Star Wars is arguing about which Star Wars movies are the best. So to settle this dispute and bring peace to the galaxy, the IGN Movies Council convened to debate and vote on which of the live-action theatrical films are bantha poodoo and which have unlimited power. And now we present to you the results. Here’s our ranking of all the Star Wars movies!
You can check out our ranking by watching the video in the player above, flipping through the slideshow below, or keep scrolling to read it as an article.
11. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
After four decades and eight episodes, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was supposed to bring the Skywalker Saga to a satisfying conclusion, but instead of going out with a bang, it ended with something more akin to that noise the Sarlacc pit made after eating a bounty hunter.
Simply put, the film just doesn’t work. It’s full of unearned moments, inconsequential characters, and plot twists that hurt your head the more you think about them. And don’t get us started on Chewie’s death fakeout! But hey, at least Babu Frik.
Yet what truly makes Episode IX a difficult watch is its lack of commitment to the events of The Last Jedi, and so we watch as the plot bends over backwards to rewrite Star Wars lore, rather than building off what came before to deliver fans a more fitting conclusion.
10. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
While Star Wars: Attack of the Clones may have an exciting title, it’s one of the most boring movies in the franchise, even with its redeeming qualities. Watching Obi-Wan Kenobi play Jedi-detective as he investigates the Separatist movement and the enigmatic Count Dooku is the highlight of the film. Not to mention some amazing action sequences, including the chase through Coruscant, the Jedi/Bounty Hunter battle on Kamino, and a truly wizard duel featuring the frog-hopping Master Yoda.
But the film is otherwise bogged down by uneven pacing, wooden dialogue, and “dramatic” moments that wind up being unintentionally funny. There’s no better example of all this than Anakin and Padme’s snoozefest of a romance. What was supposed to be a love worth sacrificing the galaxy for, instead ends up making us want to stick our heads in the sand.
In the end, Episode II is more fondly remembered for the things set up in the greater Star Wars canon–looking at you, Clone Wars–than for how good of a movie it is on its own merits.
9. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
While we’ll always love Star Wars: The Phantom Menace for bringing Star Wars back to the masses in 1999 and introducing a whole new generation to a galaxy far, far away, that doesn’t mean it’s as strong a trilogy-starter as A New Hope or The Force Awakens. Don’t get us wrong, the film gets credit for introducing franchise staples, such as the Jedi Order and the city-planet of Coruscant, while continuing the series’ tradition of peerless visual effects and music. Who doesn’t love the podrace and the Duel of the Fates?
But the praise dries up faster than a closing Naboo palace security door [soundup of the door closing] when you start to consider the dull political plot, clunky storytelling, and a cast full of ill-conceived characters. From the cringey antics of Jar Jar Binks to the over-the-top enthusiasm of a too young Anakin Skywalker, not to mention the overstuffed third act that struggles to juggle four different conflicts. Episode I never seems to go long without taking yet another misstep.
8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
While Rogue One gave fans hope for the “A Star Wars Story” subtitle, the anthology angle would be swiftly shelved by Lucasfilm after the poor reception to its second entry, simply titled “Solo.” Where its predecessor made the wise choice to focus more on new characters while allowing for cameos of franchise favorites, Solo took the opposite route, casting Alden Ehrenreich as one of the series’ most beloved protagonists, Han Solo, and asking audiences to buy in. Spoiler: they did not.
Drawing loose inspiration from the AC Crispin novels of the Legends era, Ehrenreich’s earnest take on the galaxy’s scruffiest nerf-herder wasn’t bad, but between the uninspired plot and the ho-hum stakes, the movie as a whole definitely had room for improvement. Ultimately, Solo felt like it was trying to answer a lot of questions that nobody asked, and the ones that had been were probably better left unanswered, anyways.
As with all Star Wars movies, there are things to enjoy about it. If you have to recast Lando Calrissian, putting Donald Glover under the cape is an inspired choice, and the levitating train heist is a good time, but ultimately Solo proves to be a “one and done” kind of Star Wars story.
Read our review of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
7. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith retains many of the hallmark flaws of the prequels: goofy dialogue, pacing issues, an overreliance on CGI–but it does find far more success in making the audience feel something. The execution of Order 66 brings real dramatic weight to the conclusion of the Clone Wars, as we see firsthand the tragedy that changed the fate of the galaxy forever. Watching poor Master Yoda clutch his little frog heart gets us every time.
Even though Episode III has some undeniable strengths, it’s frequently undermined by its weaknesses. Anakin’s downfall doesn’t feel as convincing as it should, largely thanks to the muted romance with Padme. The Jedi Order’s late discovery of Palpatine’s treachery–when it’s so blatantly obvious–make them look incompetent at the worst time. And while Ewan McGregor sells Obi-Wan’s devastating heartbreak during his fiery duel with Anakin, one great performance isn’t quite enough to wash out the taste of the others. Still, Revenge of the Sith is the strongest of the prequel trilogy, in large part thanks to its many memorable moments, and we have to credit it for that.
Read our review of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.
6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was Disney’s first attempt to rekindle the magic of the original trilogy, and it did… but perhaps a little too much. The Force Awakens is often criticized for a plot that borrows too heavily from A New Hope, and while that may be true, the film uses those familiar elements–a Chosen One from a desert planet, an army of space fascists, a planet that is also a big laser canon–as a foundation to build something new.
But while it does introduce new planets, new aliens, and new lightsaber designs, Episode VII’s new characters are its greatest contribution to the series. Its heroes Rey, Finn, Poe, and BB-8 give the film much of its charm, and the dark and mysterious relationship between Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke that gives it its menace. While you can nitpick the particulars of the plot, the film ultimately achieved its goal: it made Star Wars fun and exciting again.
Read our review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story proves that stories in the Star Wars universe don’t need to revolve around the Jedi Order or Skywalker family drama to be a hit. Jyn Erso and her ragtag group of unlikely rebels made a strong impression on the audience before meeting a noble end, and their theft of the original Death Star plans was not only an engaging adventure from start to finish but a strong shift in tone for the franchise–one that really put the “war” into Star Wars.
However, even if you didn’t know that the film had quite a lot of behind-the-scenes creative issues, you probably noticed them. The story has several deadends and contradictions, none more egregious than the plotline involving Saw Gerrera–what is his role in the movie supposed to be, exactly? Yet despite these obvious flaws, Rogue One comes together in the end, delivering one of the best third act battles in a franchise full of absolutely amazing third act battles. Darth Vader has never been more badass than in those final moments–even if it does muddy the waters of the opening to A New Hope if you think about it for more than a second.
Read our review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
As Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s sole credited writer and director - a cinematic distinction shared only by George Lucas - Rian Johnson put an authorial stamp on the galaxy far, far away that few in the Star Wars world ever get to attempt–and the result was the best–and most hotly debated–Star Wars film since the original trilogy.
The ways Johnson moved the pieces JJ Abrams set in play challenged many pillars of the mythology: the Chosen One archetype, Luke’s heroic reputation, the clear delineation of dark and light. Though it suffers from a meandering espionage subplot and a ticking clock dilemma that could be solved with a little bit of communication, The Last Jedi also boasts dazzling action sequences and an especially rich and emotional storyline between Luke Skywalker, Rey, and Kylo Ren.
More than anything, The Last Jedi is admirable in its unwavering enthusiasm for Star Wars’ potential. With the theme of moving on from the past at the heart of everything it does, the film wraps up with a peace and purpose that few other films in the series find. Echoing the lately-redeemed Luke Skywalker seeing the binary sunset of his isolated youth in his final moments, a nameless womp rat of a kid on Cantonica raises a defiant broom - yes, broom! - to a galaxy which he feels empowered to be a part of, whether or not he has a famous last name.
Read our review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
3. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
After leaving fans on a big cliffhanger in Episode V, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi had to deliver both a satisfying followup and a fitting ending for our beloved heroes and villains, and that’s exactly what it did.
There’s the self-contained rescue mission where two robots and a wizard go to a crime lord’s palace and try to steal a piece of wall art (that just so happens to have a certain scoundrel trapped in it). There’s the exhilarating speeder bike chase through a dense and deadly forest. And sure, there are some questionable bits. The revelation that Luke and Leia are siblings even though they smooched before. The gigantic space battle and destruction of yet another ball-shaped super weapon. And then there’s the Ewoks, who may have been shoehorned in to appeal to kids, but in the end kind of win you over because they are an adorable-on-the-surface-but-ultimately-murderous gang of tree bears who play drums on the skulls of their enemies.
It all culminates in one of the best and most crucial lightsaber fights in the series, between father and son and overseen by a seething Emperor trying to tear them apart, even though it’s he who unites them. Yeah, it’s campy, but underneath it all are some serious conflicts and ultimately bittersweet goodbyes to some of the most iconic characters in movie history.
2. Star Wars: A New Hope
Engrossing, moving, endlessly rewatchable Star Wars: A New Hope is the one that started it all. Set in a galaxy where the evil Empire has already won and the heroic Jedi Knights are only a memory, George Lucas started building his grand sci-fi saga from the middle out. The hermit Ben Kenobi wistfully recalls the days of the Clone Wars to farmboy Luke Skywalker, and bemoans the incivility of blasters in comparison to the more elegant lightsaber. It gave the world of the story a lived-in feel and the seemingly inescapable grip of the Empire casts an air of despair over the A New Hope, one personified by the villain to end all villains: Darth Vader.
A New Hope blends elements of sci-fi, fantasy, Western, Samurai, and war films with pioneering visual effects that laid the groundwork for blockbusters as we know them today. It’s as much a visual achievement as it is a narrative one, and brought together with John Williams’ legendary score, Episode IV is one of the best films ever made, yet it’s only number two on this list. That’s right, there is another…
1. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back remains the gold standard of Star Wars movies. With A New Hope having planted the seeds for the franchise, Empire blossoms in thrilling and surprisingly dark fashion. As a relentless Darth Vader hunts the heroes of the Rebel Alliance, we’re treated to Han and Leia’s screwball romance, as well as Luke’s training under the out-of-his-mind-just-kidding-Jedi-Master Yoda. And Empire deepens our sense of what the Force is: not just a telekinetic push or a trick of the mind, but a spiritual power that connects all life.
Episode V expands the Star Wars universe in numerous ways: new planets, new aliens, Imperial walkers, bounty hunters–all the while telling an exciting, multilayered story. And the stakes of that story don’t hinge on a planet-destroying weapon or the fate of the galaxy, but on more personal conflicts, like how much its characters are willing to sacrifice for the greater good, or being called to a task they may not be prepared for. That latter point is sorted out in a tense, drawn-out lightsaber duel through the bowels of Cloud City, resulting in a one-two punch of dismemberment and revelation that still ranks among the most memorable cinematic moments of all time. Star Wars just doesn’t get better than this.
And that’s IGN’s ranking of all the Star Wars movies. Do you agree? Or do you have a bad feeling about this ranking? Let us know how you would rank them in the comments.