From Attack of the Clones to Empire we pick our favorite adventures in a galaxy far, far away

Winter Movies 2019

The Empire Strikes Back
The Empire Strikes Back

Star Wars. Nothing but Star Wars. At least, that's how being on the internet is going to feel for the next few weeks in the lead-up to the Dec. 20 release of The Rise of Skywalker.

Twitter was inundated just last month with folks sharing their rankings of the series, so we're hopping on the bandwagon, running down the Star Wars movies from our least favorites to the absolute best. (Keep in mind, we're sticking to live-action, theatrically released features.)

Debate our choices, you will.

10. Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002)

With its endless conversations about trade and tariffs and the coarseness of sand, Clones feels more like a dissertation on space politics than a Star Wars movie. Even the CGI Yoda lightsaber battle is clunky and weird.

9. Episode I — The Phantom Menace (1999)

The most maligned entry of the franchise, and not undeservedly so. What keeps it half a notch above Clones: the pod-racing sequences, Liam Neeson channeling Alec Guinness and that climactic duel with Darth Maul. The less said about little Anakin and Jar-Jar Binks, the better.

8. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Last year's franchise placeholder explored the origins of Han, Chewie and a bunch of other series fixtures... but who really cares? No doubt the behind-the-scenes drama contributed to the confused tone and jumbled script. We're still down for Donald Glover's Lando movie, though.

7. Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The best of the prequels — an admittedly low bar to clear. Unlike Solo, it's weirdly satisfying to see all the pieces of the 1977-1983 saga click into place. Anakin becomes Darth Vader! Luke and Leia are born! The Death Star is being built!

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

The first standalone Star Wars film is more interesting in theory than practice, and it feels more like an expanded universe Star Wars novel than anything else. Maybe that's what you're into. All grievances aside, it closes with one of the gutsiest (and darkest) endings in the series.

5. Episode VIII — The Last Jedi (2017)

The internet is still arguing about this movie, so it must have done something right. It's an admittedly messy, overly ambitious and yet often adventurous and beautiful film, and undoes (cleverly or flippantly, depending on who you ask) some of the idolatry that defined its predecessor. Speaking of...

4. Episode VII — The Force Awakens (2015)

The luster of J.J. Abrams' reboot has worn off, but it reminded us all over again why we go see Star Wars movies in the first place. Yes, it plays it safe. Yes, it's a remake of A New Hope. But that's sort of the point: It's a tribute to the imposing shadow of the original trilogy.

3. Episode VI — The Return of the Jedi (1983)

First, the not-so-good: The Ewoks are one of the series' more contentious creations, and the cuddly creatures are at odds with the darkness surrounding them. The good: The opening chase through the forests of Endor, Jabba the Hutt making his official debut and Luke's final face-off with Vader.

2. Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)

The movie that changed the movies forever. Looking back at Star Wars (which is, lest we forget, its original title), it's pretty remarkable how quickly and confidently Lucas establishes the inner-workings of his soon-to-be-complex universe, how alive and original it feels, and how vibrant its characters are.

1. Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The second-ever Star Wars film is still the best, taking all of the genre-defining characteristics of its predecessor and steering them in a more epic, noticeably darker direction. It deepens the mythology in satisfying ways, and it's got one of the great gut-punch plot twists in cinematic history. It must have played like gangbusters back in 1980, but it still works. ♦