Donovan’s definitive Star Wars movie rankings

Read the title again, this is MY list.

Pharaoh721

Star Wars, I love it with all my heart. However, I fell out of love with talking about it in recent years or sharing that joy with others because the conversation/fan base surrounding the franchise has gotten insanely toxic. But you know what? Screw that. I feel like talking about Star Wars, so here’s my definitive ranking of the live-action Star Wars films.

Opinions are my own, go debate with somebody who cares <3

11. Episode II: Attack of the Clones

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The first Star Wars movie I ever saw in theaters (I was born in 98 gimme a break), I loved Attack of the Clones growing up. The amount of lightsaber action, as well as the entire battle on Geonosis, I ate it all up. I remember thinking Jango Fett was the coolest looking character ever. Of course, I’ve rewatched Episode II several times as a young adult, and man, it pains me to say it but that movie blows. It’s horribly written, awkward, and doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. This is the movie where the infamous “I hate sand” comes from. There are few redeemable elements. 

10. Episode I: The Phantom Menace

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Let me ask you something - who is the main character of this movie? Serious question. The Phantom Menace has no direction, no heart, and worst of all, it’s boring. However! It has the Darth Maul vs Obi-Wan and Qui Gon duel, as well as Duel of the Fates, some of the best music in all of Star Wars. That alone is enough to propel it above Episode II.

9. Solo: A Star Wars Story

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There is actually a scene in this movie where an imperial officer asks Han for his surname, to which Han replies “I don’t have one.” The officer then decides to call him “Solo” since he doesn’t have any people. I just think it’s remarkable that somebody wrote that scene and that it was actually shot and kept in the final cut. Madness. However, Solo has some damn good action sequences, and has just as good of special effects as you’re going to see in any Star Wars movie. Plus, we get Donald Glover as Lando, which was truly a gift.

8. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

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I’ve never WANTED to love a movie more than I wanted to love The Rise of Skywalker when I saw it on opening night. I really do love the characters in the sequel trilogy, but felt like so many of them were done a disservice in this movie. Finn’s character fully devolves into just yelling “Rey!” every 5 minutes. We get a hint that he’s force sensitive, but it’s all ambiguous. Rey, one of my favorite Star Wars characters, is revealed to be a descendant of Palpatine. This decision erases nearly everything that I love about the character. She was a nobody, she didn’t have to come from something greater in order to be special. This entire movie felt like it was trying to appease the people that whined over The Last Jedi. Bummer.

7. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

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As a kid, my two favorite movies of all time were Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Sith. An integral part of my childhood, I loved how epic this movie felt. Despite the fact that I now see all of its glaring issues, I can’t help but smile when I rewatch Episode 3. From Anakin and Obi-Wan’s emotional duel on Mustafar, to the sinister Palpatine becoming the iconic Emperor, Revenge of the Sith is easily the best of the Prequel trilogy. 

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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The very first Star Wars spinoff film, Rogue One is pretty solid. Most of the characters are fairly flat, but the movie is just so fun from start to finish. It’s a story we didn’t need, but I thought it was cool seeing how the Death Star plans were nabbed. The action sequences in this movie are also insanely good. Speaking of action, how about that Darth Vader hallway scene? The final 15 minutes alone make it better than a quarter of all the Star Wars movies. Many rank it as the best of the Disney-era Star Wars flicks, but I wouldn’t go that far.

5. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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Surely the most controversial among the Star Wars movies, and easily the one I’m most tired of hearing about. The Last Jedi is not what I wanted, nor was expecting from a sequel to Episode VII, but I really do think it’s a damn good movie. It does so much for the franchise lore, expanding what we know about the force, while also giving some layers to the character of Luke Skywalker. We see how failure and defeat can ruin a person, as well as how everything in Star Wars doesn’t have to be black and white. The only thing that really bummed me out was that Rey and Finn are separated for the entirety of the movie, as their dynamic is one of my favorite aspects of the Sequel Trilogy. 

4. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

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Return of the Jedi is an excellent close to the original Star Wars story arc. From the assault on Jabba’s Palace, to the wild battle on Endor, there’s so many memorable moments in Episode VI. My favorite scene is the battle between Luke and Vader in front of the Emperor. One of the most tense and emotional scenes in the entire series. Even as the worst movie in the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi is one of the best in Star Wars.

3. Episode IV: A New Hope

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The original Star Wars is easily one of the most influential films of all time, and for good reason. Interesting characters, a scary villain, and groundbreaking special effects. Luke, Han, and Leia have tremendous chemistry, with Carrie Fisher’s performance always being my personal favorite. Add on John Williams brilliant score, and you’ve got yourself an excellent space opera. One that changed film forever.

2. Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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I could write another 1000 words on why I love The Force Awakens. I’ll never forget seeing this movie on opening night back in 2015, and the amount of joy it filled me with. It’s got everything that makes Star Wars amazing: thrilling action, drama, and heart. Rey is one of my favorite characters in the franchise, and I love that this movie introduces her as an absolute nobody. The message that any random person can rise to the occasion and be something special still resonates with me. 

We also meet Finn, a defective Stormtrooper on his way to being a resistance hero. It’s a super original arc in a movie that is often criticized for being unoriginal. Finn’s relationship with Rey is one of the sharpest in the series. Look no further than the scene where they steal the Millennium Falcon and escape from the First Order on Jakku and the ensuing conversation as to the reason I love this movie so much. 

Episode VII is full of amazing moments. The opening sequence with Kylo Ren and Poe, the escape from Jakku, the reunion of Han and Leia, Han Solo’s death, the battle between Rey and Kylo, and one of the best movie cliffhangers I’ve ever seen. I’ve watched it more than any other Star Wars movie, and putting it on always lifts my spirits and puts me in a good mood. While I may say that Empire is the best Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens is my favorite. 

1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

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The film lover in me simply won’t deny that The Empire Strikes back is the best Star Wars movie. I mean, hell, it’s in the conversation for best movie of all time. From the character growth, to the sense of danger, Empire is exhilarating from start to finish. It does exactly what a sequel is supposed to do, raise the stakes. Empire does this by dropping the greatest plot twist in movie history in its third act. It’s hard to find any negatives when talking about Episode V, it’s nearly a perfect film.

Wow! I did not mean to write 1300 words on this. I love all of Star Wars, even the worst movie on this list holds a special place in my heart. As a small child, a teenager, and now a young adult, I’ve learned so much from this franchise. It greatly shaped my outlook on pop culture and entertainment. Thanks for reading, may the force be with you!

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 30, 2021 2:09 PM

    Donovan’s definitive Star Wars movie rankings

    Read more: Donovan’s definitive Star Wars movie rankings

    • reply
      March 30, 2021 2:11 PM

      Empire is #1, list is valid

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      March 30, 2021 2:24 PM

      Mostly agree except for TFA's position but everyone has opinions. Nice article! I haven't actually seen Rise of Skywalker still...

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        March 30, 2021 2:54 PM

        Rise of Skywalker is awful

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        March 30, 2021 3:08 PM

        TFA went way down my list after RoS. I thought it was the way it was by design, to reinvigorate interest in the franchise. Turns out JJ actually sucks and being a nostalgia-baby is all he's capable of.

        First act is still terrific tho

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          March 30, 2021 7:34 PM

          First act is the best Star Wars we’ve had since the original trilogy IMO. Too bad about the rest. Their characters were so good together and they never recaptured that.

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            March 30, 2021 11:55 PM

            It shits the bed the moment they run into Han Solo. Thing is the first act is so good that it makes you cut the rest of the movie slack, at least until you watch it after seeing RoS and realizing how similar they are

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              March 31, 2021 9:58 AM

              Definitely agree that once Solo appears is when it goes downhill. It's too bad.

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        March 31, 2021 8:01 AM

        Don’t see it. Seriously.

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      March 30, 2021 3:36 PM

      This is a competent list. I’d swap 2 and 3, but I’m sure it’s just my nostalgia goggles. Nicely done!

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      March 30, 2021 3:39 PM

      Force Awakens need to be bumped down to 4 and this list will become acceptable.

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      March 30, 2021 4:46 PM

      > "I love star wars"

      ... ranks the GOAT as #3.

      Bitch, please.

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        March 30, 2021 5:11 PM

        well, as soon as he called it "Episode 4" we knew what was up.

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          March 30, 2021 6:03 PM

          That's its official title, sorry

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            March 30, 2021 6:07 PM

            Not when it came out, just the start of the lucas revisionist crazy train.

            Supporting that is like supporting "maclunky"

            Or saying that Han did not shoot first.

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              March 30, 2021 6:09 PM

              It's not 1977 anymore, I'm just listing the films by their official titles. It's also irrelevant and doesn't change anything.

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              March 30, 2021 7:32 PM

              Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark


              *eye twitch*

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              March 31, 2021 7:47 AM

              It's been called Episode 4 since 1981. I think it's time to move on, buddy. It was given that designation when Empire came out, so if that's what you're calling "Lucas revisionist crazy train" then we can't help you.

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        March 30, 2021 5:50 PM

        I was going to say it but held back. :)

        If STAR WARS had no sequels it would still be in the pantheon of great 70s movies alongside Taxi Driver, The Godfather 1 & 2, Jaws, Chinatown, The Conversation, All The President's Men, Apocalypse Now, Dog Day Afternoon, Barry Lyndon, Annie Hall, and Lucas' other classic American Graffiti.

        Its really fucking hard to think about that movie as an individual work of art because of all of the cultural baggage, merchandise, nostalgia, and the saga around it, but it truly is a GOAT level film and an individual artistic statement if you separate it from everything else.

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          March 30, 2021 5:52 PM

          Awesome post but why you puttin Annie Hall up in there

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            March 30, 2021 6:07 PM

            Chinatown and Annie Hall have extremely problematic authors but they’re still great and influential movies that have specific voices.

            It sucks that they’re so complicated by how shitty their directors are but I also think the work stands on its own. I can see Annie Hall being difficult or impossible to ignore because Woody Allen is on screen pretty much the entire time, so yeah, difficult and complicated conversation!

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              March 30, 2021 7:30 PM

              It ain't about the authors/directors, it is about boring ass drama + lack of explosions

              Woody Allen was awesome before he forgot how to be funny, but when I saw Annie Hall I expected a good movie based on his past work

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              March 31, 2021 8:02 AM

              I have to separate the art from the artist. It's a miserable way to live otherwise. I'd end up not consuming any entertainment if I judged content by their creators actions. Pretty much everyone is a terrible person lol

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          March 30, 2021 7:46 PM

          No Serpico?

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        March 30, 2021 6:02 PM

        New Hope isn't the goat, unfortunately

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      March 30, 2021 6:12 PM

      I never got the hate episode 2 gets. I thought the obi/jango mystery/hunt was great, and after decades finally got to see jedi as a whole flexing.

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        March 30, 2021 6:15 PM

        I feel ya. Like I said, the movie still has a special place to me. However, I don't know what movie it would be placed over lol

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        March 30, 2021 7:25 PM

        The romance parts are SO BAD. If the movie was just boiled down to the Obi-Wan bits, it'd be a pretty good movie, but boy-oh-boy those scenes with Anakin and Amidala are just so blech.

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        March 30, 2021 10:41 PM

        It’s fucking trash. Episode 1 > Episode 2 > Episode 3.

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          March 31, 2021 7:38 AM

          What are you saying? Episode 1 is better than 3??

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          March 31, 2021 8:20 AM

          What? Episode 3 is the best of all the prequels. The second half in particular.

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      March 30, 2021 6:13 PM

      Also a friendly reminder to reread the subheading before replying to thread thank you <3

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury super mega
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      March 30, 2021 6:20 PM

      Glad R1 ranked well, it's certainly my favorite of all the recent releases

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      March 30, 2021 6:38 PM

      Decent list except Force Awakens is junk.

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      March 30, 2021 7:20 PM

      pretty good list for someone who wasn't a Star Wars baby (young enough to see the original trilogy as a kid). I would put Solo higher and TFA much lower, and yeah people clapped and cheered and stood up when the Death Star blew up, did anybody at TFA do that when you saw it?!? ....but not going to fight you over it. Great write-up on the individual movies themselves.

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        March 31, 2021 7:38 AM

        Yes literally, people cheered and clapped several times throughout TFA when I saw it. Rey grabbing the lightsaber and the fight with Kylo Ren at the end got the biggest pop. Thanks for reading.

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      March 30, 2021 7:23 PM

      Force Awakens ahead of New Hope? GTFO...

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      March 30, 2021 7:24 PM

      I still haven’t watched episode 9 because I hated 8 so much.

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      March 30, 2021 7:25 PM

      I love Cortex so much

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      March 30, 2021 7:39 PM

      4,5,6,7,8,3,9,1,2.
      End of thread. So say we all. Good night and good luck. That's a wrap. Let's put the women and children to bed and go looking for fucking dinner.

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        March 30, 2021 7:41 PM

        T1>T3>T2>>>T6>>T5>>>>>>>>>>>T4

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          March 30, 2021 7:43 PM

          It's treason then.

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          March 31, 2021 5:13 AM

          This seems like the kind of opinion you should keep secret for your whole life, and only have carved into your gravestone, and then your gravestone gets vandalized

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          March 31, 2021 6:06 AM

          get a rope...

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        March 30, 2021 7:41 PM

        I dunno. Phantom Menace might be better than Rise. 9,1,2 are all equally trash.

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          March 30, 2021 7:42 PM

          Agreed, they are interchangable other than 2. 2 is unequivocally the worst SW movie.

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          March 30, 2021 7:54 PM

          1 isn't good, but it also has actual filmmaking with real shots and staging, and for better and for worse it isn't compromised by cowing to fan expectations.

          I'd argue that 2 and 3 were compromised by the reception of the first movie, where Lucas felt like he had to reference "cool things" he thought people wanted (look its Boba Fett!) while running down a predictable laundry list of things that had to happen (Anakin had to become Vader, Palpatine had to become the emperor, etc).

          The only things that felt really personal in 2 and 3 were the decline of an empire/rise of fascism, the "false flag event used to justify the consolidation of power" aspects of the storylines, and how the Jedi were critical components of both of those. The problem is that movies need more than themes and subtext to be interesting! Verhoeven's and Cameron's political commentary works because their movies also whip ass as pieces of entertainment.

          Phantom Menace had lots of new worlds and styles of archetecture that it pulled from. It was the most original feeling of the ST and its a shame that the follow-ups were so conservative and self-referential from a design standpoint.

          Also the filmmaking really sucked in 2 and 3, awful soap opera coverage on greenscreen along with formless battle sequences.

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          March 30, 2021 8:36 PM

          Of the Saga films, 9 is easily the bottom of the barrel for me. I get it that the prequels have a lot of issues, but they're at least trying to tell a coherent story and were willing to be risky with what Star Wars looked like, among other things. 9 is just an aimless, pandering, hokey, discordant mess.

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      March 30, 2021 7:42 PM

      It makes me sad to think that there are way more bad Star Wars movies now than good ones. :(

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        March 30, 2021 7:45 PM

        It has been that way since 2002

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        March 30, 2021 7:47 PM

        Only four bad ones...

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          March 30, 2021 7:56 PM

          4,5,6 and argument can be made for 7. But everything else is trash. I want to like TLJ, but the opening banter, the Leia Mary Poppins, there is just so much wrong that I can't let go of to enjoy the interesting parts of that movie. Rogue One did some cool things, but I never cared about the characters. Solo was alright.

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        March 31, 2021 8:05 AM

        Only Rise of the Skywalker is unwatchable. Even Attack of the Clones has its moments. Which is better average than the Fast and the Furious or Star Trek.

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      March 30, 2021 8:43 PM

      I scrolled too fast and thought the list started at 10, and almost had a heart getting to #1 thinking it was going to be Attack of the Clones.
      Scrolled back up to find it exactly where it belongs.

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        March 30, 2021 8:54 PM

        The only thing good that came out of AOTC was Republic Commando.

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          March 30, 2021 8:58 PM

          AOTC also gave us the seismic charges, which were wickedly amazing in a big theater with great sound, and I think Williams' new theme for the movie is legit very beautiful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7wMiMDBHnJ0

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            March 30, 2021 9:03 PM

            I do think overall Williams' work in the Prequels was better than his in sequel trilogy. Only a few new tracks/motifs in the Sequel Trilogy that got their mileage over all the movies. PT had a bunch of really stand alone pieces.

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              March 30, 2021 9:06 PM

              Yep. The only one that really stands out to me in retrospect is Rey's theme. I'd have to really listen again to get a sense of some of the other new stuff.

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                March 30, 2021 9:13 PM

                The one track I wish had more mileage was Jedi Steps at the end of TFA and bits of it in start of TLJ.

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              March 30, 2021 10:49 PM

              With the exception of duel of the fates, his work in TFA is superior to anything in the prequels.

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          March 30, 2021 9:13 PM

          and seeing natalie portman's belly button

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      March 30, 2021 8:53 PM

      - RoS deserves to tie with AotC for worst movie.

      - TFA, which seemed like a love letter to the OT at first, should be demoted after RoS showed that it was in fact a lack of ability.

      - Rogue One is much better after multiple watch throughs. I'd put it just behind the OT.

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        March 30, 2021 10:44 PM

        Should Jaws be demoted because Hook showed “it was a lack of ability”?

        All your TFA takes are wretched.

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          March 30, 2021 10:48 PM

          Your comparison makes no sense. In fact, I think it made everyone that read it slightly dumber.

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          March 30, 2021 11:55 PM

          You actually love RoS lmao

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          March 31, 2021 12:26 AM

          This is a perplexingly simplistic take.

          I think what Kojak is talking about here is how the ideas are expressed in each movie. Many fans justifiably gave TFA a pass for its extreme similarity to ANH because it was the first new Star Wars movie in 10 years, and after the bad taste left by the prequels it seemed justifiable to win back some goodwill with something that was very familiar-feeling, which TFA was. But, taken in context with Abrams' copycat-like Star Trek Into Darkness and the very copycat-like Rise of Skywalker it was evident that a pattern was emerging - Abrams didn't really seem to have any new ideas to bring to these universes that he was tasked with rekindling. In all three of those films, there's a pervasive tendency to try to re-create famous or significant moments from previous films - Into Darkness apes from Wrath of Khan, TFA apes from ANH, and ROS apes from ROTJ, overall (there's some other overlap/copying from other films, too). From this, it's possible and pretty justifiable to draw the conclusion that Abrams is adept at visual style and at mimicry, but maybe not so much with synthesizing his loves and influences into something that feels new.

          This is not at all the same thing as saying that a director like Spielberg has greater (Jaws) and lesser (Hook) movies in his filmography.

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      March 31, 2021 5:36 AM

      My list best to worst:

      Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
      Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
      Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
      Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
      Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
      Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
      Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
      Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
      Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
      Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
      Star Wars: Episode IX - Rise of the Skywalker (2019)

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        March 31, 2021 7:31 AM

        Nice list, can't argue with the OG at number 1!

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        March 31, 2021 7:43 AM

        Pretty much my list as well, but I would still put Episode 2 DEAD LAST. Also I go back and forth with myself if I like TFA better than ROTJ.

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      March 31, 2021 5:50 AM

      Couldn't be more wrong if a truck of wrong exploded into a train of wrong and it all landed on you, but good try.

      List is immediately invalidated by your placings of both Solo and Rogue One - both of which were WAAAAY better than Episode 8.

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      March 31, 2021 6:08 AM

      RoS is the only Star Wars movie I haven’t watched more than once

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      March 31, 2021 6:14 AM

      5,4,6, then the rest are in a big pile I won't watch again unless forced to.

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      March 31, 2021 6:28 AM

      re: your comment:
      "The message that any random person can rise to the occasion and be something special..." (about The Force Awakens).

      Didn't the last movie (Rise) basically destroy that idea?

      Rey is not a nobody. She's a Palpatine. I don't think that was the plan initially haha

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      March 31, 2021 7:27 AM

      I should probably get around to seeing Disney Consolidated Amalgamated Childhood Regurgitation Film Episode 9

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        March 31, 2021 7:35 AM

        I mean, how did you feel about ep 7 and 8? If you're lukewarm at best on those, 9 probably isn't worth your time. If you liked them and somewhat dig the characters, it's worth a watch.

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      March 31, 2021 7:33 AM

      Now rate the cartoons

      Bonus points for ranking them by series and season
      I expect rebels season 2-4 to be high on that list.

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        March 31, 2021 7:36 AM

        Unfortunately, I've never seen any of the animated shows in their entirety! Only bits and pieces.

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      March 31, 2021 7:49 AM

      good list, I agree with it pretty much.

      I personally will always put Episode IV as my favorite and the best over Empire, just because I love the introduction to the world and all the elements and it just flows so damn well. Completely stands on its own.

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