In honor of Star Wars: The Last Jedi releasing in theaters this week, we’re going to rank the first seven Star Wars trilogy movies (this ranking does not include Rogue One). If you were able to find the time, you ideally were able to watch all seven ahead of The Last Jedi. But realistically, most of us don’t have time for that, so this will serve as a bit of a refresher for Episode I-Episode VII. And of course, the correct order to watch the films is: Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI, Episode I, Episode II, Episode II, Episode VII.
The Empire Strikes Back (Episode V, 1980)
From start to finish, The Empire Strikes Back is filled with thrilling moments, with none bigger than Darth Vader revealing to Luke that he’s his father. The first time the viewer sees it, they are left in complete shock, and it concludes a near-perfect movie. The opening scene is epic, Yoda makes his debut, and Vader makes a shocking appearance when Lando Calrissian has no choice but to set a trap on Han, Leia, and the others. And Han delivering the “I know” to Leia’s “I love you” before he gets frozen in carbonite is one of the best lines in the series. Widely considered the best Star Wars movie, the majority is probably right on this one.
Return of the Jedi (Episode VI, 1983)
There are some subpar moments for sure, but Return of the Jedi gets way too much criticism. Return of the Jedi is the first time we see Emperor Palpatine in the flesh, and he’s one of the most ominous villains of all-time—when Darth Vader bows before someone, you know they are no joke. One major point of criticism is the Ewoks—with some people hating the movie just because of them—but those furry little creatures were…kind of awesome. Another battle between Luke and Darth Vader in the Emperor’s throne room was a spectacular scene, and Vader eventually making amends for some of his past misdeeds is a fitting end to the original trilogy.
A New Hope (Episode IV, 1977)
The original, original Star Wars got the entire multi-billion dollar story started back in 1977, and it can certainly be argued as the top film of the saga. If A New Hope wasn’t so good, there probably would not have been so many Star Wars films after it. The introduction of the characters—including the bashful and cynical smuggler and owner of the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo—was done beautifully, and the storyline is very smooth (and was basically duplicated for The Force Awakens). The first Star Wars movie is one of the highest-grossing films of all-time for a reason.
The Force Awakens (Episode VII, 2015)
Disney’s first installment in the Star Wars saga went about as well as one can expect. The Force Awakens did feel like it had a Disney twist to it, which led to some funny moments—particularly from Finn. The new characters instantly become fan favorites, and good acting from everyone involved certainly helped. Han Solo’s death at the hands of his son Kylo Ren was an emotional moment and a hopefully-fitting end to the legendary smuggler. We were able to get a few more amazing moments with Han throughout the film, and the appearance of Luke at the end perfectly sets up the final two parts of the new trilogy.
Revenge of the Sith (Episode III, 2005)
For all the disapproval the prequel trilogy received, Revenge of the Sith did a masterful job of displaying the ultimate downfall of Anakin Skywalker and setting the transition into A New Hope. Palpatine plays Anakin by convincing him that joining the dark side is the only way to save Padmé from dying—but his conversion to the dark side is what eventually leads to her death. There’s then the heavyweight battle between a fully transformed Palpatine (during the death of Mace Windu at the hands of Anakin) and Jedi Master Yoda. However, the biggest duel is between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar, which Kenobi wins, leaving his former pupil in a state that’s difficult to watch. The end of Revenge of the Sith leaves hope at a time when things don’t look great.
Attack of the Clones (Episode II, 2002)
The second installment of the prequel wasn’t released to much fanfare or praise from critics, but it was a fine part of the Star Wars story. Attack of the Clones displayed how the Stormtroopers eventually came to be, and Count Dooku delivers the plans for the Death Star to Palpatine. The battles between Dooku and Obi-Wan/Anakin and then Yoda are probably the highlight of the film, but Anakin beginning to turn—especially after the death of his mother—is a sight to behold.
The Phantom Menace (Episode I, 1999)
Considering how much hype there was for Star Wars’ return, The Phantom Menace was a disappointment when it released in 1999. The new trilogy just never really felt like the original, and it started with Episode I. Granted, it was tough having to make Anakin so young, and that storyline was a bit of a relative dud. However, Qui-Gon Jinn serving as Obi-Wan’s Master was cool to see, and the battle with Darth Maul was exceptional—music and all. And Obi-Wan becoming a Jedi Knight while accepting Anakin as his apprentice sets the next two episodes in motion.