Star Wars is an American space opera franchise created by George Lucas with the first film installment in 1977. The franchise quickly became a worldwide phenomenon, expanding into various films and other media. As of 2020, the value of the Star Wars franchise was estimated at US$70 billion, the fifth-highest grossing media franchise of all time.
To celebrate Star Wars Day today we have ranked the 6 original Star Wars films in order of worst to best. So, without further ado, here are our rankings.
6. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace, released in 1999, was the first prequel of the Star Wars series and it was certainly one of the most hyped films of all time. The reality is that it failed to meet those high levels of expectations. The negative reviews featured around the lack of captivation or emotional pull; however, Liam Neeson was praised for his performance as Qui-Gon Jinn and the battle with Dark Maul was praised as one of the best lightsabre fights in the whole franchise.
In our opinion, The Phantom Menace was full of poor dialogue, below-par acting, dull discussions, and simply, a lack of entertainment. Too much Jar Jar Binks and not enough Darth Maul.
5. Attack of the Clones
Released in 2002, the fifth film in the Star Wars film series (the second in chronological order), featured Hollywood stars such as Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Christopher Lee.
The film failed to meet any expectations, seeing itself being hit by the middle movie curse within a trilogy. The film attempted to bridge the gap between the light and dark side of Anakin Skywalker, however, we were provided with romantic-less conversations between Anakin and Padme and underdeveloped characters with a far too heavy reliance on CGI.
The film ended up with Worst Screenplay and Worst Supporting Actor at the Golden Raspberry Awards. The wooden acting and over-reliance on CGI meant we could’ve put it 6th, but the action scene and reduction of screen-time for Jar-Jar Binks means it’s better than its prequel.
4. Revenge of the Sith
Released in 2005, Revenge of the Sith was the third chronological installment of the Star Wars franchise. It is apparent that the prequel is generally not as rated as the original series, but the Revenge of the Sith provided much more than the two we have previously mentioned, completing the story of Anakin Skywalker’s transition into Darth Vader in thrilling style. Though many fans and critics viewed Revenge of the Sith as the strongest of the three prequels, Lucas had been criticised for his weakness in dialogue throughout his films – a criticism that Lucas himself had admitted to.
The film was released in 115 countries, grossing $849 million worldwide, making it the second most financially successful film of 2015, behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The film held the record for the biggest opening weekend for any 20th Century Fox film for a decade until it was taken by Deadpool in 2016.
3. Return of the Jedi
It is no surprise that the original trilogy takes all top 3 places. Return of the Jedi was the 3rd installment of the original Star Wars trilogy and 6th chronologically. Released in 1983, the film received positive reviews, although many felt it did not meet the cinematic heights of its predecessors, which we will come on to next, but is certainly a better film than the trilogy that followed.
It grossed $374 million during its initial theatrical run, making it the highest-grossing film of 1983. After several revisions and re-releases, the total gross of Return of the Jedi is $475 million.
2. A New Hope
The first installment of the original Star Wars film series, and the fourth chronological chapter, A New Hope, was released in 1977. The film saw instant success, grossing a total of $775 million, surpassing Jaws to become to highest-grossing film until the release of E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.
Receiving ten Oscar nominations, and winning seven, A New Hope became one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the National Film Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically relevant”. Today, the film is regarded by many in the film industry as one of the greatest and most important films in cinema history.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
In our opinion, Empire Strikes Back is not only the best of the original Star Wars series, but of all the Star Wars films that have followed. The Empire Strikes Back is the second film in the original trilogy and the fifth chronologically. Released in 19080, the highly anticipated sequel became the highest-grossing film of the year, earning approximately $401.5 million worldwide, with subsequent releases bringing the total to $550 million.
After being critically reviewed many years down the line, The Empire Strikes Back is now regarded as the best film in the Star Wars series, and we totally agree. The scene where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s father is also regarded as one of the greatest plot twists in cinema history. The film, like A New Hope, has also been selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.
There we have it, that is our rankings of the original Star Wars series. In our eyes, the original trilogy offers more cinematic entertainment, let’s face it, they are timeless. If you have ranked them differently, be sure to let us know!