Unless – much like Ben Kenobi circa 1977 – you’ve been in hiding for some time, by now you’ll have noticed the gigantic Disney-shaped Death Star hovering above our planet, dropping a range of TV spin-off series, and standalone specials, as the merchandising empire rolls on, now intaking a whole new batch of fans from even the most youngling – pre-Anakin‘s visit – of audiences. (In no small helped by the undeniably adorable nature of Grogu, every marketing company’s moist dream). But for every swish of The Mandalorian‘s Darksaber, or every fangasm-gasp of deepfake Luke in The Book of Boba Fett, we’ve decided to stick to the O.Gs of the silver screen, the prequels, sequels, and originals, aka. ‘The Big 9’.
Unfortunately, this excludes the beautiful poignancy of Ahsoka‘s final quartet of Clone Wars episodes, or the mesmerising terror of that Vader scene in Rogue One. But we will be addressing the key talking points of all your favourites – and The Phantom Menace – as we take an X-Wing down memory lane, touching on every R2 bleep, every tear shed over the premature death of everybody’s favourite Jedi bad-a$$, and every distain for sand… The most coarse and rough texture in the Galaxy. So sit back and enjoy, because the rankings are about to begin. I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it….
9. ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002)
The early 21st century wasn’t a particularly bright spell in Star Wars legacy, in all honesty, and though peak mania arrived during the build-up to 1999’s return to Tatooine, the flaws of the film could somewhat be forgiven on account of a double-decade thirst for fresh content. By the time the meat in a prequel sandwich arrived in 2002, much was expected of a star-studded cast led by Ewan McGregor, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson, and Natalie Portman. A barrage of the consequent criticism was aimed at the ‘wooden’ performance of Hayden Christensen – who even ‘earned’ a Golden Raspberry for the display – hindered by that awful dialogue. (Sorry George, your writing stinks on this one, mate). Throw in a hazy plot, once again heavy on complex politics, and it’s easy to dismiss this one as a waste of 142 minutes.
8. THE LAST JEDI (2017)
Undeniably the most controversial of the sequels, fans had waited a quarter of a century (and two long years following The Force Awakens’ excruciating cliffhanger) to see a fully experienced Luke Skywalker in all his potent glory as the most powerful man in the Galaxy. But whilst most of us longed for a swashbuckling Jedi Master, clad with green ‘saber (we eventually received it in 2020, merci Monsieurs Filoni & Favreau), we were left with a quivering wreck of a man, guzzling blue milk from the bosom of Thala Sirens. Throw in a floating Leia, the death of Snoke, and the Rose–Finn ‘romance‘, and this movie was a giant Rian Johnson-shaped mess. The Kylo & Rey throne room scene was cool, though.
7. THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999)
Admittedly, defending a movie which involves 17 minutes of screen-time for Jar Jar Binks is a tough task. But look past the convoluted discussions involving the ‘senate’, the ‘separatists’, and just about every other snooze-inducing phrase, and at heart… Is a decent movie. We’re introduced to Darth Maul, one of the fiercest and most magnificently-evil looking villains in cinematic history, the pod-racing scene is an adrenaline-filled alien Formula 1, and Liam Neeson‘s portrayal of Qui Gon Jinn is intensely personable, forming an instant connection with the audience as a hugely likeable protagonist. Sprinkle in that ‘Duel of the Fates’ score, and one of the series’ most iconic lightsaber duels, Phantom receives an unnecessarily tough rep’.
6. THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019)
Bookending the Abrams/Johnson trilogy was always set to prove a fruitful task, given the chop ‘n’ change nature of the trilogy’s middle act, and whilst the conclusion of the Skywalker saga feels hugely disjointed in areas (we’re still awaiting a full and detailed explanation of Palpatine‘s resurrection), if you take the movie on face value as an exciting, fast-paced adventure, it’s tough to feel short changed. The speed is breathless, the passing of Carrie Fisher is handled sensitively, whilst Adam Driver shines during his redemptive arc back to his Solo heritage, cementing his spot as the sequels’ most intriguing character. Though controversial, the chemistry between Ben and Rey is certainly somewhat tangible, but the film undoubtedly leaves a bitter taste with that cringe-fest finale.
5. THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
With the warm fuzz of nostalgia still relatively fresh in mind, few cinematic events can compete with the midnight premiere of the first foray into a post-Vader future of the Star Wars universe. Still holding records as a Box-Office buster, this 2015 effort from J.J marked Disney‘s debut, introducing us to the series’ first-ever female lead, as well as a range of loveable new characters such as BB-8 and Finn. There were, of course, a number of fan-service echoes to glitters of the past, and many (rightly) felt that TFA verged into carbon-copy territory of ‘A New Hope’ at times. But for the reintroduction of that Millennium Falcon, Chewie, and that gut-wrenching moment with Han on the bridge, we’ve got a clear King of the sequels here.
4. RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983)
No trilogy is perfect, but the original George Lucas triplet comes very close. Here, we get to see a fully-force-formed Luke opening up a can of whup-ass at the Sarlac, we witness the introduction of the terrifying Emperor Palpatine for the first ever time, and cheer in delight as Leia (in that gold bikini) exacts her revenge on Jabba the Hutt, the most superbly crafted vile and grotesque villain. Of course, the movie’s piece-de-resistance serves up a piping hot father-son moment as we finally peek under the helmet of the most iconic character in cinematic history. But this one narrowly fails to make the podium on account of the Ewoks. Why, George? Whyyy?
3. A NEW HOPE (1977)
Sometimes, the old ones are the best ones. In most cases, that’s a phrase used by closed-minded boomers refusing to delve into modern-day pop culture, but in the case of the O.G of the Star Wars family, they might have a point. The FX were, for a film first released in the 70s, mind-blowing, whilst the character development between our original trilogy is near-on perfect. Throw in the introduction of iconic figures like C-3PO or those infamously misfiring Storm Troopers, it’s easy to see why this beautiful baby paved the way for a further family. Can we all agree though… Han definitely shot first.
2. REVENGE OF THE SITH (2005)
A prequel? This high up the list?! I can feel your anger. But let the hate flow through you and ignore the narrow-minded dogmatic view of ‘the originals‘ fanboys, because the amount of emotional damage caused by this movie is unrivalled. The death(s) of Mace Windu, (and a hoard of younglings), Count Dooku, General Grievous, Padme, Anakin the Jedi, and the Skywalker–Kenobi bromance. The birth(s) of Leia, Luke, and Darth Vader. Order 66 and Yoda in full combat mode, plus that relentless battle on the lava-splattered backdrop of Mustafar. Much like how hipsters denounce continental lagers in favour of woke craft-beers and IPAs, those who deny the brilliance of ‘Revenge’ only do so on account of prequel-snobbery. Now then…. Have you ever heard the story of Darth Plagueis the wise?
1. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)
It had to be, didn’t it? Universally agreed upon by all Warsians, ‘Empire‘ is as close to Sci-Fi perfection as you’ll ever find. From that iconic opening scene on Hoth, through to the quirky traits of our furry green friend on Dagobah, the majority of iconic moments in the history of the saga are born via Episode V. Lando‘s betrayal, the enigmatic intro of Mr Fett, the first ‘battle of the Skywalkers’, and you’ve scrolled this far so I’d feel guilty if I didn’t mention it…. THAT slice of pant-dampening dialogue. All together now… “No, I am your Father!”
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Help me CULTR readers, you’re my only hope.