Aside from the pod race, I cannot think of even one thing about The Phantom Menace that I enjoyed. Any sense of wonder and passion from the originals is completely gone, instead making room for the dreadful robotic performances by the excessive cast, particularly Jake Lloyd and Natalie Portman, who knows exactly one facial expression and keeps it throughout the entire prequel trilogy. That's not even counting the slapstick and poop jokes to match the offensive cultural stereotypes. It seems to be aimed strictly towards kids, strange considering how dull and violent it is.
#7. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
John Williams' score is still as beautiful as ever, and Anakin's drawing toward the dark side feels gradually more intense as the film progresses, yet any praise past that is a stretch. This confused multigenre is part political drama, part romance, part mystery, part comedy, and part spoiled whiny teenager getting what he wants. I can't believe that George Lucas actually had the nerve to break his own rules of his world by forcing Yoda out of character to use a lightsaber (for attack, not defense). Oh, and the infamous romance scenes are neither earned nor well staged.
#6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The opening fight and the tone of the final moments do feel like how Star Wars should feel, but Revenge of the Sith is still a badly choreographed orgy of CGI filled with some of the most painful line deliveries I have ever heard. Padme is used for nothing besides being a clingy anchor to Anakin's bad acting, so that they together can accomplish the near-impossible task of eliminating my desire to be a Jedi. But hey, it at least proves how John Williams is able to make even the most cringeworthy scenes totally epic!
#5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The problem I had with this movie is not just in how we already know how it will end before it even begins, but in the excessive use of characters with so little humanity I cannot connect with a single one of them. While there were some strong additions such as the comic relief K-2S0 and some intense hand-to-hand combat, there is no real charm or charisma to hold this up with the standard that Star Wars is now expected to meet. Read my full review here.
#4. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi gives a well-needed extension to Luke's journey, setting it off with an intense battle between him and his father. Aside from feeling placed in the action sequences, the creation of Jabba the Hutt feels deep and dingy like his palace, and the Ewoks create a fun tribe feel that relies on strategy instead of technology to overthrow the empire. But don't get me wrong: the dialogue is still rather weak, and Carrie Fisher's acting ability can't make up for that famous slave bikini she's now known for.
#3. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This one may be at the top of your list, but I just can't grasp The Empire Strikes Back's apparent message of being one with the force: if the force is for defense rather than attack, why does Luke end up doing just the opposite, and later prove to be right all along? Yet I still would rate this highly, as the creation of the world feels all the richer with its stunning battles and asteroid flights. From the snows of Hoth to the swamps of Dagobah to the majesty of Cloud City, so much more emotion, depth, and humor is placed on the already dense story established by the original.
#2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The connection between Luke and the couple who raised him since birth is purely nonexistent, and the depictions of the Jawas and Sand People are just as racist as the prequels. But the original still stands against time as a textbook on how to create a cinematic world rich in politics, geography, and history, to the likes of the works by J.R.R. Tolkien. Within the fantastical feel of the brilliantly paced battle sequences, each location visited breathes culture. Click here to read the rest of my review on this masterpiece.
#1. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
I don't necessarily agree with everyone who complains that this is too similar to A New Hope. In my perspective, The Force Awakens is everything a Star Wars movies needs to be: cultural, modern, funny, true to its history, honest with itself, respectful of its audience, big in scope, and even deeply emotional. I adore how it keeps that balance between respecting the original by including the old cast, while giving the newbies their opportunity to shine and get us pumped for future films! The force has never felt more alive than when this finally hit theaters. Click here to read my extended review.
I'm sure I may have pissed off like half the committed fanboys out there with my ordering, but I still feel that with the most modern work at the top and the oldest work following behind, we see the one thing that Star Wars has always done so well. Star Wars has always been the definition of old vs. new: the old methods of tradition and spirituality are tossed aside for the modern updates of technology to mask our humanity. It was relevant back in the 1970s and 1980s, and it's still relevant today within our society of mobile devices and social media. But the mixture of older, practical effects and new innovative effects in each of the films (except the prequels) proves how we should not be quick to discard the future to cling to the past, nor should we forget about where we come from and only plan ahead. There is room for both to coexist.
So now, with future Star Wars movies at our disposal in the next several years, let's keep our minds and souls open: for the modernization of a franchise can often be a good thing for the younger generation, as long as what made the original treasured is left in tact. May the force be with us all!
Thank you so much for reading, happy watching!