Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
In hindsight, the Star Wars prequels’ route from podracing action romp to its murderous climax in the space of one trilogy proved that George Lucas had lost the plot a bit. Many welcomed the darker tone of the final instalment at the time, but it was also the moment where Star Wars completely turned its back on the child-like wonder of the originals.
Revenge of the Sith is a joyless descent into the dark side, complete with more murder than a Game Of Thrones finale. The story of Anakin’s downfall needed to be told, but drab dialogue and wall-to-wall CGI scenes made it difficult to get behind. Ian McDiarmid practically chewws the scenery as a fully unleashed Emperor Palpatine.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Still reeling from the horrorshow reviews and fan feedback of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones was an attempt to play to the now-older fanbase while still making concessions for the children’s toy market. One minute we’re slaughtering Tuskan raiders, the next we’re laughing as C-3PO temporarily becomes a destroyer droid.
Despite sitting second bottom of the list, Attack of the Clones wasn’t without its merits. Bounty hunter Jango Fett shines in a glorious rainy battle scene with Obi Wan Kenobi, making amends for the criminal underuse of cult figure Boba in the original series. Once again, lightsaber battles are cranked up to eleven, with thrilling choreography masking over some clunky plotlines.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Return of the Jedi is not a bad film by any stretch, but in the face of tough competition it drops down our rankings.
As the battle of good and evil reaches its big battle crescendo, we see Luke’s evolution from the whiny teen back on his home planet into a fully fledged Jedi knight and his own inner turmoil when approached by the dark side. While the central story reaches a gripping conclusion, battles scenes on the forest of Endor become a little baggy and the death of Boba Fett via a misfiring rocket pack still sits funny with many.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Perhaps an unpopular choice for a fourth-place finish, The Phantom Menace was roundly torn apart by a generation of Star Wars fans, who seem to had forgotten that not all sci-fi films have to grow up as they did.
Jar Jar Binks was a truly unforgivable invention, the pod-racing was beyond dull and many of the cast gave performances so wooden you risked a splinter just watching them. But it was the chance for a new set of fans to have their own first moments with Star Wars on the big screen. When Darth Maul appeared in that hangar doorway and switched on the double-edged lightsaber, all flaws were momentarily forgiven.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Lucas handed over the reigns to a new director, JJ Abrams, who showed the same verve and creative vision that his predecessor once had. Abrams’ first venture into a galaxy far, far away has recaptured the heart and soul of those original space adventures without losing itself in its own mythical status. Many avid fans have yet to see the new film, so we won’t be giving away any spoilers here - but it’s safe to say the future of the galaxy is bright once again.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Undeniable proof that George Lucas undeniably once had it - and could dip us into the dark side without total despair. Part of The Empire Strikes Back’s charm is the development of Darth Vader into one of the most iconic villains in the history of film - no longer hovering above the action in the Death Star, but in amongst the action, hunting Luke and setting traps for the Rebel Alliance. It’s the despair that makes it captivating as Luke hangs wounded from the bottom of Cloud City, but it’s the hope he’ll succeed that keeps you watching.
Episode IV: A New Hope
120 minutes of cinematic magic. Some may argue that the following sequel was in fact the better film - but the sheer impact of the 1977 original on science fiction cannot be overlooked. Pick out any still from A New Hope and you instantly know where you are: the desert lands of Tattooine, the Mos Eisley Cantina, tucked inside the Millenium Falcon, or creeping around the Death Star. Few films can argue to have changed the landscape quite like that first venture.