Which Star Wars is the best Star Wars? That all depends on who you talk to: there’s a lot of Star Wars out there, and people tend to like different things about the franchise. Some people even like the Prequels, and no I don’t know why either.
But since it’s May 4th, and with the arrival of The Bad Batch on Disney Plus giving us yet another entry on the growing list, we decided to put our feelings on Star Wars into words.
- How to watch the Star Wars movies in order
- 12 Star Wars games we want to see
- Plus: How to watch Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney Plus
Here, then, is our definitive list of the Star Wars movies and TV shows, in order of how good they actually are. Canon only, of course. Otherwise someone would have to watch the Ewok TV movies, and we’re pretty sure that qualifies as torture.
16. Attack of the Clones
There are many things to dislike about some of the Star Wars movies, but most have some redeeming qualities too. Attack of the Clones has none of the latter, while still falling foul of many of the same weaknesses: namely poor plot, wooden acting, and effects that have aged about as well as a grape in the desert.
Attack of the Clones was pretty much a means to an end; a way to push Anakin Skywalker down the path to the dark side, and shoehorn in the Clone Wars to satisfy a throwaway line from A New Hope. Unfortunately, it doesn’t utilize these elements particularly well, and if you want to see the ‘great Jedi’ Anakin Skywalker you’re better off watching Clone Wars.
15. The Phantom Menace
There are a lot of things fans would like to forget about The Phantom Menace. A plot revolving around trade negotiations is never the best start, and neither is the poor attempt to sell toys to kids that manifested in Jar Jar Binks. Not to mention the fact that nobody wanted to see what Darth Vader was like as a kid.
In fact, this is the one installment in the ‘core’ Star Wars saga that you can skip without messing up the story. So that’s my advice: skip it and watch the Darth Maul scenes on YouTube, because they’re really the only bits that are worth bothering with.
14. The Rise of Skywalker
The Rise of Skywalker is almost as controversial as The Last Jedi, but without much to help redeem itself. It’s a movie that clearly went through a lot of last-minute changes, after Disney and JJ Abrams took on board some of the more extreme criticisms of The Last Jedi and decided to course correct.
But course correction rarely works when it’s rushed, and The Rise of Skywalker fails by trying too hard to please everyone at the same time. So we’ve ended up with a movie that’s been overstuffed, but still manages to leave several obvious questions unanswered. What’s more, they’re answers you could only get from alternate media sources, particularly books. That’s never a good sign, and for all its faults the sequel trilogy absolutely deserved better.
Following on from Clone Wars and Rebels isn’t easy. But despite its charms, Resistance never really manages to pick up the same momentum that we saw in Star Wars’ earlier animated series. It certainly didn’t help that it was set too close to the sequel trilogy, and was hampered by the fact those movies were being produced simultaneously.
Unfortunately, that led to its cancellation after just two seasons, making it a show that was mostly inconsequential to Star Wars as a whole. It works well enough, but it never really pulled me in. Not during my initial watch of the first season, or my recent binge of season 2 — which I straight-up forgot to keep up with when it was being aired.
12. Revenge of the Sith
One of the issues with the Star Wars prequels was it felt like they were treading water. It wouldn’t be unfair to say they’re basically filler content George Lucas came up with to keep people going until Anakin could go full darkside and become Darth Vader. So to see it actually happen definitely works in Revenge of the Sith’s favor.
But like The Last Jedi, it’s full of problems. Not only have the effects not stood the test of time, much of the acting is pretty lackluster too. That’s particularly obvious at the beginning, when the bad guys are still trying to hide their true motivations. Plus the movie killed off Christopher Lee after only a few minutes of screen time. Who does that? Apart from Peter Jackson.
11. The Last Jedi
Without a doubt the most controversial Star Wars movie in recent times, even with the mixed reception fans had to The Rise of Skywalker. Whether fans were complaining about dodgy effects, the bizarre Canto Bright subplot, similarities to Episode V, or the way Luke Skywalker was portrayed, almost all Star Wars fans take issue with Episode 8.
The movie isn’t without its highlights, though: Rey and Keylo’s fight with the Praetorian guard is one of the most visually enjoyable battles in the entire Star Wars canon, and Luke’s final duel on the surface of Crait isn’t far behind.
10. The Clone Wars (movie)
The Clone Wars movie should never have hit the big screen. The movie is essentially a pilot episode for the TV series, which debuted two months later, and when watched as part of that series, it isn’t terrible. But it’s obvious from the get-go that it’s meant to be part of something larger, and it should never have been released as a standalone feature.
Plus, like the TV series, that CGI is 12 years old, and hasn’t aged well — especially when viewed on larger, higher definition screens. The plot is also pretty so-so, focusing on Anakin and his brand new Padawan rescuing Jabba the Hutt’s kidnapped infant son. Lucasfilm really should have kept the Clone Wars movie on TV where it belongs.
9. The Force Awakens
The first real installment in Disney’s Star Wars trilogy gets a lot of flak, and most of it is well deserved. While Episode 7 was a massive improvement on the terrible offerings that are the Star Wars prequels, it still falls down in many key areas.
The film has been criticised for being too close to A New Hope, which is fair, and for leaving a lot of unanswered questions, which is less so. Whatever your opinion, Episode 7 is a much better film than its sequels, but a pretty middling entry in the franchise overall.
A film that seemed doomed to fail, which it inevitably did when Solo failed to reclaim its budget at the box office. But despite that, Solo is still a worthwhile entry in the Star Wars saga. Not only do we get to see the early adventures of Han and Chewie, we also get to see the events that sent them down the road to eventually joining the rebellion. Plus Donald Glover as Lando doesn’t need any explanation.
But behind-the-scenes drama is what killed this film, and the prospects for more Star Wars movies in the immediate future. A change in directors, and Disney’s refusal to delay the film when it really needed to, meant the final production had to be rushed — and to great expense. Couple that with the worst marketing campaign imaginable, and it’s a surprise anyone saw Solo in theaters at all. It is still a good movie, just nowhere near the best one Star Wars has.
7. The Clone Wars (series)
The first Star Wars TV series since the early ’80s, there was a lot riding on Clone Wars. While the animation looks dated in 2021, the show itself still holds up… to a point. When Clone Wars is great — for instance when it brought back Darth Maul — it really works. But it also had a tendency to be pretty mediocre, notably whenever trade negotiations are involved.
As is the case with a lot of full-season shows, Clone Wars suffers because of the filler content. As much as we love seeing what side characters are up to, and what people other than Anakin and Obi Wan were doing during the war, some of them don’t need any extra screen time. And we don’t just mean Jar Jar.
6. Return of the Jedi
The end of the original Star Wars saga, and what was, effectively, the ending of the whole thing (for a while). The Rebels won, Vader was redeemed, Luke didn’t fall to the dark side, and the Emperor was dead. It holds up really well, but not quite as much as its predecessors.
I’m not going to lie, the Ewoks were a big part of why it doesn’t score higher here. If George Lucas had used Wookies, as story co-writer Lawrence Kasdan originally envisioned, Episode 6 would have been a lot further up this list.
Rebels had big shoes to fill when it debuted, and Disney unceremoniously cancelled Clone Wars. But despite a slow first few episodes, the series really delivers. The focus on a much smaller main cast works in Rebels’ favor, and it was able to blend serialized and episodic stories into an engaging and impactful tale.
Rebels ended before it could tie into the likes of Rogue One and A New Hope, but it also managed to expand the Star Wars canon in ways that are still being utilized. Whether you’re intrigued by Grand Admiral Thrawn, the Inquisitors, or the ongoing stories of Ahsoka Tano and Darth Maul, Rebels is a must watch for any Star Wars fan. Plus it has Chopper, and Chopper is the best Star Wars droid. Sorry R2.
4. A New Hope
The world may have fallen in love with Star Wars thanks to A New Hope, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best installment. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic film and well worth all the praise it gets; that it falls short is more a reflection of the quality above it than of any fault of its own.
Of course for many it will always stand as the best the franchise has to offer, and that’s understandable. It’s where we first got to hear that title music booming out over those scrolling titles, and where we met most of the main characters, and where we saw the Millennium Falcon for the first time. It’s the film that spawned a million playground lightsaber duels and that gave us the Mos Eisley cantina scene and holochess and so many great lines. However it’s also painfully slow and awkward at times, particularly early on when C-3PO and R2-D2 are prominent, and suffers from a few gaping plot holes, particularly on the Death Star. When it’s good it’s great. But when it’s bad, it’s utterly dreadful.
3. Rogue One
How did the Rebels get the Death Star plans, and why did it have such a gaping architectural weakness? Do movie-going audiences actually care? Apparently Disney thought so, and gave us Rogue One: the tale of a small band of Rebels that made the entire trilogy (and eventual Rebel victory) possible.
With action, tragedy, Mads Mikkelsen, and the sassy security droid K-2SO, there’s plenty to love about Rogue One. Sure, you know how it ends, but that doesn’t stop the movie actually being a spectacle. That’s especially true at the end, where it managed to undo some of the damage wrought by the prequels by dehumanizing Darth Vader and showing us exactly what the Sith Lord was capable of.
2. The Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope got Star Wars going, but The Empire Strikes back is really where the series got interesting. The film features bigger battles, more lightsaber fights, and the debut of many, many iconic parts of the saga — among them Yoda, Darth Vader’s anthem The Imperial March and Boba Fett (in live-action, anyway). And of course there was also that epic twist ending.
Empire also showed us that things could go wrong. Luke failed to take down Vader, due to being too brash in his attempts to save his friends; Han Solo was finally captured by Jabba the Hutt, leaving his fate uncertain as the movie ended. Star Wars is always about good vs evil, but Empire showed us that evil can still get a few shots in — even if the good guys eventually succeed.
1. The Mandalorian
Everyone loves The Mandalorian: fans of the prequels, sequels, and original trilogy alike are united in their praise for it. Even non-Star Wars enthusiasts have been drawn in, thanks to the inclusion of the adorable (but also rather bratty) antics of Baby Yoda/Grogu.
The Mandalorian had a lot riding on it. Not only was it the first ongoing live-action Star Wars TV series, it was also the first part in a wave of original content for Disney Plus. And it succeeded, setting a standard for what Star Wars should be like going forward. Sure, the episodes can be a little formulaic at times, and some people didn’t like the weekly release schedule, but overall it managed to reinvent Star Wars for the small screen — and that’s no small achievement.