Star Wars, counted as one of the best achievements in sci-fi and practical filmmaking, is a franchise that refuses to die. 38 years ago, on May 25, 1977, Star Wars, just Star Wars, you're being force fed (get it?) the "A New Hope" subtitle, hit theaters. The performance was either going to make or break Lucas' career, as the shaky THX 1138 wasn't so beloved then. While the movie going market has changed considerably since 1977, crowds showed up in droves on the first weekend. And the second weekend. And the third. And the fourth, fifth, and so on. oStar Wars has shaped our lives in unforeseen ways. These six films, mostly Episodes IV-VI are engraved in the hearts of millions. Ranked here from worst to best, the obvious worst offender is:
6. Attack Of The Clones
Attack Of The Clones, released in May of 2002, while stepping up in digital computer imagery, lacks a real heart, much like the previous installment, The Phantom Menace. Set ten years post-Episode I, Anakin Skywalker is now 20 (and whinier than ever) and carefully under the watch of Obi-Wan (McGregor returning), as they're hired to look after Padmé, who is the target of multiple assassinations before a vote allowing Senator Palpatine to build a military movement protecting Count Dooku's Separatist base. Obi-Wan soon separates from Anakin to investigate the movement, while Anakin and Padmé fall in love on the remote planet of Naboo, where is probably the last place they would want to go since it's the planet she represents in the Galactic Empire, but oh well. Obi-Wan finds problems, Anakin & Padmé soon journey to Tatooine, because Anakin's problems are more important than hers, the one who is trying to be assassinated. This is such bullshit. Despite a rewarding climax (despite promising something that only paid off during a TV show years later), the prior two hours or so of images are filled to the brim with as many CG creatures and political commentary as possible. Lucas could never decide if this was for nostalgic fans of the original trilogy, or kids who want to bang a Jar-Jar action figure around. With this angle, you get this somewhat confusing political angle that would confuse children. The Phantom Menace was obviously made for children, but this one was stuffed with such obvious and eye-rolling imagery, I can safely say this is the worst of the six Star Wars films. Also: Hayden Christensen, please turn in your Star Wars expert card.
5. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace was the most feverishly anticipated film of the 90's. Lucas first unveiled his outline for a prequel trilogy in 1993, a decade after Return Of The Jedi. While fans were clamoring for Episode I, George Lucas crafted an easily lovable but almost shitty masterpiece. Let me try to get into the story: Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are sent to settle a dispute with the Trade Federation, as they've formed a blockade over Naboo. But things go awry, and of course, for reasons of plot, they end up trying to stop the invasion of the forest-y area of Naboo. Qui-Gon saves the life of a Gungan...his name: Jar Jar Binks. The last three words you will hear. The Phantom Menace is cheesy, consistently cringeworthy (try watching the "angel" scene), and is all over the place in its climatic battle, tonally. Let that all go, and you could have a fun time with The Phantom Menace, especially with Darth Maul (the greatest mistake the prequels ever made was killing him off in this). Some thought Episode I was purely an experiment, and that Episode II would ratify these concerns and that the political saga of Skywalker was over, but it was just then beginning.
4. Return Of The Jedi
I love the original trilogy. Today even marks 32 years since the original release (obviously not Lucas' "preferred" version) of Episode VI. Things come to a rousing close, but not quite in the way I would've liked. While most of Jedi remains a hit, the ewoks ruin the film for me---and I know they were going to use Wookies but couldn't---but these little furry monsters are too hilarious to take them seriously fighting in battle. The plot is simple, if you mix Episodes IV and V, and a little bit of Yogi Bear—there’s another Death Star. Of all the possibilities George Lucas could’ve taken this universe, he decides to return to the same concept. Luke returns to Yoda again, it’s a basic replay of Episode IV—but does it do it to illustrate the change of Anakin? Perhaps. Still, this is my least favorite of the original trilogy. Plus, a lot of what made the messages were altered/changed/removed in George Lucas’ Special Editions. The insertions of Darth Vader shouting NOOOOOO didn’t illustrate anything other than that he opposes what the Emperor is doing to his son, and all of his deeds, which is why he remains silent. This is his turning point. It undermines the arc of Anakin Skywalker. The definitive version is the original. Good luck finding it, legally, in HD. Also: it turns 32 today.
3. Revenge Of The Sith
Revenge of the Sith remains my favorite of the Star Wars prequels. After two painstakingly hard-to-sit-through prequels, we finally see Anakin transform into Darth Vader, and it certainly is filled with more emotional investment than Clones or Menace.
This decision comes at a critical time for Anakin. Padmé is pregnant somehow (the Clone Wars were a few years, right?) and Anakin is slowly drawn into the Chancellor’s affairs (he later assists in the murder of the man that first administered his Jedi test in Menace). He is convinced that Jedi powers aren’t enough to sustain power, and he’s had these suspicions since Episode II, but those feelings were side-lined because of the whole Clone Wars thing. Revenge Of The Sith actually has some frightening but engrossing imagery: choking his wife (nine months pregnant, carrying Luke and Leia), his final fight with Obi-Wan, and his slow turn to the Dark Side that just wasn’t carried in Clones, where he was just whining about Padmé. Bonus points for killing younglings.
Obviously, the images depicted remain the most subtle and mind-boggling of the prequel trilogy, and it’s impressive after two lame movies, following the same dichotomy, he wound up with another masterpiece on his hands. Revenge Of The Sith is a modern masterpiece of how things are broken and put back together again, and the beginning of a saga. This trilogy could’ve been reworked as one film, this one only being slightly touched, as this is where Vader begins.
2. A New Hope
No complaints here, obviously. The 1977 classic turns 38 today, and even though some key practical effects are a bit outdated, they're worth more than most (or all) CGI shitfests in 38 years. The story of a young farm boy who dreams of more and joins the fight against the Empire is the most endearing send-up to Lucas' original vision, but it certainly can't live up to...
1. The Empire Strikes Back
While most sci-fi films have a terrible sequel, or one that sabotages the message of the original, The Empire Strikes Back goes a step further in Luke's journey and conquest. He's adapted from a young Tatooine farm boy to a military expert, receiving additional training from...Yoda! Arguably the best portion is Yoda training Luke to control your anger rather than use it offensively. We're introduced to Cloud City, Lando and a variety of different characters and situations that help these characters mature and grow as individuals. The Empire Strikes Back is simply the greatest Star Wars film, and perhaps the greatest sci-fi film ever.
Star Wars has shaped and binded us together in unknown ways, as a uniting force. Skywalker, both Luke and Anakin, symbolize something in all of us, even in the deepest pits of pity.