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Star Wars is a massive and popular franchise that encompasses hundreds of books, games, and more. But it all started with a few films back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. And today, we are going to dodge the angry nerds and fan theories to look at every Star Wars film released in theaters and list the best and worst bits of each.
For this journey through a Galaxy, Far Far Away… we will be going chronologically through the main films, starting with the prequels and ending with the modern sequels. And then I tacked on the various spin-offs at the end not because they all suck, but because I had nowhere else to put them. Oh and no, I didn’t include the made-for-TV Ewok films, why did you even ask? Anyway, with that out of the way, here are the best and worst parts of every Star Wars film as of 2023.
Best: Yes, the final lightsaber duel is cool and all, but the best part is without a doubt the podrace on Tatooine. Even if you don’t like Star Wars or the prequels, you can still enjoy cool speeders going really fast. It’s also an impressive example of how the movie was pushing CG in films forward a full decade.
Worst: I’m so happy that Jar-Jar Binks’ actor has been accepted by the Star Wars community and has been allowed to return to the franchise as a cool Jedi. That’s great. What’s not great is Jar-Jar. No offense to the talented artists or actor Ahmed Best, but Jar-Jar is an annoying character that only gets worse each time I watch the film.
Best: Attack of the Clones is a bad film. But that ending sequence with all the Jedis in the Geonosis fighting arena and the big battle between clones and droids afterward is rad. It doesn’t erase the rest of the film, but it does at least end things with a bang.
Worst: George Lucas has cool ideas, but he’s not a great writer, and his attempt to write a love story in Attack of the Clones is nearly unwatchable at times. Yes, I’ve read the theories that the romantic scenes are so awkward because Anakin and Padmé have little experience with flirting or dating. But I don’t buy it. I just think Lucas doesn’t know how to write a convincing romance.
Best: Revenge of the Sith has grown a lot on me over the years and a big reason is the Order 66 sequence. Every time I watch it I feel my gut sink as I watch the various Jedi get taken out by the Clones that served side-by-side with them for years. The music during this sequence is also so sad. It’s a moment that has continued to be expanded and brought back in other Star Wars shows, games, and comics.
Worst: Darth Vader waking up, after his fight with Obi-Wan on Mustafar, in his full and iconic suit for the first time should have been cool. It should have been a big moment. Instead, he says the name Padmé (which will always be silly coming out of his helmet) and then yells “no” for far too long. For first-time viewers watching the films in order, what a poor introduction to a famous villain.
Best: The moment in the original Star Wars where Obi-Wan Kenobi explains the Force to Luke while showing him a lightsaber (and lying about his father’s death, oops) is such an important and memorable scene. So much of what we call Star Wars—the Force, Jedi, the Old Republic, the Clone Wars—is set up here in a few minutes.
Worst: This might get me kicked out of the Star Wars fan club, but the opening of Star Wars, besides the cool introduction to Darth Vader and Leia, is pretty slow and aimless. So much of the opening of that film is just wandering droids and people in the desert. I know some folks who, on a quest to finally watch all the films, have bounced off this movie before it gets going and I understand why.
Best: Picking just one best thing from Empire Strikes Back is really, really hard. So much of Star Wars is encapsulated in this film. Yoda, Luke learning about Vader being his dad, Lando being cool, Han Solo also being cool, the Hoth battle, etc.
If I had to really just pick one it would be Yoda lifting Luke’s X-Wing out of the swamp after the young Jedi-in-training has given up. The way the music swells and we see how Yoda, a tiny weird toad-dude, is powerful through the Force is still magical to this day.
Worst: Nothing is bad in Empire Strikes Back. Let’s move on… Okay. If you really want something “bad” I’d say Leia kissing Luke, in hindsight, is weird.
Best: There are some cool action scenes in Return of the Jedi. The entire opening of the film is like a mini-adventure with the gang as they rescue Han Solo from Jabba. Fun stuff!
But the best bit is at the end, after Luke has cut off Vader’s arm and he realizes he’s going down the same path as his dad. In that moment he throws down his lightsaber and tells the Emperor he’ll never fall to the Dark Side and that he’s a Jedi, just like his father was. He wins not by being a badass warrior, but through love and sacrifice. (See angry fans, this has always been the point of these movies!)
Worst: Hey, what the Hell happened to Chewbacca’s hair in this film? I get it was the ‘80s, but it looks so bad. People always bag on the Ewoks, but they were fine and showed that anyone can rise up and defeat evil, even tiny teddy bears on a forest moon. All you have to do is fight. What’s not fine is Chewbacca’s fur. Awful.
Best: I know many love the moment between Kylo Ren and Han Solo, and it’s good. But the moment that still makes me pump my fist and cheer is when Rey uses the Force to yank the lightsaber into her hand and fight Kylo Ren. Not only is that moment awesome, but it leads into one of my favorite lightsaber duels in the series. It’s a fight that feels heavy, dangerous, sloppy, and unlike any duel we had seen up until that point.
Worst: I understand that Force Awakens was trying to recapture the feel of A New Hope and the older films, but having the Resistance blow up yet another big, super weapon felt so dull. The fight on Starkiller is neat to watch, but it just feels so silly. Even Solo points out in the film how they’ve done this a few times. Yeah, we know dude. We were there, too.
Best: Yes, the throne room fight with Rey and Ren teaming up to take on Snoke’s badass guards is sick. I love it, too. But I’d be lying if I said it was the best part. For me, it’s the scene where Yoda returns to once again help guide Luke Skywalker. The conversation between the two is wonderful and Yoda returning as a puppet, complete with his zany personality, was such a treat.
Worst: Canto Bight is a rich and opulent world filled with wealthy assholes. Watching it get wrecked is satisfying. But on rewatch, I have to admit it feels like it goes on too long and it never really gets paid off narratively. I love Last Jedi, but I can’t deny this whole bit was a misfire more than a hit.
Best: The context around it is very dumb, but the moment where Rey connects with all the past Jedi through the Light Side of the Force to finally defeat the Emperor is powerful, as long as you don’t think about why he’s back or anything else…
Worst: While Rey being a Palpatine is annoying and bad, I still think the worst bit of Rise of Skywalker is the return of the Emperor. It wasn’t needed and all it does is make Kylo a weaker villain and ruin the moment in Return of the Jedi where Vader saves Luke and kills the Emperor, sacrificing himself in the process. But nope, never mind he’s back. Whatever.
Best: The space battle at the end of this movie is the best space battle in all of Star Wars. I’ve probably watched just this scene on YouTube at least a few dozen times. The part where the giant Imperial ship crashes into the shield array around the planet was incredible to watch on a big theater screen.
Worst: CGI Tarkin isn’t the worst example of bringing a dead actor back to life via computers, but it’s still weird and off-putting. I get that his estate approved it and I understand the tech behind it is very cutting-edge and all that, but watching just makes me feel icky. Really should have just recast Tarkin. It would have been fine.
Best: I’m a sucker for a good cameo and Darth Maul showing up at the end of this movie was very cool for me, a dumb Star Wars nerd. Even better, Ray Park, the actor who played him in the Phantom Menace returned, but the voice was provided by the actor who voiced him in the Clone Wars and Rebels, Sam Witwer Perfect.
Worst: I know this is becoming a very common complaint about modern films, but seriously, why was Solo such a dark movie? A Twitter account I follow that tweets out every scene from every Star Wars film in order has been tweeting out screens of Solo and I can barely see anything. Compared to the other films in the franchise it stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Best: The only good thing about this film is that it’s short. Oh, and it led to the amazing animated series.
Worst: Everything else.