Top Ten Tuesday – The Star Wars Films (Ranked)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The topic for this week was fictional crushes, which while interesting, is not my cup of tea, so I thought I would continue a recent trend of mine in these lists and turn to once again looking at some of my favourite film franchises.  In recent weeks I have ranked the MCU and the overall DC Comics based film adaptions, both of which proved to be a lot of fun.  This week I figured I would do something in a similar vein, and so I am going to rank a particularly favourite franchise of mine, with the Star Wars films.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has checked out the extensive Star Wars category of my blog that I am a huge fan of this franchise.  I have loved these films since I was a little kid, and I have fond memories of watching the original movies on VHS again and again.  This love of the franchise has only grown in recent years, as I have become even more obsessed with the extended universe surrounding the film franchise, such as the animated series, the tie-in novels, and the associated comics.  Heck, I am literally listening to a Star Wars audiobook at this very moment.  In addition, I, like everyone, really enjoyed The Mandalorian, and it looks like Disney has a huge swath of other live-action shows on the way that should prove to be pretty damn awesome (out of all the new shows, I think I’m most excited for the Obi-Wan Kenobi show, which has a lot of potential).

However, the focus of this list is the films, so I have pulled together all the films into one list and ranked them from my least favourite to my absolute favourite.  There are 11 live action and one animated Star Wars film currently out now (I’m excluding the Holiday Special and the two Ewok movies), and each of them brings something different to the overall franchise.  Due to how much I enjoy the franchise, I initially had a bit of trouble working out how to rank these films, but I was eventually able to sort it out.  It helps that, while I do enjoy all the films on this list, some have flaws that I dislike and focusing on them helped me figure it out.  I realise that some of my choices are going to be a little controversial, especially surrounding a certain polarising 2017 film.  However, I feel that this list accurately reflects my opinions about the franchise, and I am happy with my final choices.  So let us see how the various movies ranked up.

List (Ranked Descending Order):

12. The Clone Wars

The Clone Wars Poster

First on this list we have the only animated feature, The Clone Wars.  Set between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Clone Wars film serves as a sequel to the animated Clone Wars micro-series, as well as a pilot episode to the subsequent The Clone Wars animated series.  Directed by The Clone Wars showrunner Dave Filoni, this movie looks at the war-torn Clone Wars period and sets Anakin and Obi-Wan against Count Dooku and his followers as they attempt to extort Jabba the Hutt.  While this film has its cool moments, it is more childish than the rest of the films and it lacks the complexity that the sequel animated series had.  Still, it is a fun entry, and it has the distinction of being the film that introduced the world to Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice who has gone on to become one of the most beloved figures in the canon.  It also introduced a lot of the key characters and voice actors who would later be used in the series, and for that alone it has my appreciation, even if it falls short of the other films.

11. Attack of the Clones

Attack of the Clones Cover

Next, we have the second film in the prequel series, Attack of the ClonesAttack of the Clones is a film that I really enjoyed when I first saw it, however, my opinions on it have radically changed since then.  It does have some great moments to it, including the massive war scene, the battle between droids and the entire Jedi Order, and of course the reveal of how much of a badass Yoda could be.  However, I feel that its negative features really outweigh the positives, with the worst part of the film being that terrible romance between Anakin and Padme.  This entire romance is just wrong, and the scenes focused on them are laughably bad.  Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman have zero chemistry, and it doesn’t help that the dialogue between them is terrible, such as that cringe-inducing monologue about sand.  Also, did we really need to see one of the great film villains reduced to a whiney teenager.  Frankly I tend to fast forward through these scenes, and they kind of ruin the overall movie.  Still, the rest of the film is pretty watchable, and I have fun watching it.

10. The Last the Jedi

The Last Jedi Poster

So here is where the list starts to get a little controversial, and I know some people are going to strongly disagree with my placement of this movie, although I was honestly considering chucking it down to spot 11.  The second film of the sequel trilogy, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi will go down as the most divisive Star Wars movie of all time, with fans either loving it or hating it.  I find myself being in the camp of those people who hated the film, and I remember walking out the theatre very disappointed.  Don’t get me wrong, The Last Jedi had some great moments, such as that epic Hyperspace move or that cool fight in the throne room, however, that really did not make up for some of the terrible flaws.  Half the story doesn’t make sense, the entire Finn/Rose storyline was terrible and didn’t achieve anything, and everything could have been avoided if Laura Dern’s character learnt to share.  I didn’t dislike the whole Rey and Luke training part of the film, especially as Luke’s negative feelings about the Force made a lot of sense after everything his family has been through, but all that good will left me when they killed Luke and didn’t even tell Mark Hamill it was happening.  Also, why the hell did Benicio del Toro decide his already dreadful character needed to have a lisp, it made no sense.  Look, I could honestly go on about this film for ages, but I’ve made my point, and its place on this list is very well deserved.

9. The Rise of Skywalker

The Rise of Skywalker Poster

Another controversial positioning on this list is the most recent Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker.  While many consider it one of the worst Star Wars films ever, I have a bit more love for it, mainly because director J. J. Abrams was hamstrung well in advance not only by the terrible plot of the previous film, but by the tragic death of Carrie Fisher.  This really limited his story options and it forced him to turn in a sub-par Star Wars film.  Despite that, I think he did a decent job, and I have a lot less issues with this film then some of the previous entries on this list.  While the story is a little clanky in places, and it is kind of weird that the first hints of the Emperor’s return were featured in Fortnite of all places, this was still a good movie, and I enjoyed some of the great sequences contained within.  It wraps up several previous storylines extremely well, and the reveal about Rey’s ancestors was very interesting.  While not perfect, I had a good time watching this film, and it is one I will be able to check out multiple times without any issues.  However, I really hope that the next time they do a Star Wars trilogy, they have one director and writing team for all three films, as having Rian Johnson’s effort in the middle really stuffed this final entry around.

8. The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace Poster

The film that started the prequel trilogies, The Phantom Menace is a great movie that mostly holds up to this day.  I first saw this film when I was 8, and it remains a firm favourite of mine.  Don’t get me wrong, it does have some flaws, including Jar Jar, the questionable Trade Federation and their more comedic battle droids, as well as the dramatic move from practical effects to computer graphics.  Still, there are a lot of awesome things going on with this film and it did a really good job expanding the Star Wars universe and introducing the younger versions of several key characters.  I also am a big fan of the pod racing, the more impressive lightsaber techniques, and the clever way they switched around Natalie Portman and Keira Knightley to sell the decoy angle.  The highlight of this film is of course the epic final duel between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul.  The moment that Duel of the Fates starts playing and Maul draws out his double-sided lightsaber is epicness personified, and it ended up being one of the best lightsaber duels of all time.  An overall excellent film that I still deeply enjoy watching.

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Solo Poster

A standalone prequel film that explores the origins of Han Solo, Solo: A Star Wars Story, is a good middle entry on this list that I had a lot of fun with.  While not as awesome as it could have been, Solo has a great story to it, and it lacks any major flaws for me to really complain about.  While you could consider it a bit of a safe outing from director Ron Howard, I had a blast getting through it.  This film features an amazing cast, including Alden Ehrenreich doing a great young Han Solo, as well as Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clark, although Donald Glover easily steals the show as a younger Lando Calrissian.  While Paul Bettany isn’t the best villain (he apparently replaced Michael K. Williams, which would have been interesting), I thought he was pretty solid, and the cool reveal about Darth Maul was very satisfying for fans of The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels.  I am rather curious about how much better this film could have been with Phil Lord and Christopher Miller directing it, but unfortunately, they fell victim to conflicts with the studio (and Kathleen Kennedy).

6. Revenge of the Sith

Revenge of the Sith Poster

Ok, we are in the second half of this list, and in sixth spot we have the third and final film in the prequel trilogy, Revenge of the Sith.  The culmination of the entire prequel trilogy, there was a lot resting on the shoulders of Revenge of the Sith and it delivered.  While there are some flaws, mostly around Hayden Christensen and his dialogue, the pros of this film more than outweigh the negatives.  That epic opening sequence where the two fleets duke it out above Coruscant really sets the tone for the rest of the film, which is loaded with so much great action.  The corruption of Anakin is well written, and his eventual fall to the dark side of the Force, is amazing.  The sequence where the Jedi are brutally cut down is spectacular, and while you knew it had to happen, it is pretty tragic to behold.  However, it is the final fight sequence that really makes this film stand out as Anakin and Obi-Wan finally have their long-awaited duel.  This epic fight does not disappoint, and it is still easily the best lightsaber duel out there, with the two Jedi going all-out across a lava planet.  An overall epic film, this was easily the best prequel movie and it is still a fantastic watch.

5. The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens Poster

It did not take long after the massive Disney buyout of the Star Wars franchise for them to make a new film, with The Force Awakens.  Helmed by the legendary J. J. Abrams, this great film successfully introduced another era of Star Wars fiction and is a very strong entry in the overall series.  Not only does this The Force Awakens make use of some amazing modern graphics, but it contains a really good story that pays homage to the original trilogy, while also setting up a great new story of its own.  It also brings together the original cast of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammill (admittedly briefly), and more, for the first time in years, and each of the characters got a fitting addition to their story.  The tragic death of Han Solo, which was long pushed by Harrison Ford, is an amazing scene, even if it broke your heart a little.  The Force Awakens also introduced an excellent new cast, with Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac becoming household names overnight.  Their new characters are set up really well, and you get a fantastic mix of great personalities.  I really loved what they did with this film, if only a fraction of it could have been carried over to The Last Jedi.

4. Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi Poster

How do you end one of the biggest trilogies of all time, with a fun and clever action adventure like Return of the Jedi.  Finishing up the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi contained an incredible story that not only successfully wraps up the entire trilogy perfectly and gives closure to each of the main characters.  While the introduction of the Ewoks was a bit silly (I did like them as a kid), the consecutive fight between Luke and Vader, as well as the space fight, more than make up for this, and they produce an epic conclusion.  Easily the best way that anyone has ended a Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi is an exceptional film and a major piece of Star Wars history.

3. A New Hope

A New Hope Poster

The film that started it all, the original Star Wars movie, retroactively titled A New Hope, is an epic space opera that sees a ragtag team of heroes take on an evil empire determined to destroy everything before it.  A western, science fiction adaption of the samurai films The Hidden Fortress, this fantastic film has so much going for it, with a great story, an epic musical score, some deeply impressive special effects and a near-perfect cast.  Not only does George Lucas successfully introduce his bold new universe, but he also wrote an outstanding film, which achieved a lot with a relatively small budget.  There are so many incredible elements to this film, including a memorable villain, some excellent graphics (that still really hold up) and a western style that sets the tone for the entire series.  Serving as an inspiration for so many future adventures and stories, we owe a lot to A New Hope, and this near perfect introduction is still one of the best Star Wars films out there.  If only Lucas could have left it alone and stopped with all the re-releases and additional scenes.

2. Rogue One

Rogue One Poster

Second place on this list is taken up by the excellent standalone film Rogue One, one of the best Star Wars films we have seen in a very long time.  Featuring an excellent, if doomed, new cast, Rogue One serves as a prequel adventure to A New Hope, filling in some plot details, particularly around the Death Star.  This movie has an outstanding story to it, with some impressive character development and some of the best Star Wars action out there.  It really does not take long for you to become obsessed with this film, and the dramatic and powerful ending, that takes out the entire principal cast, is just so very amazing.  I love so much about this film, although nothing can quite top the return of a live-action Darth Vader, especially as he goes full beast-mode on some Rebel soldiers.  An absolute highlight of recent films, all future Star Wars entries can learn a lot from Rogue One.

1. The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back Poster

I am sure no one will be surprised about which film takes the top spot on my list, as it could only be The Empire Strikes Back.  A sequel to the incredibly popular first Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back had a lot of expectations, and it delivered on all of them.  Not only did it expertly continue the brilliant story from the first film, but it expanded on the universe, continued to develop the characters, and took the narrative in some fantastic directions.  I loved all the cool inclusions in this film, including Lando and Yoda, and I have an extremely hard time thinking of any flaws this film has.  The original graphics are still very impressive, even after all these years, and it contains some of the best acting in the entire franchise.  It also features some massively iconic moments and quotes which populate the cultural zeitgeist even till this day.  This includes one of, if not the most memorable quotes in all of film, occurring during the amazing reveal about Darth Vader’s true identity.  A legendary film, there is nothing better in the entire Star Wars franchise.

That is the end of my list ranking the various Star Wars films.  While I am sure that people will disagree with some of my choices, I think that this accurately reflects my feelings on the entries in this great franchise pretty well.  While I may have been a little harsh with a couple of the above films, I will probably end up watching them again multiple times.  I had a lot of fun bringing this latest list together, although it does not look like I will have the chance to revisit it any time soon, as there is only one movie on the horizon.  Still this upcoming film, Rogue Squadron, which is set for release in December 2023, has some potential and could end up quite high on the next version of this list.  Let us hope that the studio does not stuff it up like it did with some other projects and replace the director/writer halfway through production.  While we wait for the next film to come out, let me know what your favourite Star Wars films are, and if you disagree about my choices, let me know in the comments below.

Star Wars: Last Shot by Daniel Jose Older

Last Shot Cover.jpg

Publisher: Century

Australian Publication Date – 30 April 2018

World Publication Date – 17 April 2018

 

Han and Lando return in Last Shot, the latest Star Wars novel, released just ahead of the characters’ upcoming prequel movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Phylanx Transmitter is one of the most secretive and dangerous weapons in the galaxy.  Built by the psychotic Fyzen Gor, over the years it has been sought by some of the most nefarious people in the galaxy, from criminal gangs to bounty hunters and even the Empire.  Two captains of the Millennium Falcon have gone up against Gor in an attempt to claim the Phylanx Transmitter.  In the early days of his career, the dangerously charismatic Lando Calrissian and his pilot droid, L3-37, encountered a prototype of the transmitter and barely survived.  Years later, a young Han Solo and the Wookiee Chewbacca raced through the criminal underworld to reach the transmitter before it disappeared into the stars.

Since then, the Empire has fallen and the New Republic has taken its place.  Lando has become a successful business owner and the respected administrator of Cloud City, while Han has settled down with Princess Leia and is now trying to be a good father to young Ben Solo.  While Lando and Han both believe they have put their former lives as thieves and smugglers behind them, the past has a way of catching up with everyone.

Having escaped custody, Gor is holding Cloud City hostage and demands that Han and Lando find and reclaim the Phylanx Transmitter.  Forced to fly under the radar, the two scoundrels must find the transmitter and prevent Gor from using it to rain down untold destruction across the galaxy.  In order to succeed, they recruit a brand new team, including a young hotshot pilot, a brilliant Ewok slicer, a woman who may be the love of Lando’s life, and, of course, the best and fluffiest co-pilot around, Chewbacca.  However, even their new team may not be able to withstand Gor and his twisted droid creations.

Last Shot is the latest book from the acclaimed Daniel Jose Older, author of the young adult fantasy sensation Shadowshaper.  This represents his first venture into Star Wars fiction.

Ever since the original Star Wars movies, vast amounts of books, comics, video games and a television series have been created, resulting in a massive extended universe.  Since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, the vast majority of this extended universe has been expunged, with only the movies and a few products, such as The Clone Wars, now considered canon.  Some elements of the original extended universe have resurfaced over the years, such as fan favourite character Grand Admiral Thrawn, who recently appeared as an antagonist in Rebels and was the subject of last year’s Thrawn by Timothy Zahn.  Last Shot is the latest book in the smaller Star Wars canon extended universe which has been cultivated in the Disney years.  This stand-alone book has been released as a companion piece to the upcoming movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and features four of the characters who are going to appear in it.

Last Shot contains a clever combination of four separate storylines set in different points in time throughout the franchise’s history.  The main story is set a couple of years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and features the characters forced to return to their lives of crime.  Two of the side storylines follow the main characters on a separate mission in their past, and these subplots are set on either side of the upcoming Solo movie.  The final storyline is set over a period of years and follows the rise of Fyzen Gor.  Older does a skilful job of switching between the various storylines to reveal certain clues and show the reader the hidden history the two main characters have with the protagonist.

This book will strongly appeal to fans of Star Wars, particularly those who like to dive deeper into the lore and storylines of the extended universe.  However, even dedicated fans may feel a little overwhelmed by the constant references to other elements of canon and the inclusion of nearly every alien race in the galaxy.  Even the addition of The Force Awakens fan favourite character Maz Kanata seems a bit forced and unnecessary.  Despite this, casual fans will easily be able to follow the story and enjoy the funny and action-packed adventure within.

Last Shot sets itself apart from many of the other Star Wars stories by avoiding the Jedi-saturated and force-fixated storylines that define most of the movies and books.  This book doesn’t even feature a single Jedi, but instead focuses on the criminal underworld of the galaxy as the main characters fight, cheat and steal their way to victory.  This is a refreshing story which seems to mirror the crime-orientated plot of the upcoming Solo movie.

In addition to the crime-centric story and the multitude of action-packed scenes, the readers will really enjoy the substantial humour that Older has included within book.  In particular, most readers will appreciate the number of self-deprecating jokes and references towards elements of the Star Wars universe.  For example, one particularly enjoyable sequence involves a Gungan who is annoyed with how his species is perceived by the galaxy thanks to the actions of a certain individual.  Despite there being a 40-year gap between the events of this book and those of The Phantom Menace, some shade is still thrown over the infamous Jar Jar Binks.  Not only does the book come across as more humorous and less serious than other Star Wars stories, the book has also been written in a much more adult way, as there are a number of jokes and allusions that would never get included in the family friendly movies.  As a result, Last Shot is an incredibly entertaining story that stands apart from previous works of Star Wars fiction.

Star Wars: Last Shot is an outrageously fun new novel that will greatly appeal to all fans of the Star Wars franchise.  Filled with innumerable references and jokes about the wider Star Wars universe, readers will love to see Han Solo and Lando Calrissian being the very best scoundrels they can be.  This is amazing and addictive new adventure in a galaxy, far, far away.

My Rating:

Four stars