The Star Wars franchise has become one of the most beloved and enduring in popular culture, with legions of fans around the world. The series, which began with the original film in 1977, has since grown to include multiple sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and animated series.
However, not all Star Wars movies are created equal, and opinions on which films are the best can vary widely. Some fans prefer the classic original trilogy, while others find more to love in the prequel trilogy or the newer sequel trilogy.
In this introduction, we’ll explore some of the factors that can make a Star Wars movie great, and look at some of the most popular and critically acclaimed entries in the series.
Best Star Wars Movies
Whether you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer to the galaxy far, far away, there’s sure to be something to enjoy in the world of Star Wars.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
“Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back” is a science fiction film directed by Irvin Kershner and released in 1980. It is the second film in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and the fifth overall in the “Star Wars” saga.
The film picks up after the events of the first movie, with the Rebel Alliance on the run from the evil Empire.
Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) travels to the planet Dagobah to train with Jedi Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) while his friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are pursued by Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) and the Imperial fleet.
The movie is known for its iconic scenes, such as Luke’s training with Yoda, the revelation of Darth Vader’s true identity, and the battle on the icy planet Hoth. The film was both a critical and commercial success, and it has been widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time.
The movie was followed by “Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi” in 1983, which concluded the original trilogy. In addition, the “Star Wars” saga has since been expanded with prequels, sequels, and spin-off films.
2. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope is a science fiction movie released in 1977, directed by George Lucas. It is the first film in the Star Wars franchise and the fourth chronologically, as it is set before the events of the prequel trilogy.
The movie follows the story of a young farmer named Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) who discovers that he is part of a larger universe of galactic conflict between the evil Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
He teams up with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the clutches of the Empire and ultimately destroy the Empire’s planet-destroying weapon, the Death Star.
The film was a massive success, both critically and commercially, and went on to become a cultural phenomenon.
It is often credited with revolutionizing the science fiction genre and introducing new filmmaking techniques and special effects. Its success spawned a franchise that includes several sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and a vast expanded universe of books, comics, and video games.
3. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi is a science fiction/fantasy film released in 1983 and directed by Richard Marquand.
It is the third and final installment in the original Star Wars trilogy, following Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) and Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
The movie continues the story of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as they lead the Rebel Alliance in a final battle against the evil Galactic Empire, led by Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) and Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
In Return of the Jedi, the Rebels plot to destroy the Empire’s new Death Star, while Luke confronts Vader and tries to turn him back to the light side of the Force. Along the way, we see beloved characters such as Chewbacca, C-3PO, and R2-D2, as well as new characters such as the cute and cuddly Ewoks.
The movie was a commercial success, grossing over $475 million worldwide, and was generally well-received by critics and audiences alike. It was also the first Star Wars movie to be released on home video, further increasing its popularity and influence.
4. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is a 2005 American epic space opera film directed by George Lucas. It is the sixth and final installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the third and final episode in the Skywalker saga.
The film stars Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala, and Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.
The movie depicts the fall of the Jedi Order and the rise of the Sith as Anakin Skywalker is seduced by the dark side of the Force, ultimately becoming Darth Vader.
The film also explores the relationship between Anakin and Padmé, as well as the larger political landscape of the Galactic Republic and the Clone Wars.
Revenge of the Sith was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $868 million worldwide and receiving generally positive reviews from critics. It was praised for its action sequences, visual effects, and emotional impact, and is often considered one of the best Star Wars films.
5. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is a 2015 American epic space opera film directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt. It is the seventh installment in the Star Wars film series and the first film in the sequel trilogy.
The film stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac.
The Force Awakens is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and follows a scavenger named Rey, a rogue stormtrooper named Finn, and a pilot named Poe Dameron, who become involved in the Resistance’s fight against the First Order, a successor organization to the Galactic Empire.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics and was a box office success, grossing over $2 billion worldwide.
It was praised for its performances, visual effects, and the return of original cast members Ford, Hamill, and Fisher. It also introduced new characters that were well-received, such as Rey and Kylo Ren.
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6. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
“Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” is a 2017 American epic space opera film written and directed by Rian Johnson, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Ram Bergman.
It is the eighth installment in the main “Star Wars” film series and the second film in the sequel trilogy, following “The Force Awakens” (2015).
The film continues the story of Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron as they join the Resistance to fight against the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his apprentice, Kylo Ren.
The film also features the return of Luke Skywalker, who has been in hiding for years, and his reunion with his sister Leia Organa.
“The Last Jedi” explores the themes of the nature of the Force and the role of the Jedi in the galaxy, as well as the concept of failure and how it can be a powerful teacher.
The film also delves into the characters’ pasts and their motivations, as well as their relationships with each other.
The film received mixed reviews from fans and critics alike, with some praising its boldness and willingness to take risks, while others criticized its deviation from the traditional “Star Wars” formula. Despite the mixed reception, the film was a commercial success, grossing over $1.3 billion worldwide.
7. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
“Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker” is the final film in the sequel trilogy that began with “The Force Awakens” in 2015.
Directed by J.J. Abrams, the film brings together the new generation of characters introduced in the previous two movies, including Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), as they face off against the returning villain, Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
The film received mixed reviews from critics and fans alike, with some praising its action and emotional moments, while others criticized its pacing and reliance on fan service. The movie also faced criticism for retconning certain plot points and character arcs from the previous films.
Despite these criticisms, “The Rise of Skywalker” was a commercial success, grossing over $1 billion worldwide at the box office. The film also marks the end of the Skywalker Saga, which began with the original “Star Wars” film in 1977, and was a significant moment for fans of the series.
8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a science fiction film directed by Gareth Edwards and released in 2016. It is a standalone film in the “Star Wars” franchise, set just before the events of the original 1977 movie “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”.
The film follows a group of rebels who band together to steal the plans for the Death Star, a superweapon created by the evil Empire.
The main character is Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), a former criminal who joins the rebels in their mission. Other key characters include Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a rebel intelligence officer, and K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a reprogrammed Imperial droid.
“Rogue One” is known for its gritty and realistic tone, as well as its emphasis on the sacrifices made by the rebels in their fight against the Empire.
The film features intense action sequences, as well as appearances by classic “Star Wars” characters such as Darth Vader and Princess Leia.
The film was a commercial and critical success, and it was praised for its strong performances, exciting action, and effective use of CGI technology to recreate classic “Star Wars” characters. The film was followed by “Solo: A Star Wars Story” in 2018, another standalone film set in the “Star Wars” universe.
9. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a science fiction movie released in 1999, directed by George Lucas. It is the first film in the Star Wars prequel trilogy and is set 32 years before the events of the original Star Wars film.
The movie follows the story of young Jedi apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor), and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), as they try to protect Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) from the evil Trade Federation and its dark lord, Darth Sidious.
Along the way, they encounter a young slave boy named Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who has strong Force abilities and may be the chosen one who will bring balance to the Force.
The film was a commercial success, but received mixed reviews from both fans and critics, who criticized its pacing, dialogue, and overuse of special effects.
However, it introduced new memorable characters, such as Darth Maul (Ray Park), and expanded the Star Wars universe by delving into the history and politics of the Jedi Order and the Republic.
The film’s success paved the way for two more prequel films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and sparked a new wave of Star Wars fandom.
10. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is a science fiction/fantasy film released in 2002 and directed by George Lucas.
It is the second installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, following Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) and preceding Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005).
The movie takes place 10 years after the events.
The Phantom Menace and follows the journey of Jedi Padawan Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), as they navigate the galaxy during a time of political upheaval and the emergence of a separatist movement.
As the Clone Wars loom, Anakin falls in love with Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), the former queen of Naboo and now a senator in the Galactic Republic.
However, their forbidden romance is threatened by the machinations of the Sith Lord, Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), and the looming threat of the droid army that the separatists have amassed.
The movie was a box office success, grossing over $650 million worldwide, but received mixed reviews from critics and audiences. While some praised the action sequences and visual effects, others criticized the writing and the performances of the cast.
Nevertheless, the film remains an important part of the Star Wars canon and a key chapter in the overall story.
3 Characteristics of Star Wars Movies
There are several characteristics that are often associated with Star Wars movies. Here are three of them:
Epic Space Opera: Star Wars films are known for their grandiose, epic feel that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy. The movies often feature space battles, exotic planets, and otherworldly creatures, as well as a sense of adventure and heroism.
The Force: The concept of the Force is a central theme in Star Wars movies. It is a mystical energy field that binds the galaxy together and can be used for both good and evil purposes.
Jedi knights, who are trained in the ways of the Force, use it for the greater good, while the Sith use it to gain power and control.
Memorable Characters: The Star Wars films are known for their iconic and memorable characters, from the wise and powerful Jedi Master Yoda to the menacing Darth Vader.
The films often explore the relationships between these characters and their struggles with the forces of good and evil. The characters have become ingrained in popular culture and are instantly recognizable even to those who haven’t seen the movies.
3 Reasons To Watch Star Wars Movies
Epic storytelling: Star Wars movies are known for their epic storytelling, which combines science fiction with mythology, adventure, and drama.
They tell stories of heroes and villains, of battles between good and evil, and of characters overcoming their personal struggles to achieve their goals.
The themes of the movies, such as hope, redemption, and the power of the human spirit, resonate with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
Iconic characters: The Star Wars movies have created some of the most iconic and beloved characters in cinema history, such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader, and Yoda.
Each character has a distinct personality, backstory, and motivation, making them relatable and memorable to audiences. Watching their journeys and relationships evolve over the course of the movies is a rewarding and emotional experience.
Spectacular visuals and sound: Star Wars movies are known for their spectacular visuals and sound, from the iconic opening crawl and John Williams’ legendary musical score to the stunning special effects and practical effects that bring the universe to life.
Whether it’s the battles between X-wing fighters and TIE fighters, the lightsaber duels between Jedi and Sith, or the exotic alien worlds and creatures, the movies offer a feast for the eyes and ears that immerses viewers in a galaxy far, far away.
Best Star Wars Movies – Wrap Up
The Star Wars franchise has been immensely popular since the release of the original film, “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” in 1977. Over the years, the franchise has expanded to include sequels, prequels, spin-offs, and animated series.
Opinions on the best Star Wars movies vary greatly among fans and critics.
However, the general consensus is that the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) is considered the best and most beloved part of the franchise, with “The Empire Strikes Back” (Episode V) often cited as the best film in the series.
The prequel trilogy (Episodes I-III) received mixed reviews, with some fans criticizing the writing and character development, while others appreciated the expansion of the Star Wars universe and the exploration of the origins of the Jedi.
The sequel trilogy (Episodes VII-IX) has also received mixed reviews, with some fans enjoying the new characters and storylines, while others felt that it deviated too much from the original trilogy’s formula and failed to capture the spirit of the franchise.
Overall, the Star Wars franchise has a massive and dedicated fanbase, and the films continue to be loved and enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.