Monday, May 09, 2016

Ask JKM: Ranking Star Wars Now?

A reader named Mike writes:

"Now that you've seen The Force Awakens (2015), and didn't seem to love it nearly as much as everyone else did, how do you rank The Star Wars movies?"

Mike, you're asking for trouble, because I doubt my ranking lines up with that of many fans these days!

But you're asking me at a good time, since I reran all my Star Wars reviews for "May the 4th Be With You" last week.

No matter. As you know, I felt that The Force Awakens was good, not great.

I felt it lacked inspiration and innovation. It felt too familiar, although it was wonderful to revisit the beloved characters of the OT. I should also say that I liked very much, meeting the new characters.

Yet if I need to make a tally right now, then my ranking would go something like what you see below.

Again I don't expect my ranking to be popular.

But The Force Awakens is a (good) "more of the same" entry whereas the prequels -- while clearly more problematic and definitely unpopular -- are also far more ambitious in terms of world building, production design and even social commentary. They failed to large degree in terms of narrative and performance, but they also innovated to a superior degree.

So you may not like my rankings, but here goes anyway.

I've linked to my reviews so you can read the full explanations for these rankings.

Star Wars: Best to Worst:

All right, there you have it: the Star Wars series as ranked by me at this minute, on the fly.  I reserve the right to think about it, and go over it.  Some days, I prefer Revenge of the Sith to The Phantom Menace.

I don't think I would shift either the #1, #2 or #7 slot, but the rest is all in motion.

The more I think about it, the more I consider the seventh film a safe, enjoyable, but ultimately uninspired entry; one enlivened by the strong efforts of Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. The plot is all retread, the big villain (Snoke) is a bust, and the action is muddled and lacking in genuine suspense.

I understand that the film is the equivalent of a sports team's "building season:" a re-setting  of the terrain. Therefore it avoids any real sense of risk or invention. Still, I missed that aspect of the Star Wars universe.

After the prequels, which met with such widespread disdain, I fully comprehend why filmmakers would choose not to rock the boat and offer such a conservative, safe, familiar vision of this universe. It makes sense from a business standpoint.  From an artistic standpoint, however, it makes for a mediocre experience.

The Force Awakens isn't great art, and won't be remembered as such. It lands in the middle of the pack. I hope Episode VIII takes a few more chances, creatively speaking.

Don't forget to ask my your questions at


  1. I absolutely agree about Attack Of The Clones being the worst number 7.


  2. My list:
    1. and 2. Star Wars (1977)
    1. and 2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
    3. Return of the Jedi (1983)
    4. The Force Awakens (2015)
    5. Revenge of the Sith (2005)
    6. The Phantom Menace (1999)
    7. Attack of the Clones (2002)


  3. John and SGB,
    I'm in absolute agreement with you both regarding Attack of the Clones. I don't know why, but that movie has given me a headache each time I've watched it. Sensory overload, perhaps? It did, however, give me one of the most lol moments in cinematic history: the kiss between Anakin and Amidala as they're being rolled out to the arena, surrounded by hundreds of cheering insects. Jean Luc Picard facepalm!
    John, I'd even rank The Phantom Menace higher than The Force Awakens, although marginally. TPM wins for me because it was trying to do something original and different. TFA wasn't. Sure, the latter had great characters and moments, but I couldn't get past its plagiarism. "You call that a Death Star? THIS is a Death Star!" I pretty much checked out at that moment.

  4. My ranking:

    1. Star Wars (1977 theatrical)

    That's is, that's all there is. The rest are apocayphra and not worthy of acknowledgment.

  5. My list (which will also not be popular):

    1. The Empire Strikes Back
    2. Revenge of the Sith
    3. Attack of the Clones
    4. Return of the Jedi
    5. A New Hope
    6. The Force Awakens
    7. The Phantom Menace

    I too found the prequels to be extremely ambitious, but unlike you I also found them to be (mostly) successful at what they set out to do. They made the original trilogy more interesting in context.

    It's impossible for me to articulate how disappointing I found The Force Awakens to be. It's lack of ambition combined with its aggressive fan servicing was aggressively off-putting to me. It's like someone was dazzled by all the superficial elements of the Star Wars universe and failed to understand any of the sophisticated political subversion that was the key defining trait of the first six films.

    The most damning thing that I can say about The Force Awakens is that it has made me lose interest in all future Star Wars movies.

  6. 1. Star Wars.
    7. The force awakens (the beginning of the end)