With the new Star Wars Episode VII release just a month away, we've already started making elaborate plans to re-watch the entire series (yes, even the prequels) before it's time to watch The Force Awakens.
We've been debating how to watch the movie, and whether it should be seen in the release order, episode order, or the (in)famous Machete order. We're going with release order, in case you're wondering.
But in the course of all this, another question that came up was harder to settle. What's the 'Best Star Wars Film' of them all? Typically, most people would immediately jump up and say Empire Strikes Back, but we've got our reasons for thinking that might not necessarily be the case. After some intense soul searching, we've produced what we think is the definitive ranking of Star Wars movies. Considering that the oldest film in the series is now 37 years old, and the newest one is also a decade old, we think it's not reasonable to tip-toe around spoilers. So here are our picks, and spoilers definitely follow.
6) Attack of the Clones
The second of the prequels, Attack of the Clones was probably less of a slog than Phantom Menace in many parts, but it lacked real focus, and although it didn't feature as much of the walking disaster that was Jar Jar Binks, it still had its fair share of problems.
From the utterly nonsensical "detective" work to the missing planet in the Jedi archives to the utterly ridiculously flying-car chase sequence that destroys any attempts at suspension of disbelief, there's just a lot to hate about this movie. But perhaps the worst thing about it is the utterly terrible writing of romantic dialogue, and the wooden performances from both Hayden Christiensen and Natalie Portman.
In fact, the only moment of the movie we can honestly say we completely enjoyed is the battle between Yoda and Count Dooku:
5) The Phantom Menace
The first movie in the prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace was simply put, one of the worst things to happen to the Star Wars franchise. It gets judged a little more harshly than it should, because there was far too much hype when this film came out, while Clones gets off easily because of how much Menace lowered our expectations, but even so, this is a film that's best avoided.
For one thing, this film is where the concept of midichlorians was first voiced, and it takes away a great deal of mysticism around the Force. The film also gave us Jar Jar Binks, who is objectively the worst, and includes long debates around taxation. This is what happens when you take a strong editor away from an enthusiastic creator.
4) Revenge of the Sith
Not surprisingly, the bottom three films in our list are all from the prequel trilogy. Revenge of the Sith is easily the best film from the prequels, but the 2005 movie still isn't at the same level as the original trilogy.
The character development in this film was all over the place, the death of Mace Windu was a boring anti-climax, and most of the interesting stuff happened, as we'd see, in the Star Wars cartoons that followed.
Nothing quite sums up the movie as well as its final scene though - Anakin, lying burnt and dying, is rescued by Palpatine, and turned into Darth Vader. It's a cool and ominous scene to begin with, only it ends with Vader stumbling to his feet like Frankenstein, and shouting no like a slowly deflating whoopee cushion. By the time Revenge ended, the air had truly leaked out of the franchise, and hopefully, The Force Awakens will be able to hype us up again.
3) Return of the Jedi
Though Jedi is arguably the worst film in the original trilogy, it's still far better than the prequels, with some of the most iconic moments in the series. The start of the film, with the attack on Jabba's palace, is particularly memorable.
The second half of the film flags somewhat, and the attack on Endor feels a little nonsensical. Of course, the biggest problem that most people have with Endor is the Ewoks, and although we loved them when we watched the movie as kids, it's true that they don't really hold up well at all.
Despite these small flaws, Return of the Jedi was an epic movie that did a great job of resolving the story, and included some great action sequences.
2) Empire Strikes Back
This is another controversial pick. Most people believe that the second film (in both the prequels and the original trilogy) is better than the first, but in both cases, they're wrong. In the case of the prequels, we were so horrified by Phantom Menace that anything seemed better.
In the case of Empire Strikes Back, the big reveal at the end obviously sucks up a lot of the air in the room, and makes this the film everyone remembers. But the fact is that some of the stuff that happened in the lead-up to the climax was plain crazy.
From Han's rescue of Luke at the start of the film, to the Millennium Falcon's utterly ridiculous escape from Vader, to the revelation that Luke is not the last of the Jedi - there is another, as Yoda tells Obi Wan - this entire film is a series of contrived coincidences as bad as anything the prequels threw at us. The only difference is that Empire does all this with a giant helping of style, which makes it easier for the movie to pull it off.
Empire Strikes back is one of our favourite films, and Luke's training on Hoth and the betrayal at Cloud City are both unforgettable. But this film could have been even better. It's an excellent film which we'll happily recommend to everyone, but it's not the best film in the series.
1) A New Hope
That of course leaves A New Hope as our pick for the best Star Wars film. The film is a wonderful take on the Hero's Journey, and it has just the right amount of exotic space hijinks to make it unforgettable.
The destruction of Alderaan, the rescue of Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi's sacrifice, and the attack on the Death Star are some of the most unforgettable moments in cinema. This film also includes our favourite audio score from the series, with various tonal shifts that make it an emotional roller coaster.
Mark Hamill is perfect as the vulnerable Luke Skywalker, while Harrison Ford's Han Solo is the best rogue we saw until Captain Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly. Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia ended up rescuing her rescuers, and although all these characters would have fine moments throughout the original trilogy, they were all at their best in A New Hope.
This is the movie that established the Star Wars universe, where everything was new and the rules were being created. And the reason the rest of the franchise even exists, is because it does such a strong job of creating its world and its story.
What do you think? What's your ranking of the movies? Tell us via the comments.
UPDATE: The article erroneously mentions the death of Jango Fett in Revenge of the Sith. This has been corrected in the copy to refer to Mace Windu, who killed Fett in Attack of the Clones.