Now that part one is out of the way, surely these are the ones that matter!
5. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Source: Google Images
The film that started it all and one of the first ever blockbusters, released way back in 1977, George Lucas’ original film changed the face of cinema forever with (at the time) incredible special effects and great set pieces that had never before been seen on the silver screen. This film was what put everything in motion for the film universe that we have come to love today. While in todays day and age, it will looked incredibly dated, it was still a magnificent achievement to have pulled off back in ’77, A New Hope is one of those films where I wish that I could go back in time to watch when it was first released just to see what the reactions in the audience would have been like while watching it (edit: my brother pointed me to the video below whilst proofreading, this is probably the closest I will get to experiencing what seeing it in 1977 would have been like).
This film introduced us to a myriad of characters that would go down in cinematic history, the dreamer of being a part of something greater that is Luke Skywalker and the mysterious old man from an era long gone that is Obi-Wan introduced us to ways of the Jedi and the force are just two examples of great characters and world building that we have become accustomed too. However, the best characters in this film are easily Han Solo and Princess Leia, the two of them have great onscreen chemistry when acting together but also own every scene they are in when its just them with other characters. The film also introduced us to one of cinemas greatest villains; Darth Vader, we knew nothing about his past, his powers or motivations and that makes us love and fear him in equal measure.
There are many more highlights to this film such as John Williams’ incredible score, but for me the best thing about this film is the use of visual effects. While they still look incredibly dated now, you can’t help but admire the work gone into the film from the prosthetic make up on the many aliens to the sweeping World War Two-esque space battles that felt realistic with the state of the art technology, revolutionising special effects at the time.
4. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Source: Google Images
To me, this film is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had at the cinema. Upon its release, it had been ten years since the last Star Wars film had been released at the cinema and the hype for this film was at an all time high. Nobody knew anything about the plot as the trailers didn’t tell us anything except there was new characters and the old favourites would be returning.
The film was directed by J.J. Abrams who played it safe with this film as it was basically A New Hope again but it had a nice balance of nostalgia with many throwbacks to the original films but also plenty of new thrills and mysteries that would keep fans hooked and wanting to come back for more. The film itself had the right amount of balance as it was able to juggle comedy, action packed scenes and tragic moments that all had the desired effect on the audience that it should do.
The biggest issue facing this film was the introduction of new characters but they were able to fit right in amongst the old faces. However, they were genuinely likeable and it made me confident that they would be able to carry the franchise on their own for years to come now that the torch has been passed on. A fantastic way to relaunch the franchise in the post-Lucas Star Wars world after the prequel trilogy had left such a bad taste in everyones mouth.
3. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Source: Google Images
The most polarising film in the Star Wars canon to date. While The Last Jedi was met with critical acclaim amongst critics, the film itself split opinion between fans, with many hating it and many loving it. However, in my opinion, I thought this film was incredible because it dared to be different. Instead of relying on nostalgic tropes, Rian Johnson brought us something new and refreshing to the franchise.
When it was announced that Rian Johnson would be directing this one, I knew the franchise was going to be in safe hands having seen some of his previous work; Looper and various episodes of Breaking Bad. He adds more additional depth and detail to the characters that were introduced in the previous episode. For me this instalment had some of the best acting we have seen in the franchise, particularly with Adam Driver as Kylo Ren who has a great dynamic with Daisy Ridley this time and make for some of my favourite moments. Mark Hamill however gives the best performance he has ever done as a jaded and disenfranchised Luke Skywalker in the more interesting of the parallel storyline of the film. The cinematography is also incredible, throughout parts of the film the shots look like paintings and is filmed in a more arty style, making it the best looking Star Wars film to date.
2. Star Wars Episode IV: The Empire Strikes Back
Source: Google Images
As one of the greatest sequels of all time, this film for me was my number one pick on this list, however, its going to have to make do, by falling just short. Like in The Last Jedi, this film has more additional depth and detail introduced to its characters. We are introduced to several new characters; Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett and most notable Yoda. And the galaxy is expanded even further as we travel to new planets which feature some iconic Star Wars moments such as Luke meeting Yoda on Dagobah and The Battle of Hoth. At the time, this was darkest film in the Star Wars canon as it ends on a very dour note with our heroes left maimed, carbonised and audiences reeling at one of the biggest cinematic reveals of all time and wondering where the franchise was going to go from there.
This film opened the door for the Star Wars mythos to expand on the ways of the Force as Luke is sent to continue learning the ways of the Jedi from the former Jedi master; Yoda whose eccentric grammar became an endearing feature of the saga. It also showed that in some cases that bigger can in fact be better as it had a much bigger budget than its predecessor, allowing the film to have more impressive visuals, battle sequences and worlds throughout its galaxy. A New Hope had clearly laid everything out beautifully for the franchise, but Empire really upped the stakes with a much darker second offering.
1. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Source: Google Images
A controversial choice but I genuinely believe that this is the best Star Wars film to date. When this film was first announced, I was sceptical as it was the first time a Star Wars film would deviate from the original Skywalker Saga and instead act as a prequel to A New Hope, focusing on how the rebels got their hands on the Death Star plans. However, director Gareth Edwards got rid of any doubts I had by delivering an intense war thriller with a darker, grittier tone and high stakes. The motley crew of new and original characters was also a great addition to the film, and they are able to hold their own without any support from characters from previous films. From reluctant leader Jyn Erso, deadly Cassion Andor, defector Bodhi, Guardians of the Whills; Chirrut and Baze and K2SO all have their moments to shine on screen and all have their own past, personalities and purpose towards the story which make them so enjoyable to watch.
Due to a much bigger budget than the earlier Star Wars films we are finally able to get sense of scale of how big the Empire actually is in these films. From the Star Destroyers to the infamous Death Star, everything about them is daunting and intimidating so it was good to see how the film was able to use CGI properly to be able to create this effect for the film. Whilst the other films are classed as a space opera, Rogue One is the only film in the franchise to actually feel like a war film with many of its set pieces take place as skirmishes throughout which were claustrophobic and exciting. This was great to see as it allowed us to see the uglier side of the Rebellion, showing us that they also were not afraid to get their hands dirty in order to beat the Empire. There is also a lot of loss and many sacrifices where the actions came with consequences and no plot armour to protect the main characters. Whether it was in the sky or on the ground, this was war like we’ve never seen in a Star Wars film. The ending of the film is nothing short of jaw dropping as we are treated to two battles taking place at the same time, one in space and one on the ground, it is desperate, brutal and all the characters are eventually picked off one by one.
Once this is all over, we are shown THE greatest scene from a Star Wars film where we are finally able to see the monstrous Darth Vader at the height of his powers and being the movie monster. he was always supposed to be. The reason this scene was so incredible, was because of how unexpected it was. We had only been teased with Vader in the middle of the film but to see him emerge from the shadows with his Lightsaber and mercilessly cut through terrified Rebels was truly spectacular to watch on the big screen. This scene was so striking that it gave new life to the opening of A New Hope which takes place moments after the end of Rogue One.
That is my ranking of all the live action Star Wars films, if you agree/disagree then leave a comment!