Ah, the sweet smell of autumn. The leaves shift from vibrant greens to delicate shades of orange and”” GET OUT OF THE WAY, FALL, STAR WARS COMES OUT IN DECEMBER! With 74 days until the first screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, your resident nerd has to find some way of filling the time “” and luckily there are six “Star Wars” films that will help me do so.
As a professional inhaler of pop culture, I hereby present to you my ranking of each Star Wars movie, from best to worst.
Episode v: The Empire Strikes Back
It may be a cliché by now, but I have to give the top spot to “Empire.” From the majestic opening on icy Hoth to the mind-shattering Vader reveal in the dark, hissing bowels of Cloud City, this film truly embodies what Star Wars as a franchise has to offer: settings with personality, characters that grow and develop before the viewer’s eyes and the consistent illusion of a vast, populated universe that our characters inhabit only a fraction of.
In addition to the strength of the plot and seamlessness of the action (thanks mostly to George Lucas’ decision not to direct the film), “Empire” brought darkness to the Star Wars universe: at the end of the movie, Han is betrayed by a friend and frozen in carbonite limbo, Luke loses a battle with his father (and his hand) and the credits roll on an uncertain group whose futures look pretty bleak.
Episode iv: A New Hope
Almost impossible not to make the first three entries, “A New Hope “establishes the strange mixture of genres that made Star Wars so unique at the time: futuristic samurai monk-magicians, World War II dogfights upgraded to space battles, epic destinies and fights against impossible evil “” the compilation of these elements made “A New Hope” strike a chord with the 1977 audience and beyond.
On the other hand, Luke Skywalker’s obsession with power converters and insistence on constantly whining detracted from the movie enough to make it take a backseat to “Empire.”
However, and I can only speak for myself, as a kid Star Wars was the quintessential science-fiction/fantasy franchise, before I knew what half of those words meant. I devoured everything related to the franchise after seeing the movies, and that obsession all started here, in well-deserved second place.
Episode vi: Return of the Jedi
Maybe it was because my brother was always obsessed with this movie, but “Return of the Jedi” never really struck me as hard as the episodes IV and V did.
I loved the Sarlacc pit and the final battle as much as anyone, but George Lucas’s descent into the marketing Dark Side (fun fact: did you know that the word “Ewok” was never mentioned in the movie, only to appear on plush dolls immediately after the film’s release?) kept the film from entering Nerdvana. However, it still beat the prequels. Most things do.
Episode iii: Revenge of the Sith
The best of the three prequels, “Revenge of the Sith” has a couple of advantages over its siblings I and II. It is closer period-wise to the events of the original trilogy, which connect the tragic transformation of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader’s role in the episodes IV, V and VI. In addition, the great performances of Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan and Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine bring strong emotional elements to the film (heart-wrenching sadness and terror, respectively).
Although it suffers from some of the same problems that plague episodes I and II, namely the attempt to explain every little detail referenced in the original trilogy, the film carries an emotional weight that makes me want to pop in episode IV directly after the credits roll on III.
Episode i: The Phantom Menace
Ah, “The Phantom Menace.” The film to break the 16 years since “Return of the Jedi” was released,and the film to break the hearts of millions of eager fans. From sexy trade embargos to cringe-worthy racial stereotypes, this movie tried its best to make the bottom of my list.
But what saves “Phantom” from hitting the bottom is two strange elements that still stick with me years after watching the film for the first time. The first is Qui-Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neeson, who simply nailed the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s master “” he was witty, wise, competent, canny and he back-sassed none other than the Jedi Council itself in his attempts to take on Anakin as his apprentice.
The second is Darth Maul, the spiky-headed Sith apprentice with the memorable double-bladed lightsaber. He completely sold the danger and mystery of the Sith, and if there were any kids who walked out of that theater and didn’t immediately grab a broom and perform clumsy gymnastics, I didn’t see them. Darth Maul stole the show as a badass villain, and his death at the end of “Phantom” was a waste of a potential recurring character.
Episode ii: Attack of the Clones
Well”¦ This was a movie. A movie that answered questions that no one asked, like “Who was Boba Fett’s father?” “Can we watch Obi-Wan play out a sci-fi noir detective story?” and “Why aren’t we seeing more frolicking through the Naboo flowers?”
This makes the bottom of my list not because of Yoda’s blasphemous breakdance-fighting or because of the endless droid factory scene, but because the whole film broke up the most interesting relationship that the prequels should have been intent on developing: the bond between Anakin and Obi-Wan. Brought together by a promise to a dying man and torn apart by the corruption of good to evil, Obi-Wan and Anakin’s relationship could have been given significant backstory and depth in this middle movie, but George chose instead to push a love story that Hayden Christensen (Anakin) simply could not support (less blame goes to Natalie Portman, who was constrained by stiff writing).
Well, that completes the transcription of what’s been bubbling in my Star Wars unconsciousness since childhood. If you are shocked, appalled or indignant at my choice of movie order, just wait until December 18 “” you’ll know where to find me.