Ryan L. Fox
In a studio over 40 years ago, George Lucas came up with a movie called Star Wars. Calling it ‘Episode IV: A New Hope’, it took a young farm boy out from the middle of nowhere and threw him into a galaxy wide conflict of good versus evil. This movie gave birth to arguably one of the most famous sci-fi movie franchises of all time that spawned countless movies, TV shows, cartoons, video games, comic books, novels, and more.
Over there years, there have been many Star Wars movies that have come out that have enthralled (or enraged depending who you ask) audiences everywhere. They have become a staple in cinema as well as pop culture. But with all the movies out, you have to wonder which Star Wars movies are the best of the best? Many people have come up with their own list variations of which Star Wars movies are number one but there are have been many of the same movies listed near the top.
Which ones will crack Fox’s Top 5? Let us find out.
Honorable Mention: Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
This was the movie that kicked off the entire Star Wars franchise. Moviegoers and critics were thrust into a galaxy at war between the totalitarian Galactic Empire that rules by fear and the Rebel Alliance fighting for the rights of everyone. They then followed the journey of young farm boy named Luke Skywalker as he goes on a daring rescue with a cast of characters to save the Princess and stop the Empire from using it's super weapon, the Death Star. A New Hope launched Star Wars into the minds of many as it redefined the sci-fi genre for many years to come.
5. Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018)
The only fault of this movie is that it came out around the same time as the worst Star Wars movie of all-time, The Last Jedi. But those who watched it were treated to the origin story (in the Canon universe) of everybody’s favorite smuggler-turned-Rebel Commander. Alden Ehrenrich, the actor who played Han Solo, had some Death Star sized shoes to fill when assuming the role that Harrison Ford, the first Han Solo actor, had made so iconic but he was still able to capture the cocky, brash attitude spirit of Solo. Not to mention that it was a geeky moment to see the first meeting between the iconic duo of Han Solo and Chewbacca as well as finally see the iconic ‘Kessel Run’ that Han bragged about in Episode IV. Oh, there’s a pretty sweet little treat towards the end of this movie too that made all Star Wars fans just geek out at badly too.
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Oof, this hurt a little to put Rogue One this low on the list. Arguably, this movie was the best movie that came out of the ‘Sequel Trilogy’ era. that captured the Star Wars spirit. In Rogue One, you saw how the Rebels were able to obtain the plans to the Death Star prior to the start of Episode IV, which opened up with a Rebels transport fleeing the Empire. You follow Jyn Erso as she joins a motley crew of Rebel Alliance members as they risk everything to get their hands on the data plan of Empire’s new superweapon before it’s too late.
What made Rogue One beloved by Star Wars fans was that it harkened back to the Original Trilogy. Fans relived watching the epic struggle between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, getting hit with a wave of nostalgia. The old ships like the X-Wings and TIE fighters still retaining their iconic ship sound effects, squad leader role calls at the beginning of the Battle of Scariff, the sense of fear and awe from gazing upon the Death Star, and the ending scene. It was manificent.
But the best part of this movie was none other than seeing Darth Vader back on the big screen, still being voiced by the iconic James Earl Jones. The hallway scene while the Rebels were trying to escape will go down as one of the most brilliant as well as most terrifying scenes in all of Star Wars.
3. Star Wars Episode III: Return of the Jedi (1983)
This was the ‘final movie’ in the Star Wars Original Trilogy as well as the last Star Wars movie to be released before the release of the Prequel Trilogy 16 years later. In Return of the Jedi, we finally got to see the conclusion of the Galactic Civil War between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance as well as the coming of age for Luke Skywalker on his journey into becoming a Jedi. Not to mention that viewers finally got a chance to see in person the head of the Galactic Empire and Darth Vader's master, Emperor Palpatine.
This movie was responsible for two things.
First, every kid watching this movie when they were growing up (including myself) want to be like Luke Skywalker. He embodied what it means to be a hero (before Kathleen Kennedy decided to ruin the character in The Last Jedi). Luke was willing to go out of his way to save his friends from the vile clutches of Jabba the Hutt as well as save his father, Darth Vader, from the Dark Side and essentially help him find redemption when the rest of the galaxy thought it was impossible. The fateful light saber duel at the movie's climax between Luke and Darth Vader was one of the most memorable light saber duels, the audience could feel the emotional weight of what they were watching.
And the other thing...were the Ewoks, the teddy bear-looking creatures on Endor that made kids go crazy over how cute they were before Baby Yoda was a thing (cue the eyeroll). Thankfully we had arguably one of the greatest sci-fi space battles of all time to offset their screen time.
2. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2003)
It started with just a simple phrase uttered by Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977 that launched arguably one of the more beloved parts of the Prequel Trilogy Era, the Clone Wars. Although the first movie that showed the start of the Clones Wars (Episode II: Attack of the Clones in 2002) was met with skepticism as well as teased poorly due to ‘poor screen writing’ by critics and a majority of the fanbase, nearly all of it went away as the darkest chapter of the Star Wars movie trilogy Revenge of the Sith came out in theaters.
Right off the bat, you are thrown head first into the Battle of Coruscant, arguably one of battles of the Clone Wars, with the Grand Republic Navy battling against the Separatists over the planet Coruscant as Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi try to rescue Chancellor Palpatine. Following that, audiences got to see the tragic fall from grace of Anakin Skywalker. How he sacrificed everything to save his wife Padame from death, only to utimately fail and drive him deeper into a sea of hatred and self-loathing of himself, an unyielding rage, and ultimately to the Dark Side of the Force to become who he was destined to become, Darth Vader.
But what makes Revenge of the Sith the the moment that many Star Wars fans were not prepared for. The moment that shaped the Star Wars Universe for many years to come: Order 66. Order 66 was (and still is) the most gut-wrenching, jaw dropping moment ever in Star Wars.
Audiences everywhere watched helplessly as they saw one of the biggest massacre the Jedi Order has ever seen unfold before their eyes. From Anakin's, now Darth Vader's, infamous march onto the Jedi Temple with the 501st Legion to the galaxy-wide slaughtering of Jedi by their ally clone troopers with each death scene being more painful to watch than the last. And then it closes out with the continuation of the Jedi Temple Massacre as with another infamous moment where Anakin walks into a room full of younglings, scared and confused at what was happening, only to see the Jedi-turned-Sith activate his light saber.
But the ultimate climax of this movie was the light saber duel between Anakin and Obi-Wan on the volcanic planet Mustafar. Both Hayden Christian (Anakin) and Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan) put in painstaking work for weeks trying to perfect this one moment in Star Wars, working on the choreograph on how to move around set while dueling and all that hard work paid off. While fans were serenaded with the music of songs like Anakin vs. Obi-Wan & The Battle of Heroes by John H. Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra, they watched in awe as the Jedi master and his apprentice and closest ally fight to the death in a light saber duel that pushed them to the physical and emotional brink.
Many consider this to be the greatest Star Wars movie of all-time. But like Master Yoda once said...there is another.
1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Oh boy, where do I begin? It is so hard to pin point why this movie is considered to be the greatest Star Wars movie of all-time because there are so many reasons.
The movie itself opens up 3 years after the events of a New Hope as the Rebel Alliance continue their fight against the Galactic Empire, setting up their main base on the ice planet of Hoth. You saw that Luke had begun his training as a Jedi, and both Han and Leia become captains within the Rebel Alliance. But when the Empire discovers the Rebels on Hoth, it leads up to the Battle of Hoth, which ultimately changes the dynamic of the storyline early in the movie. During the Battle of Hoth, the Empire utterly crush the Rebels and routes them as they scramble to run away to avoid being capture.
Here's where things get interesting. After following the simple singular narrative of 'good versus evil' storyline in a New Hope, the writers took a whole new spin of the story in Empire Strikes back by essentially creating two branching storylines that occur simultaneously.
One storyline focused on Luke's journey into becoming a true Jedi, leading him to the swamp planet of Dagobah to his fateful encounter with meets Jedi Grand Master Yoda. The best part is that when Luke first encounters Yoda, the latter of the two just appeared as some bumbling creature and not a Legendary Grand Master. But the moment when Yoda reveals his true self to Luke, audiences could feel the shift in mood as well as. From there on, audiences watched as Luke struggled to endure the physical, mental, and spiritual training of becoming a Jedi under Yoda's teachings.
The other storyline centered on Han, Chewbacca, and Leia. In this storyline, the trio were on the run as they were pursued by the Empire forces lead by Darth Vader. Every tense-filled moment of this storyline put the audience on edge as saw the Millennium Falcon on the run, barely able to evade the Imperial Forces.
Now I don’t talk about romantic elements in movies that much but you could see the romance element between Han Solo and Leia throughout their storyline. It wasn’t forced, it wasn’t overbearing in scenes. It flowed and developed naturally as you got a sense that they were perfect for one another, which came to a climax in the tragic scene after Han is betrayed by his friend, Lando Calrissian, at Cloud City is ultimately put into frozen carbonite by the Empire. And of course, there's the iconic Han-Leia exchange that cemented the former smuggler as the heartthrob of the Star Wars Universe.
Then comes the iconic light saber duel between Luke and Darth Vader in the bowels of Cloud City. Unlike the previous light saber duel in a New Hope between Obi-Wan and Vader, this light saber had more action to it. Unfortunately for Luke fans, it was clearly a one-sided affair. You got to see Vader not only physically overpower the young Jedi but as well as see the Sith Lord's abilities to use the Force as well. Then comes pretty much one of the more traumatizing moments in the movie where Vader lobs off Luke's right hand, thus putting an end to the duel.
But of course it wouldn’t be an Empire Strikes Back discussion if I didn’t discuss about the ‘big revelation’ in the movie of how Darth Vader revealed he was Luke’s father. It was the ultimate movie twist that nobody saw coming. The man who hunted down the Rebel Alliances, tortured Princess Leia on the Death Star, and the man that Luke was destined to fight and defeat was none other than his father. It blew the minds of audiences everywhere and has not only become such an iconic moment in Star Wars lore, it has become an iconic moment in movie history and has been referenced to by almost everybody at one point and time.
When I first watched this for the first time on VHS during the 90s, I abhorred it. My young self couldn't fathom the idea that the Empire crushed the Rebel Alliance at Hoth, Han Solo was put into frozen carbonite, and Luke was utterly defeated by Vader. But after watching it again when I was older, I could finally appreciate the masterpiece that this film really was. The powerful moments,
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