By What’s New on Jakku Staff
The What’s New on Jakku staff came together and put together an argument for each Star Wars film being considered the best in the franchise.
Below is a brief explanation by different staff writers at What’s New on Jakku on what makes each film the best.
The Phantom Menace
By Luke & Monica
Circa 1999, it would be preposterous to suggest that TPM could be remotely close to the best Star Wars movie. Fast forward 20+ years and you are sure to find fans that have it at the top of their list.
Time and perspective have been kind to the prequels. Many fans that were coming of age at the time of the release of the prequel are now a vocal part of the fandom. There is certainly plenty to love when it comes to TPM. Let’s take a closer look.
For starters, we are able to see depth added to the character of Darth Vader through the revelation of young Anakin. Seeing a young, promising, kindhearted version of our favorite antagonist is one of the more interesting parts of this movie. Many fans, ourselves included, were left wondering how this child would transform into the menacing villain of the original trilogy.
We are shown why he is so powerful (midichlorians), how he became such a good pilot (podracing), and that love and passion would rule his emotions (Shmi, Padme). He also apparently built our favorite golden droid.
Secondly, we are introduced to the vast world of the Jedi. We are shown the Jedi temple in all its splendor, the jedi council, and the masters that preside over the order. So much worldbuilding is packed into this one movie. Fans were treated to an incredibly colorful back story that sets the stage for the devastation to come.
One Jedi in particular is revealed to be the impetus for the coming shift in galactic power: Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon’s balance of wisdom and stubbornness instantly made him a fan favorite. His commitment to the freeing and training of Anakin Skywalker turns out to be both noble and tragic.
There are a host of other reasons why this movie is excellent. The introduction of Sheev Palpatine, the incredible score from John Williams, the epic finale that gives us one of the best lightsaber duels of the saga! If you have never given TPM a second chance, consider doing so. It’s a wonderful piece of the Skywalker saga that sets up all that is to come.
Attack of the Clones
By Priscilla Rose
Attack of the Clones is the most underrated film of the Skywalker saga. It brings us action, romance, beautiful cinematography, and a deeper understanding of what lead Anakin to the dark side.
The duel between Dooku v Kenobi, Anakin, and Yoda is one of my favorite lightsaber battles. Although not as iconic, it shows a level of self-awareness in Anakin of his own issues while also cementing the brotherhood Obi-Wan and Anakin feel for each other.
In the prequel trilogy, Yoda is portrayed as very wise and strong and the CGI was done extremely well for the time it was released.
Watching Anakin and Padme fall in love is definitely the highest point of Attack of the Clones. Naboo is the most beautiful planet in all of Star Wars. The meadow picnic is one of my favorite romantic scenes of the three trilogies, the sweet and soft flirtation between them in combination with the beautiful scenery really paints a picture of a happy ending.
Although we do not receive a happy ending for the couple, the moments before the arena scene make the viewers feel as though love can conquer all. “Across the Stars” is arguably the most beautiful piece Williams composed for the Skywalker saga. It is the essence of Padme and Anakin’s love. Padme is such a fierce character in AOTC, and as a young girl watching her climb and use the blaster was immensely empowering.
Padme’s costumes in AOTC (as well as the entire prequel trilogy) are not only the greatest in the saga, but are also some of the greatest of all time. Trisha Biggar brilliantly designed every piece, and I’m sure every Padme cosplayer knows how hard it is to replicate that gorgeous picnic gown.
Attack of the Clones brought us Obi-Wan’s beautiful hair, hilarious memes about sand, and the wedding that will forever cloud my dreams. I hope that one day all fans can grow to love this film as much as I do.
Revenge of the Sith
By Tristan Huebner
When I hear Revenge of the Sith, the first word that comes to mind is masterpiece from all the way from start to finish. This movie’s influence on many is incredibly strong and truly is something special to many fans’ hearts.
Revenge of the Sith is just an emotional roller coaster and truly is peak Star Wars. What makes this film so incredible is the differentiation it has from many other films that end a trilogy in that this movie does not end with a “happy ending” as many would expect. Instead, the opposite, which I believe makes it so powerful to fans. It displays a tragedy of somebody who just wanted to help the ones around him, save the ones he loved, regardless of what it took.
This ended up only creating pain, destruction, and destroyed relationships toward Anakin Skywalker’s life. The choices Anakin made in Revenge of the Sith dictated everything in the future what was to come. The Galactic Empire, the destruction of Palpatine, the rise of Kylo Ren, and much more.
Not only was this film very emotional to many, but it also included some of the best lightsaber duels we have ever seen on screen. The famous duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin will always be a personal favorite to myself and many others, tying in with the emotional concept at the end of this duel in which two brothers that loved one another battle to the end.
Not only was this duel spectacular but we receive other top-tier duels including Yoda vs Palpatine, Anakin and Obi-Wan vs Count Dooku, Obi-Wan vs General Grievous, and even the reveal of Palpatine against Mace Windu which incredible music scores by John Williams being added to each. This movie truly gave us some of the best lightsaber duels any fan could ask for.
Whether you grew up during the original trilogy, prequels, or even the sequels, Revenge of the Sith is truly something many fans can agree on when it comes to great Star Wars. The story of Revenge of the Sith creates a top-tier era in Star Wars which is the Clone Wars era. With the addition of the Clone Wars animated TV show and the latest season released, it makes the tragic ending to this film even more painful.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
By Nathan Rojas
When I think about Solo, I think you can sum up what makes it Star Wars at its best from the opening text: On these mean streets, a young man fights for survival, but yearns to fly among the stars….
Star Wars to me, along with the theme of hope, is the sense of adventure. The longing to leave the average hand life dealt you and becoming something greater. It’s Luke looking to the binary sunset, Rey looking to a ship leaving orbit, or in this case, it’s Han, a hotshot street racer who needs to fly in the open galaxy.
Han holds on to hope as well everywhere he goes. It’s most signified in his dice he carries everywhere. While it’s probably more for luck when he hangs it on the vehicles he’s piloting, Han puts such faith in parting with them knowing he’ll make his way back to Qi’ra no matter how long it takes.
The sense of friendship is also at such high meaning in Star Wars. The legendary matchup of Han Solo and Chewbacca is one of cinema’s finest. They constantly look out for one another with care and their piloting is a match made in heaven.
For those searching for the embodiment of adventure, one doesn’t have to look much further than the Kessel Run, arguably the best sense of piloting we’ve experienced from the Millennium Falcon. Classic dog fights of TIE Fighters, dodging asteroids, and surviving giant space creatures before kicking off the legendary hyperdrive with a strong “Punch It!” before seeing the fastest the ship has ever gone outside lightspeed.
A caring protagonist is also crucial in my eyes. We’ve seen Han be a bit of a softy here and there behind a tough exterior in the Original Trilogy, but being a young kid new to the smuggling game, his levels of caring are dialed to 11 throughout, showcasing the heart of gold we all know Han carries with him.
“Okay, Outlaw, you can tell yourself that, but I might be the only person in the whole galaxy who knows what you really are.”
“Yeah? And what’s that?”
“You are the good guy.”
By Christian Corah
The first time I watched Rogue One, I was underwhelmed. It was the first Star Wars movie with no Jedi (we got Darth Vader which is close, but not the same) and all of the main characters were brand new. The rest of the movies all have a pull to them that make them exciting from the very beginning. This was lacking in Rogue One, and it made it more difficult to get into for the first viewing.
However, the movie has done nothing but grow on me since. Every single time I watch it, I seem to like it even more. This is because the story in Rogue One would be excellent even without the Star Wars element. While it does lack the flashy Force users that make the other movies exciting, it nails the themes that make Star Wars great.
The greatest of these is sacrifice. This is when the good guys are willing to give up their own lives for the greater good of the universe. We see this when Anakin saves Luke by “killing” Palpatine, when Luke saves The Resistance in The Last Jedi, when Ben and Rey give parts of themselves to save each other, and when basically the entire cast of Rogue One dies to get the plans for the Death Star.
Their deaths hit me hard every time effectively getting me in my feels and that is was what good storytelling does. So, without any other traditional Star Wars pull, Rogue One would be great. But, the movie also used Darth Vader to perfection. As arguably the most recognizable villain in storytelling history, it would have been tempting to make him a focal point of the movie. Instead, he was used efficiently and even had one of the greatest scenes in all of Star Wars (you know what I’m talking about) without stealing the show.
So because Rogue One was excellent on its own, displayed themes of Star Wars perfectly, and utilized the pre-existing elements we love about Star Wars oh-so-well, it truly is the best Star Wars movie.
A New Hope
By Will Custer
The film A New Hope is the most influential Star Wars film to date. It not only introduced the entire world to this little miracle known as Star Wars, but it helped shape and change film as a whole.
We had never had anything quite like A New Hope before, and by today’s standards, it checks off all the things we look for in our Star Wars films. It has stunning visual effects. With the making, A New Hope came the formation of Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), which has been as transformative for the movie industry as anything else. If there is a movie that uses CGI, there is an excellent possibility for the ILM to make that movie.
A New Hope also has many of the reoccurring themes that we look for in Star Wars. It has a firm idea of hope. Hell, Luke looking at the binary sunset is often the image that pops into my mind when I think of hope. It has the theme of found family, which is so essential throughout Star Wars. It was first done here and is the blueprint for all other Star Wars stories that involve the theme of a found family (which is all of those future Star Wars stories).
What the first Star Wars film does best, though, is that it effortlessly and efficiently creates a world that we all want more of, and ever since that day in May of 1977, it has craved more and more of this world. I cannot think of a franchise or singular film that introduces a whole new universe that immediately hooks its audience from the first moment and refuses to let o of their interest so many years later.
A New Hope is special. It is visually stunning, has one epic score, builds the foundation of what Star Wars is and what it will become, and is the most consistently paced film in the saga.
A New Hope came out 43 years ago, but every time I watch it, it feels like the first time all over again. It fills me with emotions. As the main force theme comes on for the first time and we see this young farm boy, Luke Skywalker, stares off into the great beyond and wonder what he can do to make his quench for wanderlust happen; it makes me wonder the same.
Each time I watch, it offers me an escape to a simpler time. It makes me feel all those feelings that I felt when I first watched it as a kid. I can’t think of another film that does that every time I watch. A New Hope is Star Wars at its best.
The Empire Strikes Back
By Priscilla Rose
The Empire Strikes Back is easily the greatest of the Skywalker saga, if not the greatest film of all time. The darkest of the three original films, ESB is rich with qualities uncommon to most hero sagas. Luke Skywalker, the great hero, literally gets his hand cut off and the Rebels lose the Battle of Hoth. Most hero’s journey-based films do not dare to go to these extremes, which is why they fail in serving us with the true fear and depth viewers have watching ESB for the first time.
The Empire Strikes Back brings us some of my favorite moments. Han and Leia falling in love, Luke being trained by Master Yoda, and Vader’s iconic line “I am your father.” The movie sets the stage for the happy fairytale ending we get in Return of the Jedi. It is the anchor of the Skywalker saga.
Although Luke is the main protagonist, for its time it was incredible to have Princess Leia and Lando be heroes as well. Speaking of Leia, Darth Vader and Princess Leia are two of the most recognizable characters of all time, thanks to both of their legendary silhouettes.
The Empire Strikes Back was the highest-grossing film of 1980, and (when adjusted for inflation) the second highest-grossing sequel of all time. In 2014, Empire Magazine did a poll that concluded The Empire Strikes Back to be the greatest film of all time with over 250,000 votes!
Star Wars and especially The Empire Strikes Back revolutionized the fantasy and sci-fi genres. The models they used for the ships, the puppet they used for Yoda, the special effects, etc. inspired future films for the next decade and still continues to inspire film-makers today. The film made us feel for the characters, even the droids! I will never forget the first time I heard the Imperial March, and the powerful score Williams brought to The Empire Strikes Back. I truly believe that thousands of years from now that piece will still be considered a classic.
If you love Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back has to bring a special kind of warmth to your heart. The Force is strong with this film!
Return of the Jedi
By Ioana Balas
Why is Return of the Jedi my favorite Star Wars movie? Well, for starters, it is one of the best ends of a trilogy in cinema history. From the budget improvement to sets, costumes, everything looks better and more polished, even though the juiciness of Star Wars is when it’s less polished. Richard Marquand had big shoes to fill in when it comes to directing, especially after Empire Strikes Back, and he does it flawlessly.
There are two moments in this movie that in my opinion, changed how female characters are seen in film. Although the Jabba the Hutt/Leia scene is famously known mainly for Leia’s bikini dress, many people forget how empowering the scene is when Leia strangles the giant slug. That, and the second “I love you”/”I know” quote, that has way more feeling and substance than the one in ESB.
The Battle of Endor is also a very climactic battle, which also has a very strong message. It’s technology versus nature and nature wins, the movie introducing the cute Ewoks this way. They look like small bears. I love bears.
When it comes to the ending… Anakin Skywalker redeems himself by choosing his son over Palpatine and the Dark Side. His arc ends beautifully, him dying in his son’s arms. It’s actually Anakin being the most human in the series, even though he’s anatomically speaking more machine than human at that moment, as Darth Vader. I will always love this movie for its subtleties like those.
The Force Awakens
I’m often met with astonishment when I tell others that The Force Awakens was my first Star Wars movie. What they don’t know is that I am technically lying: The Phantom Menace was my first, but I fell asleep in the theater somewhere in the first 20 minutes and woke up close to the end, so it doesn’t count.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that I was dragged to The Force Awakens with the rest of my family, firmly of the opinion that Star Wars was not, and never would be, for me. That frigid December afternoon changed me for the better.
I remember gasping in the theater when a rusted panel on an old Star Destroyer slid open and there was Rey, goggles shining in the half-light and the dust, peering back at the audience. I remember my heart twinging when she removed those goggles and her freckled, hard little face stared out into the Jakku wastes. As an adult woman living alone, often feeling isolated from my peers due to my intense career choice (scientist) and my mental illness, I knew that face. It was a face that had closed itself off to vulnerability out of necessity. Cruelty and endless, yawning need had made this girl mean.
And then, as with all fairytales, she is called off to pursue bigger things and a higher power, and through it all, Rey never gives up that meanness. This, too, is important for girls to learn: that you can be an angry little thing and it does not make you less than (and it never did). She pilots the Falcon out of Jakku—because she must. She claws her way out of Starkiller Base—and out of Kylo Ren’s hands—because she must. She calls the legacy saber to her and defends Finn against Ren—because she must.
Most importantly, she goes on for the rest of the trilogy being fierce and angry and frustrated, and still she achieves greatness: as a Jedi, as a friend, as (ever-so-briefly) a lover. We never lose sight of that angry, hard little face peering out from a mask: she learns that she deserves more than instant bread and a wilted flower, and she learns that she is not alone, but these lessons were not contingent on her not being angry anymore. They were only contingent on her allowing herself to take Finn’s hand and get lost.
To be told, even for two hours in a movie theater, that it is okay to feel alone, hurt, and mean, was a message I didn’t know I needed. I left the theater silent and contemplative of what I had just seen. I went back to my tiny, mouse-infested apartment (alone, as always), and as I sat on the couch with my laptop to look up more about Star Wars, I decided to get lost, too.
The Last Jedi
By Chris Ovens
The Last Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie for a number of reasons. I think everyone can agree, regardless of what one thinks of the storytelling, that the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous.
Cool, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way: The Last Jedi is all of the reasons that I’ve ever loved Star Wars, all expressed to their most resonant capacity. A mythic exploration of what the Force is; an unlikely, dynamic alliance between light and dark; a wacky side-quest that seems narratively irrelevant at first glance but actually has super important impact on the overall story; a romance with soulmate/destiny vibes about opposites coming together; a mentor character returning to their former student to try to make amends for having failed them… I just love every part of it so much.
The way that the Force bond between Rey and Ben completely changes the audience’s understanding of the Force AND elevates their character dynamic is so endlessly interesting to me. I don’t think I’ll ever get over how I felt in the theatre to all the sound being sucked out of the air and just hearing their voices echo out into the Force, knowing how much that this would change their dynamic going forward… Man, it’s so good. I’m a sucker for pretty much any story that forces the protagonist and antagonist to talk out their differences without resorting to violence, and the fact that this movie basically goes from there to them almost kissing in the Hand Touch scene – and again in the elevator scene – is just such remarkable storytelling.
That Johnson was able to take these two characters from where TFA left off for them and figure out that what they had in common was loneliness – it’s so powerful. It’s so romantic. It is the perfect next step for the saga after TFA gave us the fun, nostalgic adventure we were craving, and the perfect setup to the final chapter of the saga.
I love it endlessly and could talk about my love for it forever. The Last Jedi represents all of what I love about the saga, all elements operating at their fullest potential. It’s fresh and familiar, bold and brilliant. It is all of the Star Wars I love.
The Rise of Skywalker
By Jamie Binegar
Ah, The Rise of Skywalker. Though it was divisive, the final installment of the Skywalker saga embraced core Star Wars themes – the importance of friendship, of found family, and people helping one another.
From Poe and Finn accompanying Rey on her search for the Wayfinder to Lando reminding Poe that the old gang prevailed because “we had each other”, this film is a story of community, of coming together.
Watching the hundreds of ships come to the aid of the Resistance gave us goosebumps. Even C3-P0 teaches us about sacrificing for the sake of others. The voices of Jedi past help Rey find the strength to rise. Ben and Rey help one another in the most personal, dramatic way possible, literally saving each other’s lives. It’s just as Anakin reminded Shmi those many years ago: “Mom, you said that the biggest problem in the universe is no one helps each other.”
This film, while flawed, goes above and beyond to show us what a difference we can make when we do reach out a helping hand.