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Best Star Wars movies: Ranked by score, box office, budget and more

These are the best installments from the Lucasfilm franchise, including the new TV series The Mandalorian.

While most people have their own favourite Star Wars movie and know which order to watch the films in, in honour of Disney+ finally releasing the latest film in the saga The Rise of Skywalker, Finder has decided to figure out once and for all, which is the best movie of the franchise.

So let’s go deep, peel back the data and consume a definitive overview of the entire series. Which is the best Star Wars film? What are the most interesting Star Wars stats? Let’s find out.

Methodology and findings

The best Star Wars movies reviewed

Episode IV: A New Hope

  • Released: 1977
  • Average rating rank: 2nd
  • Adjusted box office rank: 1st
  • Key cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Anthony Daniels, Peter Cushing, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Writer: George Lucas

Legacy: It’s near impossible for anyone born after the 1970s to understand how big of an impact A New Hope had on the world. For everyone since then, the universe has just been a part of our culture. The film turned a cast of relative unknowns into superstars and George Lucas into an empire. And it still holds up, despite the technology behind its special effects and the all-too-70s wardrobe showing its age. However, the chemistry of the cast and the way the story ignites your imagination and a sense of wonder can never be deadened.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

  • Released: 1980
  • Average rating rank: 1st
  • Adjusted box office rank: 4th
  • Key cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy De Williams, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker
  • Director: Irvin Kershner
  • Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett, George Lucas

Legacy: While not at the top of the pile for box office earnings, you’ll find few who will dispute that The Empire Strikes Back is the best movie in the series. It’s become the benchmark for the perfect middle chapter of every trilogy that’s followed. Dark, desperate, deep and with that mind-blowing twist, it glinted with an “anything could happen next” edge that the Star Wars films that followed in its wake could never quite recreate. This is the essential Star Wars film.

Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

  • Released: 1983
  • Average rating rank: 3rd
  • Adjusted box office rank: 6th
  • Key cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy De Williams, Ian McDiarmid, Peter Mayhew, Kenny Baker
  • Director: Richard Marquand
  • Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, George Lucas

Legacy: While it wasn’t as well-received as its two predecessors, Return of the Jedi was still a blockbuster experience and a satisfying conclusion to the original trilogy. The circle was complete, with the ragtag gang of revolutionaries bringing light to a darkened galaxy. With multiple parallel events unfolding and hints at the excess that later movies would become known for starting to emerge, a few fans were left a little jaded. But popcorn entertainment doesn’t get much better than this, and our love for the characters was never greater.

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

  • Released: 1999
  • Average rating rank: 11th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 3rd
  • Key cast: Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Terence Stamp, Ahmed Best
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Writer: George Lucas

Legacy: If you weren’t there, you can’t even begin to understand the hype train that went viral across the globe prior to the release of The Phantom Menace. 16 years after its predecessor, with filming technology far more advanced, the world couldn’t wait to learn more about its favourite space saga. But a convoluted plot too focused on laying the foundations for all that would come after it, haphazard direction that placed special effects before characters, leaving actors with little to chew on, and a tone that missed its fanbase by a margin, saw this film labelled as the series’ ugly stepchild. And correctly, too – even if a 5.9 rating is still considered an “above average” score.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

  • Released: 2002
  • Average rating rank: 10th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 10th
  • Key cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Ian McDiarmid, Temuera Morrison
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Writer: George Lucas, Jonathan Hales

Legacy: The middle child of the prequel trilogy was always going to live in the shadow of The Empire Strikes Back, and ultimately, Attack of the Clones couldn’t step out of it. The awkward chemistry between Christensen and Portman, not helped by horrid dialogue, saw half the film struggle to keep its head above water. It’s somewhat saved by spectacular action sequences and settings in the other half, but most viewers were still left confused by the focus on politics over mythology. Ultimately, the film couldn’t turn around the fortunes of its predecessor with critics or fans.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

  • Released: 2005
  • Average rating rank: 6th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 7th
  • Key cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Ian McDiarmid, Temuera Morrison
  • Director: George Lucas
  • Writer: George Lucas

Legacy: By this stage in the series’ history, fan expectations weren’t high. Furthermore, being a prequel to a story everyone already knew and loved, the story was never going to pay off with a surprise finale. However, with the blossoming love of Anakin and Padmé turned on its head and the political intrigue that had bogged down the film’s two predecessors coming to an action-focused point, Revenge of the Sith managed to be somewhat satisfying. We turned to the dark side for it, and for a while, it was better.

Episode VII: The Force Awakens

  • Released: 2015
  • Average rating rank: 4th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 2nd
  • Key cast: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis
  • Director: J.J. Abrams
  • Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt

Legacy: With the prequel trilogy failing to age well and even the most ardent fans jaded by the prospect of a return to their favourite universe, the pressure was on again for The Force Awakens. This time, however, the spectacle, the popcorn and the fun returned in some style. Rather than playing with fan expectations, this is a film that services them in full. And while it’s derided for being predictable and playing it safe, it’s ratings and box office success were proof that that was just what we all needed.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Released: 2016
  • Average rating rank: 5th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 9th
  • Key cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits
  • Director: Gareth Edwards
  • Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta

Legacy: Only a year later, Star Wars was back with a prequel spin-off to A New Hope. Deciding to follow those in the rebellion who uncovered the Death Star plans was always going to be risky, as we knew that none survived from the outset. But while it didn’t light up the box office as much as the entries in the main series, it found a place in the hearts of fans and critics alike. Fine performances helped an array of new and memorable characters enter the canon, telling a story of bravery that put action and emotion front and centre.

Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

  • Released: 2017
  • Average rating rank: 8th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 5th
  • Key cast: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern
  • Director: Rian Johnson
  • Writer: Rian Johnson

Legacy: We can’t help but feel that the true legacy of The Last Jedi won’t be known for decades. At the time of writing, it’s all a little too fresh. After the by-the-numbers fun of The Force Awakens, this was a film that dared to be different; to change the rules. And change is a hard pill to swallow. But this film does get better with every watch. Some of the shots are simply stunning, and the relationships between characters deepened and diversified in exciting ways. We think, in hindsight, it will be considered one of the series’ best.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

  • Released: 2018
  • Average rating rank: 9th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 11th
  • Key cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Paul Bettany
  • Director: Ron Howard
  • Writer: Lawrence Kasdan, Jonathan Kasdan

Legacy: The only bomb in the Star Wars filmography, from a box office perspective at least, Solo hardly deserves that legacy. Perhaps fans simply weren’t willing to cop anyone outside of Harrison Ford playing Han Solo? Production problems, including a mid-shoot director change, also played a part, but there is an enjoyable story here, and one that adds to the character in meaningful and interesting ways. There’s no shortage of fun dialogue, mind-blowing action, twists and turns, and scoundrel antics. It’s a cut above what its rankings suggest.

Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

  • Released: 2019
  • Average rating rank: 7th
  • Adjusted box office rank: 9th
  • Key cast: Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Richard E. Grant, Mark Hamill, Ian McDiarmid, Billy Dee Williams, Benicio Del Toro
  • Director: J.J. Abrams
  • Writer: J.J. Abrams, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow, Chris Terrio

Legacy: And so the Skywalker Saga came to a close with The Rise of Skywalker. Unfortunately, the newest trilogy had bitten off way more than it could chew by this point. It ended up with a mouthful that it couldn’t swallow. The fan service of the first two films didn’t pay off, as a mishmash of characters struggled to find purposeful screen time or follow logical paths. When the film focuses in on the opposing forces of Kylo Ren and Rey, it’s brilliant. But around this is bloat that brings tedium to everything it touches as the editors struggled to tape it all together. At least the end is truly spectacular.

Tips for watching Star Wars movies

New streaming service Disney+ is making waves – and for good reason. The platform comes with content not only from Disney itself, but also from its subsidiaries. This includes Lucasfilm, which means that there’s plenty of Star Wars goodness available on Disney+ to keep fans of the franchise busy.

Fortunately for fans, Disney+ also offers a free 7-day trial, giving you enough time to hunker down and watch every Star Wars film before your trial period is up. And when you’re done with that, you can move on to content from Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic and, of course, Disney itself.

In addition to the release of The Rise of Skywalker, there’s also a new behind-the-scenes documentary based on the exciting new live-action TV show The Mandalorian. And depending on where you are in the world, the finale of Season 7 of the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series will also be available for on-demand streaming.

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How do the Star Wars TV shows on Disney+ rate?

There’s more to just movies on Disney+. Here’s a quick overview of how some of the other Star Wars content on the service rates. Also on the horizon are TV shows based on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cassian Andor of Rogue One fame.

Title IMDb rating IMDb votes Genre
The Mandalorian 9.1 21190 Science Fiction, Family, Action-Adventure
Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy 8.3 3355 Documentary
Star Wars: The Clone Wars 8.1 41090 Science Fiction, Animation, Action-Adventure
Star Wars Rebels 8 22895 Science Fiction, Kids, Animation, Action-Adventure
Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures 7.6 607 Science Fiction, Comedy, Kids, Animation, Action-Adventure
Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles 7.4 396 Animation, Comedy, Action-Adventure, Science Fiction

Image source: Disney+ website

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