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

May 4 is Star Wars Day and if you're prepping for a movie binge on the Disney+ streaming service, these statistics could help you decide the order.

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In a galaxy not so far, far away, millions of Star Wars fans can feel The Force flowing through them. It’s Star Wars Day on 4 May, 2020, and it’s never been bigger. Not only are most people around the world isolated at home in coronavirus quarantine, but this is the first May the Fourth since Disney+ launched and they’re giving fans a special gift.

Disney+ has moved to release the latest film in the Star Wars saga The Rise of Skywalker on 4 May 2020. So while most people have their own favourite and know which order to watch the films in, Finder has decided to celebrate Star Wars day by determining the best movie of the franchise.

So, let’s go deep for Star Wars Day, peel back the data and consume a definitive overview of the entire series. What 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

Star Wars: A New Hope review

  • 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 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 its all-too-Seventies wardrobe showing its age. However, the chemistry of the cast and the way the story ignites your imagination and sense of wonder can never be deadened.

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back review

  • 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 the top of the pile when it comes to box office, you’ll find few who will dispute that 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. The essential Star Wars film.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi review

  • 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 later movies would become known for start 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.

Star Wars: Phantom Menace review

  • 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 going viral across the globe prior to the release of The Phantom Menace. Sixteen 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 footprint for all that would come after it, haphazard direction that placed special effects before character, leaving actors with little to chew on, and a tone that missed its fanbase by a margin, saw it labelled the series’ ugly stepchild. And correctly, too. Even if a 5.9 rating is still an “above average” score.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones review

  • 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 were still left confused by the focus on politics over mythology. Ultimately, the film couldn’t turnaround the fortunes of its predecessor with critics or fans.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith review

  • 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 its two predecessors coming to a 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.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

  • 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 play 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 were proof that was just what we all needed.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review

  • 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. Following those in the rebellion who uncovered the Death Star plans was always risky, as we knew 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.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi review

  • 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 hard to swallow. It does get better with every watch; and some of the shots are simply stunning. While the relationships between characters deepened and diversified in exciting ways, too. We think, in hindsight, it will be considered one of the series’ best.

Solo: A Star Wars Story review

  • 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 playing Han Solo outside of Harrison Ford? While production problems, which included a mid-shoot director change, also played a part. Yet there is an enjoyable story here, and one that adds in meaningful and interesting ways to the character. 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.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker review

  • 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 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 altogether. 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 its subsidiaries. The list includes Lucasfilm, so there’s plenty of Star Wars goodness available on Disney+ to keep fans of the franchise busy.

Fortunately for fans Disney+ also comes with a free 7-day trial giving you enough time to bunker down and watch every Star Wars film. Disney+ looks to be the new home of content created by all the major armies in the Disney empire. We’re talking Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic and Disney itself.

In addition to the release of Rise of Skywalker there’s also new behind the scenes documentary dropping on Star Wars day 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: Clone Wars series will be available for on-demand streaming.

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.

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

Also on the horizon are TV shows based on Obi-Wan Kenobi and Cassian Andor of Rogue One fame.

Image source: Disney+ website

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