If you feel a disturbance in the Force, that's because I'm attempting the impossible - a ranking of the seven episodic Star Wars movie.
Always changing, the future is, and frankly, this ranking has changed in my mind about 30 times - in just the two days since I was first asked to write this piece. It's a hard thing to do for any fan, and this is highly subjective. Doing an objective rating, using no level of personal opinion, is impossible, after all.
So, here's the current ranking, as objective as possible, with my own personal opinion injected as well (just being honest). My top two could probably be swapped any time, and might be once I've seen a certain film a few more times. Ranks 3, 4, and 5 are nearly interchangeable; those films are so close to each other in quality in my mind that it's hard to put them in any specific order.
The last two are about as definitive as they can be, though.
Check out our ranking, and please, take this as the start of discussion, and add your list of the seven episodes in the comments!
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Coming in at #7 is Attack of the Clones. The second of the prequel films, this was the movie that was finally going to show us the fabled Clone Wars! Except it didn't, really, not until the titular Attack that came in at the end of the movie. We'd have to wait a few more years for the actual Clone Wars, though the animated series certainly made up for that.
This movie never became what it said it was going to be. It wasn't the Clone Wars, it didn't show us the deep brotherly connection between Anakin and Obi-Wan, it didn't give us a believable and relatable relationship between Anakin and Padme. The movie's biggest selling point was seeing a bunch of Jedi fighting all at once, side-by-side, but then they only fought CGI characters (as a gif that has been doing the rounds, showing a bunch of Jedi on a green screen stage swinging lightsabers at nothing shows).
This one also has the worst (but some of the most quotable, ironically) dialogue, hands-down, of the entire franchise.
Sand is coarse, and gets everywhere, and this is the least of the Star Wars films.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
For all the hate this movie gets, it deserves about 5-10% of it. Okay, midichlorians was a ridiculous and awful misstep. Trying to de-mystify the Force will always be the worst decision George Lucas made in my mind.
But there's actually a lot to like in this movie, and it is (as opposed to our last entry) exactly what it intends to be. The Phantom Menace plays to the Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey quite nicely, giving us a call to action for young Anakin, his figurative death of leaving his mother behind and his rebirth as an uncannily talented fighter pilot. It has incredible and fun action scenes, like the podracing sequence and the aforementioned dogfight. It also has an incredible, though sadly underused villain in Darth Maul.
It even shows us one of the best contrasting scenes of the dark and light sides of the Force, when Maul paces back and forth as Qui-Gon just turns off his lightsaber and meditates. It's beautiful, and makes this movie worthwhile - or at least not the worst of the bunch.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Now we're getting into tricky territory, as these next three films could really be in any order. Return of the Jedi, as a film culminating the original trilogy, is definitely a third act. On the downside, it relies a lot on circumstance, coincidence, and the interference of a bunch of adorable natives, to win the day. It also gave a conclusion to a decades-long conflict that addressed very little of the aftermath (which, of course, they've turned into a good thing now).
But there's also so much to love. We get to see Luke Skywalker finally as a Jedi. We see him truly struggle with the dark side, we see Anakin return, we see Leia find out she's a twin, and strong in the Force and turn the tables on Han's best line ever.
It's a great movie with a lot of hope for the future, which is now being realized.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The next of the "toss-up three," the three films I could see argued for in any order, Revenge of the Sith is by far the best movie of the prequels. The movie delivers an emotional climax to Anakin Skywalker's fall into the dark side as Darth Vader. The deaths of the Jedi, the betrayal of the clone army, and some of the best action in the series are all present.
The problem is, those emotional moments are only truly emotional if you've watched at least some of the six seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. If you've seen the show, then all of a sudden every one of those deaths is deeply painful, and you really believe Obi-Wan when he shouts, "You were my brother, Anakin!"
If you haven't? You only have Attack of the Clones to go on. And you saw how I feel about that.
Still, in context of the greater Star Wars mythos, this movie has a lot of impact, and a lot to love.
Episode IV: A New Hope
Ah, the one that started it all. I've seen many arguments that put this at the top of the heap, and I completely understand that. I just don't think that the movie being the first necessitates it being the best.
Still, there's a certain magic to the original Star Wars that can never possibly be duplicated; it was the first after all. Think about what this movie spawned, from just these seven movies, to two animated series (plus other specials and mini/micro series) to novels and games and comics and songs and action figures and blasters and collectibles and just everything.
It also happens to be a great movie. Luke Skywalker (and the Skywalker family in general) has an incredible journey and we're still in the midst of it.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
These top two were really tough, as The Force Awakens is still so new. Ultimately, it'll probably wind up here, at the second spot. Yes, it follows the very loose general formula of Episode IV, but people seem to be foregetting that was following a formula. It was following multiple other films, and reaching back into all of history's story telling, distilling it into one science fantasy epic.
The Force Awakens continues that tradition, and also pushes Star Wars forward in significant ways. Rey, Finn, and Poe have so much to offer us going into the future. Kylo Ren has already become one of the most heavily debated and talked about villains in history.
From heartbreak to laughter, excitement to contemplation, nostalgia to the brand new, there's a lot to love about Episode VII that makes it one of the best movies in the bunch.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
There's a reason Empire Strikes Back is at the top of so many lists - it's just such a dang good movie.
As Clerks classically said, "It's a series of down endings," but it's also so much more than that. Empire fulfills the promise of A New Hope, showing us that it wasn't just a fluke. There are deeper relationships in these two hours than in entire other series or franchises. You leave Empire caring passionately about every main character involved.
Oh, and then there's that fateful reveal. When we learn the truth about Darth Vader, it's painful, it's shocking, it's wondrous, and like so many other single lines in Star Wars, it's a magical moment: it tells an entire story, while also making you desperately want to know more.
And on top of that, there's my favorite line in all of Star Wars and maybe of all time, another line that does the same as above: "No, there is another."
Empire fulfills many promises, makes more, answers questions, and asks more. It's exactly what a movie can and should be, as a standalone film and as part of a larger series. It took the success of Star Wars and amplified it. While Star Wars started it all, Empire is what truly launched it into the franchise we know today. And that's why it's the best of the series.