The cast and crew of the upcoming The Force Awakens have a lot to live up to when it comes to being part of the Star Wars legacy. The force is so strong with the original trilogy that Disney purchased the franchise in order to keep telling the story for generations to come. Considering just how deeply embedded the original Star Wars trilogy is in our cultural consciousness, it's hard to imagine any continuation or "update" could exceed those films. What The Force Awakens has on its side that Episodes I-III did not is the Internet and the culture of geekdom. It's that same culture I risk the wrath of by attempting to rank the Star Wars films.
By storming Comic Con and releasing teasers and trailers made to make your Chewy-loving heart skip a beat, The Force Awakens has gotten ahead of the naysayers, and, if there's anything Disney knows how to do, it's make a successful blockbuster. There's no doubt that The Force Awakens will bring in the box office, but will it be as thrilling and game-changing as I know we're all hoping? You'll have to ask Yoda for that one. Or wait until Dec. 18 for the movie every single person who has ever wanted to snuggle with an ewok and pick up a light saber is going to see.
Until then, let's examine how all of the Star Wars rank, and see where The Force Awakens could land come December.
6. Attack Of The Clones
Just a few of the things that land this film in last place are Hayden Christensen's acting, the occasionally cheesy dialogue, and the abundance of green screen. Since it was the last Star Wars film to be made, The Force Awakens will hopefully improve upon all of these things to make a richer film.
5. The Phantom Menace
All I can say is: Jar Jar Binks.
4. Revenge Of The Sith
At least we get Darth Vader, ya know? For Star Wars fans, this feels the most Star Wars-y of Episodes I-III. But YODA ON HIGH, those special effects.
3. Return of the Jedi
George Lucas gave me the happy, heroic ending I wanted. After such an epic, harrowing journey, I got a truly satisfying conclusion, and to see Darth Vader's face (finally!). If you watched the trilogy as a kid, then this is how you learned about delayed gratification for the first time. Points taken for the Princess Leia slave bikini (and forever turning this into a gross sexual fantasy for generations to come), but bonus points for ewoks!
2. A New Hope
As interchangeable as Episodes I and II are for the bottom of the ranking, A New Hope and Return of the Jedi are as interchangeable for the top. A New Hope (first simply known as Star Wars), is the first and set the standard for every single sci-fi, fantasy, and action-adventure film that came after it. It's a glorious introduction to the Star Wars universe — which is both its blessing and its curse. There is a lot of exposition in A New Hope, which can sometimes drag, but all of its newness and wonder is what hooks you in. As my friend Matt says, "It's a Samurai fairy tale/WWII allegory told in space!" Lest we forget about one of the best movie scenes of all time: the cantina.
1. The Empire Strikes Back
When it came to choosing the best Star Wars movie, I had to go with my gut on this one. The Empire Strikes Back was the first film I saw where I felt in the pit of my stomach that the hero could actually die in a movie. I saw how Luke, Han, and Leia function when they are apart and just how powerful they are when they ban together. Along with the epic and sweeping action in far away locations, Empire serves up Lando Calrissian (!!!), some seriously questionable love triangles, as well as what is perhaps the most-referenced moment in cinematic history — Darth Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father. Empire is a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers and I'd still watch it as a stand alone more than any other film in the trilogy. Without all that set up, Empire is free to just go, full speed ahead.
Since The Force Awakens has the original trilogy to springboard off of, it could have similar momentum to Empire, and, based on the trailer alone, I already believe it's going to be better than Episodes I-III. It might seem impossible to care about the new characters as much as C3PO, R2D2, Chewy, Luke, Leia, and Han, but, if Star Wars has taught me anything, it's to expect the unexpected (and great storytelling).
Image: Lucas Films Ltd.