'The Force Awakens' Reviews Are Glowing, But Where Does It Rank In The 'Star Wars' Franchise?

It's the moment the entire galaxy has been waiting for: Star Wars: The Force Awakens had its world premiere in Los Angeles this Monday night, in an event that rivaled the Oscars in terms of sheer scale and excitement. And yet, any reviews were embargoed by Disney for two more days; other than a few vague tweets from celebrities in attendance, nothing was revealed about the quality of the film itself.On Wednesday morning, the embargo was finally lifted, and the Force Awakens reviews are in. So how are they? And where do they suggest this movie will rank among the rest of them?

Are we in for a sequel that's out of this world? Or are we in for another Episode I-level disappointment? Fortunately, the reviews so far have been almost universally glowing. According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 97 percent of the 143 reviews they've counted so far have been positive. And, according to Metacritic, the average rating of the 43 reviews they've counted so far has been an 81 out of 100.

Where does that land The Force Awakens in the pantheon of all seven Star Wars movies? Here's a ranking based on each film's Metascore.

7. The Phantom Menace — 51


No surprises here. The most popularly maligned Star Wars movie was also the worst reviewed, critically speaking. Of the 36 reviews counted, 15 were "positive" while 15 were "mixed" and 6 were full-blown "negative." some of the more forgiving reviews lauded the first prequel as "technically accomplished," while the ones on the other end of the spectrum dismissed it as a "tedious infomercial for Phantom Menace action figures."

6. Return Of The Jedi — 52


It's common knowledge that the original trilogy far surpasses anything George Lucas' prequels had to offer — so it's a bit surprising to see Episode VI come in so close to Episode I's score. The backlash against the fuzzy Ewoks may have paled in comparison to the backlash against Jar Jar Binks, but it still dampened many people's enthusiasm for the first trilogy capper. Opinions on this one range wildly from "magnificent fun" to "downright repetitive."

5. Attack Of The Clones — 54


The second entry in the prequel trilogy fared barely better than the first, with critics bemoaning it as "too long, [...] too dull, [...] too lame." "I can't remember ever feeling so glad that a movie was finally over," another reviewer claimed. But some critics disagreed, calling the middle installment a "grand entertainment that offers a satisfying balance among the series' epic, narrative, technological and emotional qualities."

4. Revenge Of The Sith — 68


The first real jump in quality comes here with the final prequel, the first film on the list to be qualified as earning "generally favorable reviews" rather than "mixed or average reviews." It actually only earned one fully "negative" review, from someone who claimed that its improvement upon its predecessors was comparable "only in the same way that dying from natural causes is preferable to crucifixion." On the other hand, Episode III's supporters qualified it as "a nearly complete vindication" of George Lucas' vision.

3. The Empire Strikes Back — 79


Whereas popular wisdom matched critical reception when it came to the franchise's worst film, opinion seems split on the franchise's best. General consensus is that Episode V isn't only the best Star Wars film, but that it's also one of the best sequels ever made, often mentioned in the same breath as The Godfather Part II. And yet it only comes in third here, critically speaking; while some rightfully lauded this sequel as "near flawless," others were less effusive, accusing it of "marking time" and "leading nowhere."

2. The Force Awakens — 81


Although the newest film's score is still subject to fluctuation, it is currently sitting pretty with what Metacritic refers to as "universal acclaim." Only four of the 43 critics counted so far have been "mixed" in their opinions, with no outright "negative" reviews in sight. While some damned with faint praise, referring to Episode VII as "perfectly adequate," others have been positively giddy, assuring fans that "it justifies the enormous hype."

1. A New Hope — 92


Sometimes the first really is the best. 1977's Episode IV can also boast that highly sought-after "universal acclaim," with absolutely no negative or mixed reviews to its name. Legendary critic Roger Ebert probably summed it up best when he said that, "If I were asked to say with certainty which movies will still be widely known a century or two from now, I would list 2001, The Wizard Of Oz, Keaton and Chaplin, Astaire and Rogers, and probably Casablanca... and Star Wars, for sure."

The Force Awakens opens everywhere this Friday, Dec. 18... as if you really needed a reminder.

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