Now that the Skywalker Saga has officially ended, I thought I'd share some of my own ideas... It's been a long journey.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980): The second 'original' movie proved that you could make a high-budget film with puppets that had heft, tension and substance. It has only gained in beauty with time, and its visual effects are still impressive, despite being over 40 years old. Co-written by Lawrence Kasdan, the script is full of humour and drama. Kasdan would then go on to write several good Star Wars movies, including the one below.
The Force Awakens (2015): J.J. Abrams' first pass at Star Wars was an incredibly fun, nostalgic and thrilling experience. Despite the gap in years between the first movie in 1977 and this instalment, the main feeling was that we picked up right where we left off, both in tone and scale. We were also introduced to incredible new characters in the form of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Finn (John Boyega). This is one of the best reboots in recent memory.
The Last Jedi (2017): One of the main reasons for placing Rian Johnson's entry below its predecessor is simply its length and pace. While the many turns, surprises and callbacks are appreciated, there is a feeling that too much is packed into this entry. One only wishes Johnson had been given two movies to write instead of one, as this film feels at times like a Shakespearian play - dark and deep, but also long at times with some characters such as Finn getting sidelined.
Star Wars / A New Hope (1977): What is impressive about Lucas' first big budget movie is the sheer enthusiasm and vision of its filmmaker - a mix of crazy characters, practical effects, Japanese-inspired costumes and a villain whose very name would become iconic. Crucially, this is a simple film, in which a princess needs to be rescued, and the evil Empire defeated.
Return of the Jedi (1983): George Lucas' conclusion to the 'original' trilogy is heartwarming, family-friendly and operatic in the best possible manner. The film starts off promisingly with a rescue and character moments, and then slows down significantly down the line. This is by no means a bad movie - for instance, the end sequence where Darth Vader faces off Luke Skywalker is simply beautiful - only an overdrawn one.
The Rise of Skywalker (2019): Similarly to its predecessor, there is a lot packed into this final movie. Its visual effects are stunning, and the story does bring its characters' overall arcs to a close in a definitive way. Beyond these broad strokes however, one gets the feeling that many vital scenes were cut from the film in favour of pacing. The result is a movie that feels broadly 'right' on the whole, yet confusing at the same time due to a break-neck structure.
Revenge of the Sith (2005): Many of the film's best moments rely on its central character's turn to the dark side, however in terms of running time most of the movie focuses on other elements - such as the cyborg General Grievous, a war on forest planet Kashyyyk, and generic battles that don't always land. Littered with interesting ideas, Revenge of the Sith doesn't feel as focused as it could be.
The Phantom Menace (1999): There are good things in the first of the new 'prequel' films - just not enough. Lucas dispenses with mythology and focuses on the rather simple story of a princess having to be protected, harkening back to A New Hope. Yet the movie also sabotages itself with questionable pacing. There are highs, such as the final showdown between Darth Maul (Ray Park) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), as well as the racing sequences on Tatooine, but they don't make up for a movie that moves at an irregular pace.
Attack of the Clones (2002): I remember distinctly watching this as a child, and this was in fact the first Star Wars I ever saw in the movie theatre. Although this is my least favourite instalment, I was still drawn to the universe and characters. As an adult, I have to admit there are very few things that pull me back to this particular movie. If one can credit it with one thing, it's that it was the first major Hollywood movie to be shot on digital cameras, and would kick-start Sony's CineAlta line, resulting in the F55 and F65 still in use today.