With over four decades since the first Star Wars movie was released, there has been a lot of content in this universe. Three trilogies and a couple of spinoffs, to be exact. Everyone has their own opinions on what they think are the best and worst of these movies, and the critics are no different. The popular critic review website Rotten Tomatoes has released a list showing just where each of these movies stands in their eyes.
Though Star Wars has begun to branch out into more TV shows featured on Disney+, the list focuses strictly on movies. Even with shows like Andor expanding on the movies they’re spinoffs of, their rankings were left off of the Rotten Tomatoes list. While they will undoubtedly continue to make TV shows well into the future, for now we’ll focus on the movies that started and built this franchise up in the first place.
12 Star Wars: The Clone Wars (18%)
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an animated movie that spawned an entire animated show franchise in the Star Wars universe, acclaimed Clone Wars series that are much more beloved than this glorified pilot episode. Set shortly after Episode II, this movie begins to explore the start of the Clone Wars, where Count Dooku is trying to turn Jabba the Hutt against the Republic. To do this, he frames the kidnapping of Jabba’s son on the Jedi.
Anakin Skywalker leads the attempts to return the child along with a surprise padawan, Ahsoka Tano, and Obi-Wan Kenobi works with Padme to try and uncover Dooku’s plot. It’s ranked last on this list and rather low on the tomato meter as well because critics had a lot of negative things to say about this movie. From criticizing the animation and not enjoying the overall plot and script, they felt it paled in comparison with the rest of the franchise.
11 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (51%)
In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn, a Jedi Master, and his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi are trying to protect Naboo’s Queen, Padme, to put an end to a trade dispute. Along the way they earn the help of several different and unique characters, including young Anakin Skywalker, who seems to have unusually strong Force powers.
Along the way, they continue to run into obstacles as the Sith try to blockade their path to peace. Critics felt the movie had too much exposition before the story actually began, and many had issues with some of the characters introduced (and the actors who played them). Jar Jar Binks in particular seemed to draw a lot of strife, becoming one of the least popular characters in the movie, and quite possibly the entire franchise.
10 Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (52%)
The newest trilogy had a lot of ups and downs, but Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker made it to the bottom of them. In one final stand against the First Order and the Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron fight together and lead the Resistance to try to gain victory. Many different struggles sit on their path, both physically and mentally, and their problems only increase as the First Order is aided by the return of Emperor Palpatine.
It seems the movie lacked focus and imagination in the eyes of the critics, who felt the franchise was just beginning to run in circles and repeat similar past storylines. However, they did notice they were still devoted to some of the fans while creating this and kept them in mind.
9 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (65%)
Set 10 years after The Phantom Menace, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones starts when large groups throughout the galaxy are leaving the Republic to join Count Dooku’s Confederacy of Independent Systems instead. As the galaxy divides itself and a civil war begins brewing, Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates an assassination attempt on Padme and uncovers the Republic’s clone army.
Anakin Skywalker is protecting Padme in the meantime, and the two slowly begin to fall for each other and develop a secret relationship. While the critics believe it has better action than the previous film, they still have some issues with it. Namely, they think the plot wanders around a little too much, and many of the characters are too underdeveloped, while the special effects have not aged well.
8 Solo: A Star Wars Story (69%)
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a spinoff that tells us some of the backstory of the popular character Han Solo. Set around ten years before A New Hope, it follows one of the early adventures of Solo as he joins a risky heist in the criminal underworld. Along the way he meets new and familiar faces, such as the wookiee we all know to be Chewbacca, as well as his friend Lando Calrissian.
Critics seemed to enjoy the movie for the most part, feeling it was fun and fast-paced. However, they were sure to note that it didn’t come without its flaws, knowing that it didn’t quite meet the expectations everyone had held for it.
7 Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (79%)
The last of the prequel movies, Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith is set three years after the beginning of the Clone Wars. Now that the Jedi are busy fighting the Separatists, Obi-Wan Kenobi is sent to try and defeat the head of the Separatist army, General Grievous.
While he’s gone, Anakin Skywalker is suffering with visions of his now wife, Padme, dying, and when he’s tasked to spy on Chancellor Palpatine the secret Sith Lord takes advantage of this weakness to start manipulating him onto his side. While the critics agreed that it was the best of the prequels, they noted it still suffered from a lot of the same issues the other movies did. Though the story was able to nicely tie the prequel trilogy into the original trilogy nicely, they still found the story to be somewhat uneven. However, many people think Revenge of the Sith is underrated.
6 Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (83%)
One year after The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode VI – Return of the Jedi brings us back into the fight as the Empire is in the middle of constructing a second Death Star. The Rebel fleet launches an attack on it once they discover the Emperor is on board in the hopes of destroying them both.
In the meantime, Luke Skywalker wants to bring his father, Darth Vader, back to the light side of the force, but is struggling to do so. As the last movie in this trilogy, the critics didn’t feel like it held up in comparison to the first two movies, and the Ewoks have been judged fairly harshly. They do recognize that it still entertains and feels like the proper end to the trilogy, however.
5 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (84%)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a spinoff set a week before A New Hope. Before the rebels can even attack the Death Star, they need to understand how it was built and how it works. A small group of rebels work together to try and steal the Death Star’s blueprints. Along the way, they encounter various ups and downs as the Empire seems to show up and cause more problems around every turn.
The critics enjoyed the movie for several reasons. While it takes its story from known events already in the universe, it brings a new narrative style and ground that began to alter the Star Wars game and seemed like a bright change for the franchise.
4 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (91%)
In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Rey looks further into the new Force powers she had discovered and seeks out Luke Skywalker. She hopes he will not only teach her, but will return to the Resistance with her to fight against the First Order. Meanwhile, Finn and Poe Dameron are working with the rest of the Resistance to try and escape an attack on their dwindling fleet.
It was received well by the critics, believing it continued to honor the Star Wars legacy and brought the same action fans have come to love. They also loved some of the surprising twists the movie brought to the table. Some fans, though, lashed out with toxicity at changes they didn’t like.
3 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (93%)
The first movie of the Star Wars universe was Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. While the galaxy is currently under the control of the Empire, there is a group of people trying to fight against it known as the Rebel Alliance. In the conflict of trying to destroy their newest weapon, the Death Star, Luke Skywalker accidentally becomes caught in the crossfire as he learns about the Force from Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
As Luke begins to develop these powers, he discovers he’s about to become a vital piece of the rebellion. It can be hard to beat the classics, and the critics seem to agree. Though they claim the movie was perhaps overly ambitious, they recognize it as the eye-opening sci-fi blockbuster it was.
2 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (93%)
The first of the most recent trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, managed to get on par with the first Star Wars movie. 30 years after Return of the Jedi, we return to the galaxy to find it was taken over by the First Order, the successor to the Empire. Rey leads a simple life on a nearly forgotten planet, but accidentally gets pulled into the Resistance when Finn and Poe Dameron end up crashing on her planet as they try to return important information to the veteran Resistance leaders.
To the critics it was an amazing blockbuster with new and familiar faces, each returning character making an even better entrance than the last. They felt it brought the former glory back into the franchise while bringing a new and better energy along with it.
1 Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (94%)
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back is set three years after A New Hope. As the Rebels continue to fight against the Empire, Luke Skywalker leaves the others behind to find Jedi Master Yoda. He trains Luke in the use of the Force in the hopes of giving him the power to confront and defeat the powerful Sith Lord Darth Vader.
Without Luke around, however, his friends and fellow Rebels continue to find themselves in danger, and he has to decide if it’s worth risking his friends lives, or his training. Though it was close, the critics determined that this was the Star Wars movie that would take the cake. They felt it was even more involved than A New Hope, and that it defied viewer expectations to bring the trilogy to new heights.