Ranking The Force Awakens In The Star Wars Franchise

(Spoiler alert)

After seeing The Force Awakens a second time, I think that I am ready to decide where I would place the movie among the other movies of the Star Wars franchise. As I wrote in my early review, I really enjoyed this movie. On the second viewing I liked it even more. For me, this is the first Star Wars movie that can be characterized as one that grows on you. All the other movies are either obviously bad or instant classics, but I think that the more people watch The Force Awakens they will fall more in love with it. So how does it stand among the other movies?

First things first, it is better than any of the prequel movies. The acting, story writing and effects are leagues above anything that the prequel movies offered. I really noticed this in the first act when Rey and Finn escape in the Millennium Falcon. I realized that I knew exactly who these characters were and I knew exactly what they wanted. I knew what the stakes were, and all the character motivations were clear. That was a great feeling. Compare that to the Naboo escape scene in The Phantom Menace, and the superiority of The Force Awakens was clear. The quality held throughout the movie. There was never a point that I was confused as to why characters were taking the actions that they were and I was always invested in what was going on, which is more than I can say for the prequels. Anybody who thinks that The Force Awakens needs to go to the doctor and get their heads checked.

What about its ranking among the original movies? The Force Awakens does not have the same measure of quality as Empire Strikes Back or A New Hope. Mostly this is due to a muddled second act and the pacing issues that I mentioned in the review. If the movie took a bit of time to breathe, then it would have easily been on par with those movies. My minor concerns are what knock it down in my mind. But its hard to compete with two movies which are perfect.

However, I think The Force Awakens beats Return of the Jedi. Out of the original trilogy, ROTJ is the most problematic. It has the same issue of a muddled second act, compounded by the annoying inclusion of the Ewoks as something cute for the movie. TFA does not have the inclusion of any cutesy creatures like that. The comedy is much more natural and fluid than anything in ROTJ.

ROTJ also struggles due to the fact that it is essentially two movies pasted together. The stuff in Jabba’s palace is fun, but it really does not have much to do with Luke’s battle with the dark side. Really, you can skip the first hour of ROTJ and it does not really effect the story in any significant way. That does not mean the first hour is not good, but it is unimportant to the later development of the characters. In contrast all the events in TFA are  integral to the action of the story and the development of the characters.

The one thing that ROTJ does really good is give a good conclusion to all the main characters. The confrontation between Luke and Vader is emotional and exciting, and on its own rises above anything in TFA, being almost matched by the death of Han Solo.

So when it comes down to it, ROTJ has a superior last act, but the first hour of the movie is not as engaging as TFA. It really comes down to the wire, but in my mind TFA stands barely above ROTJ and far above the prequel movies.

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3 responses to “Ranking The Force Awakens In The Star Wars Franchise

  1. I hate to say it, but I was a bit disappointed by the new film.
    1. It just didn’t seem to inspire that sense of magic and awe that many of the other films inspired in my imagination.
    2, Not enough screen time for the old cast. We only got to see Luke for a couple of minutes and he had no lines at all. I have been wanting them to bring back the old cast for decades now, and they just didn’t seem to use them properly. It was quite unfulfilling.
    3. The happy ending from Return of the Jedi was completely dashed asunder. They could have left a few remnants in tact. Our hero’s worlds didn’t have to turn to complete shit after all their work and sacrifice. It would have been far more interesting if they had been living somewhat happily and the new evil in the galaxy took that from them.
    4. For me the ships have always been stars of the show. There is a new Star Destroyer and they didn’t even give us a good look at it.
    5. I didn’t like the fact that they killed Han. If they had to kill him, I would have prefered a more heroic, meaningful death rather than him being sucker-shanked by his own son. It was too much like some sort of Greek Tragedy.
    6, I found it hard to swallow that someone who had never held a light saber could hang with someone who had been trained. The light saber battles from the prequels blew it away.

    I had other problems with the film, but, a bad Star Wars is better than no Star Wars at all. I’m sorry, but I would have to rank this film dead last. My nine year old daughter was fidgeting in her seat and complaining about the length of the movie. People complain about the Ewoks, and Jar Jar, but kids love those types of characters. Star Wars should belong to everyone, not just adults. If we lose the kids, we lose the future of Star Wars. For the record, I didn’t like Jar Jar either.

  2. Happy for you being able to see TFA — and twice at that. This is my objection — WRONG time of year to release a block bluster film. Or really any movies. There is just so much going on between Halloween and the Super Bowl, with December being packed with traditions, activities and things having nothing to do with going to movies. And dozens of essential holiday shows and films to be busy watching.

    While I’ll see the film in a theater, only my second film in 2015 (if I find time to go in next week’s busy events), elevating it above the dozens of first run films I wait for on DVD, certainly not twice.

    So, thanks for the spoilers. I don’t mind. Comment here is for the other six films and I’ll raise my expectations, based on your opinion. But ranking wise, recently seen a very dated looking IV. It’s odd how even an exotic movie, one that at the time looked so fresh and costumed/set so specifically out of this world, looks so clearly 70’s. Much like Star Trek original — just looks dated. And the CGI, HD and digital enhancements and releases don’t help (well, we know they change things detrimentally anyway). But the promise that TFA will return to real effects versus CGI overload, which is the hallmark the middle trilogy, gives hope.

    Next, I can say that the prequels have actually grown on me. What they did best was present the mechanics of civil war caused by the machinations of (evil). They are very weak at presenting the bond between Anakin and Obiwan before his padawan turns; in fact, Anakin never (other than in TPM as child) is presented as anything worthy of the praise Obiwan gives his memory in New Hope. But the portrayal of Palpatine/Sidious — is well done (albeit we just are asked to excuse how clueless and obtuse the Jedi Council is; at least it is never explained satisfactorily).

    All that said, because my concern is your ranking, I’ll stick with (for now) the opinion I’ve held since 1983 — the best of the six films is far and away Return of the Jedi. I love all the acts. The final one best; pretty sure I think about every single day of my life since seeing it. But I like the beginning; it does add to Luke’s journey and I feel, strongly, that without his “mission” to get Han rescued, he lacks the the confidence to face his father and the emperor, and would undoubtedly, as he did at Cloud City, fail. He would have been turned.

    So I’d rank them ROTJ, ROTS, AOTC, NH, TESB and TPM. I do realize the reverence felt for Empire Strikes Back, that I’m outnumbered substantially, but always (until recently demoting New Hope) felt it was the weakest of the first three movies.

    • Three things. A billion dollars?!? During the holidays. Amazing, disturbing, unfortunate and, a modern dilemma. Where are the traditions of the past?

      Saw the movie. So I’d rank them TFA, ROTJ, ROTS, AOTC, NH, TESB and TPM. That said, the best of the light sabre duels is in TPM — if you don’t count Kylo Ren’s epic battles in room by himself. I like all seven movies. The opening title, music and crawl of TFA made me giddy. And, yes, on so many levels it is the best of the films.

      The casting of TFA is awesome. But a huge nod to Adam Driver who so plays the part and looks like the offspring of Han and the Skywalker bloodline. Scene on the catwalk — dude is the channeling the best of Hayden’s performance. Well, and with Daisy Riddley; I’m in love. She is awesome; every public interview she always has this (attractive, but overpowering) smile and I was concerned she’d grin through the whole movie. She can act! And better looking than Portman, too.

      JJ has hit a home run! A lot of money. But the film deserves the priase.

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