This is a guest post by Maria Ramos.

Star Wars fans worldwide are psyched for the impending release of the newest installment in the film franchise, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. This much-anticipated film is set nearly 30 years after Return of the Jedi. With the premiere of The Force Awakens fast approaching, it’s a perfect time to marathon the Star Wars films of years past. Which movies should you spend your weekends re-watching? We’ve examined the merits and shortcomings of Episodes I-VI and ranked these epic films from top to bottom.

1.) Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

star-wars-the-empire-strikes-back

The Empire Strikes Back is perhaps the darkest film in the Star Wars saga. Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker continue their fight against the omnipotent Darth Vader. Luke’s training with Jedi Master Yoda and the debut of Boba Fett are just two of the many treats viewers have to look forward to in this installment of the series. The film’s tremendous battles and epic plot twist both serve to make Empire one of the most unforgettable films of all time.

2.) Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Star Wars A New Hope

Episode IV, the original Star Wars film, became a pop culture phenomenon immediately upon its release in 1977. George Lucas’ magnificent directing coupled with John Williams’ legendary score revolutionized cinema forever. The Rebel Alliance‘s quest to take down the Death Star captivates audiences to this day. The scope and beauty of the Star Wars universe coupled with the introduction of unforgettable characters such as Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi make Star Wars an enduring classic.

3.) Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)

star-wars-return-of-the-jedi

Though not as strong as the first two films in the series, Return of the Jedi remains an enthralling tale of love and war. Amazing action sequences and new antagonists, including malicious Emperor Palpatine and crime lord Jabba the Hutt, make this film one of the most memorable in the Star Wars saga. Luke and Anakin both undergo major changes throughout the course of the film. Unlike most movies in the franchise, Jedi ends on a positive note, commemorating the end of the original film trilogy.

4.) Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

star-wards-revenge-of-the-sith

Despite being the best film in the more recent Star Wars trilogy, Revenge of the Sith fails to achieve the greatness of the original film trifecta. The film traces Anakin’s fall from grace and his defection to the Dark Side. The film’s major weaknesses lie in its awkward, stilted dialogue and mediocre plot line. The addition of General Grievous and the unrealistic relationship between Anakin and Padme drag the film down. Though Sith has its weaknesses, its spectacular battle sequences and special effects still make it a film worth watching.

5.) Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

star-wars-attack-of-the-clones

Attack of the Clones is among the weakest of the Star Wars films. The film follows Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they investigate an assassination attempt on Senator Padme Amidala. The ten-year jump between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones coupled with Hayden Christensen‘s moody characterization of Anakin Skywalker make the film hard to watch. Jumbled dialogue and limited character development plague this film as well. Despite its weaknesses, the Coruscant chase scene and the visually stunning depiction of the Battle of Geonosis rank amongst the most memorable scenes in the Star Wars saga.

6.) Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

star-wars-the-phantom-menace

The Phantom Menace is by far the most painful Star Wars film to sit through. From the dreaded appearance of Jar Jar Binks to the mediocre acting of Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker, the first film of the second trilogy suffers from a number of fundamental issues. Arguably the worst part of The Phantom Menace, however, is the film’s dreadful plot. The film details the problems associated with trade agreements and political disputes. By replacing passion and warfare with tedious dialogue and negotiations, Menace loses the spark that made other Star Wars films so great. The film’s fantastic final duel is one of the only saving graces of Star Wars: Episode I.

The Force Awakens & the Future of Star Wars

star-wars-the-force-awakens

Episode VII: The Force Awakens will introduce a new set of enemies led by the nefarious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a new and mysterious Force-wielding villain. In addition to new characters, The Force Awakens will feature revamped interstellar factions and previously undiscovered worlds.

Since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, the Star Wars franchise has seen many spin-offs and reincarnations. New animated programs such as Star Wars Rebels and mini-series like Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales can now be caught on cable TV (more info). In addition to new episodes in the Star Wars saga, a separate film series known as Star Wars Anthology is in the works, with the first film, Rogue One, scheduled for a December 2016 release. The first film in the anthology will tell the harrowing tale of a rebel group attempting to steal the plans for the Death Star; later films in the series are expected to delve deeper into the stories of Boba Fett and Han Solo.

One thing is certain: the Star Wars franchise is experiencing a mammoth second renaissance. Fans are guaranteed to have an abundance of new films to enjoy in the years ahead.

Source: Ain’t It Cool (header image)