Written by Zack Hohenstein, E23 Digital Director
December 10, 2019

A short time ago in a galaxy very close, the Oxford English Dictionary added another group of words to their official catalog. They do this every month. If you were to check the October additions, you would find a lot of curious words. For instance, cryptocurrency and easy-breezy are now included. However, there is another: Jedi.

Jedi, along with Padawan and Lightsaber, are now part of the official Oxford English Dictionary. While this may seem weird at first, it really shouldn’t be surprising considering just how big of a role “Star Wars” plays in our culture. Since the release of George Lucas’ original film in 1977, the series has made 9.31 billion dollars in gross box office, ranking only behind the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is not even considering the ridiculous profits from the various novels, comics, shows, attractions, toys and merchandise.

As we approach the release of the final film in the Skywalker saga, it’s inevitable that I would rewatch all ten live-action films (sorry “Clone Wars”). And as everyone close to me knows – I love to rank things. So, it seemed only fitting to me that I write my opinions down in a  little article and throw them out into the world for abuse. 

While these are of course only opinions, I did put a really embarrassing amount of thought into each of these choices. You might have your own that are vastly different. As Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke, “Many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.” I love to discuss and debate movies, “Star Wars” most of all. So, if you want to waste some time from your day, feel free to let me know just how wrong I am. But just know that I have the high ground.

Before I get started, I really want to emphasize something. I enjoy every “Star Wars” movie. Even the ones that are admittedly lackluster, I find myself having a good time watching them, especially if my friends are around. Like millions of other kids, I grew up with the franchise. Whether it was catching an airing of “Return of the Jedi” on TNT or putting my own dusty “Phantom Menace” VHS tape into the VCR, one thing became clear:

I love “Star Wars”.

Now as we proceed to my list, just keep that in mind. I wouldn’t post an article like this haphazardly because these movies have been a huge part of my life. Yes, I am aware of how nerdy that sounds. Believe it or not, I do have a bit of self-awareness. With that in mind, let’s get going.

This is where the fun begins. 

10. Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Directed by George Lucas

Well. Are you surprised?

I want to reiterate this one more time; I enjoy every “Star Wars” film, including this flat and messy assembly of bad effects and wooden acting. And make no mistake, friends. That is exactly what “The Phantom Menace” is.

This is a flawed and confused film. On one hand, it is clear that George Lucas wanted to gear this one towards kids. An adolescent Anakin Skywalker at its center, brutally silly dialogue and slapstick from dumb droids make that abundantly clear. Oh, and there’s Jar Jar Binks.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a sin to aim for a younger audience. It is a space adventure film, after all. But indulge me for a moment while I give any future screenwriters out there some advice:

If you’re going to write for children, do not center the conflict of the movie around a trade embargo.

Alas, I can be reasonable. I can forgive bad alien fart gags. I can get over awkward acting and casting. However, Lucas’ first episode in his prequel trilogy commits a far worse crime: it’s boring. The pacing is brutal. The plot, while well structured, moves at the pace of molasses. Even when things get pretty cool at the end with a three man lightsaber duel, it’s still cut between other conflicts that are far less interesting. Watching Jar Jar and the Gungan army fight Trade Federation droids on the subpar CGI landscape of Naboo can kill the momentum of any of the best fights in cinema.

Okay, but that fight is dope though. I’ve heard it argued it’s the best in the entire saga. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s duel with Darth Maul is expertly choreographed and more than intense enough to stand the test of time. Oh, and having “Duel of the Fates” as a backing score doesn’t hurt either.

Other positives of the film include the fun podracing sequence and Liam Neeson just being there. I, along with many others, have a good enough time watching this movie. However, I’d wager a lot of that enjoyment comes laced with a healthy dose of nostalgia.

9. Episode 2: Attack of the Clones

Directed by George Lucas

Okay, George, now we’re getting somewhere.

Lucas improved the formula for his second prequel with a more action-based approach. The increase in popcorn style filmmaking makes this an improvement over Episode 1, albeit not a huge one. The dialogue is still entertainingly bad, specifically between Anakin and Padmé (for the record, I agree with Anakin. Sand is the worst). The over-reliance on completely CGI sets is still annoying. And geez, this movie feels every second of its 142-minute runtime. But despite all of this, “Clones” is still pretty watchable throughout.

The unfortunate demise of Qui-Gon at the end of “Phantom Menace” left room for Ewan McGregor’s Obi-Wan Kenobi to take on a much bigger role. Episode 2 is where he became a fan favorite character in the “Star Wars” fandom. While he is certainly my favorite part of the prequel films, he’s practically deified by many others. Seriously, it’s like a cult. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get it, though. He gives the best performance in the latter two prequels and his character is involved in all of the best moments. That beard is pretty fierce too.

“Clones” has a lot of very creative and fun set pieces. The speeder chase of the assassin through the crowded airspace of Coruscant is excitingly chaotic. Obi-Wan’s rain drenched clash against Jango Fett at the cloning facility of Kamino is undeniably fun. Seeing dozens of Jedi come together to fight during the film’s arena climax is cool. However, my personal favorite sequence is the final confrontation between Obi-Wan, Anakin and Yoda against Christopher Lee’s icy Count Dooku. Seeing Yoda fight with both a lightsaber and force abilities is the highlight of his prequel appearances. 

All things considered, “Attack of the Clones” is a good movie. It’s definitely not anything more than good, though. It’s corny lines and lack of practical effects don’t age particularly well, but it manages to entertain enough to justify not being last on the list.

8. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Ron Howard

Alas, we have arrived at the Disney era. The fourth “Star Wars” film released by the house that Mickey built is as unproblematic as it is unessential. However, being unnecessary isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After the seriously divisive Episode 8 in the Skywalker Saga, it would seem like a smaller scale adventure film would be exactly what the fans wanted. It didn’t exactly work out financially, but those that ended up seeing the movie found that it was actually quite entertaining.

I’ll admit it. My first viewing was a bit underwhelming. It felt awkward seeing this movie trying to pass off this stranger as someone I know already. I grew up with the iconic presence of Harrison Ford as Han Solo. He was arguably the coolest movie star of all time playing the coolest movie character of all time. Filling those shoes is an undeniably intimidating task. But all in all, despite incredible pressure as well as a turbulent production that included a director change and extensive reshoots, Alden Ehrenreich does a fine job. He has just the right mix of blind confidence, self-interest and charisma to successfully pass for the scruffy-looking smuggler.

The rest of the cast members are also diverting enough, if not remarkable. Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke both serve their purposes well as side characters that teach Han important lessons, even if their characters never get that much depth. However, the highlight performance of the film is Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian. Exuding some charm, Glover proves himself to be a worthy successor to Billy Dee Williams with an exuberant sense of sophistication and humor. 

The movie is fun but far from perfect. The romance at the center between Han and Qi’ra is hard to care about when you already know that it doesn’t work out. Lando’s droid L3-37 has her moments but is just as often out of place or annoying. The script isn’t too impressive and is obsessed with answering questions we didn’t need answers to (did any of us really want to know why Han’s last name was Solo?). Despite all of this, the film makes up for it with some impressive sequences. While the snowy coaxium heist on the rotating train is a clear highlight, the execution of the Kessel run is a tense and expertly designed mid-film set piece.

“Solo” has everything a movie about the iconic hero should have. Laced with fast-paced action scenes, humor, and good ol’ fashioned thievery, Ron Howard’s contribution to the universe serves its purpose. While it doesn’t come close to matching the holdover classic quality of the original trilogy, it does succeed in executing the same tone of reckless adventure. It’s hard to ask for more from a spin-off 41 years after the fact.

7. Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith

Directed by George Lucas

Hello there.

Arguably the only necessary chapter of Lucas’ prequels, it’s easily his most effective. But let’s be fair. The first two thirds of “Revenge of the Sith” aren’t much better than the first two prequels. The clunky dialogue and overwhelming amount of CGI are still there. The script is awkward and the story is aimless. Mace Windu’s confrontation of Palpatine is a bad scene. Natalie Portman’s Padmé Amidala, who to this point has been a strong female character, literally dies of sadness after doing nothing the entire movie. But despite all of this, Episode 3 is thoroughly entertaining.

Darker than its immediate predecessors, “Revenge of the Sith” gives Anakin’s transition to the dark side the thematic weight it deserves. The change is certainly more rushed than it could’ve been, though. Going from an honorable Jedi to killing kids in one night is quite a character leap, even if his motivations are rooted in fear for his wife’s life. It doesn’t make his fall any less tragic, however.

Obi-Wan’s battle against General Grievous and Palpatine’s discussion with Anakin in the opera box are both fan favorite scenes. The execution of Order 66 is poignantly depressing. And of course, the inevitable battle between apprentice and master on Mustafar provides some of the best scenes in the entire series. The dialogue, basic as it may be, is eternally quotable and the lightsaber fight ranks among the most effective ever depicted. And that shot with the lava explosion (see above) is chills-inducing.

Very flawed but very fun, Episode 3 serves as a redemption for Lucas’ uneven prequel trilogy. Hayden Christensen is improved from Episode 2 and Ewan McGregor is as watchable as ever. Their relationship is the emotional core of the movie and its collapse is even more heartbreaking than the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise.

6. Episode 7: The Force Awakens

Directed by J.J. Abrams

It is not an exaggeration to say “The Force Awakens” was the most anticipated movie of all time upon its release. The prequels had left a bit of a sour taste in the mouths of many “Star Wars” fans. The franchise remained theatrically dormant in the subsequent years. So, when Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy tapped super fan J.J. Abrams to co-write the script and direct the seventh film in the saga, there was a new hope.

Did you see what I did there?

Bad jokes aside, we all know the annoyingly accurate similarities between Episode 7 and the original film. So, I won’t list them because I’m sure you’ve all heard that speech by now. But yes, they are ridiculous and they hold the movie back from being ranked among the classics it tries to emulate. But make no mistake; “The Force Awakens” is a by-the-numbers story that is largely made up for in every other aspect of the film.

With the first chapter in the sequel trilogy, Abrams brings fun, new leads to match with the returning original trilogy characters. John Boyega and Oscar Isaac have good chemistry in their brief screen time together as Finn and Poe, respectively. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is an appealing protagonist who is easy to root for, even if everything might come a little too easily for her at times. She lives alone, waiting for a family that won’t return. She watches a distant ship blast off into the sky and notices an elderly scrapper washing parts in front of her, representing an image of her future if she doesn’t escape. So when BB-8 arrives with a map to Luke Skywalker, Rey’s journey is just as astounding to her as it is to us as she enters the world of the resistance and discovers her powers.

Perhaps the only disappointment is the character of Kylo Ren. Adam Driver is arguably the best actor out of the group so that’s why it’s frustrating that his villain is written as a Darth Vader wannabe who throws temper tantrums. While Driver does a good job in the role of a conflicted apprentice with Skywalker blood, Kylo wouldn’t become a compelling antagonist until his second appearance.

Featuring some of the finer shots in the series, seeing the world of “Star Wars” with modern effects was an experience when Episode 7 was released. The return of veteran actors is more than welcome, particularly the legendary Harrison Ford. Han trying to be a father to his troubled son in his last scene is some of Ford’s best acting as the character.

However, my personal favorite scene is the final lightsaber fight between Finn, Rey and Kylo. The snow covered forest and minimal accompanying music create an atmosphere of real, serious stakes. When the lightsaber flies beyond Kylo to Rey’s hand and John William’s “Force Theme” begins – that is how to execute a moment, ladies and gentlemen.

“The Force Awakens” is comfort food. It’s a comfortable ride that goes down smoothly, even if it isn’t the gourmet meal you wish it was. The lack of new ideas feels like a wasted opportunity for the franchise, but Episode 7 works well as a revisit to a galaxy far, far away. Introducing the series to a new generation of fans, Abrams provides enough intrigue and promise for the future to bring the franchise back to life.

5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Directed by Gareth Edwards

The first “Star Wars” film without a Skywalker, “Rogue One” had a lot to prove. A direct prequel to “A New Hope”, the audience knows the exact ending to the film, including a pretty educated guess on what will happen to all of its central characters. So, like “Solo”, Gareth Edward’s film isn’t a strictly necessary addition to the saga. But it’s also that separation from the Jedi-oriented storytelling that makes this one stand out.

To this point, we have only seen a force sensitive family struggle with their own integral involvement in battles between good and evil. But what about everyone else? Edwards answers that question, centering a story on the downtrodden folks that the Empire has oppressed. 

The cinematography captures the intimidating size of the Imperial weapons and power. Heroes are dramatically outgunned. The odds are terrible and the hope is dwindling. The rebellion feels more real and fleshed out here than it has in any other film. 

Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor has to kill an injured ally in his first scene to protect information vital to the cause. Forest Whittaker’s Saw Gerrera is an extremist who tortures an Imperial pilot defector with a squid. These scenes show the lengths that rebels will go to fight the stranglehold the Empire has on the galaxy. The gritty, tense tone of the film was unprecedented in the series and helps “Rogue One” stand apart on its own.

Academy Award nominee Felicity Jones is a more than capable protagonist as Jyn Erso. Her relationship with her father Galen, played by Mads Mikkelsen, is the driving force behind her involvement in the rebellion. He is the only reason she was coerced into a fight she had no interest in and it is his death that inspires her to fight for the cause, ultimately giving her life for it. Jyn’s arc is one of the better ones in the series, and all of it occurs in one film.

“Rogue One” has a plethora of intriguing side characters. Luna’s Cassian is a man who has fought the Empire for his entire life, making him a good foil to Jyn, who grew up the daughter of one of the Empire’s best weapon engineers. Donnie Yen is incredibly compelling as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind guardian who fully believes in the force. Director Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn, conveys a sinister indifference behind the stern demeanor of an Imperial officer. However, the most memorable character is K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid voiced by the always enjoyable Alan Tudyk. His snide remarks and dry humor help him stand out among the crowded cast of droids that “Star Wars” has featured in its decades-spanning run.

While the first two thirds of Edwards’ film work just fine as a look into how the rebellion works against the Empire, its final section is an intense look at a desperate mission for survival. The odds are against them, and things keep getting harder. On the tropical environment of Scariff, Jyn and Cassian lead a small band of rebels in an attempt to locate the Death Star plans. This long sequence of events is the most war-oriented the series has ever been and it is captivating from beginning to its end. Oh, and speaking of its end; how about that vicious conclusion with the Chosen One himself? We finally see the iconic villain Darth Vader use the full force of his power and it is terrifying.

4. Episode 6: Return of the Jedi

Directed by Richard Marquand

I actually know a lot of people who think Episode 6 is the best of them all. It certainly has the most action of the original trilogy and it brings Anakin Skywalker’s arc to a satisfying close. Not that it matters much for the quality of the film, but it also has the best title in the series, in my opinion. “Return of the Jedi” could refer Luke’s return as Jedi or even more likely and poetic, the true return of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One. While there is certainly an argument for Marquand’s film to take the top spot, it just doesn’t quite make the cut in some areas.

While the opening section of the film at Jabba’s Palace on Tatooine is earnestly entertaining, the movie hits a bit of a lull in the middle. The movie is never boring, but the momentum takes a hit after Luke’s emotional, mythology-building goodbye with Yoda on Dagobah. The action on the moon of Endor just never did much for me, so most of my enjoyment of this movie comes from the confrontation between Luke, Vader and the Emperor on the new Death Star. The one exception would be the speeder chase when Luke and Leia have to catch two stormtroopers who spotted them. With everything on the line, they have to weave between trees in a crowded forest. The first person POV shots make it one of the most intensely shot scenes in the series.

The pathos of this movie are extraordinary. Luke’s conversation with Leia about her true heritage is handled well. However, the emotional nucleus of “Return of the Jedi” is Anakin’s redemption through the efforts of his son. The conflict within Vader makes him a more nuanced villain than he gets to be in the previous two installments. His final heroic act of defeating the Emperor and saving Luke, while perhaps underwhelming in execution, feels earned. 

The fight between the two Skywalkers leading up to that moment is also incredible. Vader draws Luke out of the shadows after baiting him by mentioning Leia. Drawing on the power of the dark side through his anger, Luke attacks Vader. Music swelling, their silhouettes clashing together in a lightsaber battle is some of the most cinematic cinematography the series has ever had. Fueled by rage, Luke continuously slams his lightsaber down on his father until he cuts off his hand. Then, at his closest moment to fulfilling the Emperor’s wishes, he withholds. It’s one of the most purely “Star Wars” scenes in the canon, pulling on the central themes of balancing rage and peace within one’s self. And all of it transpires between father and son.

“Return of the Jedi” is a more than worthy conclusion to the original trilogy. Though most of its Endor exploits hold it back (I am admittedly not a big Ewok fan), it works where it needs to. If the series had stopped here, it’d still be looked at as one of the best of all time.

3. Episode 8: The Last Jedi

Directed by Rian Johnson

Yup. Time to get out your pitchforks. Buckle up, guys. This is going to be a long one.


I feel like I have to write the most about this one because this is the decision I have to justify the most. The movie garnered a rather divisive reaction from the fanbase. While I was unsure of how I felt after I first saw it, it has improved immensely in my eyes after each subsequent viewing.

Before I go into why I love this movie, I’ll give some of you angry readers a couple concessions. I am not a big fan of the side quest to find a master codebreaker with Finn and Rose. It doesn’t ultimately amount to much and Rose doesn’t really justify her existence in the plot (though the abuse the actress received online was disgusting). Also, Rose stopping Finn from sacrificing himself was a bit frustrating, given that he was trying to save literally everyone else.

World building is always cool and it was interesting to see a population of people on Canto Bight that don’t care about the Resistance or the First Order. They only care about money. Rich or not, it’s likely the majority of the universe is indifferent to the war. They’re either just trying to survive it or profit from it. Like DJ tells Finn, it’s just a machine and he’d be wise not to join it. This point of view is refreshingly new to the series. 

My second concession would be that Leia’s instinctual force float back to the ship could’ve been done better. My complaint isn’t that this event occurred, it’s simply that it looked silly. Some argue that it would be a logical place to let the iconic character die due to Carrie Fisher’s unfortunate death after production. That argument certainly has merit, though we would miss out on her emotional reunion with her brother at the end of the film. While we’re on the topic though, it is possible for Leia to survive in the vacuum of space for a brief period of time. Also, Leia is a Skywalker. Are we really complaining that she is force-sensitive? She is literally Luke’s twin. Her pulling of herself back to the ship is not passed off as a consciously enacted event but rather a survival instinct of the body. And you know what else? It’s a space fantasy movie. Let’s not get too technical here, guys. Moving on…

Mark Hamill gives his best performance as Luke Skywalker in “The Last Jedi”. There, I said it. This version of Luke makes sense. He’s much older. He’s been through the ringer. He failed as a teacher, almost instinctively killed his nephew and realized his entire religion is based on vanity and failure. 

For those complaining that Luke’s split second consideration of murdering Ben Solo in his sleep was out of character, let me drop some knowledge on you. As I mentioned earlier in this article, Luke tries to kill his own father after he insinuates that he could turn Leia to the dark side. In Episode 8, Luke feels the death of all that he loves within his nephew’s mind. He doesn’t sense the conflict he sensed within Vader. Snoke had already completely turned him. So, for a brief moment he almost gave in to the same instinct. And then, just like in “Return of the Jedi”, he withholds. 

Even still, he is overcome with guilt and shame. He exiles himself to an island to reflect on the mistakes he has made as well as the mistakes the Jedi have made in general. Revisiting an old hero 30+ years since his last appearance and finding him exactly the same would have been a wasted opportunity. Instead, Johnson did something new and unexpected. Luke could’ve easily been a boring rehash of his earlier exploits but instead we get to see something fresh – a natural development for his character.

Speaking of natural character development…

At one point in Episode 8, Rey calls Kylo Ren a monster. He takes a step forward before responding:

“Yes I am.” 

Adam Driver is way more interesting of an antagonist here than he is in “The Force Awakens”. No longer a whiny apprentice who hides behind a mask, Kylo seizes control of his own destiny. By killing Snoke, he becomes his own master. There is no more Sith. No more Jedi. He wants to forge something new instead of being just a part of the stories from the past.

“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” 

You know the phrase. Whether you were quoting it out of respect or saying it ironically to make fun of it, those words are a perfect summation of Kylo’s arc in the film as well as the theme of Johnson’s movie in general. Dwelling on what came before prevents us from seeing the interesting and compelling possibilities that the future can hold.

Elsewhere, Poe Dameron’s relationship to Leia is developed further in the film. She rebukes him for disobeying her orders, even if he did achieve success in his own mission. He failed to see what really matters in the bigger picture. She respects his vigor, but she understands dramatic heroics are not always the best course of action. Maybe that’s a lesson that the audience needs to learn too.

Many complain that Leia’s immediate successor, Laura Dern’s Amilyn Holdo, shouldn’t have protected critical info from Poe. These complaints make sense, but let me counter with this fact; the second he was made aware of the plans to evacuate the crew through escape pods, the information leaked to the First Order. While Poe himself is of course not a spy, Holdo decided to be as conservative as possible with the plan to prevent that from happening. While we’re talking about Holdo, how gorgeous was the jump to lightspeed offensive?

Another complaint I want to briefly address would be the demise of two characters that I’ve heard some argue were premature. While it may be frustrating to some that Snoke died without a clear origin, he doesn’t really need one. It’s not like he was a particularly interesting character to begin with. There are other Sith lords in “Star Wars” who do not have given explanations in the films (Darth Maul for example). His death was necessary for Kylo’s development.

The other death I’m referring to is Captain Phasma. Anyone who thinks she deserved more development or a cooler sendoff needs to really consider her actions. She is literally the one who turned off the shields on the Starkiller Base in Episode 7. Because she gave in to Finn, the First Order’s biggest weapon (and any trooper on it) was destroyed. Yes, she looks cool in her armor. But she clearly isn’t much of an interesting antagonist beyond that.

Daisy Ridley’s Rey is once again an alluring character. Her resilience – or as Snoke called it, “fiery spit of hope” – is endlessly endearing. Her faith in the legendary Luke Skywalker is a perfect depiction of how the heroes we choose to believe in tend to let us down. As Ren states later, she is looking for family. She first sought it in Han Solo before his death. Now she’s hoping to find it in Luke. Her journey continues as she realizes – by means of a mesmerizing force vision – that she can’t keep searching for her meaning by way of lineage. She has to achieve it for herself. Whether her origin is explored further in Episode 9 is beyond my knowledge at the moment, but even if it is, her journey of self-discovery fits perfectly into the themes of the movie.

A driving force in “The Last Jedi” is – well, the force. Luke gives Rey different lessons in their time together on the subject. The central theme of the film is that the force belongs to everybody, not just the Jedi. After all, Obi-Wan told Luke that the force is what binds everyone and everything together. To say that potential mastery of the force should be relegated to only those in the Jedi Order is selfish. People worship the Jedi, but as Luke points out, their legacy is that of failure. They allowed the Sith to wipe them out and take over the galaxy. They might have even been a bit corrupt. After all, Mace Windu discusses his proposal for the Jedi to take control of the Senate themselves in Episode 3. This new perspective is an excellent development, turning age old tropes of the series on their heads.

Rey’s exposure to the force is fascinating, particularly the pull to the dark side. She feels it calling to her. It offers her something but Luke isn’t there to guide her. He has cut himself off from the force. It’s in this way among others that Johnson’s script explores everyone’s relationship to the force. Luke’s projection of himself to Crait during the climax is a clever addition to the possible applications of the force. Snoke is able to bridge the minds of Rey and Kylo. Their scenes together are some of the more intriguing in the film. And to anyone arguing that introducing new abilities is lame, I’d argue the opposite. Experiencing new things within a universe is exciting. Besides, I’d like to point out a couple things in defense of these developments:

  1. Force ghosts have long been a presence in the universe. Yes, I understand they are dead. In regard to astral projection of a live person, Kylo does remark that the effort of projecting herself across the galaxy would kill Rey. It does end up draining Luke of all of his energy and he gives himself away to the force. This makes sense as to why we haven’t seen anyone attempt it before.
  2. The bridging of the minds between Rey and Kylo isn’t that much different than the telepathic conversation between Vader and Luke at the end of Episode 5. Kylo even remarks that he can’t see her surroundings, only her. This isn’t much of a stretch.

Speaking of force ghosts, Yoda’s return to give his old apprentice one last lesson serves as one of the most moving moments in the saga. Luke, burdened by the depression of his own failures, is told that failure itself is the greatest teacher. Wisdom isn’t only accumulated through old books (though Rey snagged them anyway before she bounced). Everyone messes up, even Luke Skywalker. But that doesn’t mean it’s over for him. Inspired by the words of his old master, Luke connects to the force again and saves the Resistance. He inspires the hope that the galaxy needs. His redemption is secured and his arc is complete.

Technically speaking, “The Last Jedi” puts on a clinic. The cinematography is easily the best in the entire series. Whether it be Rey’s battle with Luke in the rain, the Resistance’s last stand against the First Order on the salt planet of Crait, or Luke’s final gaze into the sunset – there is plenty of brilliant imagery.

The action is exhilarating. Poe’s X-Wing exploits at the beginning as well as the return of the Millenium Falcon during the climax are quite possibly the two most thrilling aerial battle sequences in the series. It is in these moments that Johnson’s film feels the most like a “Star Wars” movie. However, my favorite part of the film has always been the throne room clash between Kylo, Rey and Snoke’s guards. Their brief union for survival during the fight only solidifies their chemistry, which is as engaging as the physical duel itself.

“The Last Jedi” will more than likely go down as the most divisive film of the series. I can understand some of the reservations that core “Star Wars” fans might have with the story. But for a single movie to take the mythology of an entire canon and not retcon it, but simply critique it all through a new context is a bold writing choice. It is because of that, as well as every other reason I’ve listed above, that I believe “The Last Jedi” is an outstanding “Star Wars” film and the best one made since 1980. 


2. Episode 4: A New Hope

Directed by George Lucas

Luke storms out of the kitchen after being told by his Uncle Owen that he can’t join the flight academy. He needs to stay on the moisture farm for the next harvest. Walking toward the horizon, there is nothing in front of him. It’s just an endless stretch of nothing – just like his apparent future. He kicks the dirt as he steps before stopping to gaze at the binary sunset before him. He can’t help but imagine the adventures and action going on somewhere far away from him. As the pink and red light overcasts the desert of Tatooine, John Williams’ produces his most beautiful piece of music in the entire series. This is the scene that made me fall in love with “Star Wars”. It is the perfect representation of what the series is at its center: escapism.

The original “Star Wars” film deserves all of the credit for simply creating the galaxy far, far away. It all seems so commonplace now, but there was a time without all of the key mythos of the series. In one film, George Lucas introduced the iconic opening crawl, the force, droids, stormtroopers, the Death Star, lightsabers and some of the most prolific characters in the history of cinema. And of course there’s the astounding original score. And that’s all just scratching the surface.

Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is a kid that anyone who ever wanted to be more than him or herself could relate to. Carrie Fisher’s strong-willed Leia Organa is more of a bad-ass princess than any character Disney was producing at the time. Alec Guinness plays Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi turned sage hermit who comes out of retirement to mentor Luke and send him on his path. The dark and robotic design of Darth Vader combined with the booming power of James Earl Jones’ voice come together to form arguably the most popular villain of all time. Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2 are all legends. And of course, Harrison Ford as Han Solo is flawless.

The final assault on the Death Star in the film’s climax still holds up today. Han’s last second heroics pave the way for Luke to send one perfect shot into the external exhaust port. The resulting explosion is a quintessential image of good triumphing over bad.

The movie that started the biggest franchise in the history of the world remains one of its best. Lucas executed an ideal mix of humor and heart combined with a classic sense of adventure. While some aspects of the saga weren’t mastered until later on (the duel between Obi-Wan and Vader is lacking), the practical special effects and production design is still something to marvel at. “A New Hope” established the standard for the rest of the series as well as the future for blockbuster filmmaking. This is the definition of timeless.

1. Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back

Directed by Irvin Kirshner

I double dog dare you to find something wrong with this movie.

Justifiably regarded as one of the best films of all time, “The Empire Strikes Back” is a masterpiece. It takes everything that worked in the original and improves on it. The dynamic between the characters is even better, particularly the love story between Han and Leia. The set design is breathtaking, especially all of the scenes in Cloud City. The action sequences are more thrilling, specifically the Millennium Falcon chases and final confrontation between Vader and Luke. The force and its ways are more fleshed out. John Williams creates “The Imperial March”. Yoda, Lando Calrissian, Boba Fett and the Emperor are all introduced. And of course – Kirshner’s film also contains the biggest movie twist of all time.

Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke introduces a genius character complex. The iconic villain of the series is the hero’s father. Now things aren’t so simple. It’s not just a story of good versus evil anymore. It’s about family and the relationships we have with each other – the things that get passed on from one generation to the next.

Han and Leia’s story is my personal favorite aspect of the narrative. Their constant back and forth is equally funny and sentimental. Leia’s constant objections to her own feelings for Han serve the movie well. When she finally admits them it seems to be too late. Han is about to be frozen in carbonite and Leia finally comes forward.

“I love you.”

Han is calmly awaiting his fate. After insisting on her affections throughout the film, he audibly confirms what he’s been certain of the entire time.

“I know.”

The emotion of the scene is palpable. The music is beautiful and tense. The set design of smoky orange and blue light is exquisite. The performances are affecting. All of these elements assemble together to create one of the most powerful and gut-wrenching moments in the entire saga, if not all movies in general.

“The Empire Strikes Back” is darker than its predecessor. Following the celebratory finale of “A New Hope”, this sequel instead ends on a much bleaker note. Luke loses the fight to his father. His hand is cut off. And Han is frozen and sent to Jabba the Hutt. But even after all of this trauma, the movie finds a way to end with optimism, even if it is just an idyllic visual.  Luke, Leia, 3PO and R2 are staring at celestial cloud of stars. This final shot serves as a comforting reminder that despite all of the violence and turmoil present, the universe is a beautiful place.


Thank you for reading.

All gifs acquired from giphy.com


















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In this week’s Table Talk, host Josie Clark talks to musician Sammy Elfanbaum about his upcoming debut album, what inspires him to make music and who he is influenced by. Then, Elfanbaum performs two songs from “mazes,” his debut album that will release on March 21. Table Talk:March 11, 2018 from MUTV on Vimeo.

True/False Review: “Combat Obscura” is an unflinching look at the lives of Marines

By John Messer, E23 Reporter One of the more compelling films at the 2018 True/False Film Fest was Miles Lagoze’s “Combat Obscura.” What sets “Obscura” apart is its composition. Director Lagoze recorded the majority of the footage between 2011 and 2012 during his deployment in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine cameraman. The film is entirely […]

A glimpse at the 2018 True/False Film Fest (Photo gallery)

A glimpse at the 2018 True/False Film Fest (Photo gallery)

By Savannah Ritzen, E23 Reporter The first weekend of March is always highly anticipated for those in Columbia, Missouri. Hosted by the Ragtag Film Society, the True/False Film Fest takes over the streets as attendees clear their schedules from Thursday evening through Sunday night in order to get a special look at documentaries, music and […]

Paris Fashion Week was a triumphant ending to Fashion Month

Paris Fashion Week was a triumphant ending to Fashion Month

By Brooke Knappenberger, E23 Reporter Paris Fashion Week marks the end of the month-long slew of fashion shows, and it proved to be quite the ending. It seems the biggest names were saved for last. Balmain, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Valentino were among the huge fashion houses that presented collections in the city of love. […]

E23: March 8, 2018 (True/False)

This week on E23, we cover True/False Film Fest, the Oscars and more! John Messer parodies the news from the Oscars and True False Film Fest. Josie Clark gives audiences a rundown of the top five reasons to go to True/False Film Fest. Resident film critic Rachel Zalucki discusses True/False film “Flight of a Bullet” […]

True/False Review: “American Animals” captures the thrill of a heist

By Bryce Cross, E23 Reporter If we’re being truthful to ourselves, many of us have imagined – daydreamed even – of pulling off the perfect heist, and why wouldn’t we? Cinema has idealized heists, glorified both the failed and fortunate attempts and walked audiences through detailed, sometimes outlandish plans step-by-step. When watching our most beloved […]

E23’s Table Talk- March 5, 2018

In this week’s Table Talk, host Josie Clark is joined by Vox movie critic Cameron Flatt and E23’s resident movie critic Rachel Zalucki to discuss the politics around the 2018 Academy Awards, if their predictions were right and who was snubbed from taking home an Oscar. Table Talk: March 5, 2018 from MUTV on Vimeo.

True/False Review: “Of Fathers and Sons” is a powerful must-see

By Brooke Knappenberger, E23 Reporter In the documentary “Of Fathers and Sons”, director Talal Derki returns to his home country of Syria to provide an extremely rare and intimate insight into a radical Islamist family. He follows the family in their daily life, whether it be with Abu Osama, an Al Nusra fighter and father, […]

True/False Review: “Our New President” is a startling look at Russian media

By Rachel Zalucki, E23 Reporter The following review contains spoilers. Out of all the movies I saw at True/False Film Fest this year, “Our New President” was undoubtedly the most memorable one. The film uses a montage of various clips and segments from Russian media to make it painfully apparent how privatizing media affects politics. […]

True/False Review: “Bisbee ‘17” tells a lot but explains little

By John Messer, E23 Reporter “Bisbee ‘17” was one of the many documentary films showcased at the 2018 True/False Film Fest. The film takes a look at the Arizona town of Bisbee and its sordid past of worker disputes and deportation. The movie asks the viewer to examine the effects of the event on the […]

2018 Oscars Predictions

2018 Oscars Predictions

By Rachel Zalucki, E23 Reporter After an amazing year for film, it’s no surprise that the 2018 Oscars is stacked with contenders for every category, and choosing each winner poses a tough challenge. Considering last year’s mishap with the “Best Picture” award, it is definitely going to be interesting to see who comes out on […]

The Best (and Worst) of Milan Fashion Week

The Best (and Worst) of Milan Fashion Week

By Brooke Knappenberger, E23 Reporter Sadly, Milan Fashion Week has ended, but some seriously cool fashion moments came out of it. Designers carried on some of the major trends from New York Fashion Week like ‘80s maximalism (think bold shoulders and bright prints) and neon colors, but new trends appeared as well such as waist-cinching […]

E23: March 1, 2018

This week on E23, John Messer reports on the major headlines of the week including the movie “Black Panther,” Elon Musk’s latest space adventure and Donald Trump’s stance on gun control. Resident movie critic Michael Donelan gives viewers his review of Alex Garland’s latest film “Annihilation.” Janelle Finch and Savannah Ritzen attend Mizzou After Dark’s […]

E23’s Table Talk- February 25, 2018

On this week’s Table Talk, host Josie Clark sits down with guests Bryce Cross, Marcelesce Cooper and Nathan Wright to talk about the rise of black-led movies like “Black Panther,” inspirational celebrities, the importance of seeing your race represented in media and more for Black History Month. Table Talk: February 25, 2018 from MUTV on […]

“Annihilation” Review: An Absorbing Action Thriller

“Annihilation” Review: An Absorbing Action Thriller

By Josie Clark, E23 Reporter “Annihilation”, directed by Alex Garland, is a science fiction movie with horror elements. My feelings toward the film are quite complex. Some aspects I really enjoyed, while others I found disappointing. For instance, I enjoyed the concept and female cast but would have liked more fleshed-out characters. There were plenty […]

London Fashion Week reaffirms the fashion trends of 2018

London Fashion Week reaffirms the fashion trends of 2018

By Brooke Knappenberger, E23 Reporter Following New York Fashion Week, London was the second destination for a month-long stream of fashion shows. British designers showcased their newest collections for fall, and as with any fashion week, there were some defining moments and trends. First off, plaid has been standing the test of time season after […]

Review: MU’s “The Green Duck Lounge” Is a Modern Look at Racism’s Present and Past

By Michael Donelan, E23 Reporter “The Green Duck Lounge” is a stunning and honest portrayal of how racism has stayed the same in the U.S. throughout its history. It also highlights societal flaws that are seen so often in the wake of tragedy. The Green Duck Lounge is a real place. In Kansas City, Missouri, […]

E23- February 22, 2018

This week on E23, Caitlin Brenner gives us the rundown on Columbia’s Portugal the Man concert. On this week’s edition of Everyone’s a Critic, reporter Michael Donelan tells us what to expect from “Incredibles 2” based on its newest trailer. E23’s Brooke Knappenberger and Josie Clark talk about their favorite and least favorite looks during […]

Critical Inklings, Ep. 2: Superheroes, Superzeroes and Black Panther

This week, our guest is JP Killam, joined by your regular host John Messer. The two talk about their recent viewing of Marvel’s “Black Panther” (2018), dig into other superhero movies and digress plenty as always. Our intro song, as usual, is “Heartbeat” by Jeddi, and you can find this week’s background music here.

Highlights from 2018’s New York Fashion Week

Highlights from 2018’s New York Fashion Week

By Brooke Knappenberger, E23 Fashion Reporter New York City’s eight-day fashion week ended over the weekend, and a slew of new trends hit the runways. These trends are ready to inspire upcoming fall fashion. Major ‘80s trends like fuchsia, animal prints and suits were among the biggest trends spotted, while minimalist clothing also had a […]

E23’s Table Talk- February 18, 2018

This week on Table Talk, host Josie Clark talks with MU Tonight director and head writer Elmer Guardado about his show, the writing process and how MU Tonight has grown since it began in 2016. Later, the two are joined by Caitlin Brenner to talk about the importance of late night talk shows. Table Talk: […]

Review: “Everything Sucks” Doesn’t Sucks

By Savannah Ritzen, E23 Reporter On February 16, Netflix released its latest comedy, “Everything Sucks!” Created by Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, the series is set in the mid-1990s at a high school in Boring, Oregon. (Yes, Boring is a real place.) The show is set around the life of Luke O’Neil, a freshman […]

Critical Inklings, Ep. 1: The State of Sci-Fi

When it comes to entertainment, there’s broad appeal content, and then there’s niche content. “Critical Inklings” is a casual, conversational podcast focused on discussing these kinds of non-mainstream entertainment. Join John Messer as he hosts a variety of guests in conversations on video games, TV, movies, anime, literature and so much more. This week, for […]

Review: “Black Panther” Is One of Marvel’s Best Films

Review: “Black Panther” Is One of Marvel’s Best Films

By Bryce Cross, E23 Reporter Unlike any Marvel movie before it, ”Black Panther” easily stands out. It boldly goes in new directions with the superhero formula, revealing a rich, Afrofuturistic world and tackling real-world ideologies alongside its action, relatable cast and compelling antagonist. Not only does it stand out as a tale about the duty […]

E23- February 15, 2018

This week on E23, Rachel Zalucki talks about the Winter Olympics, President Trump and Valentine’s Day. E23’s private investigator Brooke Knappenberger locks down rumors about Kylie Jenner’s baby, a possible Office reunion show and a Spice Girl reunion. John Messer sits down with rapper NicDanger to talk about the artist’s career, influences and preferred superpower. […]

10 Movies to Watch If You’re Single on Valentine’s Day

10 Movies to Watch If You’re Single on Valentine’s Day

By Rachel Zalucki, E23 Reporter Being single isn’t fun 364 days of the year, but it’s especially hard to be single on Valentine’s Day. Not being in a relationship doesn’t have to be the end of the world, even though it feels like it sometimes. So instead of suffering, here’s a list of ten movies […]

“The Shape of Water” Is a Visually-Stunning Treat for Movie Lovers

“The Shape of Water” Is a Visually-Stunning Treat for Movie Lovers

By Michael Donelan, E23 Reporter “The Shape of Water” is showing at Ragtag Cinema through Tuesday, February 20. Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” is a whimsical and gorgeous fairy tale that is sure to please moviegoers all around with its beautiful cinematography, intriguing story and wonderful performances. Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) is a […]

Songs for Your Galentine’s Day Playlist

By Hal Robison, E23 Reporter In February, the month of love, the most important holiday you can celebrate is Galentine’s Day. Coined by Leslie Knope in the iconic “Parks and Recreation” episode “Galentine’s Day,” Galentine’s Day is, well… via GIPHY Source: giphy.com Girlfriend love is the most important love, and the best way to get […]

E23- February 8, 2018

This week on E23, Brooke Knappenberger and Hal Robison discuss the commercials that were successful and those that flopped during the 2018 Super Bowl. Reporters Michael Donelan and Josie Clark talk about the top news stories including the Super Bowl commercials, Kylie Jenner’s new baby and why Prince fans are upset with Justin Timberlake. Resident […]

E23’s Table Talk- February 4, 2018

Host Josie Clark brings on guests KCOU DJ Trina, E23 Digital Director Sam Mosher and fact checker Jacob Douglas to talk about the movies, TV shows and music coming up in 2018. Topics include “Ocean’s 8,” Kanye West, the new season of “Westworld” and more. Table Talk: February 4, 2018 from MUTV on Vimeo.

E23- February 1, 2018

This week on E23, Airyanna Hines and Zoe Romyn talk John Legend’s new Japanese toilets, Trump’s Davos interview and Lil Uzi Vert’s fashion choices. Resident movie critic Michael Donelan introduces us to some of the 2018 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Director and Supporting Actress. E23’s Hanna Nielsen and Josie Clark talk the Grammy’s red […]

Review: “Altered Carbon” Is Hardly Common

By John Messer, E23 Reporter “Altered Carbon” is a dystopian science fiction noir television series created by Netflix. Set in a future of the ultra-rich, ultra-corrupt and ultra-grim, season one follows Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman). He is the last survivor of an attempted uprising and is revived after 250 years in stasis to solve the […]

Where Justin Timberlake’s Been Hiding for 5 Years: “Man of the Woods” Review

Where Justin Timberlake’s Been Hiding for 5 Years: “Man of the Woods” Review

By Janelle Finch, E23 Reporter Justin Timberlake ditched his “Suit & Tie” in favor of flannels and blue jeans with his newest album, “Man of the Woods.” Just days before his much-anticipated Super Bowl halftime performance, Justin Timberlake dropped his latest album, “Man of the Woods,” Friday at midnight. Timberlake took a different approach with […]

Migos, “Culture II” Review: For the Culture Again

Migos, “Culture II” Review: For the Culture Again

By Joseph Hernandez, E23 Reporter Following the success of 2017’s “Culture,” hip-hop supergroup Migos released the sequel aptly titled “Culture II” January 26, 2018. The release of “Culture” last year started a chain of quality album releases and the group, comprised of Quavo, Takeoff and Offset, aim to start a similar chain with their latest […]

E23’s Table Talk- January 28, 2018

This week on Table Talk, host Josie Clark and fact checker Caitlyn Brenner bring on panelists Rachel Zulucki and Vox film critic Cameron Flatt to talk about the Oscars: snubs, who they think will win and the politics around the Oscars. Table Talk: January 28, 2018 from MUTV on Vimeo.

E23- January 25, 2018

This week on E23, John Messer and Bryce Cross debate the flaws, best parts and reviews of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. E23 reporter Bryce Cross gives a rundown of 2017’s best movies and Michael Donelan talks government shutdowns, tapeworms and Stormy Daniels. Meanwhile, Emerson Davis shows us how to get back in the swing […]

Must-See Movies of 2017

Must-See Movies of 2017

By Michael Donelan, E23 Reporter Over the past year, mainstream and independent studios released some of the best films of recent memory. From intimate indies to Hollywood blockbusters, here are my five favorite movies of last year. 1. “Call Me By Your Name” “Call Me By Your Name” is by far one of the most […]

Restaurant Week 2018: Best Spots in Columbia

Restaurant Week 2018: Best Spots in Columbia

By John Messer, E23 Reporter New to Columbia? Want to broaden your palate? Just want to see your favorite food places get some notoriety on a college website? Well, you’ve come to the right place! In honor of Restaurant Week, E23 has prepared a list of some of the best places to eat in Columbia. […]

75th Golden Globe Awards Predictions

75th Golden Globe Awards Predictions

By John Messer, E23 Movie Expert This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Golden Globe Awards, and with it the same flaccid enthusiasm the average moviegoer gives such award shows. Perhaps surpassed only by the Academy Awards (the Oscars) in notoriety, the Golden Globes are an acknowledgment by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association of […]

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