Or is it? George Lucas’ prequel trilogy did much more than tell the story of the rise of Vader. It also revised the legacy of the Jedi, and therefore the legacy of the franchise itself. The famous Jedi Council is revealed to be no bastion of wisdom, nobility and truth, but flawed, even corrupt: perfectly capable of manipulation and deception. In a word, a colossal failure. Yoda failed Dooku, just as Obi-Wan failed Anakin, and the galaxy along with him.
This was world building — world remodeling — at its finest. Then to go back and rewatch the originals, in light of the prequels, was to gain a deeper appreciation for Luke’s Lightness, his goodness. The only reason he would become an agent of evil, it was now clear, was that he was listened to Yodi didn’t even save his friends. On some level, Luke saw the failure of the Jedi, their resort to dogmatism and arrogant omniscience, and tried to break the pattern. That’s why this list puts Attack of the Clones near the top and Revenge of the Sith on the very. If a new story in a franchise deepens or expands, rather than limits or undermines your idea and enjoyment of the original, it’s worth the effort — and can be considered better.
Not that JJ Abrams understood this. When he went to contribute to the Skywalker Saga—Episodes VII–IX, producing all three, directing the first and third—he didn’t look to the prequels for inspiration, as he should have. He looked at the originals.
The result, some say, has been “homage” to Lucas, re-enactments that like to introduce archetypal Star Wars storytelling to a new generation. This is bullshit. Abrams’ films were, to put it bluntly, plagiarism of the first order, a copy-and-paste made all the more shameful by the implication that a female lead, in Rey Daisy Ridley, was all that was needed to legitimize the effort. Therefore, his films must, on any ranking list, and certainly on this one, appear nowhere but dead last. The characters and plot points were so connected to their counterparts from the original story, Abrams’ lack of imagination so complete, that the trilogy threatens to destroy, to this day, the legacy of the entire franchise.
This is, again, why this list hates lists. Because as much as Abrams is to blame for the general worthlessness of Rey’s path to Jedi-dom—and he really is—the lists, especially those that serve only to recap the norms, are just as, if not more, responsible. Lazy, lame, lackluster, lacking, those are the lists. Constantly propping up the glory of the old, they project their own risk aversion outward, poisoning the audience with a conservatism fundamentally at odds with the emancipatory art of storytelling. As a result, far from welcoming radical change, fandoms demand loyalty, loyaltyto tradition.
Over the years, certain parts of the Star Wars fandom have proven themselves to be just that: extremely backward, and therefore unwelcoming to transformation. Not wise, in other words, nor noble nor true, but flawed, even corrupt—the failings of men. How great this sodality is has never been entirely clear. What is clear is this: they are there now, and they are holding us back.
And they are, quite possibly, many of you: the audience for an article like this one. Ask yourself, as Yoda once asked Luke: Why are you here? Because if it’s fighting and showing off, police and hatred – what else would it be? – agent of evil, you already are. Searching for Star Wars movie rankings, reading list after list after list of bullshit, is ultimately to justify your obsession and nostalgia for the dying franchise: the endless hours you’ve spent rehashing its pointless details. If only he had friends to run to. If only you had real people to save.