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Star Wars movies ranked, from the cheesy to the great

It's been a quality roller coaster.

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seankeane
Joal Ryan, Sean Keane
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1 of 25 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures - left; Disney/Lucasfilm - right

Feel the Force...

The Star Wars saga is a cinematic empire with fans across the galaxy, but that doesn't mean the Force is with every movie in the franchise.

Here's every big-screen Star Wars movie released to date, from A New Hope to The Rise of Skywalker, ranked from worst to best according to review rating site Metacritic. We also included each film's worldwide gross, because, you know, good reviews aren't everything.

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2 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

12. Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Metacritic score: 35

Year released: 2008

Critics hated this CGI-animated feature, calling it confused and characterless.

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3 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

But it cloned a lot of cash

Viewed as a vessel to launch the Emmy-winning 2008-2015 TV series of the same name, The Clone Wars was a success. It made money, too, grossing $68 million worldwide off of a spare, $8.5 million budget. The show is being revived for Disney+.

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4 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

11. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Metacritic score: 51

Year released: 1999

This was the movie that Star Wars fans had waited for, the first installment of a prequel that promised to tell the dark origin story of Darth Vader. But despite Liam Neeson's star power, The Phantom Menace was a "curiously soulless," "ho-hum" letdown.

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5 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

Bad acting, great profits

Fan complaints about the pint-size Anakin (Jake Lloyd), Jar Jar Binks and more might have been legendary, but so was the movie's box office, with a nearly $1 billion worldwide gross.

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6 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

10 (tie). Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Metacritic score: 54

Year released: 2002

The burgeoning love between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padmé (Natalie Portman) was a focal point of the second Star Wars prequel. It also was a sticking point for critics, who found Attack of the Clones to be "too long... too dull... [and] too lame."

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7 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

'Only' $640 million

Either audiences agreed with critics or it's tough to be the middle chapter in a trilogy. In either case, Attack of the Clones was the lowest-grossing movie of the prequels. (It "only" made about $640 million worldwide.)

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8 of 25 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

10 (tie). Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Metacritic score: 54

Year released: 2019

Billed as the end of the Skywalker saga, J.J. Abrams' second Star Wars directing effort (after Star Wars: The Force Awakens) came up short with critics -- including our own. CNET's Richard Trenholm found Rise of Skywalker lacked "the power to surprise."    

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9 of 25 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Boring ... or boffo?

At the box office, Rise of Skywalker lagged behind its predecessors, The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but put up big numbers nonetheless. Domestically, the film sped to a gross of more than $225 million in its first five days of release. As of Jan. 1, 2020, its worldwide take stood at $815.4 million. 

On the set of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
10 of 25 Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

8. Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Metacritic score: 58

Year released: 1983

The concluding chapter of the original Star Wars trilogy fell into a trap -- a trap! Critics said the trailblazing saga -- what with all the Ewoks running around -- came to "an almost cheesy conclusion."

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11 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

It's good to be bad?

If Star Wars fans of 1983 were displeased with Return of the Jedi, they didn't show it. The trilogy closer grossed $572 million worldwide during its original run, per the box-office tracking site, The Numbers. 

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12 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

7. Solo: A Star Wars Story

Metacritic score: 62

Year released: 2018

Critics liked, but didn't love, the second standalone Star Wars movie. The Atlantic's Christopher Orr noted that the script and direction were "capable but unremarkable." 

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13 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

Audience fatigue?

Arriving in theaters only a few months after Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Solo grossed just $392 million worldwide, far below the performances of the other Disney-era Star Wars movies. 

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14 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Metacritic score: 65

Year released: 2016

The first standalone Star Wars movie fared better with critics. Slate's Forrest Wickman said it was the first entry since Empire Strikes Back "to redefine the boundaries of what a Star Wars movie can be."

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15 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

Stealing Death Star plans and making bank

Rogue One grossed more than $1 billion worldwide. And while that total wasn't even half of what Star Wars: The Force Awakens made, it was a win for a film that challenged the franchise formula. 

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16 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

5. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Metacritic score: 68

Year released: 2005

The final live-action Star Wars movie of the George Lucas era concerned Anakin's descent to the dark side. Critics called the prequel trilogy's concluding chapter "a vast improvement over the previous two outings."

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17 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

Stellar box office

Revenge of the Sith marked a box office rebound for the franchise. The film grossed about 30 percent more than Attack of the Clones, bringing in nearly $850 million worldwide.

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18 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

4. ​Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Metacritic score: 81

Year released: 2015

This film marked the start of Disney's Star Wars stewardship, and introduced a new generation of characters, including Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). It got a rousing reception.

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19 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

The franchise re-awakens

The Force Awakens, which also featured original trilogy fan favorites Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), rode its positively giddy buzz to a nearly $2.1 billion worldwide gross. The take is the fourth-biggest of all time

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20 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

3. Star Wars: Episode 5 -- The Empire Strikes Back

Metacritic score: 82

Year released: 1980

You love this movie. We know. Critics loved it, too. They praised the first followup to Star Wars as "richly imaginative, engrossing and spectacular."

On the set of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
21 of 25 Lucasfilm/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

It didn't quite strike back at the box office

Empire was a massive hit by 1980 standards, bringing in $400 million worldwide. Good going, Yoda.

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22 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Metacritic score: 85

Year released: 2017

Critics loved The Last Jedi, and many praised its ability to surprise the audience. Paste Magazine's Will Leitch said the film "plays with your assumptions and upends them." 

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23 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

Fan backlash

Some vocal fans didn't appreciate the movie's surprises and character development, and its $1.3 billion worldwide gross (down significantly from The Force Awakens' take) reflected that mixed reaction.

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24 of 25 Disney/Lucasfilm

1. ​Star Wars: Episode 4 -- A New Hope

Metacritic score: 90

Year released: 1977

"A grand and glorious film that may well be the smash hit of 1977," Gerald Clarke wrote for Time back in the day. The critic was so right. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) became the face of the blockbuster era and a cinematic icon.

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25 of 25 Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Small start, big success

Originally released on just 43 screens, the first Star Wars played and played and played. Audiences couldn't get enough of Darth Vader and company. The movie rewrote the box-office record book en route to a $786 million (and counting) worldwide gross.

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