Skywalker Saga movies, ranked (by title)

Originally, the first movie in the Skywalker Saga was just Star Wars, but since each movie in the nine-episode series since Episode V has had its own title (and the original got one after the release of Empire Strikes Back), a part of the fun and anticipation of the coming of a new Star Wars movie has been debating the titles themselves, and what they say about the movie. Titles aren’t just a throwaway part of a work, slapped on at the end as an afterthought. Although there are counter-examples, it seems as if many of the most well-received episodes of the different Star Trek series have memorable titles as well, such as “The City on the Edge of Forever”, “The Trouble with Tribbles”, “The Best of Both Worlds”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, and “The Inner Light”, just to name a few.

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A good title for a movie or TV episode not only connects with what’s happening on screen, but matches the tone as well. Just hearing or reading an effective title can conjure up an image or clip from the movie, the way that The Empire Strikes Back evokes an image of a triumphant Darth Vader springing his trap at Cloud City. On the other hand, a title may not connect very well with the image of what a movie has become known for in pop culture. I think that Attack of the Clones, for example, to the extent that it even does retain a strong image there (I think it’s become the most forgotten installment of the three Skywalker trilogies), is associated with awkward romantic scenes and dialogue. Looking back over the saga after the completion of another trilogy, I’m ranking the titles from worst to best.

9. A New Hope

With the movie originally just developed as Star Wars, this relatively simple title feels a bit like a tacked-on afterthought. As the beginning of the saga and the classic that it is, it really deserves a better title. The title does fit the movie and Luke as the new hope of the Rebellion, but to me, Star Wars itself, without the subtitle (but keeping the Episode IV to fit with the series) fits the movie’s tone better, and is appropriate for the film that started the whole thing.

8. The Last Jedi

Titles with The Last… Something or Other are pretty common. The Last Airbender, Last Action Hero, and The Last Starfighter are some examples. With how common variations of this title are, I can’t give it too much credit for originality. The title does fit the movie, as it’s heavily focused on Luke and his plight as the last remaining member of what at the time of this movie looks like a failed order. The title, while fitting the darker and sadder tone of this entry, is perhaps just a bit too obvious and plain.

7. Return of the Jedi

There’s not so much wrong with this title as it is just a bit underwhelming. The title was at one point going to be Revenge of the Jedi and while the reason for changing it make sense (it’s not very Jedi-like to seek revenge, and anyway, Luke’s path in Return of the Jedi is not really to get revenge, it’s more to rescue his friends and turn his father back to the Light Side), with the switch from the more action-oriented revenge to simply “returning”, the title lost a bit of oomph. Still, the title does fit the movie well, as Luke does return from defeat in the previous film, and the Jedi order seems to be returning at the end.

6. The Rise of Skywalker

The title doesn’t have too much to do with what happens in the movie, but as the title for the last movie in a saga centering so much around the Skywalkers, the touch of nostalgia makes it work. It just seems like this title would fit a part of the original trilogy better, as that one focuses on Luke’s rise to Jedi Knight.

5. Revenge of the Sith

Not a bad title, but a bit overblown as far as the scope of it. It’s really the revenge of one Sith, as the order isn’t a very large one by this point of the saga, and Anakin is a very recent convert who has no real motive of revenge on behalf of an order he knows little about. (Of course, Rise of Skywalker changed the conception of Palpatine’s relation to others in the Sith order, but he’s still one Sith to the audience.) It’s more about the success of plans hatched by one man, so something like The Victory of Palpatine, or The Triumph of Palpatine, or maybe even The Rise of Palpatine might have worked better.

4. Attack of the Clones

This title was perceived as a bit silly when it came out, and as mentioned earlier, the clone army plotline is perhaps not very well remembered from the movie, but I think that it’s a fun title for being so different than many of the rest, and for not taking itself too seriously.

3. The Force Awakens

This title evokes a new start or new beginning, an awakening after a period of dormancy. It parallels the optimism of A New Hope, in the way that it references the reemergence of the Jedi after a period of defeat and darkness.

2. The Phantom Menace

The first new Star Wars movie to be released in theaters in 16 years generated a lot of curiosity about the title. It’s one of the more ambiguous titles of the group; though most obviously referring to Darth Sidious in the movie, it could easily refer to the threat of the Trade Federation as well. It’s a surprisingly appropriate title, as most of the events and actions taking place end up as little more than a backdrop to Palpatine’s rise, or as a phantom or illusory conflict to distract from a substantive threat. The title sounds both foreboding and self-consciously corny as well.

1. The Empire Strikes Back

Perhaps it doesn’t score high points for poetry, but for how iconic it is and the way that the phrase “evil empire” or the title itself has been referenced in so many places, and the way that it really does sum up so much about the movie, it deserves a spot at the top. It is, after all, the movie where the Empire goes on the attack after the events of the first movie, and ends with the Rebels reeling after a series of setbacks. The title also has a little bit of a comic book feel to it, which is appropriate.

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