The Force Awakens and The Empire Strikes Back both ranked in the top 30 in Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the100 best sequels of all time.
In 1977 and the few years that followed, Star Wars meant something completely different than what it means today.
Back then, those two words were nothing more than the name of a sensational sci-fi/fantasy film – a space opera featuring planets, creatures, and weapons audiences had never seen before.
Now when we refer to Star Wars, a dozen different things come to mind for different people. For some, it’s the Star Wars books and comics. For others, it’s the action figures and collectibles.
For many, though, it’s the sequels – not just the sequel trilogy, but The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and even the prequel films – that define Star Wars so prominently in their memories and hearts.
When ranking these sequels against the rest, Star Wars, in a few cases, has outranked more than one Marvel movie as well as numerous classics and pop culture staples.
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The Empire Strikes Back: Not the best sequel of all time, but close enough
It may not surprise you that The Empire Strikes Back, according to Rotten Tomatoes, stands tall as the highest-ranked Star Wars sequel ever made. No one ever thought Star Wars would become A New Hope and that the movie that started it all would get a sequel — or seven more after that (not including spinoffs).
It’s still the movie that lands at the top of many fans’ rankings overall. Is it the infamous duel between Luke and Vader? The unforgettable profession of love between Han and Leia? Lando just being all-around fantastic? Everyone has their reasons for loving it, but few argue its brilliance.
The best sequels of all time: Star Wars, Marvel, and a bunch of toys
Star Wars is on many fans’ all-time favorites lists — but it still couldn’t beat out all three Toy Story sequels, Avengers: Endgame, or the final installment of the Harry Potter movies based on the original seven-book series.
In Rotten Tomatoes’ list of 100 Best Sequels of All Time, The Force Awakens landed at No. 28 with a score of 93%. The Empire Strikes Back, with a score of 94%, just barely beat TFA at No. 27.
Both of these sequels likely rank high for similar reasons. TESB was a highly-anticipated film expected to continue the story of a farm boy-turned-space wizard/pilot and his unlikely companions that no one knew they needed. Han Solo’s fate was also up in the air due to Harrison Ford’s questionable future in the franchise … which isn’t too far off from the circumstances of TFA, actually.
Unlike TESB, TFA was set to close a decade-long gap between Star Wars films. It was also the first movie of the franchise under the Disney umbrella, raising curiosity about how new leadership would handle the continuation of the Skywalker Saga left behind in the original and prequel trilogies.
The movie is noticeably similar to A New Hope in structure and storytelling, and while this bothered a number of fans, many felt TFA not only honored the original trilogy in its presentation but represented everything so long beloved about Star Wars.
Star Wars is good – but the best sequels of all time reign supreme
Star Wars makes no appearances on the list beyond TESB, but looking at its competition, it’s not all too surprising why. Godfather sequels. Mission: Impossible. Aliens. You can try to beat the classics, but a rare few ever do.
The one movie no second installment could beat? That would be Paddington 2, one of only three films on this list to receive a score of 100%. He may not be a space bear, but he’s still all deserving of his spot.
Despite not making it into the top 20, TFA and TESB weren’t the only Star Wars sequels to make an appearance in the all-time 100. The Last Jedi nailed a No. 45 spot, Return of the Jedi at No. 87, and Revenge of the Sith at No. 93.
There’s representation here from all three trilogies — which might tell you that even if they appeal to different generations today, they’re all loved by many in their own unique ways.
Of all the Star Wars sequels, which is your favorite and why?