The Phantom Menace is why I have 2 Star Wars movie ranking lists

Ranking Star Wars movies can be a personal thing, which is why I have 2 different rankings for the films.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Ray Park as Darth Maul. Image credit:
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Ray Park as Darth Maul. Image credit: /

If there is one thing that always makes the rounds on the internet every few weeks and months, it's people ranking their favorite Star Wars movies. It's a fun little pastime for fans to share which movies they love, are just okay, or the ones they can't stand.

There is no one right way to make a Star Wars ranking. However, most people tend to base their ranking on the best-made Star Wars movies. This is perfectly valid, especially since the original trilogy usually ranks high on people's lists. Those three movies changed cinema forever and are considered among the greatest films ever made.

As I got older, though, I kept getting caught up in the idea of ranking the films. I grew up with the original trilogy my entire life. I saw all the prequels in theaters. None of them really resonated with me, though. I recognized that the original trilogy was great, but I didn't actually like watching them. My favorite medium is animation, and I've written before that it was The Clone Wars theatrical film and the follow-up series that actually made me a Star Wars fan. I never left, thanks to Lucasfilm Animation, which still tends to be my favorite content coming from a galaxy far, far away.

I always hated debating these movies with my friends because, yes, The Empire Strikes Back is the best-made Star Wars movie. I logically and critically understood that it was one of the greatest movies ever made and peak George Lucas. I never enjoyed watching it, though. It made me stop participating in these debates.

It wasn't until I did movie commentaries for my podcast and rewatched all the films that I had a breakthrough. I was watching Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the first time in well over a decade. I did have a touch of nostalgia for the movie. It was my first Star Wars film in a theater as a kid. I remembered Darth Maul was awesome and was the right age for Jar Jar Binks to be hilarious. Still, as I said above, I didn't have a deep connection to the movies. Also, all the prequel hate over the years pressured me to never dive back into it.

So, in 2016, watching the movie for the first time as an adult in my late 20s, I went into The Phantom Menace with an open mind and no expectations. As the movie rolled, I realized something.

I was having fun.

Yes, The Phantom Menace has major flaws and is nowhere near a perfect movie. However, after watching The Clone Wars series, I found myself really enjoying the movie.

I appreciated George Lucas' gall and ballsy move to make the Jedi Order horrifically flawed, a major story shift in canon that is still explored today. He could have easily played on the nostalgia of the original trilogy to make a quick buck. Instead, he went in the opposite direction at full speed. Yes, this move doesn't sit well with many fans. However, I will always stand by a creator who swings for the fences to try something innovative. Even if they fail, I rather have art like that than a creator not trying at all, taking the easy path. George Lucas chose to take a more turbulent road, and it changed Star Wars.

The Phantom Menace is also historic, once again letting Star Wars impact cinema. Just to name a few examples, Lucas used high-definition digital cameras while creating Episode I, something that's the norm today and a trend he would continue into the rest of the prequel trilogy. There was also the creation of Jar Jar. Love or hate him, Jar Jar Binks deserves some respect for changing the trajectory of CGI. He was the first completely computer-generated support character in film history. Jar Jar walked so Gollum in Lord of the Rings, the Na’Vi in Avatar, Caesar in Planet of the Apes, and every character that came after him could run. And yeah, after his episodes in The Clone Wars, I found Jar Jar funny in my rewatch as he hit on those few childhood nostalgia memories I had.

The music with "Duel of the Fates," the excitement of the podrace, the choice to make one of the greatest villains of all time a child with his mom, having read multiple Star Wars books which made me really love Qui-Gon Jinn, knowing where Darth Maul would go to become a Shakespearean-level tragic villain, just all of it combined...

I really loved watching The Phantom Menace again. It gave me this joy and appreciation, warts and all. I didn't care if it wasn't a perfect movie. It was a blast to watch, regardless of flaws.

It was then that I decided the best way for me to make a Star Wars movie ranking was to have two different rankings. If someone asks me the best-made Star Wars movie, it's clearly The Empire Strikes Back. No questions.

However, my favorite Star Wars ranking is different. This is based on my pure enjoyment despite a movie's flaws. It's how much I like the movie, no matter how bad it might stumble. This is where the nostalgia tends to get wrapped into it because, yes, The Clone Wars theatrical film is on this particular Star Wars ranking (It's a Star Wars movie with a theatrical release, and Anakin is the main character. It is a Skywalker Saga film in my opinion, and I will die on the hill it should be on all Skywalker movie rankings).

Having this ranking also lets me work in my personal journey too. For example, The Force Awakens is not the best-made Star Wars. In my opinion, there are plenty of problems with the movie. It is still in my top 5 personal favorite Star Wars films. I had a friend pass away suddenly days before the movie premiered in theaters. I was grieving, and the friend group I went with made sure to help me have a good time. My buddy Paige, who is a huge Gwendoline Christie fan, let me hug her Captain Phasma action figure the entire time. And as I sat in the darkened theater and that iconic yellow text crept up the screen as the music swelled, I began to heal. I will never forget the experience of watching The Force Awakens for the first time despite it not being a perfect movie.

The Phantom Menace changed how I viewed Star Wars films, allowing me to process my ranking of these movies in a much more personal way. Having a "Best-Made Star Wars" list and a "Personal Favorite Star Wars" list works for me. You better believe I will be back in theaters again for The Phantom Menace's 25th anniversary in May to celebrate my third favorite Star Wars.

Third favorite just behind Rogue One and The Clone Wars movie of course!

Every Skywalker in Star Wars both in both canon and Legends. dark. Next. Every Skywalker in Star Wars both in both canon and Legends