Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Director: George Lucas.
Writer: George Lucas.
Producer: Gary Kurtz.
IMDB Rating: 8.6/10.
Let’s go straight for the kill: this is, quite simply, the best Star Wars movie ever. As far as I’m concerned, no subsequent movie will ever be as good as the original, and not just because it introduced us to all of our favourite characters.
To me, the beauty of A New Hope actually lies in its simplicity. It’s a fairly simple story- essentially, Luke gathers together a bunch of mates, and sets off to rescue Leia from the Death Star. It is the simplicity of the rest of the plot, that makes the grand finale so thrilling. I challenge anyone to name a cinematic moment more iconic, and unexpected than that shot of the Death Star exploding.
Since this is a retrospective review, I’d also like to mention the fact this film becomes even better after viewing Rogue One, the events of which take place after the dreaded prequels, but before this movie. There’s a delicious sense of dramatic irony that comes with knowing exactly why Leia recorded the mysterious message to Obi-Wan that we hear at the start of A New Hope.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Director: Irvin Kershner.
Writer(s): Lawrence Kasden & Leigh Brackett. (Story by George Lucas.)
Producer: Gary Kurtz.
IMDB Rating: 8.7/10
If we’re being honest, it’s hard to deny that this movie can, occasionally, feel like a bit of a slog. I was certainly surprised to learn that it’s only 2 hours, 7 minutes long. However, I’d argue that this movie also features some excellent moments.
First, there’s Master Yoda- fabulous, he is. It’s under Yoda’s stern tutorage that Luke’s character arc really starts to develop, and we are offered a glimpse of the troubled, complex hero he will ultimately become. Then, there is the budding romance between Han Solo and Leia, which will later become a key factor in explaining each character’s motivations.
That’s the beauty of The Empire Strikes Back- details in this movie set up events that occur both at this film’s conclusion, and later in the series. And, speaking of conclusions, what a finale! Lando betrays his friends, Luke abandons his training with Yoda, Han is captured by Boba Fett, and Luke and Vader finally face one another in battle. With this epic fight, comes one of the most shocking (and often misquoted) lines in cinematic history: ‘No, I am your father’. That line alone makes every single long-winded Luke and Yoda conversation in this movie worth it.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Director: Richard Marquand.
Writer(s): Lawrence Kasdan & George Lucas.
Producer: Howard Kazanjian
IMDB Rating: 8.3/10.
I love the original trilogy, so it’s always struck me as a shame that its denouement should also be its weakest movie. Of course, there are some great moments in Return of the Jedi, and not just because it’s the movie that first brought us ewoks, everyone’s favourite extra-terrestrial teddies. This is the film where the Empire is finally toppled, after all.
From the viewer’s perspective- especially as someone who’s seen the prequel trilogy- it’s also satisfying to see Leia finally aware that Luke is her brother. Yet, I’ve always considered this movie to be deeply flawed for one, simple reason: Darth Vader shouldn’t seek redemption! To me, the beauty of Vader was always that he was beyond all saving. In the first two films of this trilogy, we are led to believe that he has become so bitter and twisted that he has shed his humanity.
This is the man who cut off his own son’s hand, in the middle of dropping the bombshell revelation that he is, in fact, his father. Rather than having a total change of heart, and sacrificing himself to save said son, I always thought Vader should have gone out with a bang. This film might have a Hollywood ending, and a sickly-sweet message about family bonds, but I’d much prefer a version of Vader than stayed beyond redemption, and remained evil until the very end.