What makes a good Star Wars? Like many things, it’s a little bit different for everyone.
For some, it’s the science fiction details: aliens, droids, and lightsabers.
For others, it’s the aesthetic: a palpable sense of wonder, aided by one of the most iconic musical themes in the history of cinema and otherworldly locations.
For others still, it’s the characters: classic good-versus-evil battles with underdogs up against the odds.
The new Disney Plus series Andor, our pick for the best TV show of 2022, captured one of the elements that makes Star Wars special, focusing on political intrigue in the period leading up to the start of the Rebellion. It’s an opportunity to revisit a particular era in the Star Wars saga, but also a chance to take a look back at the series as a whole.
We at Polygon put our heads together to rank all the canonical movie and television entries in the Star Wars universe (we love Visions, but it does not fit this definition).
Our committee was made up of nine Polygon staffers, who each submitted their own personal ranking of the Star Wars movies and television they’ve seen. Their bottom choice got one point, their second-to-last pick got two points, and that scoring process continued all the way up. This way, people who had seen all 21 canonical movies and TV shows had a greater impact on the vote, as they had the most context.
Here is every canonical Star Wars movie and TV show, ranked from worst to best. And if you’re looking to catch up on them, we have the perfect Star Wars watch order for you.
The “well, at least it’s Star Wars” tier
21. The Rise of Skywalker
The light side: A climactic moment where everyone worth a damn left living in the Star Wars universe — even the actor who played Wedge Antilles! — shows up to shoot up the fascist armada and/or cut it to pieces with a borrowed lightsaber.
The dark side: We’ve been here before. Looking back, we all know that Rey deserved better. This is not the ending that I expected when I showed up with the kids for The Force Awakens in 2015. I imagine it’s not what Disney expected either. —Charlie Hall
20. The Book of Boba Fett
The light side: Two or three episodes feel almost like The Mandalorian season 2.5, which is nice, and Temuera Morrison is great.
The dark side: Every non-Mando episode of the show is pretty bad and it’s largely very boring. —Austen Goslin
19. The Clone Wars movie
The light side: Ahsoka Tano. Heard of her?
The dark side: Pales in comparison to the TV show, both in the look of its animation and in its storytelling. —Pete Volk
18. Star Wars Resistance
The light side: It’s the first (and to date, only) TV show to explore the sequel trilogy era, and with a gorgeous art style to boot.
The dark side: It’s lightweight even by Star Wars standards, and it ditches the all-ages appeal of most Star Wars to appeal directly to younger viewers. —Joshua Rivera
17. Obi-Wan Kenobi
The light side: While no one thought we needed to know how Obi-Wan became Ben, Ewan McGregor’s performance goes a long way to bridging and deepening his prequel performance. What Obi-Wan Kenobi manages to do, despite the odds, is make the perfunctory, between-trilogy showdown between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader feel emotionally thrilling and earned.
The dark side: Obi-Wan Kenobi suffers from the same frustrating defect of a lot of Star Wars stuff: a villain story that gets caught somewhere between thoughtful and half-assed. And at six episodes with a lot of action elsewhere, there’s just not a ton of time to iron out all the kinks. —Zosha Millman
16. Attack of the Clones
The light side: Less terrible comedy and childish kid-adventure than its predecessor, The Phantom Menace, and more meaningful action and forward plot movement. The revelations about what’s going on on Kamino are genuinely unsettling. And then there’s getting to see Yoda kick ass.
The dark side: So much terrible Anakin Skywalker material, from the belated “Oops, left my mom behind to be a slave for the last decade, should do something about that” subplot to the world’s most awkward and unconvincing romance, complete with a metaphorical speech about what’s wrong with sand. —Tasha Robinson
15. Tales of the Jedi
The light side: In the animation style of The Clone Wars, Tales of the Jedi fills in the blanks on two people vital to the Star Wars universe: Ahsoka and Count Dooku. Across six very short episodes, their stories add more dimension to the good/evil binary of the Light and Dark sides of the Force.
The dark side: The episodes are very short, and mostly serve to fill in small grooves in the stories of two key characters in the franchise. It’s interesting enough, but it sort of lifts right out. —ZM
The “now we’re getting somewhere” tier
14. The Bad Batch
The light side: A closer look at how the iconography of the old prequel trilogy faded away into the original one with a ragtag group of former clone troopers as our guides, The Bad Batch digs into what happens when you realize the war you’ve been fighting is no longer just.
The dark side: With just one season under its belt, the show hasn’t made a strong enough case for itself to stand apart from its predecessor, The Clone Wars. — JR
13. Solo: A Star Wars Story
The light side: Solo has a large cast filled with fun, familiar faces, and the mostly charming group end up in a variety of exciting heist-adjacent situations.
The dark side: The movie is pretty stark in its ugliness, filled with gray tones and poor lighting that take away from the exciting locations and sequences the movie wants to depict (the office of Paul Bettany’s Dryden Vos is a particularly strong example of this — it should be interesting because of the architecture, but the bizarre backlighting washes out anything compelling about the setting). The blandness on screen undercuts the thrilling adventure story. —PV
12. Revenge of the Sith
The light side: Even after the twin disappointments of Episodes I and II, this one still manages to hurt as it depicts Anakin Skywalker’s descent to the Dark Side and the fall of the Jedi Order. If the prequel trilogy was an exercise in unmet expectations, at least it went out on a high note.
The dark side: The fundamental brokenness of the prequels is still present. Anakin’s corruption is more of an abrupt pivot than a tragic decline, and it all feels like too little, too late. —JR
11. The Force Awakens
The light side: They really did it, you know? Even seven years later, The Force Awakens is remarkable in how it immediately struck a chord with a new cast of characters that made this galaxy far away feel worth returning to.
The dark side:The film is fundamentally incurious, and not particularly interested in expanding the boundaries of what Star Wars can be. You know, especially since the movie is just a retread of A New Hope. —JR
10. The Phantom Menace
The light side: The kickoff to George Lucas’ notorious prequel trilogy was maligned by longtime fans for infantilizing Star Wars. But time and fresh eyes have been kind to Episode I: Approached as a historical epic, it’s a successful expansion of the vocabulary for the franchise. Without the immediate threats of the original trilogy, Lucas is free to meander through the galaxy and truly world-build. The triumph is in the casting of his tour guides: Liam Neeson as a wise, but overeager and clearly repressed Qui-Gon Jinn; Ewan McGregor as an inquisitive Obi-Wan successfully reverse-engineered from Alec Guinness’ Star Wars performance; Natalie Portman, piercing even while spouting Lucas’ patented Flower Dialogue; Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine, taking full advantage of what we all know; and Ray Park bouncing around as Darth Maul, whose design is a shock to the system. Even Anakin and Jar Jar have their place in this whimsical beginning, which brings balance to the forcefulness of future stories. Oh, also, podracing rules.
The dark side: This is where I admit that when I saw The Phantom Menace in theaters again during its 2012 3D rerelease run, I fell asleep. Probably around the scene when Qui-Gon introduces Anakin to the Jedi Council. In fairness, it was like a 10 p.m. showing, but yeah, Lucas’ script plods along. And Anakin’s whole “you’re an angel” bit, well, yeah, that always makes me hurl. The Phantom Menace is… not a perfect movie. —Matt Patches
The “ah, that’s the good stuff” tier
The light side: Rebels knows how to play the hits. It’s all here: Vader, Maul, and even — to the shock of EU fans at the time — Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. Yet the abundant fan service was always at the behest of Rebels’ real story about a new group of ragtag troublemakers doing what they can to stick it to the Empire.
The dark side: The fan service can make watching Rebels feel like it’s assigning you homework. —JR
8. The Last Jedi
The light side: It’s a gorgeous movie, with some of the most memorable visuals of the franchise as a whole, and attempts to unpack some of the thornier elements of the Jedis’ legacy.
The dark side: It unabashedly fails at being a sequel to The Force Awakens. It is up to you how much that matters — our voters were pretty split on that. —PV
7. Return of the Jedi
The light side: The biggest popcorn movie of the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi is simply a good time, with bombastic space dogfights, tiny murder bears, and a touch of romance. A great way for one of the most beloved trilogies of all time to go out.
The dark side: It doesn’t feel about as much, and its characterization of Vader and the Emperor in particular don’t hold up to the closer scrutiny the film brings them. As fun as it is, it’s also forgettable. —JR
6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
The light side: For once, the story isn’t about the galaxy’s most dysfunctional family. Instead, Rogue One follows a group of nobodies who rise up and complete a suicide mission for the good of the Rebellion. There’s not so much Jedi stuff or expansion on the Force or whatever, but Rogue One shows off a side of the Star Wars universe that we had yet to see in the movies. It’s about hope in the face of defeat. It’s about the heroes usually forgotten in the Skywalker Saga. It’s about being doomed by the narrative before the story even starts, but still doing what is right, because someone has to do it.
The dark side: Do you remember anyone’s name besides Cassian Andor? —Petrana Radulovic
5. The Clone Wars show
The light side: The Clone Wars almost singlehandedly redeemed the prequel trilogy, strip-mining the maligned films for every compelling idea and character it could get its hands on and spinning them out into multiple compelling story arcs, all while introducing a few great ideas of its own.
The dark side: It’s kind of a mess! An anthology-esque structure meant that you never knew who you’d be following in a given episode, and some of them are bound to be duds. —JR
4. The Mandalorian
The light side: The Mandalorian arrived at a pivotal moment: After the divisive Last Jedi and cultural slump of Solo, live-action Star Wars needed to move on from the Skywalker Saga and recapture the spirit of the original trilogy. And by god, Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni did it; George Lucas might say The Mandalorian “echoes” in just the right way. Two seasons in, the adventures of Din Djarin and Grogu have strummed along like a classic Western (thanks in large part to Ludwig Göransson’s musical innovation), zipping from locale to locale to let the two save the day and confront their own pasts. Season 2 saw a deeper intersection with the broader Star Wars universe, but the concentration on our helmeted hero never wavered. While longtime fans flock to Star Wars for lore and Visual Dictionary fodder — which the show still delivers — The Mandalorian nails a piece of the franchise that’s been missing for ages: an emotional core.
The dark side: Yes, season 1 really filled the void of episodic TV adventures, done with the high bar of Star Wars spectacle, but l have to ding season 2 a little harder for slipping back into everything-is-connected fan-service tendencies, and say I’m worried about where the show’s headed. Boba Fett is back? Look where that got us. Ahsoka is around? Hoping the best, but wary. Tying it all into the Mandalorian arcs from Clone Wars? If we must. Luke Skywalker? No. No! The Mandalorian should be better than what Favreau and Filoni were pulling at the end of season 2. —MP
The “top-shelf, best-of-the-best Star Wars” tier
3. A New Hope
The light side: The film that started it all. The magic is still there all these years later; just put it on and see for yourself.
The dark side: Star Wars is the kind of movie that everyone responds to differently — and knowing all of the other shows and films that will come from this relatively simple fantasy can warp it in hindsight. It’s possible to sour on it for presenting audiences with a universe of possibility, one that its stewards would only be willing to take so far. —JR
2. The Empire Strikes Back
The light side: The blueprint for a blockbuster sequel, Empire puts its heroes through the wringer, presenting them with loss after loss, in order to find compelling new shades in its predecessor’s broad strokes.
The dark side: Empire doesn’t really stand on its own — it begins in medias res and ends on a cliffhanger, raising questions that, depending on your view of its sequel, there may not be satisfying answers to. —JR
The light side: Andor is obsessed with a simple question: Why? Why does someone join the Rebellion, or the Empire, or get caught up in any of the dozens of conflicts in Star Wars? In doing so, it became one of the most complex and compelling Star Wars stories on screen, taking its time to take those eponymous wars and make them personal.
The dark side: The series is constantly on the move, introducing characters and shuttling them away at a moment’s notice in a way that can be disorienting, and its protagonist doesn’t feel terribly active — things just sort of happen to him. Such is life in the Star War. —JR