This feature was originally published in December 2015.
A long time ago, we were just stargazing kids, worshiping our letterbox collection of George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. Years later, the Force is strong with us as we do the Imperial March and celebrate Nothing but Star Wars! with a rogue squadron of features, essays, and stories. Today, our staff ranks the franchise’s films and television spin-offs from worst to best.
With May the 4th upon us, the staff at Consequence of Sound decided to size up the existing Star Wars televisual universe. From the heights of the original trilogy, to the lows of the prequels, to the decidedly mixed bag of TV shows and holiday specials, we threw it all in a Sarlacc pit, digested it over a thousand years, and saw what came out the other end.
Sure, you might ask, “What good is weighing the Ewok movies against the quote-unquote ‘real’ movies? Of course they’re not as good — they’re made-for-TV kids’ stuff! That’s not a fair deal!” To which we respond, “We are altering the deal. Pray we don’t alter it any further.” After all, the Star Wars universe is a dense web of interlocking and interconnecting characters and stories; why not highlight them all?
Also, it goes without saying, beware of major spoilers ahead.
22. Star Wars: The Clone Wars [Film] (2008)
Opening Crawl: A galaxy divided! Striking swiftly after the Battle of Geonosis, Count Dooku’s droid army has seized control of the major hyperspace lanes, separating the Republic from the majority of its clone army. With few clones available, the Jedi generals cannot gain a foothold on the Outer Rim as more and more planets choose to join Dooku’s Separatists. While the Jedi are occupied fighting a war, no one is left to keep the peace. Chaos and crime spread, and the innocent become victims in a lawless galaxy. Crime lord Jabba the Hutt’s son has been kidnapped by a rival band of pirates. Desperate to save his son, Jabba puts out a call for help — a call the Jedi are cautious to answer…
The Light Side (Cast of Goodies): Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), Commander Cody (Dee Bradley Baker), Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), and Padmé Amidala (Catherine Taber)
The Dark Side (Cast of Baddies): Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman), Ziro the Hutt (Corey Burton), and Whorm Loathsom (Corey Burton)
“Thanks, Wedge!” (Underrated Characters): Captain Rex was as invented of a character for The Clone Wars as Ahsoka Tano, but received a lot less attention – partially because Ahsoka filled the scrutiny-laden role of Anakin’s Padawan and partially due to the fact that he’s a clone. He is, after all, one face among millions of identical ones. But Rex quickly establishes himself as a memorable and skilled trooper, fighting off wave after wave of Separatist infiltrators during the Battle of Teth and using subterfuge to coyly alert General Skywalker to the dangers of Ahsoka Tano. The Clone Wars always faced an uphill climb separating each clone character into their own personalities. Rex was the first of many unique clones to succeed in becoming individuals – a legacy that has endured all the way to Rebels.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” (Memorable Ships): In its most egregious sin, the prequels lacked a Millennium Falcon, a ship with enough character that it probably warranted a starring credit. It seemed that The Clone Wars aimed to correct this mistake by introducing the Twilight, an enlarged B-wing-like freighter stolen from Ziro the Hutt’s crime syndicate during the Battle of Teth. After surviving a crash landing on Tatooine while rushing Rotta the Hutt back to his father, the ship became the closest approximation to a personal ship for Anakin and his compatriots during The Clone Wars television series. But after featuring heavily in Season One, it never was incorporated fully a la the Ghost from Rebels, appearing infrequently. The Twilight was destroyed by Darth Maul in Season Five. In a film and subsequent show dominated by military vessels, from starfighters to capital cruisers, a ship like the Twilight stood out.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” (Memorable Alien/Creature): Ziro the Hutt’s introduction was met with a unique set of vitriol – emanating both from liberal and conservative viewpoints. “From a certain point of view,” Ziro was either so flamboyant that he was a caricature or so flamboyant that he should not have appeared in a child-targeted animated film. But in seven years of social progression, acceptance, and reality, Ziro has become a cult-favorite: a Truman Capote-inspired Hutt as the ruler of an alien crime syndicate. In an otherwise drab film with little flair, the absolutely over-the-top Ziro is a welcome distraction for the final act.
“Never Tell Me the Odds” (Box Office): In arguably the darkest days of the Star Wars legacy, 2008’s The Clone Wars amassed a pitiful $68 million worldwide.
May the Force Be with You (Force Elements): In an underrated and unappreciated use of the Force, both the battles of Teth and Christophsis demonstrated how useful it was to have a Jedi (or Jedis) deflect blaster bolts during infantry and armor charges. Requiring the most precise command of the “Control” aspect of the Force, blaster bolt deflection shielded the advances of the Grand Army of the Republic. On the jungle world of Teth, Ahsoka and Anakin’s command allowed the clone troopers to go vertical and ascend a massive cliff face during a crucial point of their assault.
Lightsaber Options: Ahsoka Tano offered a lot of insight into how well-trained Padawans came to their Masters after being dispatched by (presumably) Master Yoda. Ahsoka arrived to Christophsis a very skilled green-bladed lightsaber combatant that held her own against MagnaGuards and the Sith apprentice, Asajj Ventress.
Ventress herself was armed with twin red-bladed lightsabers. The slight curves in the handles resembled her lightsabers from the now defunct Dark Horse comics and the 2003 cartoon from Genndy Tartakovsky. Those lightsabers came from Komari Vosa, a Dark Jedi who briefly served Dooku.
MVP Action Figure: If there was ever an action figure worth buying and then immediately throwing away just to keep the accessory, it has to be the Ahsoka Tano with Rotta the Hutt. The Ahsoka face-sculpt is incredibly goofy, but everyone should have a sluglike Huttlet in their action figure collection.
Essential Video Game Tie-In: The Clone Wars film was not the subject of any particular tie-ins. The show did spawn a number of tie-ins. But none were particularly well-received, even Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. The Lego game did include the Battle of Christophsis from the film, however.
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: Rotta the Huttlet was begging for a backpack, and sure enough, the merchandising arm of Lucasfilm obliged. Rotta is so adorable, it almost takes a minute before you realize he will grow up to become the heir to a sinister crime empire.
The Scene You’re Looking For (Best Scene): Ahsoka came pre-loaded with the ability to handle a lightsaber. In this scene on Tatooine, Ahsoka saves Rotta from an ambush by three MagnaGuards. In a saga that had been desperately lacking tough females since Leia on Endor, I’d say that’s not bad for Ahsoka’s first few days on the job.
“I’ve Got a Disconsolate Feeling About This” (Analysis): In a bold (and ultimately foolish) move, Lucasfilm Animation brought their first foray into animation since the 1980s to theaters with The Clone Wars. Not truly a film, but instead four stitched together episodes from Season One, the film suffered heavily from pacing and connective tissue. Without the nuances of the television program’s serialized morals, newsreel format, and 22-minute pacing, the film left audience members disappointed and ultimately dreading Star Wars’ uncertain future.
Ultimately proven wrong by a strong five-season run on Cartoon Network (and an even stronger bonus season on Netflix), the changes to form and content initially portended doom. Gone was John Williams’ score, replaced by an electronically heavy and busy score from Kevin Kiner (Kiner also ultimately proved immensely capable during the television run). Gone was a dramatic pacing driven by characters, replaced by sassy Hutts and menace-less Sith apprentices.
Lucas threw a wrench into the Skywalker legacy by adding a Padawan: the sassy, defiant, and unwelcome Torguta, Ahsoka Tano. Movie formatting bred a kind of myopia that longtime fans could not see past. In their minds, Anakin did not have a Padawan, and Ahsoka was certainly not the kind of Padawan that Anakin would handle. In their minds, there’s no chance this film’s pacing could breed character depth and add to the Star Wars mythos in meaningful ways.
And in August 2008, the fans were right. But this film was a film that should never have been – they were never aesthetically intended to be. These were clearly television episodes mashed into a wretched hive of dung and poodoo. Thankfully, Obi-Wan must have hid the other episodes from the Big Screen, and they returned as the New Hope of the Star Wars franchise to overthrow the sting of the prequels.
But on its own footing, The Clone Wars stands as the lowest point of the Star Wars saga.
21. The Star Wars Holiday Special [TV Special] (1978)
Opening Crawl: As Han and Chewie run from Imperial forces to make it to Chewie’s home of Kashyyyk in time for Life Day, Chewie’s family anxiously awaits their arrival. Meanwhile, an Imperial lockdown of Kashyyyk leads them to spend Life Day with various distractions, gifts, and friends – all of them absolutely cringe-inducing.
The Light Side: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), a super coked-up Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), Chewie’s gray-haired pervert father (Itchy), Chewie’s obnoxious son (Lumpy), Chewie’s wife and Harriet to his Ozzie (Malla), Saun Dann (Art Carney), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker)
The Dark Side: Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) and Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch)
“Thanks, Wedge!” I mean, there aren’t really characters to under-rate here, since none of the characters are worthy of rating in the first place. Still, I guess I’ll point out Art Carney’s Saun Dann, whose vaudevillian antics are part and parcel of the special’s misguided attempts to ape Laugh-In and those other old holiday specials. At least he gets enough screentime to treat the material even slightly seriously, and of all the new characters, he feels the most likely to actually exist in the same universe as Luke, Han, and Leia.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” All of the major ship footage is just recycled clips from Star Wars, so I’ll at least champion the Y-wing Luke uses in the animated segment. They’re the ugly, snub-nosed workhorses of the Rebel fleet, and though they may not be as sexy as an X-wing, Luke’s decision to fly one gives us more of a look than we normally get.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” I’ll single out MVP Harvey Korman, who does triple duty playing three equally baffling characters in this special – first, the Julia Child-like cooking show host Gormaanda (get it?), then the sullen barfly Krelman, then the instructional android who teaches Lumpy via video how to play with his new transmitter. None of the bits are any good, but bless the man for trying.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: In its first (and only) airing, The Star Wars Holiday Special raked in about 13 million viewers – and it only came in third! Any major cable network would kill to get half those ratings now.
May the Force Be with You: There’s really not much of the Force here, since we focus so much on Chewie’s family. Luke, the only Force user we see, is just in a couple of lame comedy scenes and the climax. Would the trippy line of Wookiees walking into a sun at the end to celebrate Life Day count as the Force?
Lightsaber Options: No lightsabers here – the closest we get are Jefferson Starship’s glowing, purple instruments (including Marty Balin’s extremely phallic microphone). Perhaps they’re a long-lost sect of the Jedi Order who turned their sacred weapons into sweet musical instruments/sex toys.
The Scene You’re Looking For: The bizarre ending of the special, in which the original Star Wars crew is finally assembled for a hasty, coke-addled rendition of the theme tune (with lyrics!) as all the Wookiees gather in red robes in the middle of a star. It’s truly a sight to behold for the sheer “what were they thinking?” factor.
“I’ve Got a Stomach-Churning Feeling About This”: How bad is The Star Wars Holiday Special? Let’s put it this way: George Lucas thought the prequels were good enough to put out in theaters, and even he wished this thing had never seen the light of day. In many ways, The Star Wars Holiday Special represents the growing pains of media in a post-Star Wars world: Star Wars is a popular thing, so we’ll do a goofy, Bruce Vilanch-produced holiday special with it!
The problem, then, lies in the gulf between these two ideas: Star Wars and Bruce Vilanch have two very different senses of humor, and they belong to two different generations of media. Because of that, the Holiday Special feels less like Star Wars and more like an old grandpa trying to relate to the young kids by dressing up his old Vaudeville antics in a Wookiee suit.
Nowhere in the first film did you think there would be room for a Jefferson Starship cameo or a wacky space holo-circus or an elderly Wookiee clearly using Diahann Carroll as fapping material. Even the attempts to fit the film’s main characters fall flat: Everyone’s clearly flying without targeting computers, including a bored Harrison Ford, a coked-up Carrie Fisher, and a heavily made-up Mark Hamill (maybe shortly after his facial surgery?).
The Star Wars Holiday Special is clearly something that no one wanted to make — a hollow, space-based Laugh-In that’s just as interminable to watch as it likely was to produce.
20. Star Wars: Droids [TV Series] (1985-1986)
Opening Crawl: This doesn’t even merit an opening crawl. Instead I give you this: The Police’s Stewart Copeland’s opening theme to Droids.
The Light Side: C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 (Himself), Thall Joben/Master 1, Jann Tosh/Master 2, and Mungo Baobab/Master 3 (James Arnold Taylor), and let me just say that “Mungo Baobab” is probably the best name in the Star Wars Universe
The Dark Side: Vlix, The Great Heap, with special appearances by Boba Fett, IG-88, and the evil Galactic Empire
“Thanks, Wedge!” Again Mungo Baobab, the droids’ third and final master of the series. This is where the show really starts. It’s too bad it took them half a series to get there.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” If there is one thing I remember from this cartoon, it’s the appearance of the Desert Skiff from Return of the Jedi.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” The Droids character Admiral Terrinald Screed was recently made canon when included in the book release Tarkin by James Luceno.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: Show was poorly received and only lasted one season (13 episodes).
May the Force Be with You: If you’re looking for the Force, don’t. Taking place before the events of A New Hope, the show is made up mostly of assholes.
Lightsaber Options: One lightsaber makes a brief appearance to not so subtly remind us we’re watching something related to Star Wars.
MVP Action Figure: I’m going to have to go with the Desert Skiff on this one.
Essential Video Game Tie-In: Did not receive the video game treatment (thank God).
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: You could probably write a movie about the failed, last-ditch-effort toy marketing that was going on with this property.
The Scene You’re Looking For: The best sequence in the Droids series has to be this…
“I’ve Got a Cringy Feeling About This”: What can I say? I loved Droids when I was a kid, if I was lucky enough to catch it at five in the morning on SyFy when they re-aired them. With no prequels in sight, I couldn’t get enough of the show. The re-watch as an adult had me cringing. This just doesn’t feel like Star Wars at all. The animation is great, and with Anthony Daniels returning to voice C-3PO, one could have had higher hopes. I wish the Great Heap was in the first episode and could have consumed Droids before it had a chance to flounder its way to a one-season death.
19. Star Wars: Ewoks [TV Series] (1985-1987)
Opening Crawl: It is a dark time for the Star Wars franchise, a time when, in his ill-fated quest to appeal to the youngest members of his audience, George Lucas creates a cartoon series based entirely around the most cloying species in the original trilogy: the Ewoks. On their forest moon of Endor, the easily commodified creatures become even more cutesy when drawn by Korean animators, despite being terrorized by an evil sorceress named Morag and a rival tribe: the swamp-dwelling Duloks…
The Light Side: Wicket Wysteri Warrick (Jim Henshaw/Denny Delk), Willy Warrick (John Stocker), Weechee Warrick (Greg Swanson), Deej Warrick (Richard Donat), Shodu Warrick (Nonnie Griffin/Esther Scott), Erpham Warrick (Anthony Parr), Chief Chirpa (George Buza/Rick Camino), Princess Kneesaa a Jari Kintaka (Cree Summer/Jeanne Reynolds), Asha (Tabitha St. Germain), Paploo (Paul Chato), Teebo (Eric Peterson/James Cranno), Malani (Alyson Court), Latara, Nippet (Leanne Coppen),and Wiley (michael Fantini), and Master Logray (Doug Chamberlain)
The Dark Side: Morag (Jackie Burroughs), King Gorneesh (Daniel Cody Ryan), Queen Urga (Melleny Brown), Umwak (Don Francks)
“Thanks Wedge!”: For the most part, the Ewoks Ewoks grate on the nerves if you’re not in preschool, but a handful of them do have some nice developments as the series progresses over two seasons. Logray, always the most evocative ‘wok in Return of the Jedi with his feathered staff and giant bird skull, becomes a rascally figure of magic here, his personality reminiscent of Yoda before the Jedi Master reveals his true identity to Luke.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” Since the show takes place in the woods, it’s mostly just a lot of primitive hang gliders. However, one key episode, “Battle for the Sunstar”, features one of Emperor Palpatine’s scientists as the main villain, meaning we actually get to see some cool animated versions of an Imperial Star Destroyer and a Lambda-class T-4a shuttle. That’s, uh (pushes glasses further up the bridge of his nose), an Imperial Shuttle for you Star Wars common folk.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” While she’d look out of place in the Mos Eisley Cantina, Izrina, Queen of the Wisties (the Endor equivalent to fairy-folk) serves as an interesting Easter egg for anyone familiar with the made-for-TV Ewoks films (more on those soon). As in the movies, she befriends the heroes, but only after inadvertently causing them harm: when Morag infects her with a fire spell, she accidentally sets the trees surrounding the Ewoks’ Bright Tree Village ablaze.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: After Return of the Jedi, the two Ewoks films, and all the merchandising that came with them, perhaps even children were Ewoked out in the mid-’80s. The show was cancelled due to low ratings after just two short seasons.
May the Force Be With You: The Force never gets mentioned by name, but there’s reason to believe that the nonstop magic on the show — from the Wisties to Logray to Morag — are all a result of, God help me, midichlorians dancing around in the air. I need a shower after saying that. They’re all over me! Like plankton! Like parasites! Aaahhh!
MVP Action Figure: When it comes to Ewoks, you’re better off snagging the films’ toys over the show’s toys (the best ‘80s cartoon bear action figure will always be Ro-Bear-Bill from Thundercats). The Dulok Scout, on the other hand, is fairly badass, as if Wile E. Coyote contracted radiation sickness.
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: Unlike so many other Star Wars mediums, Ewoks kept its merchandising limited to toys and books. Interestingly, the show’s animation style first appeared in a series of children’s books attached to Return of the Jedi. Anyone not already spitting up stomach bile from all the cuteness can check out goo-goo ga-ga titles like The Baby Ewoks’ Picnic Surprise!
The Scene You’re Looking For: Unsurprisingly, the series’ best scene has little to do with Ewoks. There’s something nerdily gleeful about seeing the Empire pop up in the first scene of “Battle for the Sunstar”. Stormtroopers and admirals and Emperors, oh my!
“I’ve Got a Queasy Feeling About This”: Look, I know it’s a kids’ show and everything, but just writing this entry gave me a headache, despite some decent creature design and fanboy nods to the greater Star Wars universe. The main problem with Ewoks is that it wants to expand the title characters’ mythology without having the proper platform to do so. The ‘woks (yes, I’m calling them ‘woks now) already tow the line between cute and unBEARable, so in order to explore their culture without going into adorability (and tribal cliche) overload, you need a feature-length film or guide-length book to spread out all the lore.
But since the episodes are only 22 minutes and aimed at young children, many of the installments feel like an endless babble of baby spells, baby lessons, and hard-to-pronounce baby names. Main writer Paul Dini would fare much better a decade letter with Batman: The Animated Series. Granted, he’d be working with much stronger characters, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Ewoks amounts to little more than a diaper loaded up with Gerber food.
18. Star Wars Resistance [TV Series] (2018)
Opening Crawl: Like many modern day Star Wars series, Resistance omits the opening crawl (and really the intro altogether). Instead, most episodes begin with a cold open where some moment of comedy or drama is quickly punctuated with the show’s brief but triumphant fanfare.
The Light Side: Kazuda “Kaz” Xiono (Christopher Sean), Neeku Vozo (Josh Brener), CB-23, Jarek Yeager (Scott Lawrence), Tam Ryvora (Suzie McGrath), Captain Doza (Jason Hightower),Torra Doza (Myrna Velasco), Orka (Bobby Moynihan), Flix (Jim Rash), Hype Fazon (Donald Faison) with special appearances from Poe Dameron and BB-8.
The Dark Side: Major Vonreg (Lex Lang), Agent Tierny (Sumalee Montano), Jace Rucklin (Elijah Wood), Commander Pyre (Liam McIntyre) with special appearances from Kylo Ren (Matthew Wood), General Hux (Ben Prendergast), and Captain Phasma (Ellen Dubin).
“Thanks, Wedge!” Tam Ryvora has one of the show’s best arcs so far, despite often being kept on the sidelines. She’s one of the few regular folks across all of Star Wars who sees the First Order as a net good, bringing security and opportunity to the galaxy. Her choice to join them is fueled not only by that broader perspective, but by a justifiable sense of betrayal that Yeager, her surrogate father, went out of his way to protect and encourage Kaz, while denying her the truth and the chance he received. Her deeper understanding of the true nature of the First Order, and her consideration over that fateful choice, is the highlight of the show’s second season.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” Does a space station count as a ship? If so, the Colossus takes the prize here. The mobile refueling station is the setting for almost all of Kaz and company’s adventures. Resembling a stiff mechanical jellyfish, the station is both a home and a refuge for our heroes. There’s also the Fireball, an old racing ship with a tendency to burst into flames and need constant repair, that still works (or at least works well enough) when the good guys really need it.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” Neeku is a friendly Kadas’sa’Nikto (the same species as one of Jabba the Hutt’s enforcers on Tatooine). But far from being a mere goon for a crime lord, Neeku is the consistent highlight of Resistance. His chipper attitude, can-do spirit, and blithe literalism add comedy and heart to every episode he appears in.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: A mixed reception and middling ratings ensured that Resistance would not survive past its second season. But the show did win a Saturn Award for Best Animated Series and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.
May the Force Be with You: The only official force user in the show is Leia, whose cameo is a brief one. But there’s a strong implication that Eila, a refugee from one of Kylo Ren’s massacres, is force-sensitive. And Mika Grey, a recently-encountered treasure hunter, claims to have some knowledge of the Force after our heroes meet her inside a Jedi temple.
Lightsaber Options: None yet, but Kylo Ren is on the way.
MVP Action Figure: How about this figure of Major Vonreg, whose Red Baron-inspired attire makes him stand out among the other bad guy fighter pilots in the franchise.
Essential Video Game Tie-In: The best Resistance can offer is a mobile racing app called Resistance Racer. The game is fine enough as a mobile timewaster, but lacks the depth to truly earn the designation “essential.”
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: The Resistance merch is all pretty standard, so let’s go with some in-universe marketing tie-ins, where Torra Doza is shown with her own Ewok doll. Or maybe it’s just taxidermy…
The Scene You’re Looking For: Tam is continually pulled between her loyalty to her friends and the chance to realize her dream of becoming a pilot. No scene better encapsulates the tension between those impulses than this one.
“I’ve Got a Disappointed Feeling About This”: Dave Filoni’s follow-up to The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels was hotly anticipated and rightfully so. The former series did the impossible and managed to redeem the Prequels, while the latter helped fill in the gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope with its own sterling contributions to the mythos. But Resistance not only fails to live up to that legacy, it crashes and burns like the racer its protagonist wrecks so often.
He wrecks the series itself too. Kaz is one of the worst lead characters in all of Star Wars: annoying, overconfident, and hapless. Worse yet, despite those and other flaws, he’s bafflingly and regularly encouraged and trusted by almost everyone else in the series. In contrast to the all-ages appropriate but still mature approach taken by prior animated series under Filoni’s watch, Resistance’s sensibility skews much younger, with broader comedy, zanier setups, and rote stories and conflicts.
While perhaps hamstrung by the unfinished state of the Sequel Trilogy, the show also doesn’t add much, if anything, to our understanding of that era of the Star Wars Galaxy. And with an animation style that all but attacks the eye, there’s little redeeming in Resistance beyond a few memorable characters. That’s just not enough to justify a series that should have been grounded after its first flight.
17. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Opening Crawl: There is unrest in the Galactic Senate. Several thousand solar systems have declared their intentions to leave the Republic. This separatist movement, under the leadership of the mysterious Count Dooku, has made it difficult for the limited number of Jedi Knights to maintain peace and order in the galaxy. Senator Amidala, the former Queen of Naboo, is returning to the Galactic Senate to vote on the critical issue of creating an ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC to assist the overwhelmed Jedi…
The Light Side: Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), Padmé (Natalie Portman), Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson), Yoda (Frank Oz), Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits), Shmi Skywalker (Pernilla August), Anakin’s mother, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker)
The Dark Side: Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid), Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (Christopher Lee), Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), Boba Fett (Daniel Logan), Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best)
“Thanks, Wedge!” How about those spindly Kaminoan cloners who create the army that eventually takes over the entire galaxy? Obi-Wan’s trip to Kamino is one of the highlights of a film with plenty of lowlights, not least because this race of aliens is so mysterious. The original Star Wars trilogy worked because George Lucas didn’t try to explain everything; he’d build a world but not hold your hand when exploring it. Kamino feels like one of those throwback Star Wars worlds, where the things left unanswered only contribute to the allure.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter is a pretty neat little ship, and it feels like a throwback to the original trilogy in the sense that it doesn’t suffer from overdesign. The ship that Obi-Wan takes on — Jango Fett’s Slave I — is also among the most iconic in the Star Wars universe, so it’s nice to see it here.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” Dexter Jettster might be the scruffiest-looking alien in the entire series. The owner of Dex’s Diner makes a brief appearance when he helps Obi-Wan identify a poisoned dart, but he’s such a creep that we can’t help but remember him. That mustache, for instance, is permanently etched into my brain, though it took me a few viewings to spot it in the first place.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: The second entry in the prequel trilogy performed the worst of all three, but it still raked in nearly $650 million. Those aren’t quite Padawan-level earnings.
May the Force Be with You: Anakin and Obi-Wan show off some impressive Force skills while chasing after Padmé’s would-be assassin on Coruscant, including free-falling through a traffic jam and somehow not dying. There’s also the distinct possibility that Anakin uses a Jedi mind trick to make Padmé fall in love with him (seriously, no other explanation makes sense).
Lightsaber Options: Pretty much every lightsaber you could imagine shows up in the climactic battle on Geonosis, when an entire army of Jedi Knights shows up to put an end to the Separatists. Most Jedi, it turns out, tend to favor blue or green, though a couple of yellows and purples slip into the mix. A few scenes later, we confirm that Dooku is a Sith when he whips out his red number to duel with Yoda (green, obviously).
MVP Action Figure: In a controversial twist, we’re going with Senator Jar Jar. Or is it Dark Sith Lord Jar Jar? See? At least this one makes you think.
Essential Video Game Tie-In: Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter, which takes place during the course of the film and outpaces its predecessor, Star Wars: Starfighter in pretty much every way. The coolest part is that it combines traditional dogfighting with Force elements that recharge after each use, though it’s also pretty sweet that you can fly around in Jango Fett’s Slave 1.
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: Another video game associated with Episode II is Star Wars: Racer Revenge, and it has a pretty unexplainable plot point. Anakin Skywalker is a playable character, but he’s represented by Hayden Christensen, who we’re pretty sure never went back to Tatooine to podrace. Right? Whatever.
The Scene You’re Looking For: That car chase on Coruscant is actually a lot of fun! It feels like vintage Star Wars, especially when it ends in that seedy nightclub.
“I’ve Got a Frustrated Feeling About This”: Attack of the Clones is a film that should have been great, given all the cool stuff that Lucas tries to stuff inside the package. We’re introduced to the clones for the first time, which is pretty neat, but we also learn how Anakin and Padmé fall in love and see the first hint of Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side. Hell, there’s even young Boba Fett and a surprisingly nimble Yoda hopping around with a lightsaber! It’s too bad none of these elements add up to a film that feels even the slightest bit cohesive. Attack of the Clones is probably not as bad as you remember it being, but it’s also frustrating enough to make you want to murder an entire clan of Tusken Raiders.
16. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure [TV Movie] (1984)
Opening Crawl: The original Star Wars trilogy has ended, but there is more money to be made. Filmed as a made-for-TV movie for ABC, George Lucas’ next tale in a galaxy far, far away takes us back to Endor, when, in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, the Ewoks have another adventure. After two human castaways get kidnapped by the monstrous Gorax, Wicket and his band of furry friends must help their children rescue them. But the road to victory won’t be easy, even with the bravery of a whole caravan of ‘woks…
The Light Side: Mace Towani (Eric Walker), Cindel Towani (Aubree Miller), Catarine Towani (Fionnula Flanagan), Jeremitt Towani (Guy Boud), Wicket Wysteri Warrick (Warwick Davis), Deej (Daniel Frishman), Shodu (Pam Grizz), Weechee (Debbie Lee Carrington), Widdle (Tony Cox), Chukha-Trok (Kevin Thompson), Kaink (Margarita Fernández), Logray (Bobby Bell), Izrina
The Dark Side: The Gorax, the boar-wolf, and a buncha spiders in the Gorax’s mountain fortress
“Thanks Wedge!”: Burl Ives goes into full genre-film grandfather mode as the narrator. Between this and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, he shows that, when it comes to kid’s fantasy outings, few voices nudge the story along as effectively as his lived-in purr. Also, this is the only Star Wars movie with any narration at all. Does that make him God of Lucas’ galaxy? Seeing as neither Ewok film is considered canon these days, I guess not.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” There’s only one ship in the entire film, and it stays crashed. So not very memorable. Outside of that, we get more hang gliders.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” Given his sheer size — only the exogorth rivals him in height — the Gorax makes for a towering, formidable foe. I mentioned Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer earlier, and I’m reminded of the Abominable Snow Monster of the North when the Gorax walks by a human and all we can see is his leg. Although we eventually see the forest giant in his entirety (matted fur, bat ears, and a pig-like snout), director John Korty is wise to keep him shrouded in fog for his first appearance.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: Originally broadcast on ABC, Caravan was the second most-watched ABC film that year, and was even nominated for two Emmy Awards, going on to win for “Outstanding Special Visual Effects.”
May the Force Be With You: Like all things Ewok, the Force never gets namechecked, but there’s a magic crystal, a magic staff, and a bunch of other magic shit. With so much ‘wok magic in the world, is The Force even that special?
MVP Action Figure: Since most of the Ewoks already had toys released after Jedi, no action figures were made specifically for Caravan. But oh, what I wouldn’t give for a to-scale Gorax figure. I’m sure someone out there has created a custom one, though. Let’s see … aaaand of course they have.
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: Likewise, not a ton of marketing tie-ins, aside from a few more Ewoks books. Things could have been different though if George Lucas hadn’t pulled one of the film’s commercials at the last second, in which Mace, Cindel, and Wicket stroll into a 1950s diner to order milkshakes. It’s never seen the light of day, but just think of the missed advertising opportunities, maybe at somewhere like Steak ‘n Shake: boar-wolf burger, Cin(namon)del ice cream, Deej dog with jub-jub sauce, the possibilities are endless! For now, I guess we’ll just have to settle for Warwick Davis’ mock ad for Welch’s grape juice:
The Scene You’re Looking For: George Lucas insisted that an actual hang glider be built for the film, a gamble that pays off early on when Deej searches for his missing sons. As he soars over the forest in his glider, it’s a moment of sylvan majesty that recalls the best Endor moments in Jedi. Unsurprisingly, both films were shot at Redwood National Forest.
“I’ve Got a Confused Feeling About This”: Caravan of Courage scares me because I want to hate it way more than I do. It’s not exactly a great movie (none of the human actors are able to elevate the dialogue above its clunky genre trappings), but it does have an anthropological charm to it whenever we get to see the Ewoks just living their lives as Ives narrates. It’s in those moments that the film suddenly feels like a National Geographic special overseen by George Lucas.
Also, because of his involvement as well as future director Joe Johnston — who served as Production Designer — the special effects have a scrappiness reminiscent of Ray Harryhausen. In fact, both Ewoks films feature some of the final stop-motion sequences produced by Industrial Light & Magic. Does the herky-jerky movement of the boar-wolf look real? No. Does it look cool? Absolutely.
15. Star Wars: The Clone Wars [TV Series] (2008)
Opening Crawl: Secession throughout the Republic! The SEPARATIST scourge moves unchecked throughout the galaxy, tearing the galaxy in two. Despite operating beneath the weight of a crumbling bureaucracy, the Jedi Order has nevertheless committed itself to liberating every last star system from its dark overlord, COUNT DOOKU. With the loyal clone soldiers of the GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC at their side, the Jedi are the last chance for peace and justice in the galaxy…
The Light Side: Anakin Skywalker (Matt Lanter), Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein), Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), Commander Cody (Dee Bradley Baker), Captain Rex (Dee Bradley Baker), Padme Amidala (Catherine Taber), Mace Windu (Terrence Carson), Yoda (Tom Kane), and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels)
The Dark Side: Count Dooku (Corey Burton), General Grievous (Matthew Wood), Asajj Ventress (Nika Futterman), and Darth Sidious (Ian Abercrombie)
“Thanks, Wedge!” Cad Bane proved that once again George Lucas can find the right appeal in adapting real-world and tried-and-true tropes into sci-fi/fantasy gold. The Eastwood-esque alien cowboy was a more cunning and successful bounty hunter than either Fett ever proved over the course of the saga. Aside from the visual aesthetic, the electronic tinge added to Corey Burton’s Peter Lorre impression sent shivers up the spines of viewers every time the Duros opened his mouth for some classic deliveries. Bane was always a show-stealer and for some is a Star Wars legend.
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” Star Wars has a long history with superweapons if the promotions for The Force Awakens prove to be true. After glossing over the Separatist involvement with the Death Star’s development in Attack of the Clones, a brand-new type of superweapon was put into play by Grievous in the first season of The Clone Wars: The Malevolence. It proved a better origin for the nature of a “superweapon” than rolling out any sort of prototype.
The Malevolence was a heavy cruiser capable of firing a massive ion blast that would disable any ship in its path (and followed it up with lasers for the finishing blows). Grievous led a deadly campaign using the Malevolence to tear up the Galactic Republic’s navy at the outset of the war. After a weak showing in The Clone Wars film, the three-episode Malevolence serial was the start that the television series had to have: efficiently using the serialized episode format and lending weight to Grievous as a worthy adversary to Obi-Wan (and thereby enhancing Revenge of the Sith).
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?”Mother Talzin was a brand-new kind of darkness that descended on the Star Wars universe: a darkness fueled by witchcraft. As the leader of the female-dominated Dathomiri witches, Talzin’s powers were more based on alchemy and magicks. In addition to the whole new dimension she and her sisters brought to the nature of the Force, her vocal sound design was pure auditory ecstasy. Barbara Goodson’s already-haunting vocals were layered in surround sound mixes with deep male harmonies, creating an effect that oozed Dark Side.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: Ratings were consistently strong over the course of The Clone Wars’ five-season run on Cartoon Network, initially debuting as its most-watched premiere ever. Productions of episodes were so far in advance that often they were working on episodes three seasons ahead of the currently airing schedule.
After the show was canceled (due to the pending Disney acquisition), the remaining unreleased episodes were brought to Netflix – along with the rest of the series.
May the Force Be with You: The mythology of the Force expanded mightily over the course of The Clone Wars. One particular highlight included the ancient droid Huyang (voiced by David Tennant in an Emmy-winning role), a lightsaber instructor who guided younglings throughout their crystal-gathering quests.
Expanded Universe-invented concepts were re-introduced, including the use of holocrons that acted as repositories of Jedi knowledge and the ancient Sith home world of Korriban (identified as Moraband in the series, but aesthetically and historically the same).
Perhaps most significantly, The Clone Wars season on Netflix brought Yoda to Dagobah and pushed him onto a vision quest that would lead to the Yoda that we loved in The Empire Strikes Back. Qui-Gon Jinn’s spirit revealed to Yoda the secret of eternal life, a connection to the Living Force long lost to the Jedi (with a better explanation of midi-chlorians as a bonus!).
Lightsaber Options: As the piece of media featuring the most Jedi, The Clone Wars had all sorts of lightsabers. Their biggest moment in the spotlight, however, was Huyang’s mentorship of a group of younglings in Season Five. Huyang introduced viewers to “The Gathering”, the ritual in which Jedi younglings would overcome trials to obtain lightsaber crystals, imbue them with their life spirit, and then enclose them with a hilt built of their own individuality. Gungi, a Wookiee youngling, built his lightsaber hilt from the bark of a native Kashyyyk tree. The wood-paneled hilt is the most original this side of the Knights of Ren.
MVP Action Figure: Quinlan Vos was a longtime fan favorite among Expanded Universe fans since his introduction before Attack of the Clones. When Quinlan joined the cast of The Clone Wars in Season Three, it meant everyone’s favorite undercover Jedi infiltrator was getting his own action figure. Quinlan’s portrayal in the television show may have been inconsistent with his comic persona, but the figure was great:
Essential Video Game Tie-In: There was unfortunately never a tie-in video game that was ever received well when it came to The Clone Wars. Perhaps its best chance was Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, a Lego journey through the first two seasons of the show.
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: The Clone Wars searched far and wide for other media influences to drive their stories. As Cad Bane’s popularity soared, he saw much-deserved comparisons to some of the most classic outlaws of the Wild West. This piece of conceptual promo art also featuring the two biggest heroes of the series really hammered it home:
The Scene You’re Looking For: In what started as a comedic story arc, Republic Colonel Gascon and his crack droid operatives take a dramatically satisfying turn after they find a clone commando (Gregor) that has developed amnesia and taken up employment on a backwater world. After helping him remember his duty, Gregor covers Gascon’s escape, ending with the most noble of sacrifices (Gregor would ultimately return in Rebels):
“I’ve Got a Solid Feeling About This”: The Clone Wars was a rocky ride from start to finish. Following a poorly received big-screen debut, few were expecting much from the small-screen version. But the show found quick footing and latched on, unafraid to both draw from what came before and, even more importantly, to tread new ground.
In came new, memorable faces such as the cowboy bounty hunter Cad Bane, the Dark Jedi General Krell, and the defiant Padawan Ahsoka Tano. These are – at their core – familiar concepts to Star Wars. But each one drew on new inspiration: spaghetti westerns, mutinous war stories, young female empowerment, and so many more over the course of five-plus seasons.
It wasn’t always successful. For every classic episode such as the Saving Private Ryan-esque Landing at Point Rain, there was a Temple of Doom-inspired adventure starring Jar Jar Binks and Mace Windu (The Disappeared).
But it had the guts to take all available chances and tell many stories instead of one. But while these stories were being told, a much greater thing was unfolding: The prequel Jedi and Anakin Skywalker were becoming heroes worth caring about, heroes worth saving, and heroes that – when they fell, and they would – would break your heart. The Clone Wars make the prequels worth the journey and that may make them, in some perverse way, the most important Star Wars stories ever told. They add all that weight to a simple throwaway line in A New Hope, when Luke confidently states, “No, my father didn’t fight in the Clone Wars…”
Luke, your father was one of the greatest this galaxy has ever seen. And his fall to the Dark Side is tragic once again.
14. Star Wars: Clone Wars [TV Series] (2003-2005)
Opening Crawl: WAR! The Galactic Republic continues to lose more and more systems to the Confederacy of Independent Systems. Spread thin across the stars, the Jedi struggle to maintain peace as a new dark force emerges.
The Light Side: Obi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), Anakin Skywalker (Mat Lucas), and Jedi Knights Mace Windu, Kit Fisto, Shaak Ti, and Master Yoda
The Dark Side: Count Dooku (Corey Burton), Dark Sith Lord Asajj Ventress (Grey DeLisle), and General Grievous. This version of General Grievous is terrifying, while the threat we deserved to see on the big screen ended up as a coughing heap of scrap metal. Honorable mention goes to that of the Bounty Hunter Durge and here’s why.
“Thanks, Wedge!” Kit Fisto and Mace Windu shine here in their character-specific episodes. More on that later!
“I Don’t Know? Fly Casual!” There isn’t anything too memorable ship-wise in Clone Wars, at least nothing we really haven’t already seen. Fail.
“Who’s Scruffy Looking?” The most memorable aliens have to be the Nelvaan — a race enslaved by the Techno-Union Army. In order to save the Nelvaan, Anakin undergoes a spiritual Trial that shows him his future, including the bit about becoming Darth Vader. He saves the Nelvaan, but once again loses a bit of himself to anger and hate.
“Never Tell Me the Odds”: Clone Wars marked the first time an online series won an Emmy, having been released simultaneously on TV. The series spun off into a comic book of the same name.
May the Force Be with You: The force is all over this baby, chronicling the Jedi Counsel’s efforts to kick some major Separatist arse! Doesn’t hurt that it also marks the first new Sith apprentice since the days of Dooku.
Lightsaber Options: The only new lightsabers we see in this installment come courtesy of Asajj Ventress.
MVP Action Figure: Again: The Durge!
Essential Video Game Tie-In: Sadly did not receive the video game treatment.
Strangest Marketing Tie-In: Wasn’t around long enough to receive something obvious, let alone weird.
The Scene You’re Looking For: Never have Mace Windu fans had it this good.
“I’ve Got a Good Feeling About This”: When the Clone Wars was still fresh and unexplored, Star Wars fans rejoiced when Cartoon Network announced these mini-sodes. Delving into specific missions showcasing each Jedi and what they could bring the table was fun and fresh. We were also able to see the very cool tie-in to the opening of Revenge of the Sith play out over Animation. Clocking in at #8, the 2003 Clone Wars series is where the story should have ended. Far be it from Lucasfilm to let a good thing lie.