There are only four movies left to add to this list – RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and the original STAR WARS trilogy.
These aren’t just my four favorite SW/IJ movies. These are my four favorite movies period.
The thought of not putting any of them in the #1 spot is painful. So here we go with the hairsplitting.
My choice for #4 is
RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983).
I saw it six times in the theater, two of those times being the 1997 special edition.
These are my two copies of the original theatrical release of JEDI:
(Contrary to popular belief, the original theatrical versions of the original trilogy were released on DVD as bonus discs to the “Special Editions” in a 2006 release. They were not given the digital remastering treatment that the special editions were given, though.)
At the time JEDI first came out, I could only remember about six years of my life. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK came out three years previous.
So basically, my perception was:
I had waited half my life for this movie.
For half my life, I was obsessed with wondering how Han would be rescued, and what would happen in the inevitable Luke/Vader rematch.
And I wasn’t alone in my waiting-for-the-next-Star-Wars craze. At school during those three years, the two most hotly contested, controversial topics that were discussed on the playground were the existence of Santa Claus and Luke’s parentage. (I turned out to be wrong in my opinions on both these topics.)
After half a lifetime of endless speculation and anxiety, I finally saw the first image of the new movie in a school book club order form – showing the cover of this book:
I was completely blown away. A GREEN lightsaber? I thought lightsabers could only be blue or red. Also it was surprising to see Luke dressed all in black. Anyway, three years of waiting + seeing a picture of this cover = a swimming pool filled with gasoline + a grenade.
Not long after, T-shirts and toys started hitting the stores and the movie wasn’t even out yet! Images of Biker Scouts, Emperor’s Royal Guards, and Gamorrean Guards were popping up on merchandise, making me dizzy with excitement.
And when the movie did come out, we didn’t go right away. After it had been out for a couple of days I was begging my dad to go, and we drove past the theater and there were lines going down the street a long ways. As in around the block and then some. My dad pointed at the lines and said, “that’s why we’re not seeing it yet.”
Which made sense, but still, the movie I had waited half my life for was here and it seemed like the whole world was seeing it except for my family! It was like walking through a desert, about to die of thirst, and coming to a river. And everyone around me was drinking from the river and I could put my face in the water but was unable to open my mouth to drink. But I was right there. What I needed was right there!
During this time, I saw this picture somewhere,
which really set my imagination on fire. Han is out of carbonite!! Who are those creepy looking aliens and what’s going on here? AHHHHHHH!! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!! I MUST SEE THIS!!
My family finally went to see it, and I remember that this picture was on the wall at the box office:
Yet another glimpse, and it was thrilling to see so many of the characters all together again. But unlike the other glimpses I had caught, this time I was only moments away from seeing it.
Surrounded by family, heart pounding, barely able to breathe, I stepped into the theater.
And for the next two hours my expectations weren’t just met, they were blown away.
Had been hearing about Jabba the Hutt in the other movies, but had no idea he looked like this. What!?
Jabba’s Palace – so cool!
The Rancor! At this point, I had only seen a handful of movies in the theater, and seeing this huge monster on the big screen was terrifying!
“This is your last chance, Jabba. Free us or die.” SAY WHAT?!! How in the world are you guys going to get out of this one?!
The escape from the Sarlacc Pit and seeing for the first time how powerful Luke had become as a Jedi was amazing.
The Biker Scouts and speeder bike chase! I had never seen anything like that before – moving at that speed between the trees – mind blown!
The Emperor’s Royal Guards!
And I don’t care what anyone says, I love the Ewoks.
That Ewok village is so cool! And here’s evidence of my being an Ewok fan from the beginning:
And I can’t even say how incredible it was to finally see the Emperor (beyond a hologram) and he scared me more than the rancor. Shooting lightning from his fingers – mind blown yet again. I hadn’t seen anything like that before and was totally caught off guard by it.
The spaceship battle at the end – AMAZING!
And it’s great to have Lando piloting the Millennium Falcon, considering it used to be his ship. (And the recent SOLO film makes it even more meaningful that Lando gets to pilot the Falcon again.)
The battle on Endor is outstanding!
And as if the spaceship and Endor battles weren’t enough, we also get a super exciting lightsaber duel between Luke and Vader.
There’s more to love about JEDI, but this post is already getting too long.
For many years, RETURN OF THE JEDI was my undisputed all-time favorite movie. My younger mind didn’t have a single complaint.
Watching it as an adult, however, there are some things I wish were different.
Boba Fett went down too easily.
The Executor (the “super star-destroyer”) went down too easily.
Though Luke and Vader’s lightsaber duel is super exciting and highly entertaining, this rematch should have been longer. I feel like Luke defeated Vader too easily.
Never noticed it as a kid, but Han seems a little off in JEDI. For example, his expression when he finds out that Luke and Leia are siblings seems a bit forced, overacted, trying too hard to be funny, or something.
Also the scene with Leia and Han at the Ewok village when Han gets mad, and two seconds later he’s okay, and Leia says, “Hold me.” Wow. That’s annoying to watch.
Honestly, I’m not sure if there’s anything else I dislike in this movie.
Oh, wait. Nien Nunb’s laugh is annoying.
(Remember, I’m splitting hairs here.)
That said, any negative aspects of this movie are completely obliterated by the massive dose of SW awesomeness that JEDI delivers.
Seeing RETURN OF THE JEDI in the theater for the first time was the most exciting movie experience of my life. The long awaited climax of the original SW trilogy, the unmasking of Darth Vader, mind blown all the way through it, wow.
#4 Return of the Jedi
#5 The Last Crusade
#6 The Force Awakens
#7 The Temple of Doom
#8 Revenge of the Sith
#9 Rogue One
#11 The Phantom Menace
#12 The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
#13 The Last Jedi
#14 Attack of the Clones