7. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
After a change in tone from earlier Star Wars to the prequel trilogy, the first sequel to the original movies recaptures that sense of adventure that initially had fans hooked. The seventh episode has fun droids, daring escapes, and one outstandingly constructed dogfight. Even Kylo Ren’s three-sided lightsaber looks so remarkable that no one questioned its functionality as they were watching The Force Awakens on the big screen.
Director J.J. Abrams knew this movie would be nothing without stimulating character introductions and developments. Oscar Isaac is appealing as fighter pilot Poe Dameron from the second he opens his mouth, while John Boyega’s Finn starts as a deserted stormtrooper; an intriguing setup for one of the main protagonists and a refreshing card that has yet to be played in a Star Wars feature. Daisy Ridley’s Rey rounds out the impressive trinity as the most mysterious, determined, and prodigious of the bunch. Having the younger class team up with Han Solo and Chewbacca is the icing on the ensemble cake.
On the surface, The Force Awakens is a spectacular cinematic achievement, and it could have been ranked higher if the plot threads weren’t rehashed from A New Hope. A trio of protagonists gathers to take on Imperial forces that have built an ultimate weapon. In each movie, the destructive station is wielded to obliterate planets and is eventually blown up by the Rebels/Resistance fighters. The principal dark side antagonist defeats the wise distinguished hero that was guiding the young newcomers. In A New Hope, former companions face off and, in The Force Awakens, a son mournfully kills his father.
When considered as a singular Star Wars event, the plot is captivating and the characters are compelling. So much so that, upon its theatrical release, movie-goers were occupied with the science fiction flare on screen enough to be distracted from the fact that Luke Skywalker remains absent for almost the entirety of The Force Awakens’ runtime. Designing the final shot as the launching pad for Mark Hamill’s big return is a clever way to leave fans desperate for the next Star Wars episode.