From “A New Hope” to “The Last Jedi”: All the First “Star Wars” Trailers Ranked


In case you didn’t know, Star Wars is a big deal. So when the new trailer for The Last Jedi dropped on the Internet today, the world came to a screeching halt. The first look at the eighth installment (ninth if you count Rogue One) of the franchise monopolized the news and Star Wars fans have since been dissecting every nanosecond of the trailer.

As many fans would attest, the release of the first trailer to any Star Wars is not just a trailer release. It’s a spectacular event. Diehard cosplaying fanboys and fangirls would probably call in sick to work just to spend the day overanalyzing the minutiae of a trailer. Things have certainly changed since George Lucas dropped the very first trailer for A New Hope. That being said, here is a definitive ranking of all the first trailers of every Star Wars movie from Episode I to Episode VIII.


Coming from the decidedly worst film in the franchise, the trailer for Attack of the Clones suffers in many of the same ways that film does. It comes off as very scattered and fails to display any of the plotlines from the film and only shows random action shots and dialogues. Anyone who watches the trailer that has not seen the movie would have absolutely no idea what the movie is about. It highlights much of the turmoil going on within the government and while that is certainly an important of the film, there is so much more that is downright ignored. It never once acknowledges the romance between Anakin and Padme’s romance. Even though it’s a ridiculous collection of scenes in the movie, it’s still an important plot point that doesn’t receive any attention in the trailer.


It’s a shame the trailer for Return of the Jedi isn’t better because it’s by far the most underrated of the Original Trilogy (seriously, check out any ranking of the Star Wars movies and it will almost always come in below A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, though there are a few in this office that consider it their favorite of the three). As a trailer, however, Return of the Jedi doesn’t nearly get across the sense of triumphant fun and character chemistry that it should be more successful. Instead, it’s more scattered than anything else. Plus that overly long segment of Darth Vader is too much.


Yes, Phantom Menace could arguably be the worst Star Wars film ever made — but you have to admit that the first trailer wasn’t all that bad. Sure, it’s just a series of random shots of characters (naked C3PO! R2D2! Young Obi-wan! Pre-evil Anakin!) with no coherent connection, but the trailer got audiences super-excited for the 1999 comeback of the beloved franchise. But when it comes down to it, the trailer was just a series of shots that toyed with nostalgia.


Rogue One was different for the Star Wars franchise as it wasn’t part of the “big” story, rather it was a side story that was important enough get a standalone pic. Set to a variation of John Williams’ familiar score, fans were treated to new characters in a familiar world and story. With a female lead and a diverse cast, Rogue One was a very different route for the franchise, which is why it seemed the trailer played its cards close to its chest, giving enough to entice, but leaving some things a mystery.


By the time 2005 rolled around and Revenge of the Sith came out in theaters, fans were polarized by the prequels. The overly CG’d films came across as inauthentic and weak and Episode III was one last effort to please everyone. Some claim it as the best of the worst while and others were just glad all of it was over. The final product may have limped across the finish line, but the first trailer was quite impressive as it promised an explosive and gripping final chapter to the origin story of Darth Vader.


After A New Hope was released, Lucas and company became more comfortable in selling an intergalactic saga — and it showed with the Empire Strikes Back trailer. Now that audiences knew the characters and the story, the trailer for the sequel pushed the question “What are they up to now?!” with action, romance (a gross almost kiss between Luke and Leia), new worlds (Cloud City, Hoth), new outfits, and Billy Dee Williams! Basically, it told you that you have no choice but to continue this epic space adventure. With it’s game-changing “Luke, I am your father” twist, it has easily ranked on many listacles as the best Star Wars movie.


The most striking thing about the trailer for A New Hope is that, tonally, it’s nothing like its final product. What is essentially the high fantasy Hero’s Journey set in space amidst geopolitics comes across more as a dark thriller devoid of the humor and more light-hearted sense of adventure in the trailer. Still, it’s a fascinating trailer, especially when one imagines seeing it for the first time in 1976. Our curiosity is definitely piqued and that’s what ultimately ranks it so high on this list.


With the acclaim and the wild success of The Force Awakens, people were chomping at the bit for a glimpse at The Last Jedi — and the trailer delivers everything they wanted. Even though it mirrors The Force Awakens trailer in format, it builds on the excitement from the Episode VII’s ending with a lot of talk about the central core of the Star Wars franchise: dark vs. light. We get glimpses of Luke training Rey, BB-8 and Poe, a comatose Finn, the continuing emo-ness of Kylo Ren, new worlds, and new space battles. There’s enough in two minutes to inform you what this movie is about, but at the same time, it leaves you with a lot of questions. It’s a perfect morsel of Star Wars goodness to sustain you until the next trailer.


There are two main reasons The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars trailer, the first being the sheer sense of excitement and thrills it inspires. There’s been no other movie trailer that rocked the internet nearly as much as this one. The second reason is that this trailer looks entirely forward — the only characters in it are new ones, including Finn, Rey, Poe, and Kylo Ren. It smartly entices Star Wars fans with its music and various imagery, but it focuses on the new storytelling first and foremost, leaving fans to speculate wildly and prepare for an entirely new generation of adventures a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

 | Staff Writer
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