I didn't see Empire in theaters, but I saw it before Return. Return was seen in theaters.
Even with that, I have no problem saying that Empire may in fact be the better movie (although, it does get off with being a middle part of the story; it's a great movie, leaves ya wanting more, it doesn't have to finish anything, it has the big reveal, so, it's like it has a leg up just because of that).
But personally, yeah, Return is great simply because of the Luke & Vader story, no doubt.
Yeah, Ewoks were never my favorite.
But the opening with Jabba's palace, Leia slave-bikini, Luke taking on the Jabba's barge by himself (I was never a Boba fan, so I laughed at his silly demise).
A New Hope
BEST: Trash compactor scene. To me, the characters, the actors, the editing of tense, 'how do our heroes get of this?', the humor, all rolled up EXCELLENTLY in this scene. Hell, maybe they weren't even acting. They were wet, frustrated, scared, at the end of their last nerve, they were all so good together right there, to me, alot of the pretending we are doing some stupid science fiction movie you can see in other scenes was absolutely absent from this, and I loved it. (This was more a thematic analysis. The BEST scene may honestly be the first appearance of the Executor in the first 2 minutes and Vader's entrance).
WORST: Probably the first 15 minutes of watching the droids. More on this theme to follow. (Also, although I still don't "count" it, is the insertion of digital Jabba. Bah. Unnecessary change.)
BEST: Pacing of the frantic flight from Bespin, lots of laser pistol fire, danger, things are racheted up so high!~juxtaposed against the deep, slow mood of Luke hiding and moving about, wondering where Vader is, and how he would try to stay alive. And, THE REVEAL!!
WORST: No worst.
BEST: Just after Vader states, "If you will not turn to the dark side...then perhaps..SHE will..." and Luke just lets out "NOOOOO!" (and to me, fully embraces the dark side and lets loose on Vader). The music changes, takes on a frenetic, steroid-version of the Jedi music, and it all comes down to the final moments when Vader is beaten, his hand removed, completely at his mercy~ AND-and Luke pulls back, takes a shuddering breath, sees his father, not his enemy, and stands away. Luke cannot be beaten. The dark side has no hold on him. The Emperor will not prevail. LOVE that moment. ALWAYS gives me goosebumps
WORST: Ewoks. Yeah, duh, unnecessary, felt weak, and were only used because Lucas couldn't find enough people to be wookies. So did begin his 30 year love affair with Warwick Davis and little people. (In looking at remastered versions-HAYDEN AS THE JEDI GHOST NO. NO. NONONONONO. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. NO.)
BEST: That trailer. The best movie trailer in existence. And Darth Maul, and lightsaber (a dual lightsaber!) dueling to end all fights.
WORST: The fact that Lucas made this movie like this. Yes, you can go Jar-Jar, Jake Lloyd, Gungans, Korean Neimodians, video game pod race, Boss Nass, MIDI-CHLORIANS, etc etc, but the worst to me is giving Darth Vader a nickname of ANI. "ann-nee" ARGH. Also, the fact that evryone would die, each movie, unless R2 fixes something to save all the dumb humans. *sighs*
BEST: As I said, Obi-wan/Jango. Great. Seeing the living Coruscant, being a part of it, versus a visitor as the first movie was. Also, a raging Anakin in the sandpeoples' tents. I laughed so hard! (for all the wrong reasons).
WORST: Everything between Padme/Anakin ever. The hill roll! The barebacked jump & kiss! The entire f'ing time with the droids in the factory! I hate C3PIO and R2! ohmigod Lucas make it stop!!! Yoda & Dooku fight. (*also, see name 'Dooku'). I can't believe Lucas ever saw his feet considering how stilted this whole damn movie was. Ugh. Waaaay worse than I remembered, once I saw it again over this year's May the Fourth
BEST: First act was pretty solid. I won't lie, highly enjoyed it all (even with R2 all around). Then, Padme came into the scene. Ugh.
WORST: Poor acting, shoddy dialogue, poor, poor characterization, and plot. Ewan McGregor was sooo wasted throughout these movies. He really did try to shine at so many points, but not in this trilogy.
I invite discussion.
Do I worry about what these next movies could do to "my" movies? Nope, doesn't matter. Because, no matter what, "my" movies are there. I really don't care that the prequel are there, they don't factor into how the actual movies make me feel, or wonder, or dream. Just like if the next ones are poor, it won't change how I'm able to watch the other ones.
Not. one. bit.