I’m also old enough to have seen them all in the movie theater. I was seven, and my father surprised me with a trip to the movies. (he’d already seen it.) Thus was unfurled the formative mythology of my childhood. No space opera before or since has contested the first three films. I think you’re spot on with Empire as the best in series. I don’t know of any other serial chapter of anything that culminates with it’s protagonists limping away, severed paw, frozen, fleeing…
If you want to have a confirming thrill about the series as a whole, and TFA, look for a youTube video from Prescot Harvey called Dear JJ.
Here’s a link:
Thanks for dipping into the star wars pool with us.