I never saw any of the Star Wars movies as a kid, but I always do remember hearing from most fans that Star Wars was the best of the trilogy. To be sure, I looked up IMDB's top 250 in 1996, and found that Star Wars was ranked #1, and Empire was ranked #26! Below is the link to prove it.
I looked at more lists, and found that around 2004-2005 is when ESB surpassed Star Wars on the list, and today ESB is the only Star Wars movie on the top ten. Now I'm sure there were plenty of people in the 1980s and 1990s who considered ESB the best of the trilogy, but it seems like in the 1980s and 1990s Star Wars was considered the masterpiece of the trilogy, with Empire ranked behind it. Now, in 2010, Empire is widely considered the crowning achievement of the saga. Has anyone else noticed how opinions on these two films seem to have changed over the years? I'm curious as to why they've change the way they did.