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The Best Order To Watch Star Wars Movies In

9 Minute Read
May 01
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Let’s talk about the best order to watch Star Wars. There are a lot of options, so strap in.

Star Wars is a massively popular franchise, covering movies, books, TV shows, comics, and more. At the heart of the franchise are the live-action movies. Eleven films that sit at the heart of pop culture and American cinema. Despite the fact that the majority of them, the Skywalker Saga, are straightforwardly numbered in episodic format there is a somewhat surprising amount of controversy around the best order to watch Star Wars, mainly owning to the twin facts that they weren’t released in their number order and that not all of the movies are equally loved. Today let’s take a look at a few ways you can watch them.

Chronological Order

  • Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
  • Solo
  • Rogue One
  • Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi
  • Episode 7: The Force Awakens
  • Episode 8: The Last Jedi
  • Episode 9:The Rise of Skywalker

Pros:

This is the most straightforward way to watch the movies., You simply watch them in their chronological order; you get the full impact of the story as it moves from Anakin to Luke to Rey over the course of them. You also don’t have to worry about any time jumps or the like. In addition, you get the nice symmetry of starting and ending with movies in which Palpatine is the bad guy. As an option, you can remove both Solo and Rogue One to get a more focused Skywalker Saga. For new viewers of the series Anakin’s fall to the Dark Side, as well as the fall of the Republic and the Jedi becomes the big twist.

Cons:

You lose the big twist of Luke and Leia’s parentage, as well as them being siblings. You also lose some smaller twists in Original Trilogy, such as the funny green guy being the Jedi Master Yoda Luke is looking for. Another potential con is that you start the watch with what many consider to be two of the weakest movies (opinions of course vary) only getting to the “good stuff” after you’ve gone through a few movies. Another potential con is the jump in quality- going from the early 2000s at the start, to the late 2010s, then to the 70s-early 80s and back to the late 2010s. Despite some drawbacks, I think everyone should try this order out at least once in their life to see the whole saga play out in order, even if it might not be the best order for a newcomer.

Release Order

  • Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi
  • Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode 7: The Force Awakens
  • Rogue One
  • Episode 8: The Last Jedi
  • Solo
  • Episode 9:The Rise of Skywalker

Pros:

This is the order the movies were released in and if you were a fan of the movies pre-1999 likely the order you originally saw them in. It has the advantage of keeping the big twists from the original trilogy as big reveals for first-time watchers. You also get to really appreciate the development of technology over time as the movies progress. For many people, it also means you start off with the strongest three movies. You also get more of the cultural interplay between the movies as the later released ones in many ways are influenced and responding to the early ones. Some people argue the Prequels are best when viewed as an unfolding tragedy that you can’t stop- by knowing of Anakin’s inevitable fall, and the death of most of the Jedi you are seeing, they are made more tragic.

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Cons:

Anakin’s fall and the fall of the Jedi and the Republic isn’t a surprise. Most importantly the last 5 end up being a mess as you jump between time eras due to the two stand-alone films being released between sequel era movies – in particular, Rogue One is very oddly placed thematically. If you were to watch in this order I highly recommend either doing it with only the Skywalker Saga or moving Rogue One and Solo to the end. If you’ve already watched it in this order, cus you are an OG fan, you likely don’t need to do it again.

Machete Order (Or best order to watch Star Wars from 2010)

  • Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi
  • Episode 7: The Force Awakens
  • Episode 8: The Last Jedi
  • Episode 9:The Rise of Skywalker

Pros:

Machete Order was first proposed way back before the Disney Era as a better way of watching the movies while keeping a lot of the original impact. Here you start off strong with what is generally considered the two best Star Wars movies and, for new viewers, you keep the Luke/Leia/Vader twist. After Empire, however, you go into an extended flashback focusing on Anakin’s turn to Darth Vader- so that we can better understand him. Now that story is at the forefront when we jump to Return of the Jedi and we see his redemption. Watching the sequels has since been added on, but isn’t necessary.  As a bonus to some this order normally cuts out Episode 1 as it doesn’t add as much narratively to the movies, really serving as a prequel to the prequels.  Some versions will alternatively keep Episode 1 and cut out Attack of the Clones instead for a more lean version of Anakin’s story.

Cons:

Machete Order really does work best if you are just focusing on the Prequels and the Original Trilogy. It doesn’t really have room for either Rogue One or Solo so you end up losing three of the movies. In addition, the Sequel Trilogy kind of feels tacked on, and you end up jumping around in time a lot. If you do try this one I really would recommend cutting the three sequel movies out as they mess with the flow a lot.

Only The Good Ones

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  • Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
  • Rogue One
  • Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi

Pros:

Hey, what if you just watched the good Star Wars Movies (and Phantom Menace you so know what’s going on)? Well here you are, this is another good order to watch Star Wars in. Cut out all the bad movies and just get that good Star Wars juice in you! It has all the best space battles also.

Cons: 

You are missing a lot of movies you could be hating on. You’ll also have to deal with never knowing where Han got his blaster from or how much Ani hates sand. In fact, you’ll miss out on just a TON of great meme moments.

Just the Disney Movies

  • Episode 7: The Force Awakens
  • Rogue One
  • Episode 8: The Last Jedi
  • Solo
  • Episode 9:The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: 

The best version for masochists.

Cons:

All of them, just all of them.

Only The Good Movies According To A Group of  Hard Core Fans

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  • Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back

Pros: 

Since you’ve already seen all the movies before why not stick to the only ones that are actually good to real fans. A large part of the internet tells me these are the only good Star Wars movies, with these you don’t have any whiny Anakin, no Ewoks, no Jar-Jar and no Abrams, and especially no women in leading roles. That is what we want right?

Cons:

Wow! We are limiting ourselves now! Also, no Duel of the Fates?

Only The Good Movies According To A Different Group of  Hard Core Fans

  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode 8: The Last Jedi

Pros:

Since you’ve already seen all the movies before why not stick to the only ones that are actually good to real fans. A large part of the internet tells me these are the only good Star Wars movies. With these, you don’t have any whiny Anakin, no Ewoks, no Jar-Jar, and plenty of commentaries and many subverted expectations. That is what we want right?

Cons:

Wow, we are limiting ourselves now! Also, you have to watch The Last Jedi.

Ring Theory Star Wars (Or best order to watch Star Wars for academics) :

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  • Episode 1: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode 2: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi

Pros:

One pretty cool way to look at Star Wars is through the lens of ring theory. This is a pretty in-depth literary theory that deals with cycles and references within the movies. I highly suggest you give the linked article a read as it gives you a whole new way of looking at the original 6 movies. If you are really into literary theory this might be the best order to watch Star Wars. This also doubles as a fine way to just watch the non-Disney movies and if you are a fan of the Lucas era, or even the old EU, and have seen all the movies a ton, this is probably how you do it anyway.

Cons:

You have to like read and stuff to get it. Then even if you do read it you’ve got to listen to some dude in probably a sports coat or tweed jacket tell you about it all again, and how you didn’t “really” get it without him explaining it.

The Completionist

  • Episode 1
  • Episode 2
  • The Clone Wars movie
  • The Clone Wars show
  • The Other Clone Wars show
  • Episode 3
  • All the cut scenes from Fallen Order (on Youtube)
  • Solo
  • Star Wars: Droids
  • Rebels
  • Rogue One
  • Ewoks the TV series
  • Episode 4
  • Star Wars Holiday Special
  • Episode 5
  • Episode 3 again as a flashback after the I am your father line.
  • Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure
  • Ewoks: The Battle For Endor
  • Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures
  • Episode 6
  • All cut scenes Star Wars Battlefront II
  • Any Bits of Star Tours you can find on Youtube
  • The Mandalorian
  • Resistance
  • Episode 7
  • Episode 8
  • Video of Rise of the Resistance hopefully found on Youtube
  • Episode 9 Any bits of Star Tours The Adventure Continues you can find on YouTube (to be viewed as historical documents)
  • Forces of Destiny on YouTube

Pros:

This is as far as I can tell the complete canon or canon adjacent list of Star Wars cinematic works, including cut scenes from the canon video games. This gives you the most complete version of Star Wars you can watch with as few contradictions as possible. If you want to know Star Wars, to really get it, this is what you’ve gotta watch. The additions of a couple of shows and the cut scenes also help bridge the jarring gap between the end of Episode 6 and the start of Episode 7. If you don’t watch this list at once a year, are you even a true fan?

Cons:

Emperor’s Black Bones, who has time for all that!?

Let us know what you think is the best order to watch Star Wars, down in the comments!

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