The Best Way to Watch All The Star Wars Movies
Rogue One: A Star Wars story is coming out really soon (December 16th), and for some fans, you might want to get into the Star Wars spirit by watching all the movies. Or, you might be a new fan and not sure where to begin. Before we confuse you with what order to watch all the movies in, it’s important to establish the full timeline of all the movies (and shows), including the new Rogue One movie, so you know where everything fits. I’ve also made sure there are no spoilers in this article, even if you’ve never seen any of the movies.
The Star Wars Timeline
Here’s the timeline of the entire Star Wars series in chronological order. This includes the television animated series just to give you better context of where those fit in with the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and anthology films.
Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (2002)
*The Clone Wars (Animated television series, 2008-2014)
Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
*Star Wars Rebels (Animated television series, 2014-present)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Episode 4: A New Hope (1977)
Episode 5: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Episode 7: The Force Awakens (2015)
Episode 8: (2017)
Episode 9: (2019)
You can see the full timeline of Star Wars media here, which includes, books, comics and more. With that established, here are some ways you can watch Star Wars
Episode Order (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
Begin the prequel trilogy (episodes 1, 2, 3), followed by the original trilogy (episodes 4, 5, 6). You’d think that this would make the most sense. Watch all the movies in episode order, starting with 1. However, as most fans would say, Episode 1 is (probably) the worst of the films, and usually not enjoyable by anyone (other than children). It’s also a difficult and challenging way to start your Star Wars experience, as you’re immediately thrown into a lot of the political and territorial conflict, which can be pretty boring.
Starting with Episode 1 also makes you lose out on the major reveal from Episode 5, which is probably one of the biggest, most iconic plot twists of all time. Instead of being shocked in episode 5, you just get told through this back story, and it’s just not the same. Some of the plot lines are exposed by watching it in this order, and as a viewer, you’ll lose out on some big surprises, like at the end of Episode 3.
The movies came out the way it did for a reason. Think of the original trilogy as the starting point, which gave you the main story, intentionally leaving you with a lot of questions. The prequel trilogy came out after, in a way, to answer a lot of those questions and solve a lot of the mystery that was left to the imagination, so it’s challenging to watch the entire series of films in this order as someone who has never seen the movies before or someone unfamiliar with the entire series. Watching in Episode order is definitely not recommended, unless you’re a seasoned vet who has already seen all the films. Even then, it’s might not be enjoyable to watch them this way.
Release Order (4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 7)
This is the way the world was introduced to Star Wars, starting with Episode 4, A New Hope, which was released in 1977. As the original trilogy, it was put together wonderfully.
Starting off with episodes 4, 5 and 6 is not a bad way to start, as this shows you all the main characters, the big reveal, and sets up this entire Star Wars universe, leaving you with many questions about how things started, how did these characters become who they are, how did the empire start and where did all the storm troopers come from? Following that up with the prequel trilogy (episodes 1, 2, 3) help give back story, context and answers to everything that happened in the original trilogy.
This way, you learn about everything, the way everyone else did, and all of the plot twists and reveals remain intact. This order and form of storytelling is so unique and specific to Star Wars and this way to watch all the movies is worth it.
However, there are a few small issues with this order like the pacing and effects of the original trilogy vs. the prequel trilogy being so different, since they were released decades apart. With another small issue, George Lucas added some modifications to the original trilogy with special effects to cater to the new generation of viewers, so in the final celebration scene of Episode 6, viewers are shown a character as a ghost, but in the modified version, they replaced the original actor with an actor that would only be recognized from episodes 2 and 3 from the prequel trilogy (Hayden Christensen), so this would be slightly confusing, if you haven’t seen them before.
Finally, it may seem like a lot of jumping around going from Episode 6 to episode 1, and then from Episode 3 to 7. It’s still not a bad way to enjoy the movies, but a way around this (especially if you’re tight on time) is to watch Star Wars in the Machete Order.
Machete Order (4, 5, 2, 3, 6, 7)
The machete order was thought of by Rod Hilton who has a full explanation about it here.
The machete order is a sort of condensed way to watch all the films and to enhance the story, without spoiling too many things. The idea is to watch the original two Star Wars movies, and arguably the two best films in the series, with all the main characters being established.
Then after finding out the major character and plot reveal in Episode 5, you go through an epic flash back by getting the back story and context of how things came to be, by watching episodes 2 and 3.
This sets things up perfectly to then be able to watch episode 6. In this order, you’ll see a lot of similarities between character paths, and the importance of family lines and choices. When you jump back to episode 6, you’re reintroduced to the original characters now with more understanding of the history, and you’ll see more depth to the main character’s journey.
Episode 6 resolves everything, and perfectly sets things up for episode 7 which takes place decades after, but touches on a lot of points, phrases and characters from the original trilogy, but done in a new, refreshing, modern style. In order to enjoy episode 7, you need to have at least watched episodes 4, 5 and 6.
In the machete order, you lose episode 1, but in all honesty, it’s not really necessary, and not really relevant. It’s basically like a prologue. Episode 1 does have some cool scenes, like the pod race and the one of the best light saber duels, and some cool characters like Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn, but they don’t really serve the plot line enough to keep it.
Episode 1 does set up some back-story, and does explains some of the political context of the Star Wars universe, but this movie can be skipped, especially if you don’t want to sit through 7 movies. By skipping this, you avoid all the boring talk about the senate and you also skip out on the weird age gap between two lovers, which doesn’t really appear as weird in episodes 2 and 3. It’s also pretty much summed up in the scrolling introduction of Episode 2. It has its moments, so this movie could be watched on another day.
In the new movie, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it takes place between episodes 3 and 4. This is an anthology film and doesn’t fit within the prequel trilogy, original trilogy, or sequel trilogy. However, the story does fit in the Star Wars universe and plot, so watching the other movies would enhance your enjoyment of this film. The main thing you need to know is that this is a story about the Rebel Alliance (that you see fighting against the Empire in episodes 4, 5 and 6) trying to stop the completion of the Imperial super weapon that you see in the original trilogy.
You can watch the trailer below.
To those of you planning on watching all the Star Wars movies, may the force be with you.