Have you seen Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker yet? I sure have! In fact – to prepare for this newest release – my boyfriend and I dedicated our entire winter holidays to marathoning every Star Wars movie ever released. Of course, you’re thinking the question that we had to ask ourselves: What’s the best order to watch Star Wars? We think we may have cracked it– read on to find out!
You may have heard of the ‘Machete Order‘ (originated by blogger Rod Hilton) for the films before. In case you haven’t, it was an order to watch the original trilogy and prequels that became well known during the early 2010s. The order was:
- IV: A New Hope
- V: The Empire Strikes Back
- II: Attack of the Clones
- III: Revenge of the Sith
- VI: Return of the Jedi
The order arose from two main goals: First, it places the prequels after The Empire Strikes Back as a flashback moment right after Darth Vader admits he is Luke’s father. This has the added bonus of framing the prequels with the original trilogy. Second, you’ll notice that The Phantom Menace is missing from the list. This is to eliminate Jar Jar almost entirely, the majority of the midichlorian talk, and a lot of intergalactic politics – all things that people (especially die-hard fans of the original trilogy) detested about the prequels.
Mentioning the Machete Order to my boyfriend sparked an hour-long discussion about what the actual best order to watch Star Wars would be – especially with 5 new additions to the series! Would we actually cut out The Phantom Menace? Where would we place backstory films like Solo and Rogue One? Which was best to end on? Without further ado, here’s what we landed on!
1. A New Hope
When determining the best order to watch Star Wars, most people can agree; there’s a reason A New Hope was the first Star Wars movie ever made. They intended this to be our first journey inside the Star Wars. Rewatching it, I was surprised to realize that it’s not a very complicated movie to have spawned such an expansive universe. In retrospect, though, I began to realize that any attempt to introduce more story elements (even if George Lucas had had any more in mind at the time) would have been an overload on the viewers. A New Hope is the perfect introduction! Simple, to the point, following a fairly standard story layout, but not overstuffed.
That last one is a critical failure of other series like Star Wars (in-depth, complicated worlds) – Star Wars just had the advantage of not knowing most of its depth when the first film released! But neither was A New Hope so specific that it would have become too difficult to develop, expand, and further define their reality.
2. Rogue One
Since Rogue One occurs chronologically before A New Hope, we almost placed it as our first film on this list. We didn’t, of course, since Rogue One relies on a lot of context about Star Wars that would be confusing to just drop a viewer into. We thought that after A New Hope wasn’t ideal, nor was it ideal to do too many flashbacks, but we couldn’t justify placing it anywhere else.
I was skeptical when we placed it but watching it went over much better. After watching the Deathstar explode, it was nice to step away from our heroes and see the “grunts” that went into making it happen! People are polarized over this film in particular – falling into loving it or hating it – and this placement works for both. If you loved it, no objection – you get it in early to keep you engaged! If you hated it, you get it out of the way so that you can enjoy the rest of the journey!
3. The Empire Strikes Back
We return to the original trilogy! With a bit more context about the Star Wars universe, we return to our familiar heroes. Luke’s training with Yoda satisfies some questions we have about these ‘space wizards’ called Jedi – but doesn’t answer them all!
The best part of the Empire Strikes Back is the character development, by far. Luke begins his Jedi journey and receives a glimpse of the responsibilities that come with the title. As we wrapped up our middle-man movie, Vader’s pleas for Luke to join the Empire kept us on the edge of our seats. As Vader utters those inescapable words – “I AM your father!” – Luke’s screams rang in our ears.
4. The Phantom Menace
So begins our flashback! We begin the prequel trilogy to provide the reader all the context they don’t have into Anakin’s life. Despite its flaws, The Phantom Menace holds a fond place in our hearts! And honestly, by the time we arrived here, the flaws didn’t seem so bad.
The more Star Wars we watched, the more we began to realize that Star Wars was full of goofy twists, silly characters, and ridiculous force powers with no introduction (or limit) to what the force can actually do. Even Jar Jar, though hated by a vocal majority of fans, actually serves the movie fluidly by providing Qui Gon Jinn the opportunity to seem cool, detached, smooth-talking to the viewers.
5. Attack of the Clones
Attack of the Clones is where the audience begins to see Padme and Anakin’s relationship blossom. It’s easy to chuckle at Anakin and Padme’s sometimes over-dramatic, quickly-brought-on moments together, but the sentiment of their relationship remains – nothing is easy, nothing is slow, nothing is simple. Nothing will pull them apart, and they’ll make sure of it.
Other than more backstory exposition, we were a little underwhelmed with this movie upon rewatch. It wasn’t bad but didn’t stand out among other Star Wars films. This might have been due to the distinct lack of action, between Obi-Wan at the cloning facility and Anakin escorting Padme from place to place. A lack of action isn’t bad – in fact, these two elements were fascinating to us – but other films balanced the action sequences and story-telling better.
6. Revenge of the Sith
Revenge of the Sith is famous for its epic score, Obi-Wan’s mastery of dramatic robe-dropping, and Anakin’s hair (you just can’t look away…). Honestly, rewatching it sent it soaring up my list of favourite Star Wars films! Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, and Ewan McGregor have all grown into their roles wonderfully by now. I’m impressed by the acting in scene after scene! The emotional tension is at an all-time high, and the cinematography gives us nothing less than what we deserve – from the ship crash in the film’s opening sequences, all the way through to dizzying shots of the lava-duel that Anakin and Obi-Wan share on Mustafar.
You seem to wake up from a dream into this final confrontation. The ultimate satisfaction is, of course, the final clips of the movie. The twins are born, and Padme names them herself: Luke and Leia. With the Jedi Order in ruins, the children are split up for their safety. Luke to Tatooine, with his family, and Leia to Alderaan with the Senator. As the music swells, we’re reminded of the legacy these small children will take up in the years to come.
7. Return of the Jedi
The Return of the Jedi is masses of fans’ favourite Star Wars film, for good reason. As if coming out of a dream (the perfect experience when exiting a flashback), we find our protagonists have passed some time just as we have, watching 3 movies since last we saw them. Luke is a Jedi master now, Lando has been doing undercover work in Jabba’s palace, and Leia is leading a mission to rescue Han from carbonite! The time passing seems to click in the brain much better. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, and this gang of misfits is no exception.
This epic finale speaks for itself. It’s been known as The End by so many of us for so long that, as with the Phantom Menace, it holds a special place in my heart. When Hayden Christensen appears as Anakin’s force ghost in the last scenes, you may catch a tear or two slipping down my cheek.
Bonus: The Star Wars Holiday Special
If you pull a holiday marathon like my boyfriend and I did, you may find yourself in the mood for some Star Wars-themed Christmas! Even if you aren’t, the Holiday Special is a nice break from the drama before delving into the sequels. The only dilemma? It may be hard to come by.
As many of you may know, the Star Wars Holiday Special was a made-for-TV-movie which was produced following Return of the Jedi’s release. The plot followed Chewbacca’s family during their native holiday, ‘Life Day’ (clearly a substitute for Christmas). It was only ever aired once. George Lucas is infamous for having said that he would be happy if every copy could be tracked down and burned. It was never re-aired or released on home video, but if you’re tech-savvy enough you can find it on your favourite bootlegging platforms.
8. The Force Awakens
You’ll probably want a break between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakeness, whether that’s the Holiday Special or not. It’s jarring to jump decades into the future when you’re still digesting the last hundred years’ worth of story. The return of a new galactic superpower, the resistance’s resurgence, the weight of the war on the galaxy, and the new aged appearance of our favourite characters, will all hit more effectively with a little distance.
I was just as enchanted with The Force Awakens upon rewatching it as I was the first time. The spirit of Star Wars was kept alive, with new protagonists and stories absolutely ripe with potential! The team is sure not to take too much emphasis away from the new heroes when they include old legends like Leia and Han; they even poignantly conclude with Han’s traumatic death by his son, Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren). Rey’s deafening cries ripple through the viewer’s bones, as Solo’s body tumbles off the metal platform.
In tribute to Han Solo’s death, we include our final flashback of the series here. Solo recounts Han’s days as a young, reckless, but good-hearted man avoiding the reaches of the law. One of the benefits of placing it further down our list is the nods to the old films, like Chewbacca, or discovering that Han trained in the Empire’s military, or Darth Maul’s cameo in one of the final scenes. These little moments hit as they were intended to, and manage to make the viewer nostalgic for films they only just finished watching again. Reminded of the spirit of Star Wars in a few ways, we feel comfortable venturing into the final films.
I won’t lie. I didn’t like Solo the first time, I and didn’t like rewatching it, either. While I can admit that objectively, some aspects were great. For example, Han’s young casting was phenomenal! However, subjectively, the film’s overall representation of female characters ruined almost any enjoyment I got in return. Without going into too much detail, my complaints mainly circulate around multiple deaths of female characters to progress the male-centered story and the ridiculous “SJW” stereotype-encompassing robot.
10. The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi’s reviews varied from adoration to loathing, and viewers generally fell on one side or the other. My second viewing left me with a much better impression of The Last Jedi. Perhaps it’s because by this point in our marathon I was beginning to take the films a bit less seriously. Goofy jokes that didn’t land the first time would hit much differently in the context of the other, just as goofy, movies. I hold to a lot of my old critiques, don’t get me wrong. I still have a lot of questions about their story choices and character design.
But watching every film back to back made me realize – I had the same kind of critiques for each and every installment! Star Wars made less and less sense the longer I watched, so The Last Jedi’s failings seemed almost par for the course. If you were as frustrated as I was, I recommend this marathon – or at least a rewatch – and go into The Last Jedi taking it a little less seriously.
11. The Rise of Skywalker
No spoilers for the new film, of course, but my number one tip is simple: go in with an open mind. Going into it critical, or pessimistic, will ruin your enjoyment of the good, fun qualities! (Don’t let the haters get you down – it has many of these.) Star Wars is a goofy franchise. They add new powers with zero warning or explanation! Their characters make campy jokes! The universe is so large that they can pretty much tell you anything is true and you’ll believe them!
Star Wars is brilliant in a lot of ways – don’t get me wrong! Each generation, the teams have worked with some new technology to enhance the performance. Their choice of lesser-known actors has brought brilliant people into the public limelight. However, they fail in a lot of ways too. The critical failure of Star Wars fans, me included, has been to take these failures too seriously. We haven’t allowed ourselves to enjoy them the way that they’re meant to be! Star Wars is trying to cater to such a wide fanbase at this point, everyone is bound to dislike something. Focus on what you do like, and laugh at the rest.
So there you have it! The best order to watch Star Wars! Well, the best order to watch the films, anyway.
If you spend two weeks thinking almost exclusively about Star Wars, you’re bound to remember some of the best fan creations from their times. Here are a couple of our favourites!
If you haven’t seen this Star Wars spoof, you’re missing out! Thumb Wars is an absurd short-film recreation of the original trilogy, acted out entirely by thumbs. I don’t recommend watching it with your kids. Just sayin’.
Star Wars SC 38 Reimagined
Star Wars SC 38 Reimagined is a gorgeous animation by Youtube Channel FXitinPost. Their video re-choreographs Obi-Wan and Darth Vader’s momentous lightsaber duel in Star Wars: A New Hope. The detail is unbelievable, and though the motion-capture on the animated faces can look a little awkward, they expertly splice it with original footage and audio for a near-seamless final product. You can check the video out on their Youtube channel here!
Star Wars: Always
You may remember Topher Grace as Eric Foreman from That 70’s Show, but did you know he’s become a beloved film editor over the years? The edit that ensnared headlines recently was this one. Star Wars: Always is a trailer for the entire Star Wars franchise. It’s cut from every official Star Wars film (except The Rise of Skywalker, since this trailer came out first). You can watch it here on Youtube – I dare you not to cry.