The Definitive Guide to Watching Star Wars in the Correct Order

by Robert Turner 9 months ago in star wars

Three systems and why how you watch the episodes matters

The Definitive Guide to Watching Star Wars in the Correct Order
Image/Pixalbay

George Lucas may have created a breathtaking SCI-FI saga spanning generations, but his sense of numbering and plot continuity sucked. If you’re new to the Star Wars Universe and want to catch up before watching the latest installment, Star Wars – The Rise of Skywalker, out this December, this guide will help you decide how best to watch. I say decide because you have choices as you’ll see from the lists below.

The problem is that not even Lucas seems to have had a clear idea of where he was going plot-wise with some of the episodes. There was no grand narrative beyond the first three episodes, the original Star Wars Trilogy. If you watch the movies chronologically (by their release dates) then you’ll experience the movies the way the original die-hard fans grew up with them and you’ll end up confused.

If you watch in episode order, there are plot spoilers for the later (original three) episodes that will arguably spoil some of the greatest moments in movie history. The one that stands out is the revelation of Luke’s father. It’s not a scene you’d want to spoil.

There is a third option, called the Machete Order, which many consider to be ideal. First created in 2012 by Rod Hilton, it originally dealt with only six movies as the last three episodes had not yet been released. I will list all the options below and leave the choice up to you. None of the lists include Rogue One or Solo. A Star Wars Story, Both are spin offs and bear no relevance to the Skywalker plot and watching these later will in no way affect the continuity of the other episodes. First let’s deal with Episode order and it’s problem.

Image/Daniel Cheung/Unsplash

The Episode Order List

The Phantom Menace

Attack of the Clones

Revenge of the Sith

A New Hope

The Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi

The Force Awakens

The Last Jedi

The Rise of Skywalker (currently in cinemas)

This is the way the Lucas franchise would suggest you watch the episodes, but as discussed this can lead to confusion and disappointment with plot spoilers abounding in the first few episodes.

Why watch this way if you’re going to have the cliffhanger moments spoilt. In addition, after the initial trilogy, the later prologue’s tended to have a lot of backfill story. Backfill that is completely meaningless and confusing without the context of the first two original episodes. so if these issues exist with the official list, what do the other two methods offer?

Chronological Order

A New Hope

The Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi

The Phantom Menace

Attack of the Clones

Revenge of the Sith

The Force Awakens

The Last Jedi

The Rise of Skywalker (currently in cinemas)

The problem with this system is it is confusing. Utterly and totally confusing as you lose any form of continuity after the first three episodes, which were the original stand-alone Star Wars trilogy. Changes in the actor portraying Darth Vader also serve to further muddy the waters. Again, there is little continuity for the plot and Luke Skywalker’s journey.

The problems with the chronological and episode order are very neatly resolved by the Machete order, which isn’t perfect, but in my opinion offers the smoothest flow of plot for Skywalker’s character development, which lies at the heart of Star Wars.

Image/Pixalbay

The Machete Order

A New Hope

The Empire Strikes Back

Attack of the Clones

Revenge of the Sith

Return of the Jedi

The Force Awakens

The Last Jedi

The Rise of Skywalker (currently in cinemas)

Hold on a second, what about The Phantom Menace? It’s not on the list. Yes and that’s not an oversight. There is very little of anything that bears relevance to the Skywalker plot in this episode. It is backfill story that was created by Lucas in an attempt to breathe new life into the Star Wars franchise and by skipping it you won’t miss out on anything that will affect your understanding of the later episodes that follow on.

By watching the episodes in this order you can preserve the original narrative and plot and avoid the spoilers that would have ruined the later movies for you. The first two original episodes develop Luke’s life and the end of The Empire strikes Back leaves us hanging with bated breath for the next episode. Delaying this with two flashback episodes before watching the cliffhanger that is Return of the Jedi only sweetens the anticipation and the flashbacks broaden our understanding of Luke’s world, adding to the enjoyment.

The Machete Order is without doubt by far the most elegant and enjoyable order for new viewers to experience Star Wars.

So now you’ve sorted out the order, it’s time for that movie marathon. You’re going to need at least two days and a really, really big bag of popcorn. May the force be with you.

star wars
Robert Turner
Robert Turner
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Robert Turner

Published author and Founder of Cre8tive Media. Outspoken advocate for a better internet. Follow me on Twitter @robturnerwrites

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