The Best Order to Watch the Star Wars Movies

Star Wars fans have debated the best way to introduce their friends to their beloved franchise for years. Most purists find themselves in “Camp Release Order,” while newer fans feel passionate about their involvement in “Camp Chronological Order.” So who is right? Is one way truly better than another? While each argument has valid points, the best way to watch Star Wars movies is whatever way will convert new fans to the cause.

The Argument for Release Order

Release order for Star Wars movies refers to the order in which the public has been able to access the films since their debut in 1977. Star Wars was the first film to be released. It was subsequently retitled Star Wars: A New Hope and revealed to be the fourth piece of a more extended saga, not simply the saga's beginning. 

The pros of the release order are the revelation of Darth Vader's identity and family history and the way George Lucas wanted the story to be told. The cons for release order include viewing Episodes I, II, and III as flashback films that can be confusing to casual fans and dating the original trilogy due to advances in CGI and special effects seen in the prequels and more recent trilogy. 

How to Watch Star Wars Movies in Release Order

If release order sounds like the best way to watch the movies, here's how viewers should do it:

  • Star Wars: A New Hope (1977, Episode IV)
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Episode V)
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983, Episode VI)
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999, Episode I)
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002, Episode II)
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005, Episode III)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, Episode VII)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Episode VIII)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, Episode IX)

The Argument for Chronological Order

Chronologically viewing the Star Wars films tells the Skywalker saga differently. It takes viewers back to the beginning, where we are introduced to Anakin Skywalker first instead of Luke. We also get to know characters only mentioned in the later films. It is always helpful to have an image with a name when attempting to keep up with the many species introduced in the Star Wars universe.

Positively, this order of watching Star Wars movies avoids as much confusion as possible with the overarching narrative. Starting at the beginning usually makes the most sense. Negatively, critics and audiences agree that the first three episodes are some of the worst in the saga. The underlying storytelling is diminished by annoying characters, emotionless dialogue, and haphazard CGI.

How to Watch the Star Wars Movies in Chronological Order

Starting something at the beginning is an appealing timeline for many. If you don't mind having certain surprises spoiled, this is how to watch Star Wars movies in chronological order:

  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999, Episode I)
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002, Episode II)
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005, Episode III)
  • Star Wars: A New Hope (1977, Episode IV)
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Episode V)
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983, Episode VI)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, Episode VII)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Episode VIII)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, Episode IX)

Want to Be Risky? Start with Rogue One

Because the usual arguments have been, well, argued to death, I'd like viewers to consider a different approach to the best order to watch the Star Wars movies. Rogue One tells the story of the Rebellion's rise to meet and ultimately destroy the Empire's evil ways. The film's tension leads to the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope, and it gives context to Princess Leia's famous line, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope.” 

Rogue One also serves as an incredible backdrop for the rise and menacing presence of Darth Vader. The good guys have gone quietly into the night while the bad guys have, seemingly, come out on top. However, Rogue One sets up the beginnings of the Empire's demise so perfectly that one can't wait to continue the saga and find out what happens next.

If this sounds like an exciting way to watch Star Wars movies, here's how to do it:

  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  • Star Wars: A New Hope (1977, Episode IV)
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Episode V)
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983, Episode VI)
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999, Episode I)
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002, Episode II)
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005, Episode III)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, Episode VII)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Episode VIII)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, Episode IX)

Stand Alone Films and TV Shows in the Star Wars Universe

When it comes to the core of the Star Wars universe, viewers can feel confident in their Star Wars knowledge without watching stand-alone films and TV shows. However, some of the best Star Wars material as of late has come from the one-off movies and limited series on the streaming network Disney+.

Most recently, the Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Mandalorian shows on Disney+ have cemented their place in must-see viewing for Star Wars super fans. However, they are not crucial to the conversation for Star Wars newbies just starting their viewings.

If you're ready to dive in and get your Star Wars on, this is the best order to watch the Star Wars movies, adding in the stand-alone films and TV shows:

  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999, Episode I)
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002, Episode II)
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars (TV series)
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005, Episode III)
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch (TV Series)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  • Obi-Wan-Kenobi (TV Series)
  • Star Wars Rebels (TV Series)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  • Star Wars: A New Hope (1977, Episode IV)
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Episode V)
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983, Episode VI)
  • The Mandalorian (TV Series)
  • The Book of Boba Fett (TV Series)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, Episode VII)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Episode VIII)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, Episode IX)

What's next for Star Wars?

Finally, though many projects have been delayed for the last few years, the Star Wars universe is expected to expand with even more movies and streaming series. Titles such as AhsokaAndor, and Rogue Squadron will be released in the coming months, and the best way to watch Star Wars movies will, once again, be up for discussion again.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Courtesy of Walt Disney World News.


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