The Best Way to Get Into Star Wars

by Emily Lewis

In the past four years, Star Wars has once again stepped into the spotlight, with multiple movies being released under Disney’s new ownership. From the sequel trilogy to standalone movies that help to fill in gaps of the timeline, the stories are new, but familiar. While the new movies are just as great as the rest, many fans and casual moviegoers are left with one main question: in what order should a new viewer watch?

The two timelines:

Chronologically Release Order
  1. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  2. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  3. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  4. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  6. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  7. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  8. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  9. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  10. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  7. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  9. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  10. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Throughout the years, as more movies have been released, many fans have wondered whether they should show the movies in release order or chronological order. I’ve heard many people say to watch in chronological order, to avoid confusion, but by doing this, you ruin many of the best aspects of Star Wars.

Watching in release order is crucial to enjoying Star Wars at its finest. This means watching the original 1977 trilogy first. When introducing people to Star Wars, it’s important for them to see where the entire phenomenon began. Yes, the special effects aren’t anything special in terms of today’s graphics, but back then, the effects were groundbreaking in the movie industry. If new viewers watch the prequels and the two standalone movies first, they will be underwhelmed by the innovative special effects of the 80’s original trilogy.

Watching chronologically also removes the dramatics of the saga’s main villain, Darth Vader. In the originals, Vader is this mysterious figure, leaving a lasting, ominous presence on-screen. The prequels are essentially Darth Vader’s origin story, and by learning all of this before watching the originals, his appearance in Episodes IV, V and VI feels underwhelming. Watching his origin story removes the wow factor from plot twists and cliffhangers that leave you wanting more.

It may take more explaining (and maybe a helpful timeline you can find online) but newcomers should watch the movies in release order, or at the very least begin with the originals. With ten movies released and counting, this is not just a simple movie binge. Often, these movies will take a few separate watching sessions to finally watch all of them, so if you are a returning fan who is showing the movies to a new viewer, you’ll have to explain where in the story you are anyways, so why not go in an order that maximizes the enjoyableness of the saga? Don’t forget that each movie has a “space crawl” in the very beginning, catching viewers up before the action begins.

This doesn’t even begin to cover books, comics and TV shows, but Star Wars is primarily known for its movies. Simply watching the movies will be a great place to get started, and seeing all that the galaxy far, far away has to offer.

P.S. Here’s my personal watching preference:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  5. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  6. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  7. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  8. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  10. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
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