The three Star Wars trilogies are finally coming to an end, with the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker, so there’s no better time to rewatch the entire series and perhaps introduce it to your kids.
There are a few traditional ways to revisit the saga. You can watch by theatrical release or in chronological order. There’s also a lesser-known “Machete Order”, which takes a machete to The Phantom Menace by cutting it out of your rewatch.
There are pros and cons to all the different orders. While the chronological order might be the obvious choice, some argue it’s not as enjoyable, simply because you start with The Phantom Menace, which is probably our least favourite film of the bunch. Watching chronologically also spoils the biggest twist in the series by prematurely revealing the identity of Luke’s father, an iconic Star Wars moment.
Watching the films by their theatrical release also has unsatisfying points. Sure, the “I am your father” surprise stays intact, but the storyline is jumbled. You’ll hop between Episodes IV-VI (the original trilogy released between 1977 and 1983), then Episodes I-III (the prequel trilogy released between 1999 and 2005), and finally, Episodes VII-IX (the sequel trilogy released between 2015 and 2019).
And then there’s the new Anthology films – Rogue One (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). These take place between the originals and prequels but were released during the sequel trilogy. You can see how all this quickly becomes a mess, which is why we’re creating the perfect order that solves most of these problems.
A New Hope (1977)
While technically the sixth movie, chronologically, A New Hope is worth watching first purely because it’s the start of everything. It’s also the only Star Wars film that treats viewers as if they’ve never watched the saga before. So, start with Luke meeting Obi-Wan, getting a lightsaber, and learning about the Force and Darth Vader before he heads off to save Princess Leia and destroy the Death Star.
Rogue One (2016)
The first of the new “Anthology” films, Rogue One is filled with A New Hope backstory. It follows the daughter of the Death Star’s creator, Jyn Erso, as she is freed by the Rebel Alliance and tasked with finding the plans that lead to the ultimate weapon’s destruction. Yes, it ends where A New Hope begins, but because it’s so reliant on you knowing A New Hope already, we think it’s best to watch them in reverse. You’ll learn who created the Death Star, why it’s so easily destroyed, and you’ll meet the many Bothans who died to steal the Death Star plans.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels of all time. After the initial battle on the frozen planet Hoth, Luke heads to begin his Jedi training with Yoda, while Han Solo and Princess Leia head to Cloud City to meet with Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. But Han and Leia are betrayed and then used as bait by Vader to lure Luke. It all culminates in a showdown between Vader and Luke and ends with a twist.
The Phantom Menace (1999)
And, just like that, we go from one of the most loved installments of all time to the most loathed. This film follows Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gon Jinn as they attempt to protect the Queen of Naboo and stumble upon a young slave boy named Anakin Skywalker. You’re also forced to sit through two hours of Jar-Jar Binks and sleep-inducing Galactic Senate negotiations. So, if you’ve seen this film before, just skip it on your next rewatch. Although it does provide some details important to another prequel film, and it has a great lightsaber duel.
Attack of the Clones (2002)
While the films up to this point have shown Darth Vader as the ultimate evil villain, Attack of the Clones begins to show us the road that led him to the Dark side, with the death of his mother at the hands of Tuskan Raiders. We also see his growing love affair with Queen Padme Amidala. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi stumbles upon a clone army being built for the Republic that will form the foundation of the Empire’s Stormtroopers.
Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The final film of the prequel trilogy shows Anakin’s heart turn to black. While initially excited upon hearing of his wife Padme’s pregnancy, visions of her dying begin to poison Anakin’s mind, which allows Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to lure him to the Dark Side of the Force. This then leads to the destruction of the Republic and the murder of many Jedi, including all the young Padawans, at the hand of the newly named Darth Vader.
The origin story for the coolest guy in the Star Wars Universe provides a tonne of unnecessary backstory, so, honestly, this movie can be skipped. Apparently, Han Solo just wanted to act like Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and date Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) in his prime, which is understandable, but it’s a little eye-rolling. Still, it’s an entertaining heist film that gives us more information about the most important ship in the galaxy, the Millenium Falcon.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Now that we’ve learned Darth Vader/Anakin’s background, it’s time to watch him sort of redeem himself with all that knowledge in hand. Plus, after saving Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, we see Luke trying to defeat his father and the Emperor, all while Han and Leia work to demolish a nearly completed second Death Star. Also, there are teddy bears with stone-age technology that help destroy the Empire, too.
Optional: The Mandalorian (2019)
This is the first live-action Star Wars TV series. It debuted with the launch of Disney+. It follows Pedro Pascal as the titular Mandalorian, a gun-fighter and bounty hunter, who makes his way in the furthest reaches of the galaxy five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, placing it well before th