All Star Wars Movies in Order of Release
There are many ways to watch the Star Wars movies. In fact, it’s probably one of its best experiences, with countless methods having been spawned through the years, from the so-called Godfather order to the Rinster and Machete orders.
There is also, however, going for the chronological order, and even watching them in order of quality. But there’s also the more generally accepted way of just watching them in accordance with their release dates, which I personally am the biggest fan of considering that it’s probably the safest bet. So if you’re new around here and are currently looking into making your first trip to a galaxy far, far, away, then you’ve come to the right place. Spoiler alert: No, the first movie isn’t called “Episode I.”
Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
The original trilogy kicks off with Episode IV: A New Hope. Now, the usual question this first movie raises is why it’s tagged as the fourth one when it was the very first one to be released. The simple explanation is that George Lucas had already envisioned a large-scale universe for the Star Wars franchise from the get-go. The man behind a galaxy far, far away was once quoted to have explained: “The Star Wars series started out as a movie that ended up being so big that I took each act and cut it into its own movie […] When I first did Star Wars, I did it as a big piece. It was like a big script. It was way too big to make into a movie. So I took the first third of it, which is basically the first act, and I turned that into what was the original Star Wars.”
The idea was to welcome audiences into a universe where there is already an established conflict and world. Throughout the first film, first-time viewers will hear prior events that affect the larger narrative, like the Clone Wars, which all makes better sense when you get to the prequel trilogy.
This very first movie is set during the height of the reign of the evil Galactic Empire, as a faction of fighters called the Rebel Alliance find a way to free the Galaxy from their rule. In this film, we watch as the Alliance get their hands on the Empire’s latest plans for an all-new weapon that could annihilate planets: the Death Star. The Rebels manage to get a hold of these plans through one of their leaders, Princess Leia Organa, who finds herself captured by Darth Vader. The Princess and Imperial Senator finds a way to smuggle a message through the system of a droid called R2-D2, who flees with his companion C-3PO.
The two droids end up in the home of Luke Skywalker, who finds the hidden message within R2’s system that shows the Princess via holographic image asking for the help of a certain Obi-Wan Kenobi. As it turns out, Luke knows the eerily similar-named Ben Kenobi who reveals to the young man that he was once a Jedi Knight together with Luke’s father. Although initially hesitant, Luke joins Kenobi to leave for Alderaan and to learn the ways of the Force. Together, they employ infamous smuggler, scoundrel, and eventual hero, Han Solo for their trip.
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Often hailed as among the greatest movie sequels of all time, The Empire Strikes back has cemented itself in the pop culture pantheon of iconic movie scenes of all time. From the big reveal of Vader as Luke’s true father to Han and Leia’s “I love you”/“I know” exchange, Empire is an easy fan-favorite. The middle child of the original trilogy is set three years after the destruction of the Death Star. Darth Vader sends out probe droids across the Galaxy to look for the Rebel Alliance, with one probe somehow landing on Hoth where Luke Skywalker is located in one of the Alliance’s bases. While there, he attempts to investigate the probe only to be injured by a creature that he manages to fend off before passing out. While unconscious, he is visited by the spirit of Kenobi, who instructs him to go to the swamp planet of Dagobah, and it is here audiences are introduced to Jedi Master Yoda who trains Luke to become a Jedi.
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
The final installment of the original trilogy begins with a plot to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt while the Rebel forces find a way to quash the Empire’s plans to come up with a second Death Star. Throughout the epic final film, Luke struggles as he attempts to reconcile and save his father Darth Vader, all without falling prey to the Dark Side of the Force.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
A lot has been said about the prequel trilogy and not all of them have been good, with a large chunk of the criticism bordering on unnecessarily mean. Some comments are, of course, merited—like that whole weird age gap between Anakin and Padme (that has spawned hundreds of arguments and discussions on the internet). Set over three decades before the original trilogy, the prequels focus on the events that led to the creation of Darth Vader. In other words, it’s Vader’s backstory and shows his origins as a young boy from the desert planet of Tatooine.
Episode I follows Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and a young Obi-Wan Kenobi as they protect Queen Padmé Amidala, all while there is an ongoing trade dispute among several planets. They later encounter a nine-year-old slave, Anakin Skywalker, who is both a budding pilot and something of a scientist after having designed and built the protocol droid, C-3PO. Qui-Gon finds a liking to Anakin, whom he believes is the “Chosen One” destined to restore balance to the Force. He and Kenobi therefore take the young boy under their wing.
Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Attack of the Clones is set ten years following the events of Phantom Menace and now features a grown-up Anakin (played by our king, Hayden Christensen). The second film shows the Galactic Republic on the brink of a civil war as a Confederacy of Independent Systems is formed by former Jedi Master Count Dooku. While this is going on, Obi-Wan goes into an investigation surrounding a botched assassination attempt against Padme, which leads to him discovering a secret clone army. In the meantime, Padme is being kept under protection through Anakin, who breaks his oath by falling in love with the senator. A lot to take in, I know.
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The final chapter of the prequel trilogy begins three years into what is now known as the Clone Wars. The Jedi and the Separatists are now raging an all-out war while Obi-Wan is tasked by the Jedi Council to defeat the head of the Separatist army. As for Anakin, well, he’s been having freaky dreams about his wife Padme dying in childbirth and it doesn’t help that also has to go undercover and play double agent between the Jedi Council and Emperor Palpatine, a secret Sith.
The film all leads to its climax with a dramatic confrontation between Obi-Wan and Anakin, master and pupil, where the former tearfully screams at Anakin that he was supposed to be the chosen one—spawning countless of timeless reaction gifs and memes. The movie ends with Anakin in full form as Darth Vader, screaming “NOOOOOOO” after learning that Padme did in fact eventually die from childbirth.
Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
The sequel trilogy started strong with The Force Awakens, which is set at least three decades following the events of Return of the Jedi. Here, we are introduced to scavenger Rey, an ex-stormtrooper named Finn, and fighter pilot Poe as they join Han Solo and Chewbacca in their search for the now-missing Luke Skywalker. They form part of the Resistance led by Princess turned General Leia Organa and other veterans of the Rebel Alliance to defeat the remnants of the Galactic Empire known as the First Order.
Unrelated side note: Tears were SHED when Han and Chewie first came back onscreen. They were home, indeed.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rogue One is easily my favorite from the latest set of movies and is often considered an underrated gem. The film is the first installment of Star Wars’ anthology series and serves as a sort of mini-prequel to A New Hope, given that it’s set a week right before Episode IV’s narrative. Its plot essentially follows the group of rebels who stole the plans of the Death Star, marking the Alliance’s first victory against the Empire.
Often noted for being one of the most expensive films ever made, the film saw James Earl Jones reprise his role as the infamous voice of Darth Vader and closed with Carrie Fisher brought back as Princess Leia in her iconic all-white outfit receiving the sought-after plans of the Empire’s weapon of mass destruction. From hearing her say that the plans will give the Alliance hope to seeing Vader wipe out people left and right with his red saber and hearing “I am one with the Force and the Force is with me,” half of this film was a right out cryfest for me in all the best ways possible.
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Directed by Rian Johnson, The Last Jedi is often hailed as the most visually stunning Star Wars film. From its stellar backdrops and eye-catching color palettes to its scenery, The Last Jedi was a different treat entirely when compared to its other predecessors. The film follows Rey as she tries to convince Luke Skywalker to come back and help the rebels one last time to turn the tide against the First Order. Released in 2016, the movie features a posthumous performance from actress Carrie Fisher, who died just weeks before its release. The film is dedicated in her honor, wonderfully worded as: “In loving memory of our Princess, Carrie Fisher.”
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Directed by Academy Award winner Ron Howard, Solo tells the story of the life and times of Han Solo and Chewie. It follows the iconic duo during their early years and first adventures, and primarily, a heist they join at least a decade before the events of A New Hope. The film gives Han a backstory and insight into small details fans have always been curious about, like the dice he displays on the Millenium Falcon and of course, how he managed to win the Falcon in the first place.
Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The Rise of Skywalker marked the end not only for the sequel trilogy but also what is now known as the Skywalker Saga as a whole. The film follows Rey, Finn, and Poe one last time as they fight against now Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, who is getting help from a now-resurrected Emperor Palpatine. As all this transpires, Rey finally learns more about her true origins and is faced with a question as to what this all means for her.
(featured image: Lucasfilm)
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