Best Star Wars Viewing Order
There's a right answer.
With its iconic characters, memorable quotes, and beautiful visuals, the Star Wars franchise by George Lucas has enthralled audiences for decades. The original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) is often considered one of the greatest cinematic achievements of all time.
If you’re a new fan, you might think of watching the movies according to their release dates. However, that’s not the best way to experience the Star Wars saga. You want to dive into the story in the order that makes the most sense. As such, here’s the best Star Wars viewing order for you to enjoy the story:
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
First, we have the original movie that started it all, back in 1977: Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. In this film, a farm boy named Luke Skywalker discovers that he is the son of the Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, who was believed to have died in battle some years earlier. After joining forces with Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Vader (Anakin), Luke helps save the galaxy from the evil Empire.
The film also introduced us to the Force, which is a magical ability that allows people to do things like telekinesis and mind control. This is an important aspect of the Star Wars universe, so it’s best to watch the movie that started it all first.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
After A New Hope, we jump into one of the more recent additions to the franchise. 2016’s Rogue One is a prequel of sorts, telling the story of how the Rebellion stole the Death Star plans. It might not be a main part of the saga, but it does give insight into the characters and events that are integral to the story.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Then, we dive right into the thick of things with Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. This is truly the dark middle chapter of the saga and is widely considered one of the best movies in the series. It features the introduction of fan-favorite characters like Yoda and Lando Calrissian, as well as some iconic moments, like Darth Vader’s famous “I am your father” revelation to Luke.
After the Rebels are forced to flee from Hoth, Luke travels to Dagobah to train with Jedi master Yoda while Han Solo and Princess Leia are pursued by Darth Vader. Luke confronts Vader in a thrilling lightsaber battle before losing his hand (and his lightsaber) in an attempt to save his friends.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
The Phantom Menace, despite its 1999 release, is the first movie in the series, chronologically. It is set 32 years before A New Hope, during the era of the Galactic Republic. It introduces us to Anakin Skywalker (who would later become Darth Vader), Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jar Jar Binks, Queen Amidala, and Emperor Palpatine.
The movie depicts the Trade Federation’s blockade of the planet Naboo. Darth Sidious, a powerful Sith Lord, is secretly orchestrating the whole thing as part of his plan to take over the galaxy. The Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi are sent to Naboo to negotiate with the Trade Federation, but they end up having to rescue the queen and fight their way off the planet.
After the reveal of Vader as Luke’s father in Episode V, it makes sense to go back and revisit his backstory, before we see his character arc conclude in Episode VI – Return of the Jedi.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Anakin Skywalker, played by Hayden Christensen, now a young adult and Jedi apprentice, is assigned to protect Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) in advance of a possible Separatist attack. Anakin and Amidala develop a romance, which he struggles to hide from his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). Meanwhile, Obi-Wan investigates an assassination attempt on the senator and discovers a clone army being readied for battle.
You should watch the movie after The Phantom Menace, since it features Anakin as a young adult and his relationship with Padmé. It also focuses on the Clone Wars, which are mentioned in passing in A New Hope.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
As the third part of the second set of the trilogy released in the franchise, Revenge of the Sith concludes the story arc that began with The Phantom Menace, specifically Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side.
It dives into the politics of the Galactic Republic and the Clone Wars, while also providing answers to questions about Darth Vader’s backstory. The movie has some intense scenes, such as the ones where Darth Vader massacres the younglings, so it’s not recommended for very young viewers.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022)
The Disney+ miniseries is set 10 years after Revenge of the Sith. It tells the story of Kenobi as he watches over Anakin’s son, Luke. He was also tasked to save Anakin’s daughter, Leia, who was kidnapped by the Empire. The six-episode show aired in 2022 and featured the confrontation between Kenobi and Vader.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
After Revenge of the Sith and Obi-Wan Kenobi comes Solo: A Star Wars Story. This is the story of how Han Solo became the captain of the Millennium Falcon and made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. It adds some great new context to Han’s character and is a fun heist movie set in the Star Wars universe. Plus, you get to see Chewbacca before he teams up with Han.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Now, we go back to the last installment of the first trilogy, Return of the Jedi. In this movie, Luke Skywalker must rescue his friends from the evil Empire, led by Darth Vader.
After watching Episodes 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, Rogue One, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Solo, you now have all the context you need to fully appreciate Return of the Jedi, since it concludes the original story arcs of key characters like Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine.
The Mandalorian (2019-2023)
The Mandalorian is another Star Wars series released on Disney+. It’s set post-Return of the Jedi and follows a lone Mandalorian warrior on his journey across the galaxy. The story is very much character-driven, and while it’s not essential to watch The Mandalorian before any of the movies, it does provide context for some of the events that occur in them.
If you want to watch The Mandalorian, we recommend doing so after watching the movies above. That way, you can appreciate all of the little callbacks and Easter eggs that are sprinkled throughout the show.
The Book of Boba Fett (2021)
The Mandalorian spinoff series follows the titular character Boba Fett as he sets out on adventures across the galaxy. The series shows how he became the new crime lord and took over Jabba the Hutt’s territory. It is set after the events of Return of the Jedi.
Just like The Mandalorian, new fans will want to watch this series since it features one of the fan-favorite characters in the franchise. The Disney+ series only has one season with seven episodes.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
After taking a break from the main saga, it’s time to dive right back in and watch The Force Awakens. This movie follows a brand new set of characters as they search for Luke Skywalker and battle the First Order.
It shows how the new characters carry on the fight against evil, and also brings back some of the fan-favorite original trilogy characters. Watching the movies and shows above can help you appreciate the film more.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
The Last Jedi is considered one of the best Star Wars films ever made. It features incredible action, powerful performances, and a masterful story. Some fans argue that The Last Jedi should be viewed before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Nonetheless, I think that it is best viewed after. Rogue One gives context to the events of The Last Jedi and makes the latter’s story all the more impactful.
Episode VIII shows how the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), takes on the First Order, headed by the evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The Last Jedi also features Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) proper return to the franchise.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Lastly, we have Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. This is the most recent release in the Star Wars saga and it concludes the story that started back in 1977. The film shows the Resistance’s fight against the First Order, which has grown stronger since the death of Emperor Snoke.
Episode IX is the perfect conclusion to the saga, and it should be watched last. By this point, you will have a much better understanding of the characters, the conflict, and the galaxy itself. You will also appreciate all the little Easter eggs and callbacks to previous films in The Rise of Skywalker.
(featured image: Lucasfilm)
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