Watch Star Wars Out of Order to Make Everything Better
Whether you’re taking your first steps into a galaxy far, far away or returning to these movies for the 20th time, your first question is probably going to be the same: In what order should I watch the Star Wars movies?
With a set of three trilogies—and side stories to boot—there are plenty of options to play with, at a total runtime of almost 25 hours. However, deciding the right order in which to watch the Star Wars movies is no small feat. After all, the saga famously opened with Episode IV.
In this article, we list the most popular ways to watch the Star Wars movies. We also try to help you decide which is the best order for you. And in case you’ve never seen Star Wars before, we’ve avoided as many spoilers as possible.
Introducing the Star Wars Movies
Star Wars is one of the longest-standing franchises in cinema history, and the expanded universe goes beyond the feature films. There are countless novels, comic books, video games, and TV shows, but for the purposes of this article we’re going to stick to the live-action movies, most of which are available on Disney+ .
That includes the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and two Star Wars stories. For clarity, here they all are:
The Original Trilogy:
- Episode IV: A New Hope
- Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The Prequel Trilogy:
- Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
The Sequel Trilogy:
- Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
The Star Wars Stories:
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
George Lucas launched Star Wars with Episode IV in 1977, but continued to tweak his original trilogy for decades to come. This creates all sorts of continuity issues for first-time viewers as the original trilogy now contains unexpected references to the prequels, controversial new edits, and distracting 90s-era CGI.
If possible, get hold of Harmy’s Despecialized Edition for the original trilogy. These fan-made edits restore the movies to their theatrical cuts, undoing many of the changes in the process. However, you should purchase the official release before exploring these fan restorations.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the various orders in which you can watch all of the Star Wars movies.
At a glance, it seems the most logical way to watch the Star Wars movies is in Episode Order. Simply start with Episode I and work your way through to Episode IX, slotting the Star Wars stories chronologically between Episode III and IV.
Although this might be what Lucas claims he had in mind, most people would agree that it isn’t the best introduction to the series.
Many of Star Wars’ defining moments from the original trilogy are major plot points in the prequels. You don’t want the best twists of the series to be revealed by off-hand comments made in Episode III.
What’s more, a lot of Star Wars fans consider Episode I to be the worst film in the series, and almost all of them rank the entire prequel trilogy poorly. If you start with these movies, you might hate the idea of Star Wars before ever getting to the good stuff.
That said, returning viewers might enjoy this option to watch the story unfold in chronological order, although there are more interesting options below.
Release order is one of the best ways to watch the Star Wars films if you’ve never seen them before. Start with the original trilogy (released in the 70s and 80s), then move onto the prequels (from 1999 to the mid 2000s), and finish up with the sequel trilogy intercut by the Star Wars stories (2015 onwards).
This is the order most people watched Star Wars in for the first time, catching each movie as it was released. So Release Order offers the best chance at replicating most people’s experiences.
As we previously mentioned, this order would work better if Lucas hadn’t continuously meddled with the original trilogy after its release. Watching it now, you can expect to see shots of planets or actors in the original trilogy that don’t get properly introduced until the prequels.
What we’re calling Denial Order is one of the most contentious suggestions you’re bound to come across when asking what order to watch the Star Wars movies in. Since the prequel trilogy is so loathed, why not deny its existence and skip it altogether?
Of course, starting with Episode IV and watching the original trilogy works perfectly well. Those movies were released before anything else and work as a complete story already.
The sequel trilogy also seems as though it was designed to work without the prequels. It makes occasional references to the unpopular movies, but you won’t even notice those references if you have never seen the movies before.
One of the issues with this order, however, is choosing where the line is. There is plenty of criticism for the Disney-era Star Wars movies as well as the prequels.
Neither Rogue One nor Solo received huge critical praise, so you may as well lift those out of the viewing order. And both Episode VIII and Episode IX appear to have split the Star Wars fan base in two. Should you deny their existence as well and stop at Episode VII?
You can skip the prequels without missing any major story beats, but you’re still losing out on some great Star Wars moments as well. And a galaxy’s worth of memes.
One of the most interesting ways to watch the Star Wars movies is Machete Order. Developed by Rod Hilton, and detailed in a post on his blog, Absolutely No Machete Juggling, Machete Order inserts the prequels as a flashback at a climactic moment between Episode V and Episode VI.
Since it is particularly bad—and doesn’t add anything valuable to the plot—Hilton suggests you leave out Episode I entirely. Any relevant characters are reintroduced in Episode II or III anyway, so you don’t lose anything important.
Machete Order works well for two reasons: it preserves all of the plot twists in each trilogy and it works to keep the focus on Luke Skywalker’s journey. Episode IV and Episode V establish the Star Wars universe. Episode II and Episode III reveal the history of the main villain. And Episode VI through to Episode IX concludes the rest of the story.
Hilton developed Machete Order before the sequel trilogy or the Star Wars stories existed but he maintains that you should stick to Machete Order, adding all subsequent episodes to the end and watching the standalone stories when you’re finished.
Flashback Order is similar to Machete Order, except it includes Episode I and inserts the Star Wars stories as additional flashbacks at pertinent points in the saga. This might be the best way to watch the Star Wars movies because it builds on the narrative flow from Machete Order without skipping any of the films.
Start with Episode IV, the world’s introduction to Star Wars, then flash back with Rogue One to learn more about the events leading up to that film. Episode V moves the narrative further along still, then the prequel trilogy and Solo fill in more backstory before concluding the original trilogy. And finally, tie it all up in a nice bow with the sequels.
What Is the Best Order to Watch the Star Wars Movies?
We have listed five different ways to watch Star Wars. Each option seems to have its own faction of die-hard fans, but there is no correct order that you’re supposed to watch the Star Wars movies in.
Personally, I think that Flashback Order is the most exciting, but ultimately, it’s up to you.
Episode Order is best if you’re revisiting the saga. Release Order dishes out information in the same sequence the rest of the world received it. Denial Order is a great way to cut some unnecessary hours out of the runtime, and Machete Order is a more narratively fulfilling way to do so.
The benefits of Flashback Order are that it includes every film, preserves most of the narrative twists, and stretches out the original trilogy (which is favored by most fans).
Get Your Fill With Star Wars Fan Films
If 25 hours of Star Wars movies isn’t enough for you, why not delve into the expanded universe with TV shows, comics, podcasts, and games? Disney has excised a lot of Star Wars content from the official canon since its takeover in 2012, but plenty of canonical content is still out there waiting to be discovered.
If you aren’t bothered about the official canon, there are also plenty of Star Wars fan films on YouTube . You can watch these for free, and they’re a real blast, even if the official Star Wars saga doesn’t acknowledge them.