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Star Wars Viewing Order

The very best order to watch the Star Wars saga.

For those of you wanting to find a new way of enjoying the stories that you already know and for those of you introducing new viewers to our favorite galaxy far, far away.

Star Wars icons

To avoid the usual confusion I will refer to the movies here only by their names.

The order below keeps the story essentially about Luke, except for the appetizer Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that has just been released.

Just when Luke is given an unbelievable truth and left thinking "how the fuck!?" we take an extended flashback to explain exactly how. Once we understand, we go back to the main story line witnessing him undergo a similar struggle.

TL;DR

Rogue One
A New Hope
The Empire Strikes Back

The Phantom Menace (optional, discouraged for older viewers)

Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith
Return of the Jedi

The Force Awakens
The Last Jedi
The Rise Of Skywalker

This order also keeps major plot twists unspoiled as the makers of the prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) felt no need to hide those twists believing everyone already knew them, which sadly isn't the case for future generations.

Much the same way as no one gets to read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde anymore without the spoiler of knowing they are the same person transforming back and forth via a potion.

The original idea for this viewing order comes from the "Machete Order".

 

(Star Wars Rebels*)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Then the next film starts only a matter of hours or days Later... (either the time it takes to travel from Scarif to Tatooine in hyperspace or the time it takes to employ bounty hunters send out probe droids and track down a single Rebel blockade runner in the entire galaxy)
A New Hope
Then 3 years Later...
The Empire Strikes Back
Next take an extended flashback to 30 years earlier...
The Phantom Menace (optional, in some cases discouraged**)
OR, flashback to 20 years earlier and still learn about the huge surprise that was just revealed in 'Empire' watching...
Attack of the Clones
(Star Wars: The Clone Wars***)
Followed by, set 3 Years Later....
Revenge of the Sith
Back to present day (1 year after 'Empire') having learned about the events that transpired bringing our characters to where they are...
Return of the Jedi
Then 30 years Later...
The Force Awakens
The Last Jedi
The Rise Of Skywalker

Star Wars

 

* Star Wars Rebels: (Animated series, not essential) Set 14 years after Revenge of the Sith and 5 years before A New Hope, Rebels takes place during an era when the Galactic Empire is securing its grip on the galaxy. Imperial forces are hunting down the last of the Jedi Knights while a fledgling rebellion against the Empire is taking form.

*** Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Animated series, not essential) Set during the 3 years between the prequel films Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, The Grand Army of the Republic, led by Yoda, Mace Windu, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker and other Jedi Knights, fights the New Droid Army of the Separatists.

** Omitting "The Phantom Menace" isn't merely about pretending a crappy movie doesn't exist. Follow this link to discover even more reasons not to like The Phantom Menace.

In this order viewing Attack of the Clones immediately after The Empire Strikes Back and then Revenge of the Sith immediately before Return of the Jedi actually tells the story better than including The Phantom Menace does.

(Some spoilers below)

In the opening of Attack of the Clones, Padme refers to Anakin as "that little boy I knew on Tatooine." The two of them look approximately the same age in Attack of the Clones, so the viewer can naturally conclude that the two of them were friends as children. This completely hides the totally weird age gap between them from The Phantom Menace, and lends a lot of believability to the subsequent romance. Scenes in which they fall for each other seem to build on a childhood friendship that we never see but can assume is there. Since their relationship is the eventual reason for Anakin's fall to the dark side, having it be somewhat believable makes a big difference.

Here's some stuff that you no longer have to see as part of your Star Wars viewing experience, thanks to skipping The Phantom Menace.

Virtually no Jar-Jar Binks.

No midichlorians. There is only one reference to midichlorians after The Phantom Menace, and in the context it appears to mean something as benign as "DNA."

No Darth Vader as a little boy.

Less confusing master/apprentice relationships. Darth Sidious is training Count Dooku, Obi-Wan is training Anakin. No other trainer/trainee relationships exist to confuse the backstory. Fewer characters to learn about, so the story is more focused.

Nothing about trade disputes. The "problem" as of Attack of the Clones is that a group of systems want to leave the Republic.

No pod racing. Seriously, who gives a shit? An action sequence for the sake of an action sequence and it goes on forever. A huge number of plot holes surrounding gambling and the subsequent freeing of Anakin are removed as well.

No virgin birth. We simply don't know or care who Anakin's father is, and the subtle implication that it's Palpatine is gone.

Maz Kanata Castle

For more reasons and explanation. Source: Absolutely No Machete Juggling

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