With the upcoming release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, we now need to reassess: what order should you watch Star Wars in? (By the way, I need to thank my friend Henry Eastham for his massive help on this article – he tried various methods and came out with these results!)
Order Of Release: IV, V, VI, I, II, III, VII, VIII, IX
Even after the release of the prequels from 1999-2005, this has remained the preferred order to watch Star Wars for most people.
When showing your kids the Star Wars saga, you have to start with Episode IV: A New Hope, and then go in chronological order, because to get them hooked on the classic film series, you just can’t start them off with The Phantom Menace.
Also, if you’re watching Star Wars for the first time, this is the order to go for, because the prequels (I, II, III) do have some spoilers for the original trilogy (IV, V, VI), so you don’t want to deprive yourself of the excitement of what happens in the better three films by sitting through the relatively disappointing prequel trilogy.
Order Of Story: I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX
However, it does make more logical sense to watch the Star Wars series in the order of the overall story arc.
Although audiences coped with it in 1977, it might be helpful to watch the prequels first to give a sense of background and continuity when moving into the original trilogy.
Again, the prequels are nowhere near as good as the original three, but rather than having the awkward switch back in time between Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi and Episode I: The Phantom Menace, watching the films in this order does flow a lot better, and as such, the original trilogy does actually feel even more important once you’ve learnt the whole scope of how the galactic conflict came into being.
(It also makes IV, V and VI seem even better than the three that you’ve just watched).
The problem arrives on December 17, however, with the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
The classic approach will remain the favoured order, and I recommend that you do watch it in order of release if you’re watching the movies for the first time, because it’s the viewing experience that the filmmakers had in mind when making the movies, and you avoid spoilers.
However, seeing as Episode VII is part of the upcoming sequel trilogy (VII, VIII, IX), and is set following the events of Episode VI, it might beg a change of approach.
If you’re doing a Star Wars marathon (having already seen the films), I think it’s actually better to go in order of story, so that’s I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, for two main reasons.
Firstly, the story flows much better if you don’t have to go back in time to Episode I after Episode VI, and then go back ahead in time between Episode III and VII.
Secondly, you get the two worst movies (Episode I and II) out of the way first. If you marathon the movies and start off with the good ones, you’ll be losing the will to live when you sit through the disappointing prequels.
So, for a much more pleasant marathon experience, take this different and more logical approach.