In 1983, there was no question of how to watch the Star Wars trilogy. Star Wars, Empire, Jedi. As 2005 rolls around, there are two schools of thought: release order, or story order (or just forget about the new trilogy entirely). But now, not only do we have a potential continuation of the Skywalker Saga, with Force Awakens and Last Jedi, but also other, non-Skywalker stories set in our favorite galactic history, Rogue One, as well as Solo. How do you watch these movies? Here’s my take.
I’m sure you have heard of the Machete order: 4, 5, 2, 3, 6. If you haven’t, this will help explain the concept. If you have, this is my continuation on the idea, while also including Episode I.
A New Hope
Between Luke on Tattooine with Ben Kenobi, or the Galactic Trade Federation, A New Hope is a much more exciting and emotional open to this amazing saga. You learn about the Force with Luke, as opposed to watching him learn about something that was just a given. You see the ultimate battle between good and evil, and the ultimate (at the time) power in the universe. The major cliffhanger, is how was Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi the master of Darth Vader during the Clone Wars? What does that mean? And why doesn’t Ben remember owning a droid that claims is his. How does Ben have Lukes fathers Lightsaber?
The Empire Strikes Back
The rebellion is at a constant tug-of-war with the Empire, and is barely able to survive the Fall of Hoth. With Luke learning his place in this universe, he seeks the wisdom of Yoda, at the behest of the now dead Obi-Wan. You meet Boba Fett (the most overrated character), hear about Jabba the Hutt, and hear the greatest plot twist in cinematic history: “No, I am your father.” Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, sent to be a trophy on Jabba’s wall, as we will see, after seven years have passed! With all of this new information, it’s time for an explanation.
The Phantom Menace
Now we start watching the prequel trilogy, the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, in the form of a flashback. We see the creation of C-3PO, and how Obi-Wan and R2-D2 began to adventure together. We see Yoda leading the Jedi council, and why Obi-Wan looks to him for guidance.
Attack of the Clones
Obi-Wan doesn’t remember owning R2-D2, because he switches between droids like a person switches between phones. He doesn’t argue against it, it might have happened, but to him, there is very little difference between R2-D2 and R4-P17. We see what the Clone Wars is, and how Obi-Wan and Anakin fought side-by-side. We see Anakin marry Padme, and why a Jedi, traditionally chaste, would have a child.
The Clone Wars
This animated movie serves as an extended pilot for the TV show Star Wars: The Clone Wars. While not necessary for the story of the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, if you want to see all of the canonical movies, this makes the most sense in order. But again, you have to see Anakin rescue the kidnapped baby of Jabba the Hutt.
Revenge of the Sith
We understand now the relationship between Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious), and Darth Vader. We understand why Vader is always on the front lines, and we barely see Sidious do anything besides sit in a chair. We see “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi Knights. He betrayed and murdered your father…Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.” With the conclusion of this film, we now understand who are the major players of this story. We know Luke and Leia, Obi-Wan, Vader, Palpatine, even Artoo and Threepio. This three movie flashback of exposition in the Skywalker story is complete. Also, I think that the plot twist that Luke and Leia are related is pulled off much better in this movie, than it is in Return of the Jedi. The doctor mentions that Padme is having twins, has baby Luke, then announces a baby girl, who Padme names Leia, and it just feels like a much better revelation.
Return of the Jedi
With all of the puzzle pieces set in place, it is time to rendezvous the team, grant Luke full Jedi Knighthood, and destroy the Empire. In two movies we see Vader join, then betray the Emperor, allowing any parallels to be recognized. This ends the Skywalker Saga.
Now that we have finished the original trilogy, it’s time for our second flashback sequence as we have the biggest time jump between movies. This movie serves as a bit of a breather as well, seeing as how this is a more of a fun action flick, that doesn’t give a whole lot into the Star Wars canon. Take a minute, breathe, watch a cool train heist scene, and get ready for more story! Also, after in Empire Lando almost punches Han when he arrives on Bespin, and the emotional moment it is for Han when he gives the Falcon back to Lando for the final attack on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi, it’s nice to know the history behind all of that. Fun Fact: In A New Hope, C-3PO mentions how the Millenium Falcon has an interesting “dialect” for a computer program, and in this movie we realize what he meant.
Now that we have seen Luke Skywalkers role in the Galactic Civil War, it is time to acknowledge some other amazing players. One of which, is Jyn Erso, daughter of the Lead Engineer of the Death Star, and how she helps get the greatest Achilles Heel of a weakness to Leia at the beginning of A New Hope. Also, with such a huge gap between movies, any new plot holes might not be noticed. (Leia, you were clearly just at the Battle of Scarif, not on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan.)
The Force Awakens
Having seen the two Anthologies, we can return to a long form story with The Force Awakens, with reminders to how these stories are told. Grand gestures, huge shows of force (pun intended), and mythological style story telling.
The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi ends our story so far, stuck in the middle of this new sequel trilogy. Since we aren’t sure how this arc ends, we can’t say what all it does for the story, or what it sets up for future stories.
Rise of Skywalker
We aren’t sure yet if this trilogy will work better mixed in with the others, or what anthology stories might benefit from these movies. Come back after the films to see how it all continues, and how the order changes throughout!