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Tis the season. No, not Christmas. It's Star Wars rewatch season, which, to be honest, is really all year long. But especially around the 5th of May (there's a pun that goes with that, right?), people always love to watch, revisit, and nerd out about all their favorite Star Wars movies. Are you an original trilogy person? If not, you should be—that's where it all started, and that's where it all comes from. A prequel person? There are more of us than you might expect. What about the sequels? Sure, they may be divisive, but most of us still enjoy watching them even if they aren't exactly what some people wished for. No matter where you stand on the trilogies and the spinoff films that ultimately erupted from George Lucas's mind, one thing is clear: there a lot of these movies. And there's only one correct order in which to watch all 11 of them.
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Yep, that's right: 11 movies. Eleven. People might tend to get confused, or maybe overthink the right order in which to watch these movies; when the chronological order is all jumbled, that's pretty natural. After all, the movies that came out in 1999, 2002, and 2005 happen before the movies that came out in 1977, 1980, and 1983? What gives?
We know it can be confusing—Rogue One, which came out in 2016, is set story wise between the 2005 and 1977 releases; 2018's Solo is in a similar spot. Hell, they aren't movies, but if you're still wrapping your head around The Mandalorian or The Book of Boba Fett, you might want to know where they fits into everything too. Believe me, it's utterly befuddling to write out, but if you know you know.
Granted some of this natural confusion, people love to try to mix up the order of watching all these Star Wars movies, whether it's watching the prequels first or scrambling them up in any which way. But we come to you with a message: there's only one correct way to watch these movies, and it's the order in which they were chronologically released.
That means the correct order to watch these movies, for the fullest, and proper experience, is 4-5-6-1-2-3-7-Spinoff-8-Spinoff-9.
Think about it: the purpose of a prequel is to fill in blanks left originally. If you were to watch a prequel first, you're robbing that movie of its initial purpose. It's the same thing with in-between movies like Rogue One. [SPOILER WARNING IF YOU SOMEHOW HAVEN'T SEEN THIS SIX-YEAR-OLD MOVIE] If you watched Rogue One first, without the context of the original Star Wars trilogy, the Darth Vader scenes would mean nothing; yet these scenes are set before the events of the original trilogy, so if you watched the movies in the order of the story, you'd be robbing yourself of context.
There are countless examples of this context leading to nods and easter eggs to larger universe moments, even in a movie set in a time before events we've already seen on screen. It happens multiple times in Rogue One, Solo, the prequels, and even The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett; these moments are meant as nods to things that we know happen in the future, and that context is needed for things to fully make sense.
People love to mix the order of these up, and try prequels first, spinoffs, first, and even a little mix and match. But personally, I see no purpose—the movies hit theaters in a certain order, and that's the way the story was meant to be told. It's not our story to shift and mix around; it's the Star Wars story. This is how it is, and any other order, frankly, is doing it wrong.
So, when it comes to the Star Wars movies, as the Mandalorians say in The Mandalorian, This is the Way.
Again, all 11 of these movies are now available to stream on Disney+ (which you can sign up for right here). Check out the right order in which to watch these movies below:
A New Hope (1977)
The original Star Wars (originally called just that!) introduces Luke, Darth Vader Leia, Han, Obi-Wan, Chewie, and the rest of the gang. It's essential that you start any re-watch (or first-time marathon) with this!
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Empire Strikes Back expands the Star Wars scale, and seeing that in the context of this movie still being 41 years old is important; if you go back to movies made even in the last 20 years, the technical achievement of this film won't seem as great as it really was.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
The conclusion of the original trilogy; third of this bunch is the only correct spot.
The Phantom Menace (1999)
This is the first of George Lucas' prequel trilogy, and has a prime example of the context necessity issue that we mention above. Not only do we already know who Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor here) is because of his presence in A New Hope, but the reveal that the young child they find is Anakin Skywalker is pivotal because we know, of course, that he becomes Darth Vader. If you watched this first...that's just a kid with a name (Who could forget the legendary "I'm a person, and my name is Anakin" reveal).
Attack of the Clones (2002)
Guys. If you saw Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, his sprightly, acrobatic lightsaber moves are so absolutely golden here. We saw the little ancient green guy fade away under a blanket; his wild combat moves here feel so earned. Without that context? There's no reason to believe Yoda isn't that crazy warrior, now is there?
Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Same as Return of the Jedi—it's the end of this trilogy. You need to watch it in this order. Plus, some egregious examples of the context issue: learn vital facts about Palpatine, Darth Vader, Luke, Leia, and endless others. This one is considered the best of the prequels, and much of that has to be the fact that it so neatly ties in with the original trilogy, adding a rich backstory to a movie that was originally made on significantly lesser resources.
The Force Awakens (2015)
This one benefits deeeeply from all the nostalgia and goodwill that the rest have built up. When Han Solo steps back in the Millennium Falcon? You can feel the 38 years of history that fit right into that moment. More than just about any other series this side of James Bond, the Star Wars movies know how to play into the feels that some fans have been feeling for 40+ years, and that countless others have been feeling for their whole lives.
Rogue One (2016)
This one fills in some blanks, particularly, about A New Hope. Honestly, this (and Solo) are a pair that you probably could play around with the order a little bit on. I would keep them here, because, again, that's when it was released. But if you wanted to watch this right before or after A New Hope to mix things up and feel bold, then go for it. You could also save Rogue One and Solo for the end of your watch-through, following the events of the larger Skywalker Sage—that's the glory of a standalone story.
The Last Jedi (2017)
Think what you want about The Last Jedi, but this is undoubtably the most uniquely-told movie in the Star Wars franchise to date; also, obviously, it's the most recent. The events of The Last Jedi lead into The Rise of Skywalker. To make sure you know exactly what's going on with Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, Poe, and the rest of the gang, you'll need to make sure you spend your 2 hours and 32 minutes watching The Last Jedi.
Note what we said above for Rogue One. While it's great to get another dose of Han after the, uh, events of The Force Awakens, this isn't necessarily a necessity to the larger story. It did set itself up for a sequel; we'll see if we ever get one.
Alternatively, if you really wanted to, you could probably put Rogue One and Solo off to the end of your re-watch; get the sturdy volumes out of the way first, and then add this context. The movies are good, but you're not missing a ton in terms of the overarching story.
The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
It's the conclusion of the final trilogy of the Skywalker Saga. When else would you watch? But as up and down as this movie is, there's a ton of moments and callbacks to countless other moments throughout the franchise. It's Carrie Fisher's final film appearance after her death in 2016. Cameos from a number of other old friends are included too. And, of course, the movie is led by the group that fans have grown to love over the last five years: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. You might love this movie, and you might hate it, but it's Star Wars—so you're definitely going to watch it.
Bonus: The Mandalorian (2019-)
It's not a movie. We get it. But The Mandalorian succeeds in a way that's unique to the Star Wars world, in that each episode basically operates in its own bubble. The stories are mostly self-contained, and The Mandalorian in turn operates as something of a procedural, or an old-timey western serial. It's set between the events of The Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and the further in you get, the more that ever-important Star Wars back knowledge will pay off. But the non-stop easter eggs and fun of The Mandalorian will only be truly appreciated once you've seen all the rest of the Star Wars cinematic canon.
Bonus: The Book of Boba Fett (2021-2022)
Also not a movie. But The Book of Boba Fett fleshes out a character that many Star Wars fans have mythologized, theorized, and fan fiction-ized for decades and decades. Temuera Morrison plays the titular legendary bounty hunter in a unique and fun way, and considering he played Jango Fett in Star Wars Episode II: The Clone Wars two decades ago, it makes for some nice neat continuity within the franchise. The Book of Boba Fett is slow, but turns out to be a vital and often rewarding bit of Star Wars mythos. Make sure you watch before The Mandalorian returns for Season 3.
Bonus: Star Wars: The Bad Batch (2021 - )
If you're certain you're going to be in with the Star Wars animated series for the long haul, we might recommend going to the next three items on the list first, as Star Wars: The Bad Batch is a spinoff centered on characters introduced in the final season of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series. Still, we're recommending it here for one reason: you can get in on the ground floor. This show is just starting, and will probably be self-contained enough for any fan of the Star Wars mythos to get in on it. It centers on an elite clone trooper group who all have genetically enhanced abilities—but aren't quite superheroes.
BONUS: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
The live-action movies listed above weren't the only Star Wars feature films to be released in theaters. The Clone Wars, while animated, still made its debut in theaters, filling in some of the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. This movie also gave us some more Obi-Wan and Anakin, while introducing Anakin's apprentice, Ahsoka Tano; this lead directly into the Clone Wars series, which became a fan-favorite.
BONUS: Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2012)
Dave Filoni became one of the most important people in the Star Wars world when he helmed The Clone Wars. The show became a huge fan-favorite, and when it ran on Cartoon Network was one of that channel's highest rated shows ever. Filling in stories for original characters like Ahsoka first and foremost, the show also adds canon for the likes of Yoda, Darth Maul, and more. Filoni now works super closely with Jon Favreau on The Mandalorian and is in charge for The Bad Batch and way more, and this 7-season series is the reason why.
BONUS: Star Wars: Rebels (2014-2017)
Filoni was also involved with Star Wars: Rebels, the animated series set five years before Star Wars: A New Hope. This show tells the story of members of a starship called GHOST and the adventures they get into as they fight the big bad guys we see in the original film of franchise.
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