There is often a debate about what order to watch Star Wars movies in if you are new to the saga. I am told there are people out there who have never watched a Star Wars movie. After giving this much thought you will be delighted to know that I have come up with the definitive order.
Many people suggest watching the movies from the Phantom Menace through to Return of the Jedi. The argument here is that this is chronological and therefore would make the most sense. Well, we are in a galaxy far far away and a long time ago so sense really doesn’t need to rear its ugly head now does it.
Film franchises don’t always move chronologically, although most do. Many get reinvented such as Bond movies or Batman. The joy of movies is that you can do whatever you want with them, in whatever order you want.
Consider watching the Phantom Menace first. Were this the movie that launched the Star Wars universe would we all be such fervent fans? Probably not. In this movie, we are introduced to a young Anakin. We would be unaware of the sad fate that befalls him. He is just a cute kid. Padme is introduced to us and Anakin swoons over her whilst she looks on him like a little brother, at least I hope she does. We would have no idea of what the Force is until we find out it can all be explained away by a simple blood test. Mystery over. Then there is the Jar Jar issue. Many people hated him, for many reasons. We meet a young man named Obi-Wan Kenobi. He is being taught by the guy from Taken and therefore is obviously going to be a tough guy. Yoda is introduced to us as a wise old shaved Gremlin who talks backwards but is forward thinking. All the mystery surrounding these characters from the later episodes is instantly gone. Episode 1, we thank you.
We move on to Attack of the Clones. In this movie, we discover that Anakin has aged at least 10 years whilst Padme has not aged a day. Some politics ensue again just to keep younger viewers riveted. An attempt is made on Padme’s life and an impressive CGI chase through the Fifth Element and down into Blade Runner's old sets and ideas to capture the would-be assassin takes place. Said assassin is assassinated by the assassin who ordered the assassination that started this whole chase. Quite why the assassin chose not to assassinate the target themselves in the first place is never quite explained. Due to the attempt on her life, Padme is taken out of the custody of a trained Jedi master and his impulsive young Padwan and left with just the impulsive young Padwan. We then get treated to some sulking and overacting as the mismatched two fall deeply in love. Later we get a taste of Anakin’s rage as he butchers Tusken Raiders for killing his mum. Eventually Anakin gets his arm chopped off as well. Having the prior knowledge of his later predicament would make this ever more poignant. Yoda is revealed as being a fraud as he casts his stick to one side and battles Dracula/Saruman like the Tasmanian Devil and whirls around sounding like an enraged Muppet. This in itself would pretty much ruin the entire meeting of Yoda on Dagobah with Luke. So, thank you Episode 2, you’ve ruined Empire for us.
When we start Revenge of the Sith with the lovers all married up. In this movie, we see the Emperor finally push Anakin to the Dark Side. In the early stages he kills Dracula/Saruman as the Emperor, still known as Palpatine, looks on. Padme is pregnant by her toy boy husband who has dreams of her dying in childbirth. Palpatine pushes Anakin further to the dark side by telling a fib that he can save her. Remember, at this stage we have never heard of Darth Vader or even heard his heavy breathing. So, if this is your third film you have to wonder what is happening to the hero of the previous 2 movies. We rooted for you for the last 5 hours and now this? Anakin kills Nick Fury and finally turns to the dark side, being renamed Darth Vader. The heroic Jedi are then butchered by the Clone army with Order 66 being issued by the Emperor. Darth Vader kills about 30 children Jedi. Bear in mind this is like Luke killing children in Return of the Jedi. Unless you know the full story, it makes no sense at all. Your hero has just killed children! Unhappy about the entire situation Vader Force throaty chokes Padme until she collapses. Obi-Wan and Vader then battle until Vader is left barbecuing on a volcano devoid of most of his limbs and skin. Padme then dies in childbirth, giving birth to Luke and Leia. Darth Vader is given an iconic black suit we see long enough for him to scream the worst ‘NOOOO!’ in movie history. Yoda goes into exile and Obi-Wan dumps Luke on a farm while Leia gets given a Royal family. To us fan boys, brilliant stuff. If you have no idea about the arc of Vader’s redemption, then this would pretty much be the suckiest end of a trilogy ever. Most of the good guys are dead, the galaxy is in turmoil and your hero has turned into a child killing wheezing maniac.
Luckily for us, along comes A New Hope. We start with a desperate space battle during which two of the hero droids from the previous three movies can be seen running around while Stormtroopers shoot lots of people. Obviously as the movie progresses the aim of Stormtroopers just gets worse. Now grown up, Princess Leia posts something into the front of R2-D2 and shoots him off into space. Anakin turns up again in his shiny suit and wheezes his way through bullying Rebel scum and Princess alike. We now know that this is his own daughter. The sod. C-3PO and R2-D2 wind up bumping into Luke, Leia's brother, Vader’s son. Small galaxy isn’t it! Eventually Luke is rescued from Sandmen by Ben Kenobi, Alec Guinness doing a splendid impression of Ewan McGregor. In this scene, we discover that many years in solitude has withered Mr Kenobi’s brain a little as he has no recollection of owning the droids he spent years beside. R2-D2 plays a snippet of a holographic message and Luke sees his sister for the first time. Dirty boy. We know that’s his sister by now, so no heroic ‘save the Princess’ stuff to us here. Ben then gives Luke Anakin Vader’s lightsabre, from a more civilised age. When it killed small children. Luke shrugs off the death of his foster parents by staring enigmatically into a twin sunset and with the help of his new friends Han Solo and Chewbacca zoom off in a piece of junk to save the day. Part of the joy of this movie is the chemistry between the three human leads. There is a flirtation between Leia and the two new men in her life, Han, and her brother Luke. In this episode, there is a ‘which one will she chose?’ vibe. The poster even depicts her hanging of her brother’s leg. All of which is pretty uncomfortable when we know what we know. Then there is a kiss. No tongues, but still. If Mr Lucas knew they were brother and sister at this point, shame on his dirty mind! So, they rescue the princess at the cost of Obi-Ben-Wan's life. Vader returns to face the man who literally left him in pieces. They chat while occasionally bouncing their lightsabres together. Eventually Luke uses the Force and blows up the Death Star all down to the plans R2-D2 was carrying. This was only possible thanks to some people in a non-episodic movie getting them. The movie ends with smiles and medals for everyone. Except the Wookie, he gets nothing.
Typically enough, The Empire Strikes Back! This being generally considered the best of the Star Wars movies, how can watching it in chronological order possibly ruin it? Well, there’s another awkward kiss for a start. After following Star Wars tradition by chopping of the arm of someone or something Luke sees Ben as a Force Ghost, we don’t question it. Ben tells Luke to go to Dagobah and see Yoda to finish his training. This would be the little green fella we have seen before. He can do amazing things with the Force, like move massive objects and stuff. Oh, and he is handy with a lightsabre as well. So, off Luke runs to Dagobah where he meets the mighty Yoda. Except we know he is the mighty Yoda. So, all the silly mucking about is confusing. When he reveals himself to be a Jedi Master it’s no great surprise. Luke is in awe as Yoda effortlessly lifts his X-Wing from the swamp, but we have seen it all before. We, unlike Luke, did not judge Yoda by his size. In the meantime, Han and Leia are falling in love (thank the maker!) and wind up on Bespin. Here they meet Vader and Boba Fett, another young kid from the previous movie deeply scared by the events that unfolded around them. Fett has become a bounty hunter and is after Han Solo. Vader freezes Han and sets a trap for Luke who has seen all this in a Force vision. Yoda tells him not to go, but like his father before him, Luke will not listen to Yoda. Luke faces Vader in one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. All of this is totally ruined by watching the prequels first. ‘No, I am your Father’ Vader tells Luke, who responds with one of the best ‘NOOOO!!’s in movie history. We all know this story, but when we found out in the movie it was a massive thing. Nobody had seen it coming. Once again, watching the movies in order would completely have ruined probably the biggest scene in the entire saga. This in itself is enough to make anybody reconsider the order in which to watch the movies.
Finally, we get to Return of The Jedi. Luke is now a Jedi as he has been back and finished his training. He and his friends run off and kindly save Han from Jabba the Hutt. A footnote here is that you also shouldn’t watch the Special Editions either as you’d have already seen Jabba the Hutt, but in a terrible CGI form. The big slimy puppet version is the only one to consider. Luke fights a giant Rancor monster, but chooses not to use the Force and squishes him with a massive gate instead. This is seemingly all part of Luke’s plan as he is sentenced to death with everyone else. R2-D2 saves the day by shooting a lightsabre out of his head, Luke catches it and goes full Jedi on the bad guys. Boba Fett is eaten by the Sarlac, once again not the over tenticled Special Edition one. We then get Luke off to say goodbye to Yoda as the story starts to complete its arc. We meet Ewoks, and I love them! We have another attack on a fully armed and operational Death Star and a generally happy end. Darth Vader turns against the Emperor, all the family ties are connected and we finally get to see Dave Prowse out of the Darth Vader mask. Oh, no we don’t we get an old man instead. However, after all the death and wars everyone seems happy, the Ewoks have enough Stormtrooper meat to last for weeks and we see three happy Force Ghosts. But wait, who is that one? If we are watching the Special Editions we see a young Anakin. OK so this tweak I don’t mind. Now I want to see movies about this guy, so, back to Episode 1 to watch in the correct order.
It’s OK to watch The Force Awakens after the prequels as this would explain some of Kylo Bens obsession with his grandfather. A Jedi Master turned Sith Lord who redeemed himself, an all-powerful badass that everybody feared with good reason. After the CGI eye bleeding onslaught of the prequels (All good movies in their own right) it’s a pallet cleansing return to Star Wars of old.
Rogue One can be watched any time after you have watched the first six movies, but not until you have seen them all. You get to see Vader going full evil laser sword swinging super villain and so many fun nods to all the other movies. Rogue One not being an Episode per se needs to be watched after you know a little about the story. You just don’t know this part of the story. Awesome as it is.
So there, once and for all is the order. Please feel free to comment and tell me if you think I’m wrong.