Which 'Star Wars' Should You Watch First?
A noob's guide to tackling two classic trilogies.
Star Wars remains an essential movie-going experience. What was once simply a light and fluffy sci-fi throwback film has grown into a saga, a pop phenomenon that bridges decades, and has become a cornerstone of entertainment worldwide.
But, if you can believe it, there are those out there who still haven't seen Star Wars. Yes, even teens and full-grown adults have been deprived of this experience. Still, in a way, they are in an enviable position. With Episode VII looming large on the horizon, the hype train grabbing the attention of new viewers daily, they now have the opportunity of having this incredible experience for the first time.
So for those who are looking to ride their new wave of enthusiasm into The Force Awakens, or even for seasoned veterans looking to refresh themselves before returning to a galaxy far, far away, this is for you. After all, there is a lot of Star Wars out there in the world, and with the films having come out in the theaters out of chronological order, it's not necessarily obvious how you should watch them. Here, then, is a guide to help you choose the best order for your Star Wars viewing experience.
Option 1: Chronological Order, I-VI
Pro: If you're a new Star Wars fan just coming into the fold, you have the advantage of not having to wait 18 years between trilogies. With this order you can watch the story from its roots at Episode I and see the universe changed and scarred by war, finally finding peace in Episode VI. From the perspective of someone new to the series, this allows the viewer to follow the change that comes upon the characters as it happens, following the tragic fall of Anakin Skywalker and then the fight for redemption that his son Luke engages in during the later installments. Also, if you're one to really scrutinize the visual effects work of older films, The Phantom Menace delivers on spectacle and Jedi action in ways that the original trilogy only hints at.
Plus, there's something to be said for watching a story play out in order. And heck, if you're really wowed by Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, you can throw in the great Clone Wars animated series as an added treat!
Con: You will probably not be really wowed by Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
For a new generation of young viewers, the prequel trilogy was wondrous entertainment, but especially for discerning adults, there are a lot of eye-rolling moments. The downside of watching in chronological order is that you're definitely starting with the weakest moments of the franchise. Aside from that, the story was written assuming that you've seen the original trilogy. This allowed George Lucas to skip a lot of exposition in the movie and get right to the laser swords and explosions. That's great if you're just hungry for action, but the story and character development of the original trilogy take an unfortunate back seat here.
Option 2: The Classic Order, IV-VI, I-III
Pro: There's a reason that, despite the mixed reaction the prequel trilogy received, Star Wars remains one of the most culturally powerful icons in existence, and it's the glory of Episodes IV and V in particular. The original adventures of Han, Luke, and Leia, along with their supporting cast, provide almost unparalleled entertainment, with quality in every aspect from the visuals to the epic score. The story progression this way is perfect, A New Hope introducing the audience to the universe of Star Wars, with its politics and mysticism, through the perspectives of a farm boy and a drug-smuggler with a heart of gold. The audience is connected personally to the action that follows, and by the end of Empire Strikes Back you will be a fan. After Jedi you can power through the prequels for the sake of completion, enjoying the myriad throwback jokes and references to the better films that preceded them.
Con: If there's any reason to not watch the films in this order, it's that it doesn't really present the whole saga as a single story if you do. Rather, it feels disjointed, like two different stories. There's a completely different tone and pace between the two trilogies with the grounded working class heroes of the original trilogy clashing with the superhero antics of Episode I.
3. The Machete Order, IV, V, II, III, VI
Pro: Running with the notion that the Star Wars saga is one continuous story, rather than two disjointed trilogies, Blogger Rod Hilton created this order, which has been gathering popularity with film enthusiasts in the past few years.
As stated above, A New Hope provides the best entry point for the series in many respects, having been written for the purpose of introduction, and with the most relatable characters. This order retains that, but also keeps the focus of the story on the relationship and lineage of the Skywalkers. After the end of Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader drops his legendary bomb on Luke, Leia begins to manifest strange new abilities, and the hugest cliffhanger of all time, we travel back to the prequels to look at the origins of Vader himself. Watching the films in this way then maintains the suspense of the cliffhanger for longer, validates the story of Vader through what now becomes an extended flashback, and adds direct correlation between Revenge of the Sith and Return of the Jedi, which itself stands as the best ending. Watching in this order is also shorter as it jettisons Episode I which, if we're really honest, doesn't add much to the overall narrative.
Con: You're missing a whole movie! Aside from retooling the dramatic structure of Star Wars, the Machete Order seems to have been made by Rod Hilton as a way of excising The Phantom Menace, which is his least favorite of the films, and Jar Jar Binks. Everyone hates Jar Jar. It's nearly universal. But Rod seems to have taken this hatred to a nearly pathological level, and it's driven him to overlook the fact that Attack of the Clones is, by miles, the weakest of the series. The Machete Order succeeds in cutting out Jar Jar and 2.5 hours of movie that isn't central to the fall of Anakin Skywalker, but in doing so it manages to leave behind high points like Liam Neeson's performance as Qui-Gon Jinn and fan favorite Darth Maul. It also cuts out important story points that are addressed in later films like Anakin and Padme as the original owners of R2 and 3PO, Anakin's virgin birth, and our only glimpse of the universe as it was under the protection Jedi Order.
So what's your preferred order? Vote below to let us know!