How to Watch the Star Wars Films in Order

Darth Vader Statue Photo by Tommy van Kessel 🤙 on Unsplash

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Ready to start binging one of the greatest collections of all time? We’ll help you figure out what you need to know and where to start!

With the release of The Rise of Skywalker, the new cultural sensation of “The Child” (Baby Yoda) in The Mandalorian, and the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, there are plenty of reasons for new fans to come flocking to the Star Wars universe.

However, since A New Hope was released in 1977, a young fan (in both age and time in the fandom) might feel a bit overwhelmed trying to get caught up on all the content.

Never fear, young padawan, never fear. Take it from a master, the best part about the Star Wars universe is that it keeps growing. Besides that, it’s a lot easier to work through the essentials than you might think.

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Star Wars Movies & Series on Disney Plus
Free! Colorable Star Wars Movie Watch List


Preparing to Watch Star Wars in Order

Before we walk you through the best order to begin watching the Star Wars movies, there are a couple of key pieces of information you will need to know, such as general storylines.

Please note, there are some Star Wars spoilers ahead.

First, there is a plethora of Star Wars content, ranging from the nine main films to spin-off television shows, story films, and books.

Since Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012, the official canon only includes Episodes I-IX, the Star Wars “stories” films, and the television shows produced by Disney. That being said, many of the storylines in the books have been included within the newer films, and there are still books that are considered to be part of the canon (for more about this, click here).

About the Star Wars Plot

Getting into the plot lines, the main story, considered to be the “Skywalker Saga,” follows the Skywalker family and their importance throughout the multiple wars. This storyline begins with The Phantom Menace and ends with The Rise of Skywalker, and is also the primary focus of the television series The Clone Wars.

After the Disney purchase, new Star Wars “stories” have been created that take place outside of the Skywalker story, but still following familiar plot lines or including characters that are well known by fans.

Three spin-off television shows take place in the Star Wars universe in between sections of the Skywalker Saga: Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Resistance, and The Mandalorian. While some characters from the Skywalker films appear in these shows, the new main characters in the shows move through their own plot lines within the universe. 

Ok, before you run away from this fandom thinking you have taken on a bigger commitment than you’re ready to handle, there is a way to simplify things. We have outlined five different ways to get into the Star Wars universe, so whether you are a new fan or an old pro looking to expand your knowledge, there is a strategy for you.


What is the Perfect Order to Watch the Star Wars Movies?

There are a variety of methods you could use to watch the Star Wars movie collection. Here are our favorite Star Wars movie watch order methods:

#1 – Padawan Learner (Chronological Order)

This order focuses only on the nine Skywalker films, watching them in the order that fits with the timeline of the story within the movies.

  1. Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  2. Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  3. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  4. Episode IV – A New Hope
  5. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  6. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
  7. Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  8. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
  9. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

There are several upsides to going through the movies this way. This was the way that George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, originally intended the story.

When watching A New Hope, if you pay attention there are references to plot lines from the prequel trilogy, even though those movies were decades from release.

For first time viewers, this order is also the one that makes the most sense in terms of following the story. Since the Skywalkers are the main focus of these films, watching their story from beginning to end is easiest to process and gives the satisfaction of finishing their arc. Going in this order also allows the viewer to see the character development in a consistent and comprehensive flow.

Critics of this movie watch order tend to be die-hard fans that believe you have to watch the films in the order that they were made or dislike the prequels.

Going in this order also takes the wind out of the “Luke, I am your father,” sails, as the viewer already knows. It also spoils the surprise that Leia is Luke’s twin sister, something that is revealed in Return of the Jedi. If you are someone who has managed to avoid these spoilers for the last four decades, you might wish you had chosen a different route.

When watching with your kids for the first time, you have to decide which you would prefer: the surprises or the continuity of plot.

#2 – Jedi Knight (Release Order)

Many original Star Wars fans feel strongly about this order, especially when introducing the films to new viewers.

The feeling is that you need to experience the movies the way the first fans did, and it also preserves the impact of some of the major plot twists.

This order still just focuses on the main story of the Skywalker family without getting into the “spin off” content.

  1. Episode IV – A New Hope
  2. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
  4. Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  5. Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  6. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  7. Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  8. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
  9. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

With this order, the prequels take on the feeling of a flashback to provide context to the war inherited by Luke’s generation. In reality, that is the purpose of prequels, and so it is a valid argument for working through the films in release order.

Starting with A New Hope does provide a feeling of beginning the journey as the first generation of Star Wars fans once did, and it is hard to deny the pleasure of meeting the original heroes of the universe before anyone else.

There is something almost magical about seeing Leia for the first time, hearing her beautiful musical theme, and then the jolt of dread accompanying the appearance of Darth Vader. You have the chance to watch Luke’s struggles and triumph in the redemption of Vader.

Star Wars' Flashback: When No Theater Wanted to Show the Movie in ...
1977 Star Wars premiere. Image Source

Drawbacks to this viewing experience start with storyline continuity. For a younger viewer, the flashback-style might be confusing as they may not make the connections that Anakin is Darth Vader and that old guy is Obi-Wan Kenobi. Episodes IV, V, and VI also have such a narrow focus on Luke and the Rebellion, while the prequels help give a larger scope to the Star Wars universe as a whole.

You really get an understanding of how far the control of the Empire reaches if you already know how many worlds used to belong to the Republic, as well as the systems that were part of the Separatists.

Episodes I, II, and III go a long way in helping a viewer understand how Vader could have moved so far away from the teachings of the Jedi, but also have the realization of the true cruelties of his master, the Emperor (Darth Sidious).

#3 – Jedi Master (Skywalker Saga and Star Wars Stories)

Still staying with the films, this order includes the Star Wars Stories, Rogue One and Solo. These films came into being after Disney purchased Lucasfilm as a way to expand the universe and open the door to more projects even after completing the Skywalker Saga.

The best way to include the stories is to place them in their correct place chronologically. 

  1. Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  2. Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  3. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  4. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  5. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  6. Episode IV – A New Hope
  7. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  8. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
  9. Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  10. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
  11. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

What is great about these new “story” films is that they provide answers to questions that many of the fans have, particularly as to what went on during the time between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope.

Especially if you are looking for a movie binge session, two more movies isn’t that big of a deal.

Solo comes first, following a young Han Solo in some of his earliest adventures, with Rogue One covering the mission to obtain the Death Star plans for the Rebel Alliance.

Adding in these stories helps fans to see the impacts of the Empire’s influence and cruelty in the wider reaches of the galaxy. It also becomes apparent how the destruction of the Jedi Order and the peace that it stood for leaves a vacuum to be replaced by evil.

Fans that dislike the Disney acquisition would most likely avoid this order, as the Star Wars Stories are a Disney invention and not part of the previous Expanded Universe canon.

Critics also have negative opinions about the character developments and representation of some of the beloved characters, like Han Solo. 

#4 – The Jedi Grand Master Order (All available Star Wars content)

This is the ultimate Star Wars viewing experience, working into the watch order all the television series in addition to the films.

It certainly would take the longest (you’re not going to just knock this out in a few days, this is a long term project) but is totally worth it if you are looking for the real deal, total package marathon, this is for you.

  1. Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  2. Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  3. Star Wars: The Clones Wars (2008 animated film)
  4. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (animated series – 7 seasons)
  5. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  6. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  7. Star Wars Rebels (animated series – 4 seasons)
  8. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  9. Episode IV – A New Hope
  10. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  11. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
  12. The Mandalorian (live action series – 1 season)
  13. Star Wars Resistance: Season 1 (animated series) 
  14. Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  15. Star Wars Resistance: Season 2 (animated series) 
  16. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
  17. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

Altogether, this is roughly 124 hours of Star Wars content!

Going through this process, while lengthy, is worth it if you want a full and complete picture of the Star Wars universe. While there still is other content out there (such as previous animated series, made for TV movies, comics, and books) this is what is considered to be the official canon in the post-Disney purchase. Bringing in the television series adds new characters to the mix, many of whom cross over into the films or other stories. 

For instance, Saw Gerrera is an important Republic forces leader throughout the latter part of the Clone Wars series, and then has a pivotal role as part of the Rebellion in Rogue One.

Hondo Ohnaka, an Outer Rim pirate, is a recurring character in all three television series. Not only that, he can be seen at the beginning of Smuggler’s Run in Galaxy’s Edge during the pre-ride show.

Ahsoka Tano and Kanan Jarrus were both padawans during the Clone Wars (Ahsoka being Anakin’s padawan), take on key roles in Rebels, and then can be heard in the climactic scene of Rey’s victory in The Rise of Skywalker.

Taking the time to work through all these series, even though it is definitely a commitment, expands your Star Wars knowledge and gives you a better appreciation of all the little details in the main films. 

Hondo Ohnaka | Wookieepedia | Fandom
Hondo Ohnaka in Smuggler’s Run at Galaxy’s Edge. Image Source

Obviously, this is going to take some time. Going in this order is something you do over several weeks, perhaps leading up to a trip to Galaxy’s Edge or as a nighttime family bonding experience. If you aren’t willing to go through all that, or feel like the shows are just for kids (Resistance also has terrible reviews), then you might want to pick one of the other watch orders.

#5 – Force-Sensitive Orders (Fan-created viewing experiences)

The final two orders differ only slightly, which is why we have combined them into one.

Rinster Order

The first is called the Rinster Order, named after super-fan Ernest Rinster who allegedly created this order.

This is still just a Skywalker film experience, so it eliminates all the excess content of the stories and television series.

  1. Episode IV – A New Hope
  2. Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode I – The Phantom Menace
  4. Episode II – Attack of the Clones
  5. Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
  6. Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
  7. Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  8. Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
  9. Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker

This order could be considered to be a “flashback order,” but still helps to preserve the surprise of the reveal of Luke’s father. Some people don’t include the sequel trilogy in the Rinster order, as his original version was before the creation of those films. Fans who like to pretend the new movies don’t exist might prefer to watch it in that way, as it still ends with the wrap up of Return of the Jedi.

Machete Order

A similar order, called the Machete Order, is exactly the same but eliminates The Phantom Menace, taking a “machete” to the series and removing the film. Some die-hard fans of Star Wars dislike this film the most out of the franchise, criticizing the storyline and the character of Jar Jar Binks. By taking it out of the watch order, you can avoid those aspects of the film series, but you also miss some key parts of the plot that come back later. Also, as Jar Jar is in Attack of the Clones as another representative from Naboo, taking it out is pretty pointless. 

Both of these orders would be better for fans that are working through the series for a repeat time, rather than a first-time viewer. Particularly since some consider the true Rinster and Machete orders to not include the sequel films, these orders don’t necessarily give a complete view of the Skywalker saga. 

The Saga Continues…

Looking for a place to begin your Star Wars binge?

Almost all the Star Wars films and all of the television series are now streaming on Disney+, missing only Solo (coming July 2020)

Currently, Solo is still available on Netflix, and it will move to Disney+ once the contract with Netflix ends.

We also will be getting a new season of The Mandalorian in the fall, and while the new Obi-Wan series has been indefinitely postponed, there is still hope of new Star Wars content to come!

Answer Me This…

So…which order would YOU recommend that someone watch the Star Wars movies?

Make your voice known in the comments below!