Star Wars is one of the biggest movie franchises ever. The galaxy far far away shows no signs of slowing down any time soon, with new installations, rewritings, and re-writings introduced to the series every year since 2015 – the most recent being Solo: A Star Wars Story in May 2018. With the peculiar ordering of the releases of the films, it’s not that straightforward to determine which sequence is better to watch them: should you start with the first films – the original trilogy of 1977-1983 – Die-hard fans will argue the release-day path, while some may urge them to follow the timeline – and some even suggest skip a few to prevent disappointment.
But with the recent inclusion of anthology movies like Rogue One, there’s really only one way to watch Star Wars – and here it is, from start to finish.
Episode I – A Phantom Menace (1999)
Start the tale at the beginning, why don’t you? If you’re watching Star Wars with that irritating friend who hasn’t seen it before, do you really want them to sit there all the time asking annoying questions like, ‘Who’s he? Why does he have a red one? Why should he talk to the robots?
Phantom Menace is the perfect place to start: the sheer brilliance of Darth Maul, the introduction of some of the most famous characters in film history, and ahem, Jar-Jar Binks. You get him out of the way faster, at least, this way.
Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Often underestimated when debated by fans, Attack of the Clones is one of the franchise’s most significant fringes. Set 10 years after Episode I, we see a few things clarified that wouldn’t make sense if they were watched in a separate order – not to mention one of the best battle scenes in Star Wars history. It’s also the first time in the chronology that Obi-Wan says the famous word, “may force be with you,” after he’s been misquoted as A New Hope since 1977.
It might also be worth remembering that Episode II sets up an animated film, The Clone Wars, and a six-season animated TV series with the same title – both of which led to events.
Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
The big one, man. The one we’ve all been waiting for. The one that makes all the politics and Jar-Jar Binks worth sitting through. We eventually get the episode that’s forever changing the galaxy. After seeing the sand-haired Anakin Skywalker evolve from boy to man, he is now engaged in an epic and very frankly heart-breaking lightsaber duel with former beast Obi-Wan, in events that lead to the most iconic silver screen ever – Darth Vader. It sets up the original trilogy beautifully, too – but not until we get to it.
Solo – A Star Wars Story (2018)
Due to the release date of May 25 (41 years exactly after the release of the original, Episode IV), Solo is the first chronological introduction to one of the key characters of the series – Han Solo. Originally played by the great Harrison Ford, Alden Ehrenreich is now playing alongside Woody Harrison and Donald Glover. This film is set 10 years before A New Hope; optional screening after this one is another animated TV show named Rebel, which consists of four seasons and is set five years before A New Hope (and, coincidentally, our next film)
Rogue One – A Star Wars Story (2016)
After its release in December 2016, Rogue One was slotted into the Star Wars timeline almost immediately before the initial installation of A New Hope. Rogue One puts the long theorized fan question, ‘Who made the Death Star so quick to blow up? ‘At the forefront of his storyline, while at the same time displaying the full power of the great-bad empire since the last time we saw it in the prequel.
Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
The OG, the one that started it all, the game-changer in the world of science-fiction and film history – the one that every film before had led to. Director George Lucas used innovative and quick top-motion special effects to bring the galaxy to life. In a movie filled with aliens, robots, and spaceships, words like Wookiee, Jedi, and lightsaber became household names, and the Star Wars universe stormed the world. The timeline is exactly where Rogue One left off, but in some respects, this is where Star Wars really starts.
Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Sometimes considered to be the best of the franchise, The Empire Strikes Back takes a darker, more brooding approach to the typical space-romance seen before. We see the live mummification of the fan-favorite, and the first example of Master Yoda since the end of Episode III – not to mention some of the most quoted lines in film history, including Yoda’s “Do or do not – there is no ‘try'” and the famously misquoted line “No, Luke, I am your father.”
Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi (1983)
The final installment of the original trilogy takes the series back to its uplifting nature of space-opera romance, as the injustice of the celestial empire is overthrown, and the cute Ewoks are brought into the world. Plus, there’s a hell of a party here.
Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
After the news that George Lucas sold Star Wars rights to Disney, many fans were suspicious about Star Trek director J.J. Abrams is taking over the franchise. Set 30 years after the events of The Return of the Jedi, a new big-bad called the First Order picked up where the evil Empire left off. It’s up to the new characters Rey and Finn to save the day, with the aid of the fan-favorites Leia (now a general), Han Solo, Chewbacca, not to mention the introduction of an adorable little robot named BB-8. Who is R2-D2?
Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
After 10 movies and more than four decades, we’re now at the end of our list and up to date in the Star Wars universe timeline (for now, at least). The Last Jedi had met with mixed reviews after many claimed that it didn’t feel like a typical Star Wars movie. Others have said that it has been best since The Empire Strikes Back. Throughout the film, we see the return of the aged Luke and Leia Skywalker, leading a fight against the villain Kylo Ren. Notably, there are adorable new creatures, Porgs, and a welcome cameo from a mischievous mentor.