Star Wars: The Best Movie Viewing Order (If You’ve Never Seen Before)

Star Wars Watch Order

The Star Wars saga has spanned decades and multiple trilogies, so it's understandably difficult to understand which movie to start with and which order to go through if someone hasn't seen any of the films before. George Lucas led the original and prequel Star Wars trilogies, which began with A New Hope in 1997 and ended with Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in 2005. However, after Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the studio quickly got to work on a brand-new trilogy that launched with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015. And now, it all comes to an end with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker picks up one year after the events of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and acts as the final installment in the long-running Skywalker saga. It's meant to conclude the story while also paying off every movie that came before it, including the prequels. So viewers who are planning to watch The Rise of Skywalker in theaters will be better off knowing everything that's come before. But the thing is, for Star Wars newcomers, watching the films in their numerical order isn't necessarily the best way to take it all in.

Related: Every Star Wars Movie Missing From Disney+ (& When They’ll Be Available)

The original Star Wars trilogy contains more than a few revelations, much of which were later explored in the prequels. That being said, A New Hope serves as a perfect introduction to the universe for people who are otherwise unfamiliar with it (as was the intention in 1977); the prequels operate under a lot of assumptions about the viewers preexisting Star Wars knowledge. Not bothering with any of the one-offs or television shows, we've listed the optimum movie viewing order for newcomers, which is in order of release:

  • A New Hope
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith
  • Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi

Why Release Order Is The Best For Star Wars Newcomers

Star Wars saga

This order is consistent with the films’ natural release order. The movies began with A New Hope in 1977 as an intended introduction to the galaxy. A New Hope was made as a potential standalone film (as are all originals) and, therefore, has the most cohesive plot. It is the entry point for a timeline that follows the rise and fall of various regimes. Following this viewing order, you will enter a galaxy ruled by the Galactic Empire and fought by the Rebel Alliance. The main characters begin on the sidelines of this conflict but then became key figures in the Galactic Civil War. The stakes are then raised with The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi accordingly; it’s a perfect storm of character development and world building.

The mythology, lore, and politics of the original trilogy are much simpler and more condensed than that of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, which shows us an age of democracy before the rise of the Galactic Empire. Aged special effects and set pieces also pose a threat to pacing if watched in the reverse order — the fast paced action, unexplained technological upgrades, and contemporary style of the prequels would make the original trilogy feel inconsistent. Chronological mistakes also obtusely apparent when jumping between trilogies in numerical order.

George Lucas, like the audience, was just discovering Star Wars when writing the first film. The heart of what Star Wars is can be seen in A New Hope. The world becomes more recognizable as the trilogy develops - by the time you get to the prequels, you’ll know exactly what things like dark side, lightsabers, hyperspace and “may the Force be with you” mean to the franchise. Once you've appropriately experienced the first two trilogies, it's time to approach the sequels.

The Force Awakens pays homage to A New Hope in a big way; some have argued it almost replicates the original films plot. The conflict between the First Order and the Resistance resembles that of the Galactic Empire and the Rebellion. Given that The Rise of Skywalker is primarily a conclusion to the trilogy that began with The Force Awakens, the sequel trilogy should, of course, be reserved until the very end for Star Wars newcomers. Jumping right into the sequels without watching the previous films isn't a great idea.

Next: Wait, What Star Wars Movies ARE Happening?

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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