How to Watch the Star Wars Movies in Order

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From chronological order to release date to machete order, the best way to watch the Star Wars movies in order is up for debate.

The Star Wars franchise has grown exponentially since the original film, Episode IV: A New Hope, was released in 1977. (Here’s a piece of Star Wars trivia: Back then, it was just Star Wars—the title A New Hope was introduced in 1981 when George Lucas re-released the film.) How many Star Wars movies are there? To date, there are nine Star Wars movies in the episodic portion of the “space opera,” plus two standalone films with Rogue One and Solo, and 2008’s computer-animated movie The Clone Wars for a grand total of 12.

With streaming series including The Mandalorian (and many more stories to come) on Disney+, there are endless opportunities for fans to consume the saga and its array of colorful characters; binging them all is a favorite way to celebrate May the 4th Be With You, aka Star Wars Day. That said, it’s natural for fans to have very strong opinions on the best way to watch Star Wars movies in order. Attempting to put together this movie marathon puzzle is a little tricky. Surprisingly, you may not want to watch the Star Wars movies in chronological order or even in order of release dates. So what’s a fan to do? Read on to find out the best order to watch the Star Wars movies—at least until the next Star Wars movie or show is released. And make sure you brush up on your Star Wars facts!

Star Wars in chronological order

If you want to feel the fully fleshed-out arc of the Star Wars characters and how they got in the intergalactic pickles they found themselves in, it makes sense to watch the movies in chronological order. This means tossing aside their year of release and lining them up based on which actions and plot lines happened first in the Star Wars saga.

To watch the Star Wars movies in chronological order, start with Episodes I and II (that means Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, respectively) before taking an animated break with The Clone Wars, which shares more of Anakin Skywalker’s backstory, then watching Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The main problem with watching this way is that many fans were disappointed with these prequels and if you’re introducing these to someone who has never seen the films before, they may be underwhelmed. Not to mention, there is a major plot spoiler if you watch the Star Wars movies in chronological order. On the plus side, in the earlier movies, you’ll meet Jedi Master Yoda at his fiercest and the flicks contain many of the best Yoda quotes.

After those, you should dive into Solo, even though the standalone flick was released in 2018—more than 40 years after the initial premiere of A New Hope—and the infamous Han Solo is portrayed by actor Alden Ehrenreich and not our beloved Harrison Ford, who carried the character through all of the other films. It’s an origin story that doesn’t really give away any spoilers but is fun nonetheless. Follow that flick with Rogue One, which plays like a war movie, before heading into the initial trilogy we all came to know and love with A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back (arguably the best Star Wars movie of them all), and Return of the Jedi.

Here is our full recommendation for your Star Wars chronological order watch party.

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

Star Wars movies in order of release

For nostalgic moviegoers who have been following the franchise from the beginning back when A New Hope hit theaters in 1977, there’s nothing quite like watching Star Wars movies in order of release. A New Hope is the movie that got us hook, line, and sinker invested in Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewie, and the rest of the gang. Even though it isn’t the first story, cinematically this is the movie where all the magic began—and it introduced us to many of our favorite Star Wars quotes.

There’s also a good reason to introduce Star Wars movies to a potential fan in order of release because it rolls the story out in the same way it was originally consumed and it’s spoiler-free. Plus, there are many Star Wars jokes and funny moments that just play better when you watch in order of release.

Here’s the lineup to watch Star Wars movies in order of release:

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

Machete order Star Wars

If you aren’t fully immersed in the Star Wars universe, chances are you’ve never heard of the machete order for watching the films. The simplest way to way to describe the machete order of Star Wars is that the movies’ order pays special attention to Luke Skywalker and his evolution. The term “machete order” can be attributed to blogger Rod Hilton, and it’s a unique way to really make a macro franchise more micro. It also skims some of the unnecessary noise from the saga, though some take umbrage at the fact that it excludes some recent favorites, including Rogue One.

With this in mind, viewers will start with Episode IV: A New Hope, then follow it with Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. After the major plot reveal in Empire Strikes Back, you skip around to learn Anakin Skywalker’s backstory with Episodes II and III before landing on Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. If you loathe Episode I: The Phantom Menace, you’ll be pleased to know that it is absent from this watch list.

Here’s how to watch machete order Star Wars:

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

Ultimately, the best way to watch Star Wars movies in order is up to you, but regardless of which path you choose, it’s fun to debate among fellow fans. And if the debate gets too heated, share these May the 4th be with you memes everyone will love instead!