What is the ultimate Star Wars viewing order?

Star Wars A New Hope Poster

As May the fourth rolls around once again, we take a look at the different Star Wars viewing orders and try and find out which is best

It's a question that's often raised by Star Wars fans and newcomers to the series alike, just what is the best order to watch the Star Wars films in?

Thanks to the quite frankly silly renumbering of the episodes thanks to George Lucas's prequel trilogy fans have been stumped for years whether to watch the films in episode/chronological order or release order. 

However, it's not quite that simple, especially thanks to the introduction of the two Star Wars spin-off films, Solo and Rogue One.

Star Wars Poster Collage

Episode/Chronological Order:

The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, Solo, Rogue One, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi.

We kick off our examination of the various viewing orders for the Star Wars saga with episode/chronological order. It's a fairly solid method of getting you through all 10 of the films (if you do indeed decided to add the spin-off Star Wars stories into your viewing).

However, while this method may be totally fine for long-time fans of the franchise who've seen all of the films countless times, it could get a little messy for newcomers to the series.

For example, the hugely shocking revelation that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father would be completely and totally ruined if you had just sat through the prequels which show Anakin's descent into darkness.

Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back Darth Vader

Furthermore, if a new viewer came to the spin-offs without seeing the originals, then that could get a little confusing as you're left wondering who this Han Solo guy is.

While it's a solid go-to for long-time fans, it's not ideal.

Release Order: 

A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi, Solo.

For many, this is the ideal way to watch Star Wars as you experience the franchise in the same order as fans who saw the original film way back in 1977.

While this method eliminates the risk of spoiling the greatest moment in cinematic history, it can get a little confusing, especially if watched back-to-back. 

The huge 50-year time jump between the sequels and beginning the prequel trilogy in this viewing order is far from ideal as the last point of reference you had for Luke Skywalker's story is now three films ago so there's definitely room to improve with this viewing order. 

Star Wars: A New Hope, Stormtroopers, 1977

Of course, there are the standard release order and episode order debates but in recent years a new way of watching Star Wars came to light as well and it might just be the best of the bunch.

Flashback/Machete Order:

A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, (The Phantom Menace), Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi. *For this example we've omitted the spin-offs for the sake of ease in explaining it, feel free to add them back in if you so choose*

The new kid on the block of Star Wars viewing orders is the flashback order (or alternatively the machete order). 

In essence what this viewing order does, and it's quite brilliant in fact, is remove all of the problems with the previous viewing orders.

We start off with the original trilogy, watching A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, allowing for the Luke-Darth Vader moment to go unspoiled for any new viewers, before flashing back to the prequel trilogy and subsequently continuing with Return of the Jedi and Disney's sequel films. 

The difference with the so-called machete order is that it cuts out The Phantom Menace entirely.

Star Wars Jar Jar Binks

It's a frankly brilliant and inventive way to watch the Star Wars movies and it does a great job in eliminating the problems with the more traditional viewing orders as we mentioned above and arguably adds a lot more to the viewing experience.

We see Darth Vader at his most evil in the original trilogy before the big 'I am your father' reveal and then get to flashback and see Anakin's descent into evil before cutting back to Return of the Jedi to witness Anakin's redemption.

Star Wars Return Of The Jedi Darth Vader Throwing The Emperor

This viewing order also removes the massive 50-year time jump between the prequel and sequel films found in the release date viewing order. 

However, saying all of that, do what's best and easiest for you and your enjoyment of the films. 

May the fourth, I mean, Force be with you

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