6 Ways to Binge Watch Star Wars and When to Use Them
By Andrew Magnotta
May 24, 2018
Since Star Wars creator/director George Lucas began adding films to his classic sci-fi series with the prequel trilogy in 1999, fans have debated the best order in which to view the films.
It wasn't so hard when there were six films. If you were a first-time viewer, watch them in the order in which they were released — the original trilogy is without a doubt superior in terms of pace and storytelling, but if you were looking for a deeper understanding of the series you would watch in order of chapter, beginning with 2000's Episode I all the way through Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
But with the Friday release of Solo: A Star Wars Story — excluding the animated Clone Wars film and related television series — there are 10 films so far in the Star Wars universe. Confusion arises because the dates in which the films are being released does not correspond at all to their place in the arc of the series and its most important characters.
Many fans agree that the most rewarding order of films depends on where you are in your Star Wars fandom. Both Lucas and original trilogy leading man Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) have weighed in on this topic. We related some popular orders and the ideas behind them below.
Now, the problem with orders 1 - 4 is that they don't take into account the spin-off films, the excellent Rogue One and the brand new film, Solo. Since Solo concerns a central character in the series, we think it should be included. Rogue One basically takes look a throwaway line by Mon Mothma in IV: A New Hope and made it into one of the series' best films, so that should be included as well.
Below we've included some of the most popular viewing orders for the episodic films. Viewing orders 5 and 6 (by myself and iHeartRadio's Emily Lee, respectively) insert Rogue One and Solo into those orders. Here we go:
1. The Lucas Order / Numerical Order
Series creator Lucas believes fans should enjoy the series in numerical order. Star Wars was, after all, born of his imagination, so his intentions deserve some consideration.
“Start with one," he once told The Independent. "That’s the way to do it right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. That’s the way they’re supposed to be done. Just because it took a long time to film it doesn’t mean you don’t do it in order.”
For longtime fans, it's certainly worth watching the series in this order. If we include the new Solo film, numerical order would be as follows:
- Episode I - A Phantom Menace (1999)
- Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
- Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)*
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)*
- Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
- Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
- Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
- Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
- Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)
* indicates a spin-off film
The problem with that straightforward order is that Episodes I & II are notoriously the weakest films in the series. It seems any newcomer is likely to lose interest by the end of Episode II with its stiff dialogue and prolonged lull in action.
At the time of this article, we can't make any critical assumptions about Solo, though because it introduces a bunch of characters we won't hear about again until at least Episode IV. That might be confusing.
With Rogue One, fans might not understand what that's all about until midway through Episode IV, plus one of the greatest cinematic plot twists of all-time will be long-spoiled by the time viewers get to Episode V: Empire Strikes Back.
2. Release Order
Hamill believes fans should enjoy the series in the order the films were released. Any Star Wars fan over the age of 25 has probably learned to love the series in this way, but it's not perfect either, especially where new, young fans are concerned.
“I always think the way that they were chronologically released,” Hamill told Collider in a new interview. “Now, I may be wrong, because if you’re starting out fresh, you may go [in order of the chapters].”
Hamill suggested that kids might have trouble with the look of the original series, being that it was made in the late-'70s and '80s, and that many special effects used on those films look relatively primitive compared to the more modern chapters.
3. The Rinster Order
Named for Ernest Rinster, the Star Wars fan who initially put forth this order, the Rinster Order attempts to maximize enjoyment of the Star Wars series by taking into account its' plot twists and everything fans fell in love with initially.
It goes like this: IV, V, I, II, III, VI, VII, VIII and IX (which isn't out yet).
The brilliance of the Rinster order is that it gives all fans the same entry point, 1977's A New Hope. Then they get to enjoy the big plot twist in Empire Strikes back, which touches off a flashback to the prequel films, before we're rocketed forward in time to Return of the Jedi, the (sort of) conclusion of the Skywalker family drama and also the most modern-looking of the original three films. After that we finish out the series with its seventh, eighth and ninth chapters, starring Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver.
4. The Machete Order
This is the Dark Side of the Star Wars binge-watching orders as it executes Order 66 on the widely-loathed Episode I - Phantom Menace.
It goes like this: IV, V, II, III, VI, VII, VIII and IX.
As much as fans hate Episode I, it still happened. And if you like Star Wars, your curiosity will get the better of you at some point.
5. The Magnotta Order
As a life-long Star Wars fan who's actually binge-watched Episodes I - VI in the Lucas Order, I know it's pretty rough. The stiff dialogue, annoying ancillary characters and plot holes can be draining by the time the real excitement begins with the original trilogy.
While even as a child I was appalled by Episode I's more juvenile moments, I think it's worth watching simply for the opening sequence and then the dramatic "Duel of the Fates" lightsaber battle at the end. The "Duel of the Fates," I believe, is the most visually thrilling sword fight in the entire series. I'm actually a much bigger detractor of Episode II, and the clumsy romance in the middle of that film.
Here's my order: Rogue One, IV, V, I, II, III, VI, VII, Solo, VIII and IX.
As you may have gleaned, I'm a huge fan of Rogue One; having not yet seen Solo, I think Rogue One the best of the Star Wars films made since VI: Return of the Jedi. It's dark, exciting throughout and I love how the ending blends so seamlessly into IV: A New Hope.
If you think a modern child will be put off by the vintage look of the original trilogy, Rogue One will rope them in for sure. If you're a longtime fan, watching Rogue One and then immediately transitioning into A New Hope is SO worth the four-and-a-half-hours it'll take.
I also love Rinster's idea of flashing back to the prequels after the big twist in Empire Strikes Back.
Having not yet seen Solo, I think the most appropriate place for it — if not at the very beginning of your binge — is after Solo's (NO SPOILERS) big moment in VII: The Force Awakens.
6. The Lee Order
I have discussed this so many times over the years and ultimately my list is quite similar to Mark Hamill's:
IV, V, I, I, II, III, Rogue One, VI, VII, VIII and IX, Solo.
You have to start with the original trilogy. No matter how many sequels, prequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and novels there are, A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are the core and emotional center of everything. Without viewing these three movies first, the others lose something essential.
I put Rogue One after Revenge of the Sith because after viewing Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader's whole arc play out over six movies, it can work as a bit of a break from the main storyline before jumping into the sequels.
After that, I'd watch the sequel trilogy straight through. While I haven't seen Solo yet, I do feel like if you're going into the Star Wars universe totally cold, you should watch all of Harrison Ford's work as Han Solo before meeting Alden Ehrenreich's interpretation.
And for everybody who says to skip the prequels completely, Jar Jar Binks is worth tolerating for Ewan McGregor's work as Obi Wan Kenobi.
Photo: Getty Images