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I have a friend who has never seen Star Wars and he wants to watch it.

I am unsure which order I should suggest. Should he watch the old or new Trilogy first? Or some kind of mixed order? I am looking for a well-reasoned answer, not one-liners.

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    The question was asked on Science Fiction & Fantasy: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/1520/… Commented Apr 21, 2012 at 16:01
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    I think the correct way is to watch Episode 4, 5 and 6 and then stop. Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 19:33
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    If you really want to watch Star Wars, then watch them all. Sure, 4-6 are better than 1-3 overall, but they are certainly worth watching. I'm quite a fan of 2 myself... Commented Jan 4, 2016 at 20:19
  • Just a suggestion for the people suggesting 3 must be before VI to avoid the big 'reveal', that he could watch it chronologically, and then turn off the very last few minutes of III (which is unnecessary or can be returned to).
    – Mikey
    Commented Jun 14, 2016 at 10:16

7 Answers 7

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The Machete Order seems to be a great idea. It is a variation of the method @Nobby suggested, but it leaves out Episode I completely.

So the order is: IV, V, II, III, VI

The article is long but worth reading, it makes a lot of great points.

A little extract on why Episode I is unnecessary:

Episode I is a failure on every possible level. (...) Luckily, George Lucas has done everyone a favor by making the content of Episode I completely irrelevant to the rest of the series. Seriously, think about it for a minute. Name as many things as you can that happen in Episode I and actually help flesh out the story in any subsequent episode. (...) Every character established in Episode I is either killed or removed before it ends (Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, Chancellor Valorum), unimportant (Nute Gunray, Watto), or established better in a later episode (Mace Windu, Darth Sidious).

(already added it as a comment, but I think it deserves its own answer)

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    +1 I was hoping that you would upgrade this to an answer. Practically no midichlorians, little Jar Jar Binks, no strange age issues between Anakin and Padme, no trade war for little loss in the story arc.
    – iandotkelly
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 14:09
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    Yes, Ep1 is a chore (even as a life-long SW fan I'll admit this) but there are still some elements in it that have bearing on the story arc as a whole - plus my little guy LOVES the podrace :)
    – Nobby
    Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 16:09
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    In my opinion, leaving out an episode is a bad idea, because you won't get what everyone is talking about. Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 15:58
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    by skipping episode I, you also miss out on most of the evidence for Darth Jar Jar
    – costrom
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 19:46
  • ep 1 does set up the StarKid YouTube musical "Ani!" though -- Anikin's a guy stuck in midlevel management who wants to relive his glory days of racing.... Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 14:31
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I am watching the films with my little boy, and am using a new method that seems to be the most agreeable:

  • Ep. 4 - A New Hope

  • Ep. 5 - The Empire Strikes Back,

  • then go back and watch the three prequels as a sort of 'flashback'

  • Ep. 6 - Return of the Jedi.

In this way, your child gets the full story of Anakin's rise, fall and redemption, without the big 'Father' surprise being spoiled.

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    Interesting, but still the correct way to watch them is in the order of release. But depending on the age of the viewer, that might be a good way to go as then it ends with an upbeat tone. Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 0:07
  • Luke learns that Vader is his father in Episode V, so according to your suggested viewing order, you will learn this "big surprise" before starting to watch any of the prequels.
    – Bernard
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 2:19
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    If you watch the prequels first you will learn that Vader is Luke's father before you see Ep V, thus spoiling the shock of discovery along with Luke. Here - read this article which started the whole trend (although I dispute the exclusion of Ep1) to understand why this order works the best. nomachetejuggling.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/2011/…
    – Nobby
    Commented Apr 23, 2012 at 4:12
  • @PeterGrill if 'order of filming' had any influence on how a story is presented, modern film would be very different.
    – Gusdor
    Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 9:03
  • @Gusdor: My comment was not about order of filimg but order or release (and for the case of Star Wars they are the same). The story lines were developed as such and should be viewed in that order. Nobby's recommendaion is not a bad alternative as you will get the reveal in EPV and see the foreshadowing in the prequels. Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 12:10
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I recently rewatched it in the order IV, (I, II), V, (III), VI (prequels bracketed for clarity), which I first saw proposed in this related answer. Now I can't personally speak about the impressions of a "newcomer" or if it's the "best" order possible, but it certainly has its advantages and is at least worth mentioning.

  • It includes all the live-action films of the official Star Wars movie series, which has always been at the core of the whole Star Wars franchise. While many people don't like the prequels that much compared to the original trilogy, we're not here to debate about the individual movies' quality, but to watch Star Wars! And while the reasoning about I's story-wise irrelevance that is behind "Machete Order" is not that untrue, I for myself would not regard an order that leaves out a film from the official live-action movie series a complete viewing.

  • It provides a nice varying mixture of originals and prequels. Decide for yourself if that is a good thing or not. But this is an order that provides the most variety between old and new (from the few reasonable orders at least). While it is similar in its intent of giving a kind of flashback, as the order provided in Nobby's answer (or the "Machete Order" derived from that), it drives this even further and spreads the flashbacks a bit more. And this way it might even be better at highlighting the "mirroring games that George Lucas was playing in the prequels" as described in Richard's answer.

  • From a "spoiler" viewpoint of discovering the story unbenknownst to its outcome, it might actually be the best order. Neither is the original trilogy "spoiled" by the prequels, nor do the originals make revelations about the prequels, at least as far as possible. While I can't support that view myself, there are people who generally consider prequels less worth simply because of the fact that you already know how characters end up. This order tries to avoid that feeling as much as possible, even if it might not have been what Mr. Lucas intended.

    Now first of all, it doesn't destroy the big reveal in V about

    Vader being Luke's father. If you really think about it, while II does already show Anakin as a little bit troubled, it is not until III that we see his ultimate moral demise (and if you wouldn't know, you'd never assume that family connection anyway).

    But in the same way that we don't know this truth before V, while watching I and II we also don't know that Anakin, one of the main heroes,

    ends up as the ultimate bad guy either. All we do is wait for that Vader guy to betray and kill our beloved Anakin.

    And even more than that, the emperor isn't "spoiled" either. It is not until the very last scene of II (if at all) that we start to realize

    that Palpatine might actually be behind all those evil schemes.

    And in the same way, it is not until the following V that you even learn about this cloaked emperor guy still existing in the originals, too.

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The Vulture website has aggregated the suggested viewing orders from a range of people involved in the original, prequel and new trilogies

George Lucas (I, II, III, IV, V, VI): “Start with one. 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.”

Daisy Ridley (I, II, III, IV, V, VI): "I would say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, because for a young person it's easier to understand the chronology."

John Boyega (?): "I would say whatever you want! Watch 3, 6, 2, 1 — do whatever you want to do so long as you experience it a very unique way and enjoy it."

Mark Ruffalo (IV, V, VI, I, II, III): "From the first one made to the most recent. Straight through. They just build up nicely that way. That’s the way I saw it, and I’m a little bit of a throwback."

Aaron Paul (IV, V, VI, I, II, III): "You start with the original Star Wars movie. There is no other way. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Or maybe it’s not even that. I have no idea why I feel this way, but you should watch them in the order they were released."

They also offered the advice of a professional movie critic

Matt Zoller Seitz, critic (IV, V, I, II, III, VI): "The Godfather, Part II order. This is the order my wife came up with back in 2005. We were discussing the right order in which to show the movies to our kids, and we agreed that Darth Vader's reveal was such a big deal that it would be a shame to ruin it by showing the episodes in numerical order. She was a big fan of The Godfather, Part II, which flashes back and forth between Michael Corleone in 1959 and his father Vito as a young man in the late 19th and early 20th centuries."

"In this order, you start with A New Hope and continue through Empire, which of course ends with Vader dropping that huge plot bomb on Luke. Then you "flash back" to The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and then Revenge of the Sith to show how Anakin became Darth Vader. Then you finish with Return of the Jedi, where Luke tries to pull his father back from the Dark Side and at least partially redeem him, restoring balance to the Force in the process. We actually watched the films this way, and it really worked.

"Not only did it magnify the impact of the throne-room scenes in Jedi, it made it much easier to see the mirroring games that George Lucas was playing in the prequels, making The Phantom Menace a rhyme of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back with Attack of the Clones (right down to the sad cliff-hanger ending), and Jedi the answer to Sith, following right on its armored heels."

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In chronological order, they are:

The Prequels

  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The Original Trilogy

  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

As for optimum, no one can tell you that since we don't know what the new movie will be about.

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  • So is it enough to watch these 6 movies get whole idea? or are these the whole movie list?
    – inckka
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 5:50
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    @inckka - That's all of them. There are books, comics, games and a couple of TV shows, but the main story is told through the movies. Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 5:52
  • Really, for the purposes of the latest film, IV through VI should suffice. I suspect there could be references to I through III, but the main focus for The Force Awakens will involve characters from IV through VI.
    – MattD
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 14:41
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    @inckka, yes, if you're only interested in blatant Rebel propaganda. Extended universe - i.e. books/comics and games will help to understand much more details. Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 14:44
  • Now that we know what the new movie is about, might you want to update the answer? Commented Jan 1, 2016 at 1:39
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I would suggest watching them in the order they were made IV, V, VI, I, II, III and then make your own mind up whether to watch The Clone Wars film or not (I think it depends on how much you enjoyed the prequel trilogy).

I usually skip I and II, though when I watch them through occasionally I may watch parts of Episode I such as the Darth Maul fight but I can't stand Episode II for me despite it setting up the Clone Wars crisis and the origin of the Clones, I find the whole Anakin plot line tedious in that film but it really depends on what you feel is best. If you're watching it with your kids you might want to start with the prequels as they are more on a children's level, well the first two anyway particularly having Jar Jar in the first one prominently.

But if it's just you wanting to watch them I definitely recommend watching them in order of creation, the whole setup in Episode IV is brilliant when you haven't got the prequel explanations as the characters (Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader) have much more mystery surrounding them and the whole feud between Jedi and Sith plays out much better in my opinion through the original trilogy.

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George Lucas says you should watch them in the numbered order: I, II, III, IV, V, VI

The creator of Star Wars has stated that the correct viewing order for the original trilogy and prequel trilogy is the numbered order, not the release order, and that watching the films in any other order will result in you failing to get the full impact of the narrative experience that he intended.

"What you've got to remember is that this is one movie. And it's meant to be watched one through six. So I think when you watch the actual movie in order, the story will become very clear."

Featurette: The Chosen One

and

"When you see the films 1-6, it's a very different experience then when you watch the films 4 through 6, then 1 through to 3, but the idea that when Darth Vader comes on in Episode 4 it suddenly has a huge powerful effect because you know that, right from the get-go that that's Prince Leia's father. You know that when you cut down to Luke that that's his son and you realise that Darth Vader is this pathetic character, he's not this big, all-powerful monster. He's actually a pathetic man who made some wrong choices, who found himself trapped in the world of evil, that he made a bargain with the Devil and now he living in Hell, and the only people who can get him out are his kids"

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    Same quote and source as this previous answer and very little extra, nothing new.
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 20:15
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    @OldPadawan - The Info from the 'Chosen One' featurette isn't in the answer by the devilishly handsome User7812.
    – Valorum
    Commented Dec 10, 2023 at 20:18
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    I felt that this answer is worthy of an upvote, and it's also an honor to cast the vote that puts you at 10k. Well deserved. Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 2:31

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