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Star Wars Saga Viewing Order

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

In the past few weeks, I’ve had a few people ask me what order to watch the Star Wars movies in.  I’ve thought about the different options for a while now, and I think I’ve come to a decision.  There are two main options, plus one that may seem pretty radical.

SPOILERS FOR THE STAR WARS MOVIES (not like you wouldn’t know them anyway)

Option 1: Numerical (Episode) Order

This would seem to be the way Lucas wants you to see them: starting at the beginning.  However in my opinion, there are several flaws with this idea.  One being that it seems like the prequels weren’t written with this in mind at all.  There is no introduction to the galaxy or the Force in Episode I (which there is in Episode IV), it just goes by the assumption that everyone knows all this.  Also, there are several jokes/references to the Original Trilogy that one simply wouldn’t get watching them in order.  The big deal, at least for me, is that the Prequels spoil all of the surprises one might have watching the Original Trilogy (who is Yoda, is Vader really Luke’s dad, siblings?).  Watching them in numerical order ruins some of the best parts of the Saga.

Also, starting a new viewer off with Episode I probably isn’t the best idea quality-wise.  One really should start with the universally acknowledged “good” movies before getting into the, at the very least debatable, “new” movies.  Which leads us to:

Option 2: Release Order

As I just said, its probably better starting off with the good ones before going back to the Prequels.  Doing this also eliminates the effects jump you get going from a movie made in 2005 to one made in 1977.  This is the most logical order to watch them.  But I found a radically new order:

Option 3: 4-5-1-2-3-6

That’s right.  Probably the best order for a brand-new watcher of Star Wars is the following:

Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

A user named “cap” on the Star Wars board I’m on proposed this. At first, I scoffed.  But then I realized how good of an idea this is.

Think about it.  You start off with the two best movies, the one that introduces the galaxy and the one that has all of the surprises.  Then, when you’re wondering if Vader is telling the truth about his fatherhood, you go back and watch what happened to Anakin Skywalker.  This also brings the “Redemption of Anakin” arc closer together instead of having a two movie gap where Anakin is barely mentioned (IV and V).  The same with “Palpatine’s Rise to Power”.  The order also spaces apart the Death Star attacks, “bookending” the series, as cap put it.  You feel for the celebration more, as you’re more invested in the galaxy after watching all of the movies before VI than after just watching IV and V.  Perhaps the best part is watching them 4-5-1-2-3-6 is that RotJ’s drastic drop in quality from ESB is lessened by having the entire Prequel Trilogy separating them.  It also makes ESB’s cliffhanger ending a cliffhanger again, as you haven’t seen any of the Original characters for 3 movies!

It seems weird, but the more I think about it, the more I like it.  Read the post I already linked to for some more in-depth analysis of this idea.

Let me know what you think!

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  1. December 17, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I’m kind of like you, at first I thought it was weird, but the more I think about it, I totally agree! next time I have a star wars marathon, I’ll give it a try. thanks for the suggestion!!!

  2. RoccondilRinon
    July 22, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    Similar idea here, sort of inspired by how InfoDroid and TJ Davis were re-editing the movies. My preference was to watch 1-4-2-5-3-6, alternating trilogies. You do get the Yoda spoiler, but you don’t get the major one. (Which everyone knows anyway, but it’s still important dramatically.) You also do get dropped straight into the action with episode I, before the slower-paced first half of episode IV takes the time to explain some of what you just saw.

    On the subject of spoilers, I think both of ESB’s big reveals still have the same level of drama whether you’ve watched the prequels already or not. The Yoda one becomes “oh crap, Yoda’s gone senile, Luke can never be a Jedi now” and Vader’s revelation is still a great dog-kicking moment.

  3. July 4, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Been thinking about this because I am planning to show the films to my five year old son at some point and want it to have as much impact as possible.

    I had been thinking about 1, 2, 4, 5, 3, 6, as a proposed order. You get the initial Anakin backstory prior to his downfall, then Luke’s heritage, up to the moment that you find out that Anakin actually became Darth Vader, then you see Anakin’s downfall and finally, redemption.

    However, the more I think about it, the more I realise you lose other aspects that you mention such as the Yoda twist, though RoccondilRir above makes a good point – it actually changes the scene in some ways and makes you wonder if Yoda is still as powerful as he once was, until you realise, yes, he is.

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