Complete Watch Order Guide to the ‘Star Wars’ Franchise

Complete Watch Order Guide to the ‘Star Wars’ Franchise

For the first time in decades, we can watch the whole Star Wars franchise all in one place. But this great cosmological occurrence comes with its own set of challenges.

What is the best order of watching the thousands of hours of entertainment that is the Star Wars saga? Far be it for me to choose your path through this forest. Walk at your pace and path, as it comes before you.

In fact, I am here to do just the opposite. I will share with y’all the most popular orders of watching Star Wars. Basically, enlist the most beaten paths.

We will start with the four most popular watch orders, which are the traditional Release, classic Chronological, romantic Rinster, and maverick Machete.

Since it is 2020, over four decades since it all began with Star Wars: A New Hope, the newer fans may want to take a timesaver route through, so there are some shortcuts for them.

Then we will discuss the question of spin-offs and where they fit in with the central nine-part canon films.

Finally, I will also share my own unique Star Wars journey. It will be updated with time, considering I am far from done with the ways of the Force!

But this shall be done to inspire you, the reader, to find your own way and find your own special connection with the Force!

1. Why the Release Order Is the Best for Your First Time

If you are introducing your kid or any other newbie to Star Wars, the Release Order may be your safest bet. This is the most popular one for a reason—it was the first. A majority of Star Wars fans have experienced the Lukewalker Saga as and when it was released in the theaters.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope | Source: IMDb

So they obviously want the newbies to experience them the same way!

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Now, another argument in favor of this Order is that it reserves most of the big reveals of the original trilogy, like the iconic scene when Luke is told that Vader is actually his father. So, in a way, the Release Order is like the traditional way of doing things. However, if you have not been living under a rock all these years, you would know every such Star Wars secret already.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker | Final Trailer

With time, this order has been rejected by many Star Wars fanatics themselves.

Add to that the short attention span of the younger fans who just can’t remember which episode came first, Episode IV or Episode V or Episode I? I still get confused sometimes myself.

2. Why the Chronological Order Will Always Be Classic

Here’s why the Chronological Order of watching Star Wars will always be classic. While Star Wars purists may want you to follow the release order, series creator George Lucas will prefer if you did it by the in-movie chronology instead. Especially because Lucas has made quite a few tweaks to the original trilogy after the prequels were released.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars Episode IV : A New Hope | Source: IMDb
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • 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)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Since the Chronological Order takes us into Lucas’ mind, it has been termed the Lucas Order. It is also referred to as the Numerical Order since it follows the nine films by the numbers they were given.

Yes, the whole Anakin-is-Vader-and-is-also-Luke’s-father mystery is known beforehand in this order.

But the basic difference between the Release Order and the Lucas Order is that the former is the story of Luke Skywalker, while the latter seems to have Anakin at the center of the Saga.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: Episode IX | Source: IMDb

We follow Anakin from the time he is but an innocent, talented slave boy from The Phantom Menace. Long before he becomes Darth Vader or even turns to the Dark side or loses his right arm. He is the hero of the series whose legacy is continued by Luke and Rey in the stories to come.

On the other hand, the release order follows Luke Skywalker as he realizes the truth of his past, the secret of his birth, and his destiny as the child of the Chosen One.

However, the fact remains that it is Anakin and not Luke who was the Chosen One, the one supposed to restore balance in the galaxy.

3. The Rinster or Godfather Order Is for the Romantics

Coming to the next Order, which was actually created by a Star Wars fan and is fairly popular in the community. The Rinster Order attempts to make the best of both Chronological and Rinster Orders. It is easily the most romantic way of watching Star Wars.

Created by superfan Ernest Rinster, the Rinster Order breaks the original trilogy after the second film, butts in the whole prequel trilogy, to be followed by Return of the Jedi.

This allows us to retain the original introduction to the Star Wars experience and also the big reveal of Vader telling Luke, “Thou art my child.”

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: Episode II | Source: IMDb

This is then followed by Vader’s story of how he came to be when Anakin turned to the Dark side before returning back to the original trilogy with Luke defeating Vader and ending with Anakin’s redemption.

Since this particular order follows that of the classic gangster movie The Godfather Part II with a flashback and everything, it is also called the Godfather Order.

The downside? It completely ignores the newer sequel trilogy and cannot think of anything creative for Kylo Ren and Rey’s stories.

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

4. The Machete Order

Moving on to the Order that I personally despise the most for its sheer audacity of removing an entire film from the Star Wars experience.

The Machete Order simply asks you to skip Anakin’s childhood story, from Episode I: The Phantom Menace, since it does not contribute much to the bigger picture.

Firstly, Mr. Machete of nomachetejuggling.com, who first came up with this absurd idea, cannot be a diehard Star Wars fan since he wants to skip on details of such an important character.

Potterheads still read The Order of the Phoenix, even if it bores them to death with its slow pace and boring plot.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: Episode VII | Source: IMDb

Game of Thrones fans would still watch the last season for closure, however badly made it may have been.

So, skipping any part of the core canon to improve the experience is just absurd to me.

However, it seems that many fans agree with him, especially those who found The Phantom Menace a tad boring.

Mr Machete, or superfan Rod Hilton, basically thinks that The Phantom Menace did not add much to the bigger story of the galaxy.

The Midi-chlorians, Qui-Gon Jinn, podracing, and long bureaucratic debates were all plot points which ended with Episode I.

However, personally, I would sit through the whole movie if just for Jake Lloyd, the child actor who played nine-year-old Anakin.

His restlessness, brilliance, and unabashed proximity to danger are but the foundation on which the complex character of Darth Vader is built.

A fatherless outsider who is taken away from his mother at a tender age to train for one of the Galaxy’s toughest combat groups—a lot happens in this first episode than Mr. Machete and his followers give the film credit for.

Sure, it may not have the original trilogy’s lightsaber duels and space dogfights. But chronologically speaking, Anakin is from a different era and the story only reflects that.

The Machete Order also swears by the whole Rinster logic and just wants baby Anakin out of the picture. So the Machete Order is basically the Rinster Order but without The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Captain Phasma | Source: IMDb
  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

5. If You Only Want to See One Star Wars Movie

Now coming to my favorite part of this blog. The following orders are for all you visitors to the Star Wars universe who are passing by and just want to know what the hoo-ha is about.

You might be looking to watch just one of the gazillion films. Choose one from the list below.

i. For a General Idea of Star Wars

If there was just one movie you could watch, it has to be the Yoda movie—Episode V: Empire Strikes Back.

It is not the first film, neither of the original trilogy nor of the overall saga. It is the second film to come out of the Star Wars universe and is known to be one of the best sequels of all time.

It can tell you everything you need to know about Star Wars without having to invest 25 whole hours—yep, that is the total time it takes to watch everything.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Oxixo | Source: IMDb

It has Yoda, the trio of Luke-Leia-Han, lightsabers, and Darth Vader.

ii. Star Wars for Psychology Buffs

Hear ye, psychology majors and enthusiasts! Star Wars has more to offer than just a take on world mythologies. (If you didn’t know, George Lucas was a Joseph Campbell fan—the man behind Historical Atlas of World Mythology.)

Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One, is single-handedly the best case study in chronic psychological disorders that pop culture has ever seen in years.

He is talented, a genius and a Force prodigy. He is also brimming with fear, afraid of losing the people close to him. Yoda warns against teaching the ways of the Jedi to Anakin when he is just nine years old.

In the second episode, the teenage Anakin is haughty and showing clear signs of playing with danger when flying the pods. His master Obi-Wan Kenobi is scared to death every time he rides pillion with Anakin.

The movie sees Anakin ravaging a tribal hamlet whose residents had tortured and killed his mother, followed by him losing his right arm in a duel with Sith. The movie ends with Anakin marrying Senator Padmé illegally since marriages are forbidden for Jedi Knights.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars : Episode III | Source: IMDb

By just watching Episode II: Attack of the Clones, you may miss out on seeing Anakin’s childhood and jump to Hayden Christensen’s arrogant teenage version. But it will still be enough to give you an idea of the complex nature of one of the greatest villains of all time.

Also, I think you will want to go back to Episode I for his childhood and Episode V for when Anakin becomes Darth Vader after this one. It is a trap, obviously.

iii. For Ahsoka fans

Clone Wars is easily the best option for all you Ahsoka fans out there. Random articles on the internet quietly nudging you towards Ahsoka Tano, one of the most powerful Jedi of all time, can finally end with this one film.

Again, you might just end up watching the whole The Clone Wars series, but you will know everything cool about Ahsoka with this one film.

6. How to Watch the Star Wars Spinoffs

i. The Lee Order

This comes from Luke Skywalker himself. Yep, Mark Hamil swears by this order if you are watching both the spinoffs and the canon films.

We start with the original trilogy because this one, too, believes that it is the emotional core of the Star Wars saga.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: Squadrons | Source: IMDb

It follows the Rinster Order and places the Prequel Trilogy in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. But it also adds Rogue One in between and places Solo at the end.

Putting Rogue One after Revenge of the Sith works as a break from Anakin/Vader history before we return to the end of the Original Trilogy.

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

ii. General Spinoff Advice

With the events of the spinoffs Rogue One and Solo happening between Episode III and Episode IV, one could argue that watching them after Revenge of the Sith makes sense.

However, that could ruin the momentum of the series (unless you are watching in release order, where Rogue One comes after The Force Awakens anyway).

Thus, some say they should be seen between Episode VI and Episode VII, thus offering some respite from the Skywalker saga before cracking on with The Force Awakens.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: The Force Awakens | Source: Fandom

This also makes sense considering that The Force Awakens rolls straight into The Last Jedi, meaning you probably don’t want to stop for Rogue One.

Meanwhile, as for The Mandalorian, it is its own thing, so you can watch it whenever. (Just remember it happens after Return of the Jedi, but before The Force Awakens.) The same goes for Ahsoka’s Clone Wars too.

7. The Complete Star Wars Saga

Coming to those who are brave enough to watch it all, here’s the entire Star Wars saga and limited specials in chronological order.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars : The Mandalorian | Source: IMDb
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles (2013-2014)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace (2011)
  • The Clone Wars (2008-2014)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Solo (2018)
  • Star Wars Rebels (2014-2018)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Star Wars: Droids (1985-1986)
  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Star Wars: Holiday Special (1978)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (2012)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures (2016-2017)
  • Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)
  • Ewoks (1985-1986)
  • The Mandalorian (2019-Present)
  • Star Wars: Resistance (2018-Present)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises (2016)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2016)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
  • Star Wars: Forces of Destiny (2017-2018)

8. How Long Does Watching Star Wars Take?

So just the 11 live-action Star Wars films (original versions) will take you 25 hours and 7 minutes to watch. This count includes the nine installments from the Skywalker saga and the two anthology films, Rogue One and Solo.

Excluding the anthology films, Episode I to Episode IX will take you 20 hours and 39 minutes to watch.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker | Source: IMDb

Here are the run times of all the Star Wars movies, from the shortest to the longest.

  • A New Hope – 121 minutes
  • The Empire Strikes Back — 124 minutes
  • Return of the Jedi — 131 minutes
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — 133 minutes
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story — 135 minutes
  • The Phantom Menace — 136 minutes
  • The Force Awakens — 138 minutes
  • Revenge of the Sith — 140 minutes
  • Attack of the Clones — 142 minutes
  • The Last Jedi — 152 minutes
  • The Rise of Skywalker – 155 minutes

9. Where Can You Watch Star Wars Movies?

If you have NOW TV, you can watch the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI), the prequels (Episodes I-III) and Solo on the streaming service.

As for Rogue One, Episode VII, and Episode VIII, they are only available to buy from the usual channels—Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Anakin Skywalker | Source: IMDb

Now that Disney+ has launched in the UK, you can watch all the films, including The Rise of Skywalker. On Amazon Prime Video, the films range in price.

10. The Soumya Order

So my very first Star Wars film was Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I accidentally started my Star Wars journey with the final trilogy. (I would now advise against it since there are a lot of original trilogy references in the sequel trilogy.)

I did not understand a lot of the canon stuff but decided to stick to the trilogy and saw Episodes VIII & IX as and when they came out in the theatres. I fell in love with the Rey-Kylo dyad for the complex story and the greys in which they operate. I also absolutely hated Luke Skywalker for some reason! (Yeah, watching the sequel trilogy first can do that to you.)

Around this time, Rey had become a personal heroine, which led me to the original Star Wars heroine, Ahsoka Tano. Enter Star Wars: The Clone Wars and I fell in love with Anakin and Ahsoka’s partnership. Maverick Jedi Knight Anakin and his secret Padawan Ahsoka Tano! Alas, I could only watch Clone Wars till season 5, because the series was prematurely canceled.

Star Wars Complete Watch Order
Star Wars: The Clone Wars | Source: IMDb

I was not done with Anakin just yet and decided to nurture my fledgling obsession with Anakin. So, I dived into his childhood with The Phantom Menace, cried with him throughout Attack of the Clones, and mainly at its end, when Padme holds his robotic arm at their wedding.

But since I was not yet ready to see Anakin turn into the monster that he becomes, I went in search of Yoda for some perspective. I finished the Original Trilogy, Star Wars Rebels, and Clone Wars season 6. All this, so I could be ready for the moment Anakin turns into Vader in Revenge of the Sith. But watching Anakin’s murderous red eyes as he killed Force-sensitive children was still pretty heartbreaking. And so it went.

11. About Star Wars

Star Wars is an American epic space opera media franchise created by George Lucas, which began with the 1977 film Star Wars: A New Hope and quickly became a worldwide pop-culture phenomenon.

It has three trilogies at its core – Original, Prequel, and Sequel, spread across five decades and interspersed with at least a dozen spin-off series and films.

Created by George Lucas and his Lucasfilm, the franchise is currently under the Disney umbrella. All the Star Wars films and shows are now available to binge on Disney+ streaming service.