Star Wars is not just a series of films, but a whole emotion for millions of fans. But what I always found a strange thing about this franchise is that George Lucas actually began the series in the middle, with Episode IV!
It’s true. The first Star Wars movie to ever release was called Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The film released back in 1977, after which there was no looking back. Lucas was actually dead sure that his film would bomb at the box office, but history proved him wrong and we all know the results.
But Lucas still had his elaborate plans of creating an entire world, so he kept all options open, just in case he hits the target.
Lucas began the Star Wars franchise with Episode 4 as it was the best point to begin his epic story in terms of storytelling and technique. He also wanted to garner curiosity about the new world, which later enabled him to make the prequels. Though, the best way to watch Star Wars is the classic release order.
Why Did Star Wars Begin with Episode 4?
George Lucas took a huge step back in 1977 by making a science-fiction movie with such a concept. His original idea was a single epic story, which was too long to be made into one film. He knew that he had to begin somewhere, to introduce the idea.
To make things shorter and less complicated, Lucas broke his story into three parts. The first part became A New Hope. After the massive success of the film, it was followed by two more parts: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi which released in 1980 and 1983 respectively.
This is the reason why the first three films to release have a natural flow to them and work pretty well as inter-connected sequels. They were written as a single, epic story.
Lucas was pretty sure that his film would be a failure at the box office, so much so that he was hiding in Hawaii after its release. It is then that he learnt that it was a hit. Since he was so uncertain about the future of the franchise, it made sense that he began at a place which he thought would attract the audience.
Lucas also had an entire backstory planned for the franchise, which eventually became the prequels. He also had many ideas about how the story would continue. He kept plotting ideas for a Star Wars sequel, different from Disney’s original one.
But before he could tell his epic story, he had to choose a starting point that would draw his audience. So, Lucas took the decision to start at a point that could establish his universe well, before he could build onto it.
From the point of view of storytelling, Episode IV’s storyline perhaps seemed a better way to introduce the audience into the world of Star Wars. The starting point had little context of the world, with references to the Clone Wars.
This worked in favor of the franchise, as it garnered more interest and it became necessary for the prequels to be made in order to explain the original films.
Though Lucas was not sure of how the rest of the movies would span out and whether it would span out at all, it seems like somewhere he had a hope (a new hope, to be precise!) that his film would be part of a longer saga. So, he included various open threads and references that could later be picked up to weave into the larger tale.
Lucas wanted to keep his options open at that stage, so he chose a point in his story which would introduce his world to the audience. From there, the worldbuilding could proceed as per his original story.
When the first film was in production, Lucas intended it to be the sixth instalment in the series. His original plan was to make a prelude, followed by three movies focusing on the Clone Wars and conclude with the events leading to the main trilogy of IV,V and VI.
Later, the prequel story was shortened down into a trilogy to add context to the original trilogy. Nevertheless, Lucas’ plan worked out well and his universe expanded way beyond he originally intended it to, creating a legacy spanning several decades.
What is the Best Order to Watch Star Wars?
Now that I’ve successfully confused you, there’s just one question left to be explained: How exactly do we watch the movies?
If you’re an OG fan, then there’s nothing I need to teach you. But if you’re new, or just want to rewatch Star Wars once again, you’re at the right place. Lucas may have intended his story to build up a certain way, but we’re going to stick to the order most convenient for us.
Before we jump in, I got to clarify that I am talking about the Star Wars movies only in this case. The franchise has a number of TV shows and web series, along with animated films and spin-offs which have expanded the brand over the years.
But there’s nothing like the classic Star Wars series of films, which is what we’ll focus on for now.
The best order to follow while watching Star Wars is going by the classic release order, so you get to experience the story building and get introduced to the world like everyone else. The release order basically means watching the film in order of its release date.
So, you begin with A New Hope, the first Star Wars movie to ever release. This is how the release order looks like:
- 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)
- Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
- Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
The release order is the best choice for beginners and those who want to begin a proper rewatch. Unless you’re a fan already or know the story pretty well, it is actually a good idea to avoid the other popular watch orders, including the chronological order and machete order.
Another advantage is that the CGI becomes better and better with every film and you experience the story the way George Lucas intended you to as a first timer. You also get to see how the films changed over time.
However, if you’re a veteran Star Wars fan, the chronological order or the machete order would be a fun experiment to venture into.
The chronological order would mean watching the three prequels first (Episode I, II and III), followed by the original trilogy comprising Episodes IV,V and VI and finally the three sequels – Episodes VII, VIII and IX.
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
The biggest disadvantage of the chronological order, and also the reason why it is not recommended for beginners, is that it messes up the Darth Vader reveal from the original movies. So, go for it only if you’re already familiar with the films.
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.