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How to watch the Star Wars movies in order – here are 7 options, including chronological

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker available worldwide, the total number of live-action Star Wars movies now stands at 11 (including two major spin-offs, Rogue One and Solo). That's a whole lot of Star Wars to consume, and a lot of people are wondering how to watch the Star Wars movies in order?

For those people new to the franchise, deciding what order to watch these movies in is a daunting task. Do you watch them in release order, starting with Episode 4: A New Hope? Or do you simply watch them numerically, as George Lucas intended? What about those "Star Wars Story" spin-offs? Well, look no further, as we delve into how to watch the Star Wars movies in order.

First, before we get started, we should note that there are multiple versions of each Star Wars movie available today, including the newly minted Disney Plus versions. Plus, there are multiple fan edits, such as the ‘anti-cheese edition’ of the prequel trilogy which attempts to remove Jar-Jar Binks from existence. Below, we are only discussing the Disney Plus versions which are seemingly George Lucas's definite editions (for now, at least).

Second, we're only counting the major,live-action releases. That means no Star Wars: The Clone Wars, or those infamous Christmas specials. And we haven't included The Mandalorian TV show, as that just overcomplicates things. So, without further ado, here's how to watch the Star Wars movies in order.

Fancy watching all the Star Wars movies right now? Then grab a Disney Plus subscription and get streaming!

Chronological order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Ever had this discussion? 

Person A: "I like the first Star Wars." 

Person B: "Which first one? The first one, or the first first one?" 

While the original movie from 1977 was originally titled simply "Star Wars", it was later amended to be known as Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope. As a result, the order in which the films were released is not the order in which the events depicted in the galaxy far, far away happen. Watching the movies in episodic order lines the films up chronologically and, as it happens, is series creator George Lucas's preferred watching order. And who are we to argue with the man who created Jedi, The Force, and Luke Skywalker?

  • Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 
  • Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Star Wars: Episode 4 – A New Hope
  • Star Wars: Episode 5 – The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars: Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi
  • Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens
  • Star Wars: Episode 8 – The Last Jedi
  • Star Wars: Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: Arguably the simplest and most straight forward way to watch the movies. There are no flashbacks and nothing to confuse the uninitiated. Plus, with the spin-offs included, you get that seamless transition from Rogue One into A New Hope.

Cons: You start with the prequels, which are almost universally seen as the worst Star Wars movies. The Phantom Menace, which includes a lot of Jar Jar Binks, could put some viewers off watching the rest of the series. Watching the prequels first also dates the later movies, as the CGI can contrast with the practical effects of the original trilogy.

Release order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Also a relatively simple way to watch the movies – starting with the one that reached cinemas first and ending with the last one in cinemas. There's no real work on the part of the marathon watchers here.

  • A New Hope
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • The Force Awakens
  • Rogue One
  • The Last Jedi
  • Solo
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: Watching the movies in release order gives you a few advantages over chronological order. That Darth Vader twist, for instance, is not ruined by the prequels, which reveal a certain young man's fate. And, depending on your age, this might be how you first saw the saga, potentially giving this order an extra dose of nostalgia.

Cons: This order includes multiple time jumps – skipping around from original trilogy, to prequel, to sequel, to spin-off, back to sequel – and can therefore be quite confusing for newcomers. Of course, you can just skip the spin-offs, and just watch the main saga in release order, which would probably be our recommendation. 

Ernst Rister order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Named after the Star Wars forum poster who proposed it, the Ernst Rister order treats the prequel trilogy as an extended flashback sequence detailing the rise of Darth Vader. That means that all important Vader twist is preserved and arguably heightened by the following flashbacks. 

  • A New Hope
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Last Jedi
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: This order keeps the saga focused on Luke, making it far more digestible than many others and the mystery around Vader is kept in tact. There's also a decent amount of time that passes between Empire and Return, meaning that spending some time away from the original trilogy doesn't feel too jarring. Plus, you start with the original movie – one of the greatest movies of all time.

Cons: There's not really a good place to watch the spin-offs within this order, though many people elect to watch Rogue One and Solo after Return of the Jedi and before the sequel trilogy (there's also another option, but more on that below). Plus, the momentum of the original trilogy is somewhat lost when you add in a couple of hours to watch the prequels. Something that's slightly helped by...

Machete order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Star Wars fan and software developer Rod Hilton proposed the machete order back in 2011. Yes, it's almost identical to the Ernst Rister order. However, the Machete order removes The Phantom Menace all together. Why? Because many fans really, really dislike Episode 1.

  • A New Hope
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Last Jedi
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: All the pros of the Ernst Rister order and with even less Jar-Jar Binx.

Cons: Again, all the cons of the Ernst Rister order, plus you do still need to know what happens in The Phantom Menace, as a couple of events are mentioned again (including midi-chlorians, which are brought up again). You also miss out on the incredible lightsabre battle known as the Duel of the Fates. 

Flashback order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Much like how the Ernst Rister order, but this time with space to slot in those prequels. The flashback order uses Solo and Rogue One to give context to A New Hope, and the prequels to give extra context to Luke's relationship with Vader.

  • A New Hope
  • Solo
  • Rogue One
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Last Jedi
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: You fit in the spin-offs.... 

Cons: ...however, their placement breaks up the original trilogy ever more than Rister's order. Jumping back and forth across the timeline might be fine for those well-versed in Star Wars, but can also be very confusing. Flashbacks work best when used sparingly, and this order relies heavily on them.

Alternating order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

"It's like poetry, they rhyme."

Those are the famous words of George Lucas, who pointed out while working on Phantom Menace that he intended on certain thematic undercurrents to repeat themselves throughout multiple trilogies. This order, though highly unconventional, highlights those. In short, you watch the three 'part ones' in a row, then the three 'part twos', then two 'part threes' (at least, until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker arrives).

  • A New Hope
  • The Phantom Menace
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Attack of the Clones
  • The Last Jedi
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: Should you be one of those fans who can recite every word of every Star Wars film, this method of watching can shine a light on some of the less-appreciated subtleties present throughout the series. If you consider yourself more interested in how film technology has evolved over the years rather than the actual plot, it's fascinating.

Cons: This order is not for the uninitiated. The story becomes an absolute mess when viewed this way, and it's less about plot than it is the production and cinematography.

Obi-Wan order

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Rather than putting Luke Skywalker front-and-centre, this order refocuses the story onto Obi-Wan Kenobi, relying on Ewan McGregor's performance to carry your enjoyment through the prequels. Flashing back to his journey after Luke destroys the Death Star shows how he became the wise old man we meet on the sands of Tatooine. Instead of a standard hero's journey from nobody to champion, Star Wars becomes a tale of an established hero passing the torch.

  • A New Hope
  • The Phantom Menace
  • Attack of the Clones
  • Revenge of the Sith
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Return of the Jedi
  • The Force Awakens
  • The Last Jedi
  • The Rise of Skywalker

Pros: It's certainly a unique take on the Star Wars saga – most people would say that Luke or Anakin are the real heroes, but this order argues otherwise. If you feel like seeing a galaxy far, far away through someone else's eyes, try this. Plus the prequels get a new lease of life when the story is seemingly about Kenobi.

Cons: Surprisingly few. Really, the biggest downside is that the Darth Vader twist is spoilt. However, until the Obi-One series hits Disney Plus, we won't know how that quite fits into this all.

Need more Star Wars in your life? Then why not read about all the upcoming Star Wars movies coming to cinemas