The Star Wars franchise is a significantly successful movie franchise and is currently the third highest-grossing movie franchise of all time, only behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Spider-Man. With its profound popularity, it has become a household name that anyone may have heard of at some point in their lives. It has also inspired several games and merchandise thanks to its popularity. As such, watching a huge series like Star Wars can be daunting for those who want to try it out for the first time. There are a lot of Star Wars movies and a lot of possible orders that the franchise can be watched in.
This article will present the best order to watch the main shows of the Star Wars franchise with the smoothest possible plot continuity experience. It is important to note that this list will only contain the nine main movies and the animated series The Clone Wars. Other movies such as Rogue One and Solo are regarded as standalone projects; while they add context to the overall plot, their absence from the watch order does not detract from the overall viewing experience.
1. The Phantom Menace
The Phantom Menace is the first episode of the Prequel Trilogy. It introduced most of the main characters and showed their origin stories. It is the best movie to start with, especially since it contains a lot of context for character relationships and dynamics.
2. Attack of the Clones
In terms of character and plot development, the ideal second movie to watch is Attack of the Clones. It showed the Galactic Order descending further and further to a civil war. It also introduced a love story on the table — Anakin and Padmé’s — which would prove important later.
3. The Clone Wars
The Clone Wars is an animated series, as opposed to the movies in this list. This series focuses on the eponymous event that commenced by the end of Attack of the Clones. It has been the bridge between Episode II and Episode III.
The series showcased the wars in which it was named after in detail. It also provided some character development arcs that would have been surprising in Revenge of the Sith. An example of this was a premonition to Anakin that he would turn to the dark side, though he would forget it.
4. Revenge of the Sith
The next Star Wars entry to watch in chronological order is Revenge of the Sith. The movie provides adequate context about Darth Vader‘s most iconic line. In A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke Skywalker that his father was killed by Vader, a story Skywalker believed. Perhaps that was the narrative the audience also believed starting in A New Hope since that episode was released first. Without going into spoilers, Revenge of Sith introduces story threads that will be further explored in the franchise; as such, watching Revenge of the Sith before A New Hope is better for those who want plot continuity.
5. A New Hope
Episode IV: A New Hope was the first film to be released in theaters. It was retroactively renamed with Episode IV after the release of the prequel trilogy. However, it is the “fourth” episode in the Star Wars franchise order. This episode is better watched after Revenge of the Sith because the previous episode had almost all of the Jedi wiped off the face of the universe. A New Hope was the story of the Jedi order’s new beginnings. Revenge of the Sith gave the reason why the order fell and was picking themselves up in A New Hope.
6. The Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope saw the destruction of the first Death Star leading to the story of The Empire Strikes Back which followed the Empire seeking revenge against the Rebel Alliance after their humiliating defeat in A New Hope. This makes it a fitting successor to Episode IV. Moreover, in this episode, the world heard Vader say his iconic line which came as a shock to viewers as at the time, the Prequel Trilogy did not exist yet. However, for those who had watched Revenge of the Sith before The Empire Strikes Back, that was just a fitting piece of the puzzle.
7. Return of the Jedi
With the confirmation of the familial link between Vader and Luke, the most logical continuation is Return of the Jedi. Darth Vader redeemed himself in the episode by saving his son from the hands of his evil overlord. This episode saw Vader’s death and finally put an end to Anakin’s character development, corruption, and redemption.
8. The Force Awakens
Despite starting a new trilogy in the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens is better enjoyed after Return of the Jedi. The first reason for this is that it follows up on character connections were already established Return of the Jedi. Second, Luke became one of the most respected Jedi, and knowing that would be beneficial because finding him was one of the goals of the protagonists, and there should be a reason why.
9. The Last Jedi
The Force Awakens ended with Rey in Ahch-To, handing Luke his lightsaber. The events of The Last Jedi picked up from that premise. In this episode, the Jedi order, which had been crumbling for years, was finally made extinct upon the death of the last one — Luke Skywalker.
10. The Rise of Skywalker
Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker is the end of the franchise for now. It had an epic battle where all of the forces of evil battled with the remnants of the now-fallen Jedi order. With all of the characters’ stories and motives known, The Rise of Skywalker executes them in one beautiful final spectacle, which then ends by looking back at Episode I, through Luke’s former home, ending the Star Wars saga by coming in a full circle.