Star Wars has been around for decades and has become one of the largest sci-fi franchises in history. When Disney acquired the rights and rebooted the series in 2015, a whole new generation of fans were introduced to the films. Over the years, the main story has grown over multiple movies and two television shows – and all that media is very overwhelming! If you’ve never seen Star Wars – or simply want to refresh yourself on the series – where do you start? It’s confusing because the older movies are actually the middle of the series. Add in the television shows, and you might just throw up your hands in frustration and give up!
So, after multiple viewings of the movies myself, I came up with an entire watch list for you! Here is the correct chronological order to watch the Star Wars movies in, according to canon. I even threw in the two animated series, The Clone Wars and Star Wars: Rebels, so you can really educate yourself on all the Star Wars lure!
If you haven’t seen the films, proceed with caution – there are some VERY minor spoilers ahead!
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The Prequels and The Clone Wars
First things first – we need to start with the prequels. The prequels actually refer to the three movies that came out in the late 90’s and early 2000’s that follow the story of Jedi Anakin Skywalker. Anakin Skywalker eventually grows up to be (spoiler alert) Darth Vader, and these films follow his journey as he strays toward the Dark Side.
#1. The Phantom Menace
This film starts with Anakin Skywalker as a young boy on Tatooine. In this film, he is discovered by the Jedi Council, and the story follows his journey to becoming a young Padawan (which is basically a Jedi apprentice).
#2. Attack of the Clones
In this movie, Anakin is now a full fledged Padawan, and they discover a rebellion movement being formed by the Separatists and their droid army. This film kicks off the “Clone Wars” which are a series of battles in the Star Wars universe that Anakin is greatly involved in. Imagine the American Civil War – but in space.
The Clone Wars Television Series
This animated series started with a theatrical film, and then spawned an entire television show following Anakin and his adventures in the Clone Wars. While this isn’t necessary viewing to understand the main plot of the films, I personally really enjoyed the series. It’s aimed for kids, but even adults will enjoy it! The series introduces a new character named Ahsoka Tano, who is Anakin’s Padawan, and provides background stories for a lot of essential characters in the Star Wars universe. It’s also great to see Anakin fighting as a true Jedi, and is a nice filler between the two final films of the prequels.
The only problem with the Clone Wars episodes is that they chronologically make zero sense. Thankfully, this handy guide gives you a complete break down of the series and the correct order to watch the show. It even includes the film, which is actually like the third episode in the series.
The Clone Wars are currently on Netflix, but available on Amazon. If you watch them on Netflix you will be able to see all 6 seasons as well as the film, whereas the official DVD set only comes with seasons 1-5. The full length film and season 6 (also called “The Lost Missions”) are available separately. This is because when the series was picked back up, Netflix released additional episodes that were not aired on television.
#3. Revenge of the Sith
The final film of the prequels follows Anakin’s final cross to the Dark Side. It also showcases a number of very important events in the Star Wars universe, including the extinction of the Jedi Order. Bring the tissues for this one – it’s a very emotional end to the first set of films!
Solo: A Star Wars Story
After Anakin officially becomes Darth Vader, the Empire has completely taken over the Galaxy. Enter young pilot Han Solo! This story follows young Han as he tries (and fails) to become an Imperial pilot, and shows how he became the space smuggler we all know and love. This film also marks the first appearance of some fan favorites, Lando Calrissian and Chewbacca.
In terms of overall story, it fleshes out more of a background for Han, but not much else. It’s still a ton of fun, and if you’re a fan of the Clone Wars and Rebels television shows, you’ll find that a twist ending ties in to that. This film takes place approximately 10 years before the events of the “first” Star Wars film released in 1977 “A New Hope”.
Star Wars: Rebels
Time for another animated series! Following the events of “Revenge of the Sith”, this series follows the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance that will eventually rise up against the Empire. New characters are introduced and old ones return – including Ahsoka and Obi-Wan – in this fun animated series. This series takes place about 5 years before “A New Hope” and is just as fun as the Clone Wars show.
Just like the Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels has a full length feature film to kick things off. After that, the series spans 4 seasons. Thankfully, the watch order is much easier to follow than the Clone Wars. Start with the movie, then move from season to season until you reach the end! This show is unfortunately not streaming at the moment, so pick up the complete collection and the feature length film from Amazon!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Alright, we’ve come to my personal favorite film on this list! Rogue One follows the story of two Rebel heros who develop a plan to steal the blueprints to a space station called The Death Star. For all you Star Wars newbies, the Death Star is able to destroy entire planets with the push of a button and is a huge plot device for the original trilogy. It also shows how the reach of the Empire affects everyday people, and the toll war can take on those involved. This movie introduces us to an incredible and diverse cast of characters who kick off the events of the original films. The movie literally ends about 5 minutes before the start of the “first” Star Wars film!
The Original Trilogy
The original trilogy refers to the original Star Wars movies, released in 1977. The story follows Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia as they fight against the evil Empire, led by Darth Vader. This is where you’ll find all those classic characters – R2D2, Boba Fett, Yoda and more all have huge parts in the overall storyline!
#4. A New Hope
The film that started it all! This is the “first” Star Wars movie ever to be released, and introduces us to all our heroes and the struggle between the Light Side and Dark Side of The Force. The main focus of this movie is the introduction of all our main characters, as well as Luke’s introduction to the Jedi ways.
#5. The Empire Strikes Back
Widely regarded as the BEST Star Wars film, we continue to follow our heroes as they battle against the Empire. Luke also goes off on his own for a while to continue training as a Jedi to finally take down Darth Vader. This movie ends with one of the most talked about twists in all of cinematic history!
#6. Return of the Jedi
In the final film of the original trilogy, the Empire is back with another Death Star. Luke and the evil Emperor Palpatine face off, and they make one final push to try and sway Luke to join the Dark Side. One interesting tidbit about this movie – at the end, a young Anakin Skywalker is projected, and in the original he was played by Sebastian Shaw, and after the release of “Revenge of the Sith” they replaced him with footage of Hayden Christensen.
The New Trilogy
Who knows what might have happened to the Star Wars franchise if Disney hadn’t gotten ahold of it. George Lucas probably had something up his sleeve, but when he sold the rights to Disney, they instantly started working on a reboot. In 2015, a new trilogy was launched with all new characters, but similar storyline.
#7. The Force Awakens
Decades after the fall of the Empire, and new evil order, the First Order, have risen to power. A mysterious new Sith Lord, Kylo Ren, helps rule the Order under the supervision of Supreme Leader Snoke. Meanwhile, a young scavenger named Rey runs in to a former Stormtrooper, Finn, and discovers she has a connection to the Force. A whole new cast of characters, and returning favorites, come together to form the Resistance – the new generation’s version of the Rebellion – to take down Ren and the Order, and find Luke Skywalker.
#8. The Last Jedi
The Order seem to have the Resistance surrounded, while Rey goes on a hunt to find Luke Skywalker and convince him to teach her the ways of the Force. A race through space between the Order and the Resistance shows us more of the inner workings of the rebellion, and a new twist on Luke’s character sets the stage for some interesting developments to the story!
In the Works
Obviously, we are one film short of having a full trilogy when it comes to the new films. Don’t worry, though, in December 2019 we’ll see how the entire story wraps up!
Additionally, two Star Wars related series will be coming to the new Disney+ streaming service when it launches later this year. The Mandalorian will take place between the events of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens”, and a series following Cassian Andor, one of the main characters in “Rogue One”, will be released as well. With this new streaming service coming up, who knows what amazing content Disney will dream up for our galactic heroes!
Finally, the Clone Wars television show has been rebooted for a seventh season! I expect that when they’re ready to launch the new season, it will be taken off of Netflix.
So, to sum up – here is the complete watch order to prepare yourselves before the final film comes out this Christmas:
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
- The Clone Wars TV series/movie
- Revenge of the Sith
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Star Wars: Rebels movie/TV series
- Rogue One
- A New Hope
- The Empire Strikes Back
- Return of the Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- The Last Jedi
So pop some popcorn, grab a friend, and strap in for an amazing Star Wars marathon!
Which film or show is your favorite? Personally I LOVE “Rogue One”! I’m also looking forward to the new Cassian Andor series (because again, I loved Rogue One!)
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