the force awakens

In What Order Should You Watch the Star Wars Movies? George Lucas and Others Weigh In

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We’re approaching the weekend of Star Wars second-wavers. All the obsessive fans — and they are, as we already knew, legion — took down The Force Awakens last week. Now come the masses of curious casual viewers: moviegoers for whom Star Wars is less a lifestyle than just a movie that other people seemed to enjoy.

Among that cohort will be people who have never seen any Star Wars movies — and if that includes your friends or family, there’s a chance they’ll come to you for advice on whether they should watch some or all of Episodes 1–6 first, and if so, in what order.

To help you answer that question (which isn’t to suggest you couldn’t answer it on your own, relax), we asked assorted stars and Vulture staffers how they would guide first-timers. You can see their suggestions below — and then, after you’ve considered their arguments, use our interactive list to vote on which sequence is the strongest way into the Force.

4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3

Lin-Manuel Miranda (who co-wrote cantina music for The Force Awakens): “Chronologically, when it was released. Absolutely. I had a pretty good time experiencing it that way. Linear is the best way to do it.”

Aaron Paul: “You start with the original Star Wars movie. There is no other way. Maybe it’s nostalgia. Or maybe it’s not even that. I have no idea why I feel this way, but you should watch them in the order they were released.”

Dennis Quaid: “See the first one that was out, and then watch them in order. That way you get the whole experience, just as we earthlings did. I was actually at the very first night of the very first Star Wars. We weren’t really aware what we were watching. All I remember is seeing that big, huge spacecraft going across the scene, going across the screen. It just kept going and going. It was like the greatest special effect ever. The whole audience was in then.”

Bobby Moynihan: “In my mind, this is how you should see them. Then there’s this weird Topher Grace edit of the prequels — it’s genius. He edited the prequels together into one movie, and supposedly it’s brilliant. I’ve seen part of it, but I have to watch the whole thing. If it’s great, I’d say, do 4, 5, 6, and then Topher Grace Special Edition. Then watch all of Star Wars Rebels. They’re great. I love them more than some of the movies.”

Mark Ruffalo: “From the first one made to the most recent. Straight through. They just build up nicely that way. That’s the way I saw it, and I’m a little bit of a throwback.”

Janelle Monáe (who performed at Lucas’s wedding to Mellody Hobson): “Start with the fourth episode, go from there, and then go back and watch the prequels. I’m excited about the new one as well. I know George didn’t have anything to do with it, but the fact that 40 years later, we’re still talking about Star Wars: That’s a force.”

Andrew Haigh: “I don’t even have to think about it. You have to go the traditional route. You begin with Star Wars, then The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. I grew up watching those films, and I just believe that the order that they were released is the only way to watch them.”

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

George Lucas: “Start with one. That’s the way to do it right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. That’s the way they’re supposed to be done. Just because it took a long time to film it doesn’t mean you don’t do it in order.”

Daisy Ridley: “I would say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, because for a young person it’s easier to understand the chronology.”

Samuel L. Jackson: “Well, everything needs to be watched in numerical order if you want to follow the mythology of what’s happening. Start at episode at episode one and go through it that way. I would. The mythology is stronger in one through three and definitely one through six than in the other ones. The story of the Anakin is what all this has been about for so long. His bloodline is the strong bloodline, so you kind of need to know what’s going on there.”

Gina Rodriguez: “In order, episodically. That’s the way I watched them. And I can’t wait for the new one.”

Jordan Pundik: “I mean, obviously I wanna say just watch the good ones, but I’d tell them they would have to watch starting from episodes one, two, three. Just so they would get the story, and understand the full picture of everything that’s going on. I rewatched them all when I was on Europe on tour because our bass player had never seen any of them. Episode one was actually pretty good, and episode three is really cool. Two is kind of whatev.”

Lauren Leibowitz (Former Vulture copy editor): “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, because chronology!!”

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (MODIFIED)

Bilge Ebiri (Village Voice film critic, former Vulture critic): “With my son, my plan had always been to show him the films in the order in which they were made. Even though I enjoy the prequels (well, two of them), I wanted him to experience the films the way I did. But I showed him Star Wars (a.k.a. Episode IV, a.k.a. A New Hope) when he was around 4, and, aside from a couple of scenes, he was bored. So, a few months later, we started again, this time with The Phantom Menace … and he was totally enraptured. He loved Anakin. He loved Qui-gon. He loved Darth Maul. He wanted to see the scene where Anakin met Padme over and over again. He loved the underwater scenes. He loved the speeder race. (Thank the Lord he didn’t care at all for Jar Jar.) Who was this strange kid who loved The Phantom Menace so much?!

We moved on to Attack of the Clones, and then the first half of Sith. He had become so taken with Anakin — even grown-up Hayden Christiansen Anakin — that I didn’t have the heart to show him the dark ending of that film. After that, we moved on to Episode IV. After THAT, we showed him the finale of Sith. Then, Empire and Jedi. Ultimately, the prequels had more of an impact on him than the original trilogy … except, oddly enough, Return of the Jedi. All along, I was surprised to discover that he was less interested in the kiddie stuff like Jar Jar and the Ewoks, and more taken with the drama of Anakin and the Dark Side and Luke. If there are two sequences in the whole series that he’s probably watched the most, it’s the final fight between Anakin and Obi-Wan in Sith, and the one between Vader and Luke in Jedi.

But all this was over a year and a half ago, so he doesn’t remember it all that well. To prepare him for The Force Awakens, I’ve shown him Star Wars again (Episode IV), which he enjoyed much more this time around. I haven’t decided yet if we’ll move on to Empire and Jedi before we leap into The Force Awakens. I kind of don’t want him to fall in love with [SPOILER REDACTION].”

4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6

Matt Zoller Seitz (Vulture TV critic): “The Godfather, Part II order. This is the order my wife came up with back in 2005. We were discussing the right order in which to show the movies to our kids, and we agreed that Darth Vader’s reveal was such a big deal that it would be a shame to ruin it by showing the episodes in numerical order. She was a big fan of The Godfather, Part II, which flashes back and forth between Michael Corleone in 1959 and his father Vito as a young man in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In this order, you start with A New Hope and continue through Empire, which of course ends with Vader dropping that huge plot bomb on Luke. Then you “flash back” to The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and then Revenge of the Sith to show how Anakin became Darth Vader. Then you finish with Return of the Jedi, where Luke tries to pull his father back from the Dark Side and at least partially redeem him, restoring balance to the Force in the process. We actually watched the films this way, and it really worked. Not only did it magnify the impact of the throne-room scenes in Jedi, it made it much easier to see the mirroring games that George Lucas was playing in the prequels, making The Phantom Menace a rhyme of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back with Attack of the Clones (right down to the sad cliff-hanger ending), and Jedi the answer to Sith, following right on its armored heels.

David Edelstein (Vulture film critic): “Look, anyone who starts with Episode I will be so bored so fast that they’ll have no frigging idea what anyone saw in Star Wars. I guess I’d say 4, 5, then flash back to 1, 2, 3, and then finish with the teddy-bear movie (Return of the Jedi). Then on to the new one.”

Abraham Riesman (Vulture staff writer): “This way you get to start with two good movies. The Vader reveal is followed by the story of how that’s even possible, giving the prequels weight. Then you end with a good movie. No bad movies on either end of the sequence.”

4, 5, 2, 3, 6

Margaret Lyons (New York Times writer, former Vulture TV writer): “I prefer to do this Machete order, but little kids love Darth Maul. If the person I’m advising is young enough to want to play lightsaber fight, I’d probably show them Episode I, though not to start — maybe 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3. But if he or she is 11 or older? I’d probably do Machete order.”

4, 5, 6, SKIP THE REST

Savannah Guthrie: “I feel very strongly about this: They should watch the ’70s trilogy, so it’s really Episodes 4, 5 and 6 — Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi. I’d allow them to skip the whole second three movies. It’s fine if you don’t see them.”

Perez Hilton: “Watch the original ones, and only those. Those are the only ones that matter. The other ones that came out weren’t the best. And since they brought back the original cast for the new one, they’re kind of going back to basics.”

Kurt Vile: “I would recommend they watch all the older ones in chronological order, and I don’t like the newer ones. But the latest one looks promising.”


Jon Glaser: “Good question. Very good question. I can see the argument for both sides. I feel like you want to be pure to how they came out, but I could certainly understand the joy of doing a 1–6 marathon to set yourself up to see the next one. Then you set the bar low, get the shit out of the way. After you’ve watched the third one, you’re like, I don’t know, three more? And then you watch four and you’re like, WHOA!


John Boyega: “I would say whatever you want! Watch 3, 6, 2, 1 — do whatever you want to do so long as you experience it a very unique way and enjoy it.”


Samuel L. Jackson: “After episode six. I don’t know. Works for me. But that’s just me. Or maybe you don’t want to know all that other stuff. If you don’t know all that other stuff, maybe it won’t matter to you. It’s hard to watch Game of Thrones in Season Five and not know all the players.”

Reporting by: Lisa Butterworth, Jen Chaney, Charley Lanyon, Katie Levingston, Bennett Marcus, Trupti Rami, Vicki Salemi, Jamie Sharpe, Fawnia Soo Hoo, Jennifer Vineyard, Kat Ward

What’s the Best Star Wars Movie-Viewing Order?