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How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) on set for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope.
(Image credit: Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

It’s really never been much easier to watch the Star Wars movies in order — since Disney owns the entire franchise, you can find every single TV show and movie related to the saga to stream on Disney Plus

If you’re planning a rewatch or you’re about to introduce someone to Star Wars for the very first time, the main problem you’ll face is simply the order in which you want to watch them. 

There are three major ways to watch the Star Wars movies in order — release date order (starting with A New Hope), chronological order (starting with the prequels), or in something called the Machete Order (all will become clear...) We’ve explained each viewing option below. 

How to watch the Star Wars movies in order: release date order

This is a fairly self-explanatory (and purist's) way to watch the movies, as you simply follow the original release date order for each and every Star Wars movie as they came out. That order is: 

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) 
  3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  4. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  5. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  6. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  7. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)
  8. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  10. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  11. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  12. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)    

This order tells the story as the saga originally unfolded over the last five decades. You’ll start with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Darth Vader's timelines,  before heading backward in time and shifting focus to how Anakin joined the Dark Side in the prequel trilogy.

After that, you’ve got the animated Clone Wars movie (which served as a pilot for the much-loved series of the same name), the most recent sequels dealing with Rey and Kylo Ren, and then the anthology spin-offs Rogue One and Solo

Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode V- The Empire Strikes Back.

Watching in release date order means you get to see Darth Vader make his dramatic revelation to his son, Luke. (Image credit: LucasFilm)

How to watch the Star Wars movies in chronological order

If you'd rather watch the story unfold according to the timeline of the movies — the order things happened within the Star Wars universe, you'll have to watch in a different order. 

  1. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  2. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) 
  4. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) 
  5. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) 
  6. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) 
  7. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) 
  8. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  9. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)  
  10. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) 
  11. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  12. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)  

This order sees you living the story as it happened. You'll start out with Qui-Gon Jinn sensing that Anakin is The Chosen One and see Obi-Wan Kenobi take Anakin Skywalker under his wing to tackle the Clone Wars before Anakin succumbs to Palpatine, betrays the Jedi and transforms into Darth Vader.

However, instead of going straight on to join Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, instead, you’ll see Alden Ehrenreich stepping into Harrison Ford’s shoes as a young Han Solo and then find out how a band of Rebels managed to get their hands on the Death Star plans in Rogue One.

After that, you can enjoy all the action from the original series (although you’ll already know the big twist from Episode V) and then roll straight into the sequel trilogy. That will bring you up to speed for whenever the next mainline Star Wars movie arrives.  

R2-D2, Ewan McGregor, Jake Lloyd and Liam Neeson for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

The Machete Order recommends skipping out on The Phantom Menace, so you'll never meet Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson, right). (Image credit: Lucasfilm)

How to watch the Star Wars movies in the Machete Order 

If you’re looking for a different way to watch the Star Wars movies in order, you should seriously consider trying out the ”Machete Order”.  (opens in new tab)

Invented by Rod Hilton and named after his own blog, this order radically restructures the viewing order with the aim of recentering the story around Luke Skywalker’s story.

The Machete Order is as follows:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) 
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) 
  4. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)  
  5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) 
  6. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) 
  7. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  8. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
    (OPTIONAL) Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008)

As you can see from this list, this order is significantly different. The biggest omission is that this order recommends skipping The Phantom Menace as Rod argues it is irrelevant to Luke’s story — he states characters who are introduced here are either better established elsewhere, or are only present in this first movie. 

The remaining prequels are then treated as flashbacks which create more dramatic tension. Watching the films this way means that Darth Vader drops the shocking revelation that he is Luke Skywalker’s father, then we see how Anakin fell to the Dark Side and became the fearsome villain and then you see Luke’s story come full circle in Return of the Jedi.

When Disney began releasing new Star Wars movies, Rod posted an update (opens in new tab) where he argued that any further sequels should all be viewed after the core five films in the Machete Order, as you can see above. 

The sequel trilogy follows on from what came before, so they can only be watched after Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, Rod recommends treating the anthology movies such as Solo: A Star Wars Story, Rogue One and The Phantom Menace as optional extras. All of these films take place at different points in the timeline, so can therefore work whenever you watch them.

It's an interesting alternative and one we rather like (albeit it's the most complicated option to remember out of the three). So, take your pick — but do pick one and immerse yourself.

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Martin Shore
Martin Shore

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.