Episodic Dilemma: What’s The ‘Correct’ Way To Watch Star Wars?

I don’t remember the first time I watched Star Wars: A New Hope. I must have been five or six years old, and I was almost definitely shown the film by my father while my mother was out of the house. It started a lifelong passion for space operas, lightsabers, and princesses who don’t need rescuing. My father, one of the original Star Wars fanboys (he’s very proud that he stood in line for hours back in 1977 to see Ep IV), even allowed my brothers and I to ditch school one day in order to see a rerelease of the original trilogy in cinemas.

Long story short: I grew up on Star Wars, and if there’s one thing my father taught me when The Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was that the Originals were always meant to be watched before the prequels. Boom. End of discussion.

This was the case until, at some point in my college life, I encountered someone who had never seen the films. It was the mid-2000s. Episode III was not so far behind us, and well, what do you tell a new watcher? That was the first time I watched the then-six films in chronological order. I wasn’t sure then, and I’m definitely not sure now that there are ten films, that chronologically was the ideal way to first experience Star Wars.

Bear with me, dear Collectors, as I go through the pros and cons of a few popular viewing methods for the world’s only biggest space opera franchise.

Chronologically

Or, watching it in this order: Eps 1-3, Solo, Rogue One, 4-6, 7-8.

Pros: You get the story from start-to-finish. You know who the Space Twins are before they know…you get the back story to Darth Vader. Also, starting your rewatch with Ewan McGregor isn’t a bad thing. Far from it.

Cons: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jar Jar Binks is annoying AF. Starting your rewatch with The Phantom Menace may lead you to rethinking your life choices. Also, there’s something powerful and magical about the original trilogy that the prequels never quite manage to capture, and if you can get your hands on the theatrical cuts from 1977, 1980, and 1983 and can see Maria Lucas’ masterfully edited films, you will be gratifying your soul in a way you didn’t know you needed. Also…this franchise was not meticulously planned out, and watching it in narrative order shows that very plainly.

And, most importantly, watching in episodic order really blows the lead-up to Darth Vader being revealed as Luke’s father.

Release Date

Or, watching it in this order: Eps 4-6, 1-3, 7, Rogue One, 8, Solo.

Pros: You get to watch Star Wars in the way it was first experienced by the original fans, you know, the ones who’ve stuck around since 1977 and are extremely proud of that fact *cough* my father *cough*.

Cons: Now that there are ten films, the story gets really jumbled together if you watch it this way and…I hate to say it…but the plot holes are more obvious than ever. Like…where did R2D2’s rockets go? And because a lot of the ‘new’ SW films are actually intended to lend narrative weight to the original trilogy, putting them near the new trilogy detracts from that purpose. Also…did I mention that this franchise was not planned out in great detail? The MCU it is not.

The Machete Order

Or, watch Eps 4, 5, 2, 3, 6. (Optional: add 7 & 8 at the end).

Pros: This doesn’t ruin the build-up to the reveal of Darth Vader as Luke’s father, and it also gives Anakin a better character arc by really showing his descent to the Dark Side and then his redemption arc in VI. Also, very little Jar Jar Binks.

Cons: Less Ewan McGregor, and a few missing plot details from The Phantom Menace but you could just read a plot summary of Ep 1 on Wikipedia.

How I’m Rewatching

Watch Order: Rogue One, Eps 4, 5, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8. Skipping: The Phantom Menace and Solo.

It’s May the 4th so while I do my rewatch today, I’m trying a combination of The Machete Order and Chronological. (I want that character development for Anakin but without Jar Jar Binks.) This is my first time watching in this order, so may the Force be with me.

P.S. I meant what I said: if you can get your hand on the theatrical cuts of the original trilogy…that was the way Star Wars was meant to be watched. Maria Lucas is a genius.

Happy Star Wars Day, Collectors? How are you celebrating? Tell us in the comments!

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