As many people across the
galaxy world practice social distancing in order to help flatten the curve, many are using this time to introduce loved ones to the wonder of a galaxy far, far away on Disney+!
The thing is…how do you do it? There’s so much Star Wars content now, it’s difficult to know where to even start. Luckily, we’ve got some tips on how to make that first viewing one they’ll never forget. Oh, and if you haven’t watched the series before, spoilers ahead!!
First Off… a Note for Younglings
So if your intended audience is less than eight years old, I recommend hyping them up a bit with the Galaxy of Adventures series on YouTube and Disney+.
This series of shorts are designed to get kids interested in the films by reframing them as bite-sized bits of animated action. They’re perfect for hype building, but not very substantial as viewing content. Still, for a little kid, there’s no better way to introduce them to the saga — just be aware of potential spoilers!
Where to Start
Of course, if your audience is older, the question is where to begin. To make it easier on you, we’re going to label anything that’s not one of the numbered films a side story. That means, for right now, we only need to focus on Episodes I through IX — we’ll save the rest for later.
So, the thing about the series is, despite the numbers being numbered chronologically, they weren’t released chronologically. The first Star Wars movie was Episode IV: A New Hope, which takes place decades after Episode III! So which do you watch first?
Well… spoiler talk. If you watch them in what people call Release Order, you’ll get the theatrical experience. You’ll follow Luke, Leia, and Han as they defeat the Empire, and then you’ll cut to an entirely different era, where you already know the outcome of what’s going to happen. There’s nothing really at stake, since you know how everything will end. Also, younger viewers might get confused, since you’d watch the establishment of an empire, only for the First Order to emerge in the next film.
However, if you watch in Chronological Order, a lot of the plot twists of the original trilogy get spoiled. You already know the great master Yoda is a little green guy, that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader, that Luke is his son and Leia is his daughter. These were huge twists, and while many people have been spoiled through cultural osmosis, it’s still worth preserving the experience for people who haven’t had it yet.
Fortunately, there’s a third option between Release Order and Chronological Order called Machete Order, designed by Rod Hilton in 2011. It looks something like this.
First, start with A New Hope. It’s the original, and where George Lucas intended people to start anyway. Afterwards, go into Empire Strikes Back.
We’ve just been hit by the biggest twists in the original trilogy, now we’re going to give them some context. Now, go to Episoder II: Attack of the Clones. Here we’ve got our first look at Anakin Skywalker as an adult, and can begin following his path to becoming Darth Vader. We continue to Revenge of the Sith, with Palpatine triumphant… then, and only then, do we go Return of the Jedi, before watching the sequel trilogy in order.
Why? Hilton explains his reasoning in detail in the article, but it has several advantages. Narratively, it’s a stronger arc. It preserves the Vader and Yoda twists, and it also makes Palpatine a much more sinister character by concealing the fact that he’s actually the future Emperor, which makes his eventual return in The Rise of Skywalker that much more impactful. It also raises the narrative stakes of Return of the Jedi; one of the plot points of Jedi is how dangerously close Luke comes to the Dark Side. In the original release, it was mostly Luke acting arrogant and the Emperor taunting him. After watching Anakin fall to the Dark Side, however, Luke turning becomes a much more plausible outcome.
You’re probably wondering, “Wait, where’s Episode I in all of this? Isn’t that a critical part of the series?” And… well…
Alright, listen. I’ve got nothing against The Phantom Menace, but it’s better viewed as a standalone experience. Little Podracer Anakin is so far removed from 6’6″ Tower of Cyborg Death Darth Vader that it’s hard to believe they’re supposed to be the same character. Everything explained in Episode I is explained again in later movies, with the sole exception of the “bring balance to the force” prophecy and the fact Anakin was born a slave and built C-3P0. It also makes the fact that Palpatine is the Emperor much less obvious. That doesn’t mean we just toss it out, though.
So, once you’ve got the foundation out of the way, you can start exploring the rest of the universe. By removing Episode I: The Phantom Menace from our main watch through, that means we have three Side Story film — Rogue One, Solo, and The Phantom Menace. It doesn’t matter which one you watch first, but they’re all built on the assumption you’re familiar with Star Wars, even Episode I. You’ll have more fun saving these after the main saga.
The TV Shows are a different animal, even with streaming. You don’t have to wait until after the films to watch them, but I recommend at least waiting until you’re through the first two trilogies. There’s a recommended order when it comes to watching them, but since they’re all huge multi-hour epics and you want to go see Baby Yoda as soon as possible, these are more guidelines.
You should start with The Clone Wars. It’s an anthology series, so several episodes are out of order, but it’s recommended you watch the seasons in order anyway. The final season, currently airing on Disney+, is not an anthology. It tells a coherent story from start to finish. Save it for after you watch the rest of the Clone Wars. This series not only adds depth to the story of the prequel trilogy, it also introduces Ahsoka Tano (a major figure in lore who does not appear in the movie), and sets the stage for The Mandalorian.
Rebels is a direct sequel to Clone Wars, featuring several of the same characters. It also takes place just before Rogue One in the timeline, so keep an eye out for references between the two. Rebels expands upon the Mandalorian story, continues Ahsoka’s adventures, and gives a deeper glimpse into what Imperial life was like before Luke Skywalker left his family’s moisture farm.
Finally, after you finish Rebels, The Mandalorian continues the storylines started in the previous two series. References are minor until the finale, so if you really want to watch it first we don’t blame you. Just know that a big reveal at the end won’t make much sense until you watch the other two series!
And then, there’s Resistance, which justdoes its own thing. Set before The Force Awakens, it doesn’t have overt connections to the other Dave Filoni helmed series, allowing you to enjoy it on its own. Watch it first, last, or whenever you like.
All of this definitely seems complicated, but honestly? These are guidelines, not hard rules. If you want to watch The Force Awakens first so you can enjoy Adam Driver, go for it! If your intended audience already knows about the Darth Vader twist (because who doesn’t at this point?) let them start at the point that seems the most interesting to them. Machete Order and the like are essentially just geeky thought experiments. They definitely can change how you view the trilogy, but enjoyment of the movies should always come first.
Still, how do you think people should be introduced to Star Wars? Let us know in the comments!