Star Wars fans have long quarreled over the age-old question of viewing order. Of course, for the older generation, there was always just the one way: The order with which they were released. When you find a person who has yet to enjoy the visual splendor that is Star Wars, however, the question invariably arises: What order should the movies be seen? Since there is nothing demanding that you show the films in the order they were released, one has to ask, would changing the order enhance the already well-woven tale? Or was the release order of the movies a deliberate plot by George Lucas to tell his millenia-old tale of the stars in the most engaging and enlightening way? Recognized by all Star Wars fans is the desire, nay the need, to create the best possible viewing experience for those who have yet to partake of the films. Fans want to instill some level of their own personal loyalty and fervor upon those they present the saga to. This is where the dilemma is realized: Which to watch first?

RELEASE ORDER: 4-5-6-1-2-3

The first and most obvious way to view the Star Wars movies is in the order that they were released. George Lucas probably knew what he was doing, right? So why not view them in the order that George Lucas intended us to? Ignoring the fact that it is very unlikely that George Lucas ever had an “order,” in mind when he created Star Wars (Kaminski, 2005), this order has a couple advantages, but also some major disadvantages.

First, watching the films in this order does a nice job of compartmentalizing the two trilogies, since you are watching each trilogy in its own order. By viewing them this way, viewers feel like the trilogies are separate stories more than they are a six part saga (Hill, 2010). In this sense, there is very little confusion in watching the films. This positive, however, is an even bigger negative. As I said above, by watching the films this way, viewers feel like the trilogies are separate stories. Since the point of the prequels is to enhance the original trilogy, this seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

Second, this order allows for viewers to experience the films the exact same way that everybody else did. Millions of Star Wars fans were created watching the films this way, so it certainly has a good track record. Then again, watching the movies in this order doesn’t exactly leave you with an enjoyable ending. If you recall, Episode Three ends with the near extinction of the Jedi order, and that may not be a ‘happy’ ending for someone experiencing Star Wars for the first time.


To solve some of the aforementioned issues, one might thus reason that watching the films in order from one to six is definitely the way to go. They did number them one through six for a reason (Right?). This option also presents its own set of pros and cons. As some Star Wars fans may remember, one of the highlights of the original trilogy was the mind-blowing plot twist that took place in the second installment (Episode five) of Star Wars. That’s right, the whole “Darth-Vader-Is-Really-Luke’s-Dad,” reveal. When you watch the movies from one through six, you know Anakin Skywalker (Luke’s father) is Darth Vader from the get-go. This, among other spoilers that are ruined by watching the movies in this order (Leia as Luke’s sister, for example), make this order a bleak option (at best) for one’s viewing choice.

On the other hand, however, the stories do feel slightly more cohesive in this version when compared to the previous viewing order, and you get to end the experience with the big shebang at the end of episode six. This is definitely a more desirable outcome than the sour-taste-in-your-mouth ending if you watch the films in their release order. Though it still has its own fair share of problems. 


One way to counteract all of the problems involved in the previous ideas is to avoid the prequel trilogy all together, and enjoy the original trilogy as a three part saga. This order presents the Star Wars experience in a complete and satisfying way while simultaneously avoiding all of the caveats that the other orderings present. The one big disadvantage, (though some might not mind) is that you miss out entirely on the prequel trilogy.

While many think the prequels were best left un-made, I’m a huge advocate of them. Within the prequels there is character development and backstory exposition that creates a more meaningful ending to the saga as a whole. Skipping the prequels altogether may avoid some problems, but is probably not the best Star Wars experience a person can have.


Named after it’s creator, this alternative order combines many positive aspects of the Chronological and Release viewing methods. By watching the episodes in the order they were released, only skipping the final installment and watching it last, you get all of the benefits of the chronological order without ruining any of the plot twists and surprises. It’s almost as if the prequel trilogy is a giant “flashback,” of sorts placed in the middle of Luke’s story (Hilton, 2011).

This viewing order isn’t void of minor disadvantages, however. Watching the movies in this order means that there is several hours of video in between Luke learning that Darth Vader is his father and the final victory over the evil galactic empire. For some people, maybe the kind of person who reads the last ten pages of a book half-way through just to know the ending, this can be a major hurdle in watching the movies (Kaedrin, 2010). Watching the movies in this order could also, hypothetically speaking, cause some mild confusion in regards to the story arc.

MACHETE ORDER: 4-5-2-3-6

Conceived in 2011 by Rod Hilton, this is the newest viewing order to make the list (Hilton, 2011). In this version of the Star Wars saga, you watch two movies of Luke battle against the empire, only to be bamboozled when you learn that Vader was his father the entire time. “But how?” you might ask. The answer is then given to you in the form of the two films that chronicle Anakin’s descent into the dark side (Episode two and three). Episode One is entirely cut off (hence the machete reference).

The overlap of advantages between the Machete Order and the Ernst Rister Order are striking, but these shared benefits are even more pronounced in the Machete Order. The catch twenty-two is that the disadvantages are as well. This viewing order also makes the prequel movies a flashback within Luke’s story, just like the Ernst Rister order. However, by including only two movies in between Episode five and six you avoid most of the difficulty that a three-movie-long flashback could create. Furthermore, by condensing Anakin’s fall to the dark side, it actually adds more tension to the final confrontation between Luke, Darth Vader and the Emperor, because you can more readily identify the parallels between Anakin’s and Luke’s stories. The only con of this particular order is that, even more so than the Ernst Rister order, this method can create a lot of confusion as certain things from Episode One can’t be known, and aren’t explained in Episodes two or three (Hilton, 2011). On top of that, you miss out on all of the good things that happen in Episode One (though, some would argue that there aren’t any). For the entire story behind the Machete Order and why it works, click here!


The different ways in which one can enjoy the Star Wars saga are staggering, and fans are truly separated on which viewing order is the best (Tick, 2012). Especially when showing someone the films who has never before experienced the awesome that is Star Wars, one must be careful to create the best possible conditions for helping this deprived person come to understand and love the best space opera of all time. While the decision is up to everyone individually, truly, the best way to experience the Star Wars saga is the Machete Order. While there are negatives to each order, the Machete method provides the most advantages for the fewest disadvantages.

While I am not ashamed to say that I love Episode One (Jar Jar Binks and little Annie included), the degree with which it benefits the other films in the saga is minor. Granted, anyone who wants the full Star Wars experience should certainly watch Episode One, they might want to wait until after they have already enjoyed the videos in the order that best demonstrates the story arc of Luke, juxtaposed with the fall and redemption of his father, Anakin. The order that accomplishes this, without a doubt, is the Machete Order.


Hilton, R. (2011, November). The star wars saga: Introducing machete order. Retrieved from
Hill, A. (2010, January). Star wars faq: What's the best viewing order for the star wars films?. Retrieved from
Kaedrin, M. (2012, March 14). Iv, v, i, ii, iii, vi. Retrieved from
Tick, T. (2012, March 8). Star wars movie viewing order - update. Retrieved from
Liu, J. (2012, 02 12). Machete order: A new way to watch star wars. Retrieved from
Kaminski, M. (2005). The complete history of the sequel trilogy. Retrieved from