Ultimus Viewing Order for the Ultimate Guide to Watching Star Wars
- December 12, 2019
- David Madison Stellar
You may ask yourself, with so many Star Wars Movies, what order shall I watch them in? What order shall I present them to my fellow man so he can love Star Wars truly? Fear no more, for this question is now answered.
- The List
- The Order (Of The Jedi)
Firstly, can we all just agree that
Star Wars is the greatest movie ever made
? Great. Now let's move forward.
There are now 11 movies in the amazing Star Wars universe,
the 9 episodes and the two "Star Wars Stories" (of which I expect we
will see more). For now I am only considering feature length movies
for this list and not TV shows. That means we aren't counting the
infamous and blubbering Star Wars Holiday Special. I'm also not counting the animated
movie and series, because they just don't rub my lightsaber the right way.
Counting them for what? Well - since the "final" Episode has been
released, and since my first born (and only) child was recently
released, it's time to figure out the right viewing order for the
Star Wars movies, both for diehard fans, and soon to be diehard fans,
like my son in seven to ten years, give or take. His name is
Timmy, which is short for Ultimus, or, as I prefer it, "Emperor
Ultimus, the Boy King". And it's time to figure out the order
he will eventually watch his favorite movies in. So what is it?
The List Of Movies To Consider
I refer to episodes by their Lucas Number
episode numbers given by Lucas), so let's just clear that up here
with a list of all the movies we are considering (but NOT
the order I recommend!):
EPISODIC (Lucas) ORDER
(chronological in Star Wars Universe)
(chronological in our Universe)
||1977||A New Hope
|2||Attack of the Clones
||1980||Empire Strikes Back
|3||Revenge of the Sith
||1983||Return of the Jedi
||2002||Attack of the Clones
|4||A New Hope
||2005||Revenge of the Sith
|5||Empire Strikes Back
|6||Return of the Jedi
|9||Rise of Skywalker
||2019||Rise of Skywalker
The ones marked "story"
do not have episode numbers as they are
offshoots of the original Star Wars 9 Episode series and are referred
to as "A Star Wars Story".
I try to avoid them by speaking vaguely of things that will be clear
to Star Wars fans, like the "I am your father" bit. But if you haven't seen
the Star Wars franchise then you might not want to read this, and just go
straight to the watching order
to avoid getting any
Obvious considerations for possible orders are Episodic Order (1-9 - though
what about Rogue One, Solo?) and Release Order
(4, 5, 6, 1-3, 7, Rogue One, 8, Solo, 9).
Also, some of you may have heard of the internet famous
Machete Order was based on a fantastically well thought-out article for how
to watch the Star Wars movies after the creation of the prequels, but before
7-9 came out.
Machete Spoiler alert: Machete order is: 4, 5, 2, 3, 6 (no Episode 1)
He rejected Episodic order, as do I, because 4 (A New Hope) must be first,
period. It's the introduction of the universe, and, I would argue, the best
of the series
of all time.
I also agree with Machete that we shouldn't lose the surprise of "I am
your father" which he discusses quite well.
Machete argued for the removal of Episode 1 because none of the
characters ever matter in any of the future stories.
Machete also argued for watching the prequels before 6 because of the Hayden
Vader problem. Specifically:
The end of Episode 6 (Return of the Jedi) was changed in the Special
Edition (the re-releases) so that Hayden Christensen replaced the
force ghost of Vader in the final scene of the Jedi ghosts. This
makes sense if, like Lucas, you're pushing Episodic Order, since
this is the person who plays Anakin in the prequels. But that means
if we choose to watch 4,5,6 before the prequels, we're going to not have any
idea why Hayden Christensen is hanging out with Yoda and Obi-Wan, since
we haven't seen him in the films yet. It also takes away this visual
representation of the redemption of Anakin, which is pretty important.
So Machete helped solve this by moving the movies around. But it
turns out it's unnecessary thanks to Harmy's Despecialized version
(or Project 4K83).
Wait, who's Harmy and what's 4K83? These are attempts to recreate the original
versions of the film. Can't you buy the original versions? Not in DVD quality, nope. When
Lucas released the "Special Edition" versions in the 90s those became the only
official versions you can legally purchase. So unless you wanted to
watch some old VHS quality copy, you had to watch the "Special Editions".
To solve this loss,
Star Wars fan and video editor "Harmy" scoured a number of sources to try to recreate a
that would use DVD quality footage as often as possible, but more importantly would
match the original theatrical releases.
Alternatively, we have
which created 4K versions of the original three movies (released in
1977, 1980, 1983) by rescanning original prints of the movie. What
are the differences between these and Harmy? I'll let you go down
that rabbit hole on your own time and make your own choices.
Most fanboys are purists and only want the original ("despecialized")
movie. For me, I'll be using those original (despecialized) movies
for Episodes 4 and 6, since they had the biggest changes that I think
are problematic, but I'll probably use the Special Edition of Episode
5 which had a nice video cleanup without any significant story/film changes
So this takes care of what I think was the most compelling reason
to go with Machete Ordering, we can now watch Episode 6 before the
prequels without the Hayden ghost confusion.
Machete also argues that putting the prequels in the middle of 4-6 balances things
nicely and means not needing to end with the prequels. But this is no longer the
same concern thanks to episodes 7-9. There are some other interesting pros and cons in Machete's
article which makes it a great read for fans. But in my mind, showing the movies in an order
which requires less explanation ("now we're going back to the prequels...") about where
we are and doesn't require splitting Empire and Return apart (since they follow almost
directly in time and have a huge
cliffhanger waiting to be resolved) is the reason
I've moved Jedi back to it's original spot. At some point I'll watch them in Ultimus Order with Jedi
after the prequels instead of before, it'll be interesting to see if it makes much
difference. (Edit: I've now done a watching in this order, and I think it works great!)
What about the Phantom Menace? For now I plan on including it in the
form of the Phantom Edit. What's that? It's a fan edit that cuts about
17 minutes out of the Phantom Menace to pace it better and to remove
some of the unnecessary hijinks and also the "midichlorians", which are troubling
because they take something that has stylistically existed as a religion and
smacks us ipso-facto into thinking they are some sort of science based concept.
There are also fan edits that take all three of the prequels and boil them down into one
movie, quite successfully I am told, so I might look into that as well. But I am also
not a prequel hater like many angry fanboys, and to me it's part of canon, and as a completist
I want to include them as long as they work with the movie universe.
Machete argued against the Phantom Menace, simply on the grounds that none of the characters
in it ever become important in later movies. However, it looks like Darth Maul (who was
pretty fantastic) will likely be returning in the Solo series (as we see a foreshadowing
glimpse of him at the end).
Machete was also written before any of the movies after the first 6
were released, which leaves us with a problem with Rogue One, which
is one of my favorite movies in the series. I consider it to be
effectively Episode 3.5, and if you watch the end of Rogue One you
can see it perfectly blends directly into the beginning of A New Hope.
Like, literally. You can play the end of Rogue One and then jump to
the beginning of A New Hope right after the crawl and it's seamless.
Machete did write an
update to his original article
that considers some of the new movies,
but I feel like he's just sticking to his guns with his original ideas, and he's
also still ignoring the despecialized versions. He pretty much maintains Machete
Order and then adds on the new movies.
Adding Rogue One at this point also fixes one of the major problems I have with the prequels,
which is the failure of style matching. The Star Wars universe we
know is boxy and dirty and sometimes broken. But all of the ships
and tech in the prequels are sleek and clean. It doesn't match. The
fighting style also doesn't match, but that's another story. We can
use Rogue One to help us transition back to the proper style of the
Star Wars universe we see in Episodes 4 and forward. Rogue One also
fits perfectly before A New Hope, but A New Hope is the first we watch, so... (and here's
the really genius moment of Ultimus Viewing Order, if I do say so myself) we
solve this by optionally adding a rewatching
of A New Hope right after
watching Rogue One in the middle, which I think is a perfectly great way to spend two hours.
Incidentally, my other problem with the prequels is the pacing. Episode 2 took
an incredibly long time to show the romantic relationship. An
unnecessarily long time in my opinion. That time could have instead
been used to give more time to the transition to evil that Anakin
goes through, which seemed extremely rushed - we go from watching his
mom die to killing children
in how many minutes? After having watched
the Phantom Edit and the Attack of the Phantom (the first fan edits
of the prequels) I have to say that they help immensely from this fan's
perspective. I'd actually like to see a tighter edit of the Phantom Menace
(and I'd like to put the original crawls back) so I might have to do that
before little Ultimus is old enough to see it.
So we follow the prequels with Rogue One and a rewatch of Episode 4.
But this does lead us to a slight problem. What's next? We could
move on to 7-9 after rewatching Episode 4: A New Hope
, but this has a slight
issue. Episode 7, which I actually like quite a bit, walks a really
fine line between being a remake/ripoff of Episode 4 and being an homage.
And that's fine, but I think it would lean to the "remake/ripoff" if you
had just seen Episode 4
prior. So that's a problem. One option,
if you have the time, is to just go ahead and also rewatch 5 and 6. It's
how many of us who grew up with Star Wars saw it, and they're great movies,
so why not see them again? This is a particularly good solution if you're
pacing the movies out over many years (for children to watch, for example).
The other option also solves the question of the Solo series. Why not
put the Solo series as a flashback after the rewatch of 4, then move on
to 7-9? All of this now assumes that you don't despise the Solo movie(s)
as some fans do. If you do, just skip the Solo inclusion here.
But there's a decent chance that Solo will be eventually made into
a trilogy. The film didn't do as well financially to guarantee this, but the
actors have signed on for doing two more films. I think it's fair to say
that Disney will find reason to make future Star Wars content.
Solo after Episode 4 would, however, be a flashback - the timeline
for Solo is after Episode 3 and before Rogue One/A New Hope. So why
not watch it then? That makes some sense, except Episode 3 leads us
to Rogue One and Episode 4 pretty directly, ending with the
construction of the Death Star and all. So it would be jumping back
in time. But we've already done that with the prequels, and here's why
it makes sense. If you look at Episode 7 as a Star Wars fan, then by
far the biggest moment in the film is Han. So any Solo movies should
either be before or after Episode 7. If we see them before, they only
build up the character even more before Episode 7 happens, making the
emotional content even more powerful. If they come after, it's just
backstory that has less meaning at this point. And watching Solo here
also let's us take
a break between Episode 4: A New Hope
and Episode 7: A New New Hope
Then we just roll through watching Episodes 7, 8 and 9. This keeps the final trilogy
together, and now that I've seen 9 I feel like it does a really good job
(as long as you're okay with the choices they made, and if you're not, go
argue with someone else, angry fanboy!) of wrapping things
up to bring the Star Wars tale to a close and, as my brilliant wife put it,
give meaning to the entire story
So go out and watch the series in Ultima Watching Order, and viola, you are now a Jedi!
The Order (Of The Jedi)
So the current ULTIMUS ORDER FOR STAR WARS is:
||Empire Strikes Back
||Return of the Jedi
||Attack of the Clones
||Revenge of the Sith
||"Star Wars Story"
||Optional: Episode IV
||(and optionally V + VI!)
||"Star Wars Story"
||Rise of Skywalker
(this page will likely be updated if/when new movies are made!)