With the three Star Wars trilogies finally coming to an end this year, there's no better time to rewatch the series and introduce it to your kids.

There are a few traditional ways to revisit the saga. You can watch by theatrical release or in chronological order. There’s also a lesser-known "Machete Order", which takes a machete to The Phantom Menace by cutting it out of your rewatch. 

There are pros and cons to all the different orders. While the chronological order might be the obvious choice, some argue it's not as enjoyable, simply because you start with The Phantom Menace, which is probably our least favourite film of the bunch. Watching chronologically also spoils the biggest twist in the series by prematurely revealing the identity of Luke's father, an iconic Star Wars moment.

Watching the films by their theatrical release also has unsatisfying points. Sure, the “I am your father” surprise stays intact, but the storyline is jumbled. You'll hop between Episodes IV-VI (the original trilogy released between 1977 and 1983), then Episodes I-III (the prequel trilogy released between 1999 and 2005), and finally, Episodes VII-IX (the sequel trilogy released between 2015 and 2019).

And then there's the new Anthology films - Rogue One (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018). These take place between the originals and prequels but were released during the sequel trilogy. You can see how all this quickly becomes a mess, which is why we’re creating the perfect order that solves most of these problems. Here is Pocket-lint’s ultimate guide to watching the Star Wars trilogies.

Star Wars movies and shows: Best viewing orders
Best Star Wars order (spoilers) Best Star Wars order (spoiler-free)
Chronological movie order (spoiler-free) Theatrical movie order (spoiler-free)
Machete and Rinster orders (spoiler-free) Complete Star Wars saga order (spoiler-free)

The best Star Wars viewing order

An at-a-glance, spoiler-free version of this guide is at the bottom, along with quick listings for the other orders - chronological, theatrical, and Machete, Rinster, and the complete saga - in case you want to explore those, too. 

NOTE: THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW.

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A New Hope (1977)

While technically the sixth movie, chronologically, A New Hope is worth watching first purely because it's the start of everything. It’s also the only Star Wars film that treats viewers as if they’ve never watched the saga before. So, start with Luke meeting Obi-Wan, getting a lightsaber, and learning about the Force and Darth Vader before he heads off to save Princess Leia and destroy the Death Star.

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Rogue One (2016)

The first of the new "Anthology" films, Rogue One is filled with A New Hope backstory. It follows the daughter of the Death Star's creator, Jyn Erso, as she is freed by the Rebel Alliance and tasked with finding the plans that lead to the ultimate weapon's destruction. Yes, it ends where A New Hope begins, but because it's so reliant on you knowing A New Hope already, we think it’s best to watch them in reverse. You'll learn who created the Death Star, why it's so easily destroyed, and you'll meet the many Bothans who died to steal the Death Star plans.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as one of the greatest sequels of all time. After the initial battle on the frozen planet Hoth, Luke heads to begin his Jedi training with Yoda, while Han Solo and Princess Leia head to Cloud City to meet with Han's old friend Lando Calrissian. But Han and Leia are betrayed and then used as bait by Vader to lure Luke. It all culminates in a showdown between Vader and Luke and ends with a twist.

The Phantom Menace (1999)

And, just like that, we go from one of the most loved installments of all time to the most loathed. This film follows Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master Qui-Gon Jinn as they attempt to protect the Queen of Naboo and stumble upon a young slave boy named Anakin Skywalker. You're also forced to sit through two hours of Jar-Jar Binks and sleep-inducing Galactic Senate negotiations. So, if you’ve seen this film before, just skip it on your next rewatch. Although it does provide some details important to another prequel film, and it has a great lightsaber duel. 

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Attack of the Clones (2002)

While the films up to this point have shown Darth Vader as the ultimate evil villain, Attack of the Clones begins to show us the road that led him to the Dark side, with the death of his mother at the hands of Tuskan Raiders. We also see his growing love affair with Queen Padme Amidala. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi stumbles upon a clone army being built for the Republic that will form the foundation of the Empire's Stormtroopers.

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Revenge of the Sith (2005)

The final film of the prequel trilogy shows Anakin's heart turn to black. While initially excited upon hearing of his wife Padme's pregnancy, visions of her dying begin to poison Anakin's mind, which allows Supreme Chancellor Palpatine to lure him to the Dark Side of the Force. This then leads to the destruction of the Republic and the murder of many Jedi, including all the young Padawans, at the hand of the newly named Darth Vader. 

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Solo (2018)

The origin story for the coolest guy in the Star Wars Universe provides a tonne of unnecessary backstory, so, honestly, this movie can be skipped. Apparently, Han Solo just wanted to act like Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and date Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) in his prime, which is understandable, but it's a little eye-rolling. Still, it’s an entertaining heist film that gives us more information about the most important ship in the galaxy, the Millenium Falcon.

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Return of the Jedi (1983)

Now that we’ve learned Darth Vader/Anakin’s background, it’s time to watch him sort of redeem himself with all that knowledge in hand. Plus, after saving Han Solo from the clutches of Jabba the Hutt, we see Luke trying to defeat his father and the Emperor, all while Han and Leia work to demolish a nearly completed second Death Star. Also, there are teddy bears with stone-age technology that help destroy the Empire, too. 

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Optional: The Mandalorian (2019)

This is the first live-action Star Wars TV series. It debuted with the launch of Disney+. It follows Pedro Pascal as the titular Mandalorian, a gun-fighter and bounty hunter, who makes his way in the furthest reaches of the galaxy five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, placing it well before the events of The Force Awakens and the creation of the First Order.

Note: Because The Mandalorian is not an animated show, we're including it this list. However, it's also not a Star Wars film, so it's optional.

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The Force Awakens (2015)

The first Star Wars film made by Disney after it purchased the franchise is set 30 years after Return of the Jedi. We see that there's a new conflict emerging between the budding Republic, led by Leia Organa-Skywalker and The First Order, which rose from the ashes of the Empire. Caught between this all is a young girl named Rey who seems to be really strong with the Force.

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The Last Jedi (2017)

After tracking down Luke Skywalker, Rey’s next challenge is convincing him to train her. Luke is unwilling due to his failures with Kylo Ren. Meanwhile, the remaining Republic forces are on the verge of total annihilation thanks to The First Order, leaving Rey and Luke as their only hope.

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The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

It’s not out yet, but Episode IX is slated to hit theaters in December 2019. We don’t know much about the film at this point, though the new trailer that's now out - you can watch it here - suggests it's the finale to this decades-old saga. So, let's assume you'll want to watch this film last. 


The best Star Wars order at a glance

OK, so here is the at-a-glance, spoiler-free version of the order above:

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Solo (2018)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Optional: The Mandalorian (2019)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The chronological movie order

If you want to watch films in order of the events that happen, and thus spoil the identity of Luke's father for first-timers, here you go:

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Solo (2018)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The theatrical (release date) movie order

This is the order in which the movies were released in cinemas. While it keeps the twist of Luke’s father intact, the storyline is jumbled. You start with the originals, then go to the prequels, and end with the sequels. That's confusing, especially for kids being introduced to Star Wars.

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Solo (2018)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

The Machete order

The "Machete Order" basically cuts The Phantom Menace from your movie rewatch, because many people don't enjoy that film. It preserves the "I am your father" moment. But it was created in 2011, so it doesn't include the sequels and is no longer a complete order. 

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The Rinster order

OK, here is a bonus list we haven't mentioned yet: The "Rinster Order" is named after Star Wars superfan Ernest Rinster, who created it to preserve the Luke-father twist, but it also keeps The Phantom Menace. There are no sequel films, though, so we still prefer our order.

  • Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  • Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

The complete Star Wars saga order

Here is an all-encompassing order -- with all the movies and shows from the Star Wars saga in chronological order. The saga began in 1977, and since then, there have been new trilogies added as well as countless spinoffs in the form of live-action and animated TV shows and movies. Not all of them are great, but if you want to take in every bit of Star Wars (even the 1978 holiday special), this is the chronological order for you.

Star Wars series and limited specials are bolded below.

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles (2013 to 2014)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace (2011)
  • The Clone Wars (2008 to 2014)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Solo (2018)
  • Star Wars Rebels (2014 to 2018)
  • Rogue One (2016)
  • Star Wars: Droids (1985 to 1986)
  • Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Star Wars: Holiday Special (1978)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (2012)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures (2016 to 2017)
  • Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)
  • Ewoks (1985 to 1986)
  • The Mandalorian (2019)
  • Star Wars: Resistance (2018 to Present)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises (2016)
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2016)
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
  • Star Wars: Forces of Destiny (2017 to Present)

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