Star Wars is one of the most beloved film franchises of all time. Over the span of 11 films, LucasFilms has told the story of the Jedi and their run-ins with the Empire, the First Order, and, of course, the Sith.
The first Star Wars film launched in 1977 and was later rebranded as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. Today, the movies’ preferred watch order differs between fans, given the entire saga was released differently from its canonical timeline. In this article, we will be breaking down the order of the films in terms of the progression in the overall story being told throughout the films.
Here’s our recommendation for watching the Star Wars films in chronological order.
What order should I watch the Star Wars movies?
The Phantom Menace
The beginning of the second trilogy of films in the series, The Phantom Menace is a prequel to Return of the Jedi. This 1999 film takes audiences back to Anakin Skywalker’s life as a child, decades before he becomes Darth Vader. The Phantom Menace provided fans their first official look at how the Jedi Order functioned before its collapse, laid the foundation for Darth Vader’s larger story arc, and introduced fan-favorite characters like Qui-Gon Jinn and Darth Maul. If you’re watching the films to follow the story from start to finish, then this is the place to start.
Attack of the Clones
Years after The Phantom Menace, Anakin is now an adult, and he has taken his place as a Padawan under Obi-Wan Kenobi’s authority. In this film, we begin to see the Jedi Order from the inside, including its problems with deceit from within. We also see the threat the Jedi Order faces from the Sith, and the ethical conundrums introduced by the Galactic Republic’s clone army. Attack of the Clones does the perfect job of bridging the story from the beginning of the trilogy to its final act in the subsequent film.
Revenge of the Sith
Praised as the best film in the series by some fans, Revenge of the Sith is the epic conclusion to the prequel trilogy, concluding Anakin’s saga as he begins his transition into Darth Vader. This film is a non-stop action flick that boasts fan-favorite fights among Yoda, Darth Sidious, General Grevious, Mace Windu, and, of course, Anakin and Obi-Wan themselves.
The final act of this film is one of the best in the entire franchises, and properly bridges the end of the Jedi Order to the rise of the Galactic Empire. This film is a must-watch.
The very first Star Wars film introduced us to the space smuggler Han Solo, who remains one of the most popular protagonists in the entire series. But how did Han Solo receive his Millennium Falcon, and what was his life like during the early days of the Empire? Solo gave fans their first look at Han’s backstory, including how he completed the infamous Kessel Run in just 12 parsecs. Alden Ehrenreich stars as a younger Han, 10 years from A New Hope, while Donald Glover features as Lando Calrissian.
Rogue One takes place immediately before the events of A New Hope and gives fans a look at the events that led to the opening scene of the film. The film follows Jyn Erso as she attempts to steal the schematics for the Death Star.
Rogue One is the first Disney spin-off film, and it has a noticeably different approach to the Star Wars saga than the other films in the franchise. The war between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire is not without its civilian casualties and crossfire, and Rogue One shows how the conflict has a detrimental impact on species across the galaxy—even if the Rebels are ultimately fighting for galactic freedom.
A New Hope
A New Hope holds a special place in the fandom for being the very first Star Wars film, and fans’ introduction to the original trilogy’s greatest characters. This space opera saga follows Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia, Han-Solo, and Chewbacca as they cross paths with Darth Vader and prepare to confront the genocidal Death Star.
A New Hope was an immediate success, and it remains one of the most popular Star Wars films of all time.
The Empire Strikes Back
After the events of A New Hope, the Rebels escape Yavin and are hidden away at the ice planet Hoth. The Empire soon discovers their hidden base, and an all-out assault ensues.
In The Empire Strikes Back, fans receive their first introduction to Yoda, Emperor Palpatine, and Lando Calrissian. Han and Leia’s connection grows in this film, while the stakes are raised on Bespin’s Cloud City. The Empire Strikes Back also boasts the more well-known scene and quote from the series, when Darth Vader reveals to Luke that he is in fact his father.
Return of the Jedi
Luke continues his journey as a Jedi in Return of the Jedi, and he teams up again with Han to save Leia from Jabba the Hutt’s clutches. Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance races against the clock to destroy the Death Star 2. Concluding the original trilogy, Return of the Jedi is a journey of growth for the trilogy’s main characters, one that wraps up Anakin Skywalker’s saga and brings Luke’s quest to a close.
The Force Awakens
Opening the most recent trilogy of Star Wars films, The Force Awakens picks up years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Empire has fallen, but in its place The First Order has risen, a fascistic military force with much more manpower and weaponry than its predecessor. We are introduced to Rey, a child who was abandoned on Jakku. After aiding First Order abandoner Finn, she winds up a target for the First Order.
Throughout the film, we are taken on a familiar journey bridging the old trilogy with the new. Han Solo and Leia Organa return, and we learn more about the Disney films’ main antagonist: Kylo Ren. By the time the film ends, fans are teased to both a greater threat, and a greater journey for Rey to accompany.
The Last Jedi
Continuing the narrative established in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi provides some extra backstory on each of its main cast while wrapping up Luke Skywalker’s story. A series of new characters were introduced in this film as well, including Resistance maintenance worker Rose Tico and Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo. While pivotal to Rey’s journey, The Last Jedi remains one of the most controversial Star Wars films released to date, surpassing even The Phantom Menace in terms of fans’ divisive responses.
The Rise of Skywalker
Back in the hands of JJ Abrams, The Rise of Skywalker does its best to bring closure to the events of the previous films in the trilogy. This is done by bringing back characters that were underutilized in The Last Jedi, as well as finalizing major characters’ stories from past films. Like The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker was considered incredibly divisive on release; many fans were not happy with the ending Abrams chose for the trilogy. Still, the film itself is a spectacle with great fight choreography, and an engaging story that doesn’t take any breaks.