Best Star Wars Movie Viewing Order — Spoiler-Free!

Confused Han Solo
Why is this so confusing???

Are you a newbie to the world of Star Wars, never watched any of the films, have some time to kill, but are confused by which order you should watch the films? Wonder no more!

There’s an excellent viewing order that a guy named Rod Hilton popularized called “Machete Order.” I’ll briefly sum it up here, since his excellent write-up and subsequent [but hugely entertaining] updates may contain spoilers as he delves into his detailed arguments for why this is the best sequence in which to view the primary set of movies. The sequence is:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  4. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  5. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

The main reason I’d personally like to emphasize here is that if you watch any other movies before Episodes IV and V, you’ll ruin some huge surprise moments in those films (especially Episode V, my favorite). You really don’t want to destroy those little joys. After those two films, Episodes II and III come in to provide some backstory to build upon the suspense surrounding the cliff-hanger of Episode V, plus they introduce a few surprises of their own that you wouldn’t experience if you watch Episode VI first. Once you finally come around to watching Episode VI, the whole space opera gets tied up with a huge, satisfactory bow. Machete really is the best viewing order for a Star Wars newbie.

If you get through all that, you’ve hit the heart and soul that is Star Wars. The next set of movies either expand upon backstory and/or build a new path forward. As such, their order isn’t really as important (other than watching VII, VIII, and IX in that order, sometime after Episode VI). My suggestion would be:

  1. Rogue One – the best of the non-Skywalker movies
  2. Solo – a fun little diversion into the background of a beloved character
  3. Episode VII: The Force Awakens – the next chapters in the continuing Skywalker Saga
  4. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  5. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker – the last chapter of the Skywalker Saga

You might be thinking, “Why is Episode I: The Phantom Menace not in this list?” Where it fits is actually a contentious topic among my fellow Star Wars geeks. There are very good arguments both for and against including the film; I could go into detail, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers. Mr. Hilton’s opinion is that one can completely skip Episode I without ruining or even diluting the story of Luke Skywalker. However, there is a truly epic lightsaber battle near the end of Episode I that really sets the thematic tone for the story arc of Anakin Skywalker. If you really want to experience the full story that George Lucas conceived and constructed for his elaborate universe, watch Episode I between Episodes V and II.

Short answer is Machete Order: 4–5–2–3–6! Enjoy!