Star Wars Movies HeroSource: Lory Gil / iMore

Happy May the Fourth to all of you! And with that, the only proper way to celebrate Star Wars Day is to, well, watch the Star Wars movies. But what's the best way to watch them all? You have the original trilogy with Luke Skywalker, the prequels about Anakin, the new sequels with Rey, and even two standalone films that take place in between all of those. So how do you watch them in the proper order?

Well, actually, there are several different ways to watch the Star Wars movies, and this isn't factoring in all of the extra series that are out there, such as The Clone Wars, Rebels, The Mandalorian, and more. For now, let's just focus on the main meat of the Star Wars franchise — the films that we're all familiar with in some form. Because who hasn't heard of Luke Skywalker by now?

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The best way: By release date

Rey versus Kylo RenSource: Disney

This is my preferred way to watch the movies (and I've watched them all quite a few times myself). It's also the best way to get into the Star Wars films if you've never seen them before, so think of this as the purist's view. The reasoning? This was how the Star Wars story unfolded to everyone, and it's a little jarring if you go from the prequel trilogy to the originals, then to the sequels — that dated CGI and effects from the originals can taint the experience.

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

Again, this is how the entire story has unfolded for those who grew up with Star Wars, and honestly, it's the best method for watching the films, in my opinion.

By chronological order in the Star Wars universe

Star Wars Prequel TrilogySource: Disney

Since each movie is an episode number, you can technically just watch them that way, from Episode I all the way to Episode IX. But remember, there are two standalone films that you need to fit in the timeline somewhere, so this is how that goes, with the central point being The Battle of Yavin (destruction of the first Death Star) that occurs in Episode IV: A New Hope.

  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (set 32 years before ANH)
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (22 years before)
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (19 years before)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (about a decade before)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (ends moments before ANH)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Starting point)
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (three years after ANH)
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (four years after)
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (34 years after)
  • Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (34 years after)
  • Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (35 years after)

So while the main movies are easy to remember since they're already in the right order, you have to factor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story. These are both solid films that can stand on their own, but Rogue One is especially important since the end leads right into A New Hope. Solo, while it wasn't the best movie, does delve more into the backstory of Han Solo, the captain of the Millennium Falcon and Corellian smuggler turned leader of the Rebel Alliance.

But just be warned that if you go this route, you will be going from advanced CGI and effects in the prequels to dated and sometimes cheesy effects in the original trilogy. Just remember — Han shot first!

And if you want to go even further into Star Wars lore, then you should watch the various television series that are out there. Star Wars: The Clone Wars takes place between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The final season of The Clone Wars is currently airing on Disney+ and should end somewhere during the events of Revenge of the Sith.

Star Wars: Rebels occurs between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. The Mandalorian happens after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

A new series focusing on Obi-Wan Kenobi will come to Disney+ in the future (release date unknown), and it has been stated that this takes place between Episode III and Episode IV as well, similar to Rebels. Another new series that will land on Disney+ is a series focusing on Rogue One's Cassian Andor, and this will be set five years before the events of Rogue One, but after the prequels.

The Machete Order

Star Wars PosterSource: Disney

Back in 2011, a guy named Rod Hilton introduced The Machete Order for Star Wars. If you've never heard of this order, it's okay — I didn't either until now. With Machete Order, you're watching the Star Wars movies so that it solely focuses on Luke's story. This is to keep the big twist in The Empire Strikes Back under wraps until the moment is right. It skips over Episode I: The Phantom Menace entirely (I could live with that, honestly). Here is the proper Machete Order for Star Wars:

  • Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

With this order, Episode II and Episode III act as flashbacks for Anakin's story, before the final battle in Return of the Jedi. Since the point of Machete Order is to keep the focus on Luke only, you're able to skip Rogue One and Solo.

Once you've completed the films in Machete Order, you can then move on to the sequels if desired:

  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

The complete Star Wars timeline

Disney Plus Star Wars Ultimate TimelineSource: Disney+

It's perfectly fine if you just want to stick with the movies themselves because there's a lot of material that's covered. But a lot of questions get answered with the addition of other Star Wars viewing material, like the different live-action and animated series that are available, and it goes even further with the Star Wars universe lore and is highly recommended to watch. It will take a long time to get through it all, but it's well worth it — we promise.

Again, the following goes off The Battle of Yavin in A New Hope as the central timeline point:

  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (set 32 years before ANH)
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (set 22 years before)
  • The Clone Wars animated series (begins 22 years before ANH, ends 19 years before)
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (set 19 years before)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (about a decade before)
  • Star Wars: Rebels animated series (set five years before ANH, with an epilogue set much later)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (ends moments before ANH)
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Starting point)
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (set three years after)
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (set four years after)
  • The Mandalorian (set around nine years after)
  • Star Wars: Resistance animated series (set 34 years after ANH onwards)
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (set 34 years after)
  • Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (set 34 years after)
  • Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (set 35 years after)

What can you watch on Disney+?

Most of the Star Wars movies and series can be found on the Disney+ streaming service right now, with The Rise of Skywalker arriving today, May 4. Solo: A Star Wars Story won't be available in the US until July 9, 2020, but it is currently available to watch on Netflix.

Star Wars Movies

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
  • Episode XI: The Rise of Skywalker (May 4, 2020)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (July 9, 2020, currently available on Netflix)

Star Wars Series

  • The Mandalorian
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • Star Wars: Rebels
  • Star Wars Resistance

We rank the Star Wars movies

Emperor Palpatine MemeSource: Know Your Meme

I absolutely love Star Wars, but when it comes to rankings, this all comes down to opinion. This is my ranking of the films, so your mileage may vary here, but I'll also include the IMDB user score as well.

  1. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back - 8.7
  2. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi - 8.3
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - 7.8
  4. Episode IV: A New Hope - 8.6
  5. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - 7.5
  6. Episode II: Attack of the Clones - 6.5
  7. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker - 6.7
  8. Episode VII: The Force Awakens - 7.9
  9. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi - 7.0
  10. Solo: A Star Wars Story - 6.9
  11. Episode I: The Phantom Menace - 6.5

Good, good — Let the hate flow through you. I know some of my rankings are going to be divisive, but I stand by them. Feel free to critique my choices in the comments though!

May the Fourth be with you

With the current pandemic situation everywhere, you'll be staying at home anyways. So why not just put on all the Star Wars movies in your preferred order and just enjoy? That's the best way to celebrate Star Wars day! But if you want more, then don't miss out on 10 more activities that you can do today, and May the Fourth be with you.