The Definitive Viewing Order of Star Wars

As a kid, I believed in the ways of the Force by opening doors for strangers at the mall (which turned out to be automatic), telling my dogs to sit (which turned out to be trained), and trying to sway my hand at my mom’s face to give me extra money (which made me realize that there’s no such thing as the Force).

Let me be clear though that I’m not a die-hard nerd when it comes to Star Wars. I don’t speak “Hutteese.” I don’t know the droid that Luke was originally going to buy at the start of Episode IV. And I have no idea who Owen Lars’ mother’s uncle’s father’s driver’s pilot’s boyfriend is if ever that guy exists, because I have a life outside of Star Wars. But I do know that Rogue One is not Episode VIII, which means I know my stuff.

Over the years, one of the hotly contested debates in fanboy world has always been identifying the perfect order of watching Star Wars. Some prefer the release order (IV, V, VI, I, II, III), while others stick with the chronological order (I, II, III. IV, V, VI). Don’t get me wrong, both orders have their own pros and cons.

By watching Star Wars in release order, we witness a young moisture farmer Luke Skywalker and his journey of becoming a Jedi Master before witnessing the fall of Anakin (and George Lucas’ man crush on using CGI extensively) to the dark side. The problem with this order is that it magnifies the fact that the prequels were unnecessary additions to the series. From the original trilogy (IV-V-VI) alone, we get the idea of the whole Star Wars story (the Force, Dark Side, Jedi) and end on a high note as the Rebel Alliance celebrate their victory against the Empire. The prequel trilogy only adds a backstory that no one really asked for the film’s greatest villain — Darth Vader.

By watching Star Wars in chronological order, we come to understand that Jedis have long been aware of a prophecy — the one who will bring balance to the Force (spoiler alert: it’s not Donald Trump). Anakin goes through his journey as a hero turned villain while Luke becomes his redemption as he helped his father fulfill the prophecy. If only we could disregard the tax disputes between Naboo and the Trade Federation, the existence of Jar-Jar Binks, and the cringe-worthy acting of Hayden Christensen, this order would be the better choice of watching Star Wars. It has always been the way that George Lucas intended us to watch his films as he changed the Star Wars narrative and made Anakin Skywalker the hero.

One itsy bitsy problem, though — it spoils the fact that Darth Vader is actually Luke Skywalker’s father!

(Now, if you don’t think that’s not a very important plot twist, think again)

Despite their own pros and cons, both viewing orders ultimately failed to show the proper storytelling that Star Wars deserved.

That is until I found out about the Machete Order.

Written way back in 2011, the author of the Machete Order says that we should watch Star Wars in this particular order — IV, V, II, III, VI, removing Episode I in the process. In his post, the author argues 2 solid points:

  1. Luke Skywalker is the real hero.
  2. Episode I is the only unnecessary addition to the Star Wars film as it leaves a lot of unanswered questions such as: what are midi-chlorians? Who is Anakin’s father? Why was Jar-Jar Binks ever created?

Through this order, we see Luke training to become a Jedi like his dad until Darth Vader dropped the “I’m your father” bomb on him. We get an extended flashback on how Vader became Vader, and still end the series with everyone celebrating. In a nutshell, the author writes that with his Machete Order, “the Star Wars watching experience gets to start with the film that does the best job of establishing the Star Wars universe, Episode IV, and it ends with the most satisfying ending, Episode VI.

Plus, it hides the fact that Darth Vader is Luke’s father for all the first timers! (Just watch this again to see how important of a plot twist it is to everyone)

Fair to say that of all the 3 known viewing orders, this is by far my most favorite and recommended one. Now that Disney has bought the entire franchise (RIP Expanded Universe) from Lucas for a cool $4 billion and plans to continue expanding the story, the question now is — where do the new movies fit in the Machete Order?

Simple. How about watching everything in this order:

ROGUE ONE — IV — V — I — II — III — VI — VII

(I’ve dubbed this the Gamboa Order on the off chance it catches on because, like the author of the Machete Order, I’m also a vain asshole)

I know you have so many questions.

“WTF, Rogue One is there?!”

“WTF, Episode I is also there?!”

“WTF, what the fucking order this is?!”

Hold your horses and let me explain.

By now, you have seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at least once, twice, or have tried all movie formats (4DX, IMAX, 3D — in which case, I’m happy for you). In the movie, we see the entire galaxy under Galactic Empire rule and all worlds being guarded by Imperial fleet and Stormtroopers. The story revolves around the plan of the Empire in using kyber crystals (same crystals that emit lightsabers) as a weapon capable of mass destruction. The Rebel Alliance tags the help of Jyn Erso in leading a bunch of misfits to steal the plans and destroy the Death Star.

Even with the absence of Jedi and the Force, Rogue One still establishes a lot of important things to kick off the Star Wars story:

  1. The immense power of the Galactic Empire

    2. The lack of unity from the Rebel Alliance


    4. The casualties of war (which wasn’t given enough focus by succeeding films)

Rogue One basically kicks off your Star Wars viewing experience by understanding first what kind of enemy everyone is facing against. The movie provides gloom and uncertainty all throughout as the Rebels try to fight off the dictatorial rule of the Emperor. When you realize who had to die to provide hope in this war, it adds a whole lot of emotional depth not just for Episode IV (in which Rogue One is a prequel to) but for the rest of the Star Wars movies. With this, we root for our heroes Luke, Leia, Han, and the rest of the gang even more in their journey to bring peace to the galaxy.

After Rogue One, we continue with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back before going to the prequel trilogy as extended flashbacks to explain what happened with Darth Vader.

With the numerous complaints I have for Episode I, why did I still include it in the Gamboa Order?

Before we witness his emo stage in Episodes II and III, The Phantom Menace showed Anakin, like his son Luke, was only just a kid trying to survive in Tatooine. We find out that because of fate, Obi-Wan and his master, Qui-Gon, were led to the young boy. And that same young boy would turn out to be the one who will bring balance to the Force (which he fulfilled in Episode VI). The film also shows that Yoda has already foreseen the dark path that lies upon Anakin’s journey, which is cheeky beautiful because this was as close as we’ll get to see Yoda facing Darth Vader in the movies.

Episode I also provides several important subplots:

  1. A backstory for both C-3PO (built by Anakin) and R2-D2 (saved Amidala’s Naboo Starship from the blockade), revealing that both droids had important roles in the lives of Luke and Leia’s parents.
  2. How Obi-Wan became a Jedi Master and Anakin became his apprentice (a vow he made to a dying Qui-Gonn)
  3. The Dark Side of the Force’s rule of two (there can only be a master and an apprentice)
  4. Darth Sidious’ master plan on ascending the ranks from being a Galactic Senator to Supreme Chancellor.
  5. Jar-Jar Binks’ role from an exiled Gungan to being the Senator that gave Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers to build the Grand Army of the Republic (another reason to punch Jar-Jar).

Whether we like it or not, Episode I is still a must-watch. But once you get past the 2-hour snoozefest of a movie, everything will turn out to be fine and all will be worth it. Trust me. For what it’s worth though, The Phantom Menace has one of the best lightsaber duel scenes (with matching soundtrack) in the series when Darth Maul faces Obi-Wan and Qui-Gonn.

Now that we’re all settled with Luke and Darth Vader’s journey, where does the next batch of trilogy fit in the Gamboa Order?

In 2015, Disney finally released the first Star Wars: Episode VII as the sequel to everything (way to fix the timeline, Disney!). The Force Awakens introduces us to a new heroine, Rey, as she faces off against Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren, and the First Order (a military junta that followed the Galactic Empire) with the help of General Organa (we miss you, Carrie Fisher) and the Rebel Alliance. And since it’s not a prequel to the prequels to the originals, we can watch Episode VII right after Episode VI. And we can watch Episode VIII right after Episode VII! With the new trilogy, we can all safely watch it in chronological order, and it wouldn’t affect the viewing experience we had during the first 6 episodes.

Unless George Lucas comes back and decides to make prequels again, wherein we have to create a new viewing order. Please God, I hope not.

Try the Gamboa Order for a change when introducing Star Wars to your friends who will watch it for the first time and comment your violent reactions below.

– David Gamboa

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