Ever since my son, Harrison, was born, I've been filled with questions and concerns about how I will raise him. One of the most important questions I've had is "How am I going to show Harrison the Star Wars saga?" Am I going to show them in the order I watched them? Am I going to show them in chronological order? The order in which he watches the films will have a lifelong impact on how my son views the Star Wars universe.
This is the order I saw the films: IV, V, VI, I, II, III.
In 1997 the Original Trilogy was re-released in theaters a la Special Editions. My parents graciously took 7 year old me and my senses beheld greatness. Then I went home and poured over the OT on VHS (this time in their purest form). I knew it backwards and forwards. Then The Phantom Menace came out in 1999. It was perfect for a kid my age (not as much for the adult I am now). I never knew what it was like to wait from 1983 to 1999 to watch another Star Wars movie on the big screen. By Revenge of the Sith in 2005, I experienced all the Star Wars movies on the big screen in a matter of eight years.
I doubt the stars and planets will align for such a prime viewing opportunity as I had. So, the question remains "What order should someone view Star Wars for the first time?".
Now I am sure many of you are thinking "the way to watch Star Wars is to watch IV, V, IV and never mention the Prequels again." Let's just sweep them under the rug and pretend it never happened. But, there are lots of good things that came out of the Prequels. The book "How Star Wars Conquered the Universe" really helped me appreciate the Prequels and George Lucas. I really recommend everyone read it. The Prequels are part of Star Wars. They are history. As much as we would like to deny our history sometimes, it's the past that makes us into who we are today. The same goes for the Prequels. Taking them away takes away part of the Star Wars universe regardless of your thoughts on what happened. We need to embrace the Prequels and learn from the Prequels (which I think Disney and Abrams have done). Aside over.
So being in the mindset that all future Star Wars lovers need to experience all the films, can we approach them in a way that enhances the story telling?
This is how to watch Star Wars [Spoiler Alert]:
A New Hope
What a great opening to this magnum opus! We are thrown "in medias res" (in the middle of things) and taken on a fun ride across the galaxy. We meet our heroes and our foes. Good defeats evil. Classic.
The Empire Strikes Back
George Lucas has often said that the Original Trilogy was written all together, but broken up into three films due to time and money. According to "How Star Wars Conquered the Universe" this fact is disputed among those who really knew George and saw the various drafts of the films. It's thanks to Lawrence Kasdan, we have this wonderfully written second act. As Dante Hicks from Clerks says, "It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings." We really see how bad goes from worse in Empire. We see how bad these baddies really are. We also get more about the Force, and what it is by one of the most famous Star Wars characters ever: Yoda.
The Phantom Menace
So now we have found out that Darth Vader is Luke's father at the end of Empire? It's not true! That's impossible, right?!? Now we go back into the past of the dark and powerful Sith Lord. We find out how he was a troubled youth stuck on Tatoonie (just like his son...). We find out how he was destined for greatness, and we know, tragically, that such a fate will take a turn for the worse. But how?
Attack of the Clones
We finally know what those Clone Wars that Leia mentioned in A New Hope were all about. This is also a showcase for Obi-Wan. Attack of the Clones has some great scenes and situations for Master Kenobi. There's also a Romeo and Juliet-esque romance between Anakin and Padme. The introduction of a young Boba Fett. As much as some people dislike it, we also see the great and powerful Master Yoda in his prime (sorta). We already knew from Empire that he was strong with the Force, but he can kick butt with a lightsaber too. Thanks Episode II.
[OPTIONAL] Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Seasons 1-6)
I know that this isn't a movie, but The Clone Wars adds so much to the history of Star Wars. The relationship between Anakin and Obi-Wan really grows. We see that great star pilot, cunning warrior and good friend Ben Kenobi spoke of to Luke. We also feel the feels between Anakin and Padme. We learn more about the beloved Boba Fett. Darth Maul returns better and badder than ever. Lastly, we get more mythology about the Force and hints of the Old Republic.
Revenge of the Sith
We finally get to see why Luke is a new hope for the galaxy. The Republic falls into the hands of the Emperor. The Jedi are turned on by the very soldiers they fought with (a feeling of betrayal made deeper by the relationships we felt in The Clone Wars between the Jedi and Clones). We learn who the "another" is that Yoda mentioned at the end of Empire (Leia and Luke are brother and sister!). This is also where we see how Anakin was seduced by the Dark Side. We watch the battle royale between mentor and padawan. We finally know power of the Dark Side, not as a ally to Vader but as this controlling and dominating force over him.
Return of the Jedi
Now we come to the end of our journey. We have seen a father and son grow so much in very similar ways. The tension boils as we hope and pray that Luke doesn't fall prey to the Emperor and the Dark Side as his father did. We've experienced so many races of alien, that fighting along side Ewoks doesn't seem so foreign anymore. It's a great analogy for the manual versus the technological. So is the final battle between man and machine: Luke and Vader. We have an epic climax where Anakin is finally able to stop the death of a loved one, sacrifices himself bringing balance to the Force, and fulfills his destiny as the Chosen One. We party with Luke and the rest of the universe to celebrate the end of the Empire and the return of the Jedi.
Well, there you have it. I can't wait until we can add The Force Awakens to this list! I haven't put Rebels in yet, because that show continues on Disney XD. How do you like to watch the Star Wars films? Let me know what you think of this order in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!