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How to watch the Star Wars movies in order

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The main Star Wars saga is about to reach its grand conclusion with the release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on Dec. 20, making now the perfect time to binge the series for the first time or rewatch your favorites. And thanks to services such as Disney Plus and Netflix, it’s easier than ever to do just that. However, with three distinct trilogies and a variety of spin-off movies available, new fans may be confused about how to watch the Star Wars movies in order.

There’s technically no “right” way to watch all of the Star Wars films — some fans like to watch them in release order, others prefer chronological timeline order, and certain fans enjoy a hybrid of both. With that in mind, we’ve outlined the most popular Star Wars viewing orders for your intergalactic binging pleasure. 

Where to watch the Star Wars movies 

If you’re looking for the most cost-efficient way to mainline the Star Wars films, you should sign up for Disney Plus ($6.99 per month/$69.99 per year). Disney’s streaming service has Episodes I-VII as well as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and will get Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story in 2020.

If you can’t wait to watch The Last Jedi and Solo, you can currently find those two films on Netflix (though they’ll likely leave the service once they hit Disney Plus). Of course, you can also purchase or rent the Star Wars movies a la carte on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play

Star Wars movies in order of release date

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If you want to experience the Star Wars movies as they came out, release order is the way to go. I’d personally recommend this order for new fans, as you get to witness the natural evolution of the Star Wars saga complete with all of its ups and downs. From the classic 80s sci-fi of the original trilogy, to the messy CGI and questionable acting of the prequels, to the modern glory of The Force Awakens and its divisive sequel, here’s every Star Wars movie in release order: 

  • 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)

Disney Plus is live and available either in the pretty-cheap $6.99 standalone package — which nets you the whole Disney vault and The Mandalorian — or with a $12.99 bundle that includes Hulu and ESPN Plus, which some might consider a cable-replacement.View Deal

Star Wars movies in order, chronologically

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The Star Wars saga kicked off with Episode IV, then got a prequel trilogy before getting a sequel trilogy, so the storyline is inherently out of order. Chronological order lets you see Star Wars' characters evolve in real time, including Anakin Skywalker's journey from bright-eyed boy to troubled warrior and Obi-Wan Kenobi's transformation from reluctant apprentice to sage Jedi runaway. If you’d prefer to see the Skywalker Saga from its chronological beginnings, here’s every Star Wars film in timeline order:

  • 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)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  • 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 VII — The Force Awakens (2015)
  • Star Wars: Episode VIII —The Last Jedi (2017)
  • Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Star Wars movies in machete order 

A viewing order made popular by fans, “machete order” uses a mix of release and chronological order in order to preserve the big twist in The Empire Strikes Back while still providing some backstory via the prequels. The order starts with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, dips back into Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith for Darth Vader’s origins, and then returns to the present to end the original trilogy in dramatic fashion with Return of the Jedi.

Yes, this order skips The Phantom Menace entirely, as some fans don’t consider the film to be essential to the plot (Sorry, Jar Jar). It’s worth keeping in mind that this order was created many years ago and doesn’t factor in the sequel trilogy or spin-off films, which you can slot in as you see fit (we recommend release order after Return of the Jedi, starting with The Force Awakens.) 

  • Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope (1977)
  • Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  • Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones (2002)
  • Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  • Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi (1983)

What about the Star Wars TV shows?  

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Of course, the Star Wars universe isn’t limited to just the movies, and there are a variety of live-action and animated TV series that serve as canonical entries in the timeline. Better yet, all of them are available on Disney Plus. Here’s a breakdown of where some of the key shows fit in:

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: This popular animated series is set between Episodes II and III, and follows the adventures of Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Ahsoka Tano during the Clone Wars.

Star Wars: Rebels: A follow-up to Clone Wars, Rebels sees a rag-tag group of fighters including Kannan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger and Hera Syndulla battle a fledgling Galactic Empire between Episodes III and IV. 

Untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi Series: The upcoming Disney Plus Obi-Wan show will reveal what Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) was up to between Episodes III and IV following the slaughter of the Jedi at the hands of the Empire. 

Untitled Cassian Andor Series: Details are thin on this upcoming Disney Plus original show, but considering that this Rogue One prequel will focus on the adventures of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his sassy droid pal K2S0 (Alan Tudyk), we expect it to take place between Episodes III and IV.

The Mandalorian: Taking place five years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, The Mandalorian focuses on a lone bounty hunter as he explores a murky post-Empire universe.

Star Wars: Resistance: Set just before the events of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, this colorful animated series puts the spotlight on a ragtag group of Resistance pilots.