To be honest, a ‘phenomenon’ like Star Wars requires no introduction. However, since this article is dedicated to all those people who in spite of having a profound desire never had the chance to be acquainted with the epic saga, I would use the following paragraph as a little foreword.
Speaking in the most basic terms, Star Wars is an epic space fantasy series, created by George Lucas, based on the lives of several characters “a long time ago in a far, far galaxy.” With space travel, humanoid aliens, robotic droids and so on, it is a paradise for admirers of science fiction. The saga revolves around an element called ‘the Force’, an omnipresent and omnipotent energy, and an unending war between the Jedi, who use the light side of the Force to serve as peacekeepers and guardians, and the Sith, who practice the dark side of the Force for their selfish gains and rule the galaxy for themselves.
The Star Wars Saga
The first film of the series, titled ‘Star Wars’ and later named ‘A New Hope’ (Episode 4), was released on the 25th of May, 1977. It was followed by two sequels, namely ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (Episode 5) and ‘Return of the Jedi’ (Episode 6). These three films comprise the original Star Wars Trilogy. After about 22 years of the release of ‘Star Wars’ came the first film of the prequel trilogy, ‘The Phantom Menace’ (Episode 1), that was released on the 16th of May, 1999. It was followed by ‘Attack of the Clones’ (Episode 2) and ‘Revenge of the Sith’ (Episode 3). Apart from these two trilogies, there is a sequel trilogy which is still in the process of completion. The first film of the sequel trilogy, ‘The Force Awakens’ (Episode 7), was released on the 18th of December, 2015. The two other films of the trilogy are yet to be released. The film ‘Rogue One’ is not a part of the main Star Wars series and has been termed as an ‘anthology film’. An animated film, ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ is also regarded as an integral part of the franchise. Having spoken so much about details, let us delay the discussion about the animated series and the television films to the latter part of this article. For the sake of simplicity in the following section, let us name ‘Rogue One’ and ‘The Clone Wars’ as R and C respectively.
As you have already noticed, the first episode of the main series came into existence after 22 years of the release of the 4th episode. This definitely means that it is never obligatory for a person to watch in the sequence of the episodes, and the prequel trilogy can be seen as a mere flashback, and some people even call them ‘optional’. Over the years, fans have figured out three ways of watching Star Wars. Which of them turns out to be the best is purely a matter of personal opinion.
- The Release Order: As the title suggests, according to this order, the viewer is supposed to watch it in the order it was released. Talking about episode numbers, the sequence should be 4-5-6-1-2-3-7. With the inclusion of ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’, the final sequence should be 4-5-6-1-2-3-C-7-R.
- The Story Order: This order is based on the numbering of the episodes, the sequence being 1-2-3-4-5-6-7. As we already know, Star Wars was introduced to the world with episode 4, which in association with episodes 5 and 6, formed the original trilogy. Going by the Story Order, one has to watch the prequel trilogy before the original trilogy, finally followed by the sequel trilogy. All that can be said about this order is that, it is definitely not the best way to watch the epic series, although George Lucas wants you to see it this way. With the inclusion of ‘Rogue One’ and ‘The Clone Wars’, the Story Order sequence goes as 1-2-C-3-R-4-5-6-7.
- The Machete Order: This order is purely meant for those who have acquainted themselves with Star Wars beforehand but wish to enjoy it even more. The sequence goes 4-5-2-3-6-7. The Machete Order completely ignores episode 1 (and it treats the episodes 1, 2 and 3 as unnecessarily long flashbacks from the main story).
It is to be stated quite clearly that watching anything related to Star Wars apart from the main saga is purely optional and some people even say that they should not be watched. (I personally have not watched any of the television films or the different animated series apart from ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ because I have been asked not to.) Still, if you wish to go ahead, do so only after the main series is done away with (at least thrice).
May the Force be With You.