So, you want to watch Star Wars but you aren’t sure where to begin.
The proper viewing order is a hotly debated topic. Some diehard fans suggest watching in order of release dates; other fans advocate for viewing the saga in chronological order. Both arguments have their merits, but we’re breaking it down here chronologically as one of the (many) ways you can tackle this cinematic feat. There are also tips and caveats throughout to give you the best all-around experience.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace follows a young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) as he trains under Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) is a 9-year-old child—and a far cry from the villain he’ll become—when he meets Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon on Tatooine.
For a full synopsis, click here.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones picks up 10 years after the events of The Phantom Menace. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is now a Jedi apprentice studying under Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the duo face a series of personal trials leading up to the devastating Clone Wars.
Read more about Attack of the Clones.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2014)
PRO TIP: For casual viewers, you can jump right from Episode II: Attack of the Clones to Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. If you’re more invested in the full saga and have the time, watch the animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, between Episode II and Episode III.
The show gets into the complete story involving Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine, and other notable characters between the events in the live action movies.
Read more about The Clone Wars here.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith takes place three years after the Clone Wars officially begin. Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi and Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker find themselves in the middle of turmoil once again as the Jedi Council faces one of its greatest threats yet: Chancellor Palpatine.
Want to find out more? Check this out.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022)
Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi takes place roughly 10 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. Obi-Wan sets off across the galaxy in search of allies following the corruption of Anakin Skywalker and the rise of the Galactic Empire.
For a more detailed synopsis, read along here.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch Season 1 (2021)
Star Wars: The Bad Batch is an animated series that essentially serves as a spinoff and a sequel to Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Usually best reserved for invested fans, this series centers around Clone Force 99 and their antics.
Read more about it to see if you want to dive into this show.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Solo: A Star Wars Story introduces viewers to iconic character Han Solo (in this instance, played by Alden Ehrenreich). Watch as Han meets Chewbacca, tangles with Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), and goes on an epic journey that’s truly one for the books.
PRO TIP: Since we’re going chronologically, this is the best time in the viewing sequence to watch Solo. You might get more out of the content (and the references) if you watch this after watching the original trilogy, though.
Read more about Solo here.
Star Wars Rebels (2014-2018)
Like The Clone Wars and The Bad Batch, Star Wars Rebels is an animated series usually revered by those who are all-in on the Star Wars train. The events in the show unfold about five years prior to Star Wars: A New Hope and focus on the rebellion.
More information on the series can be found here.
Star Wars: Andor (2022)
Remember our tip for watching Solo: A Star Wars Story? The same rule is going to apply to Star Wars: Andor. The series follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who was originally introduced to fans through Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (don’t worry, we’re getting to that in a second).
Star Wars: Andor is basically a prequel to Rogue One explaining Andor’s backstory and how he got involved with the rebellion. Chronologically, you’ll start with the series. However, you may appreciate Andor more if you watch Rogue One first.
Overwhelmed? This synopsis may help.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Chronologically speaking, at least in terms of the movies, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. The film focuses on Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) as she teams up with Cassian Andor (and a great cast of characters) to steal important plans from the Galactic Empire.
Read more about the movie here.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope is the first film in the original trilogy. Centered around Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and Han Solo (Harrison Ford)—plus Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), of course—A New Hope takes place almost 20 years after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
SIDENOTE: It picks up immediately (and we mean immediately) after the events in Rogue One.
In A New Hope, the core trio meet when Luke and Han set out to rescue Leia from the evil Empire. Luke has been training with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), and the group is also joined by iconic characters C-3PO and R2-D2.
A more detailed account of A New Hope can be found here.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the main trio embark on separate journeys through much of the movie. Han Solo and Princess Leia, alongside Chewbacca, are trying to fight off Darth Vader. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is starting his Jedi training with Yoda.
Some of the most iconic lines from the entire Star Wars saga happen in this installation, so buckle up.
Read this if you want to know more about Empire Strikes Back before you watch.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi sees Luke Skywalker (and others) heading to Tatooine to save Han Solo from the evil Jabba the Hutt. Elsewhere in the movie, the Rebellion fights against the Empire and mounts an attack on the Death Star. Luke faces off against Anakin (aka Darth Vader) and Emperor Palpatine before the story wraps up … temporarily, anyway.
For a full breakdown of Return of the Jedi, click here.
The Mandalorian (2019)
Even if you’re unfamiliar with Star Wars, you’ve definitely seen Baby Yoda (real name = Grogu) all over the place the last few years. You have The Mandalorian series to thank for that. The main character (aside from Grogu) is Mandalorian Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal). Set “after the fall of the Empire” but prior to “the emergence of the First Order,” the series follows the Mandalorian and Grogu on various adventures.
A complete synopsis of the show can be found here.
The Book of Boba Fett (2021)
This live action series is all about bounty hunter Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison). Boba joins forces with Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen) as the pair try to take over the area of Tatooine previously under Jabba the Hutt’s control. As per usual in the Star Wars universe, chaos ensues.
Read more about the show to see what it’s all about before diving in.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a combination of new storylines and fan service moments inspired by previous installations. Centered around Force-sensitive Rey (Daisy Ridley), the events in this movie take place roughly 30 years after Return of the Jedi.
The First Order (essentially the Galactic Empire 2.0) is trying to run the show, but General Leia Organa and the Resistance aren’t letting them take over without a fight. In addition to Rey, the main cast of characters includes Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford reprise their roles as Leia and Han Solo.
To understand the full scope of the story behind The Force Awakens, read this.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
Set right after the events of The Force Awakens, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi follows Rey, Poe, and Finn once again. The trio—along with the Resistance and other supporting characters—attempt to take on Kylo Ren, General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson), and the First Order. Familiar faces from the past reemerge in this movie, too.
These newer installations are much more difficult to explain in a few lines, so check out what’s really happening in The Last Jedi to understand the full story.
Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Rounding out the newest trilogy is Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker, which is also centered around Rey, Poe, Finn, and Kylo Ren. It kicks off a year after The Last Jedi with a bang—a broadcast with Emperor Palpatine’s voice is heard across the galaxy, which is confusing, since Palpatine is supposed to be dead.
Much like The Last Jedi, there are several interconnected storylines playing out simultaneously, so it’s a good idea to brush up on the details to see what the movie’s all about.
Many thanks to Rotten Tomatoes, IGN, Radio Times, and MeriStation for guidance on one of the best ways to approach the Star Wars saga.