TheOtherMac: Best Way to Watch the Star Wars Movies
by Jeff MacArthur on May 4, 2017
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I was first exposed to it as a child in the 70s, and it’s a love that continues to this day. While I realize there are lots of other posts on which order to watch the Star Wars movies in, let me quickly familiarize you with the two big contenders:
- Ernst Rister Order: IV, V, I, II, III, VI, VII, VIII, IX (basically, start as they were released but then jump back to the beginning once Luke’s father is revealed, complete the Anakin Skywalker prequel trilogy, then return to finish the story in Return of the Jedi)
- Machete Order: IV, V, II, III, VI, VII, VIII, IX (this is the same as the Rister Order but with the terrible Phantom Menace removed from the lineup completely – we’ll fix this problem below)
I really like the Rister Order but I totally agree with Machete’s point that Episode 1 (the Phantom Menace) is by far the worst movie in the entire canon to date. That said, it is also an important part of the origins of the story that will be told over the next 8+ movies in the main series. In my humble opinion, we need to also consider that Episode 2 (Attack of the Clones) is better than the first ep but still not great. So how do we solve this conundrum and have the entire series of Star Wars movies be awesome?
If you’ve followed me online for any length of time, you might know that I’m a big supporter of “fan edits” (find out more about them at their main online home FanEdit.org, but note that they exist in a murky legal area, so downloaders beware). Well, the fan edit that essentially introduced the whole notion of fan edits to the masses was “The Phantom Edit” (~2000), a much-improved version of the first episode by virtue of careful editing (note that there are now many versions of this, so make sure you find the original one by The Phantom Editor). The Phantom Editor then followed this up with a great edit of the second episode called “Attack of the Phantom” (graciously removing the unbearably clumsy romantic scenes between Anakin and Padme, among some other much-needed cuts). The third episode was good enough in its original version to not merit an edit, thankfully (though I’d note it’s probably the one movie in the whole series that I’d be cautious about showing to younger kids – pretty intense visually and emotionally).
So, for someone who has managed to acquire the best versions of each of these movies (and in the fan edit case, the rule of thumb is that you should own or buy the original non-fan edit movie, too), here is what I’ll call the MacArthur Order for the sake of simplicity:
- Episode IV: A New Hope (there are some beautifully cleaned-up versions of the original version of this available online that I’d highly recommend, as I frown upon some of the changes made in the updated “official” releases on Blu-ray – especially Greedo shooting first in the Cantina scene with Han – sigh).
- Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (I think the official re-release of this does such a good job on the visuals that its more minor storyline tweaks make it the right choice).
- Episode I: The Phantom Edit (i.e. the original fan edit of The Phantom Menace).
- Episode II: Attack of the Phantom (i.e. the original fan edit of Attack of the Clones).
- Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (the official release looks beautiful and is a big improvement on eps one and two in terms of quality, so go with that).
- Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (again, some of the cleaned-up online versions of the original can save you cringing through some of the updates in the re-release – yub nub).
- (optional) Rogue One (this movie is better watched after Episode IV even though it takes place immediately before – it doesn’t line up well in the series otherwise and it messes with the flow – that said, a pretty solid movie).
- Episodes VII, VIII, IX (I think the new trilogy has started off very well and expect the “official” versions to be the go-to movies from this point on).
The MacArthur Order, if I may call it that, brings you through the story in the compelling way suggested by Rister, while not having to abandon any episodes because of quality issues like Machete suggests. I suppose you could try watching Rogue One before the entire list, but I’m skeptical it’d be as rewarding. Can’t wait for the new movies to be released (especially the upcoming Han Solo film)!