Star Wars is one of those vast, long-running franchises that social media periodically gets extremely excited about, which can make it intimidating to approach for the first time. What even is a Jedi? Why aren’t these you’re looking for? And who’s the big furry guy flying that ship?
How to watch the Star Wars movies in order
There are a total of 11 Star Wars movies: the three trilogies that make up the Skywalker Saga, and two spinoffs. The best entry point is the original trilogy, which consists of:
These are some of the most beloved movies of all time, and center on the Rebel Alliance’s battle against the totalitarian Galactic Empire, along with the Skywalker family’s pivotal role in these events.
At the bare minimum, you should check out A New Hope — the very first release, from 1977, when it was simply known as “Star Wars.” The special effects are dated, but it’s a thrilling adventure, guides you gently into a rich sci-fi universe and introduces some of cinema’s most enduring and beloved characters.
If A New Hope is to your liking, check out The Empire Strikes Back. This 1980 sequel is better in pretty much every way, expanding the universe introduced in the previous movie and upping the stakes for our heroes and villains.
Return of the Jedi rounded out this first trilogy, in 1983. It’s not quite as good as the previous two, but it’s still worthy of your time and offers a satisfying ending for this era of the franchise.
You might hear people talking about various different versions of these movies — ignore all that at first. They all tell the same story, so just watch the most recent releases and explore the others later if you’re intrigued.
All the Star Wars movies, from the cheesy to the great, ranked
With the original trilogy done, you have two others to explore: the prequels and the sequels. I’d advise you to go for the sequel trilogy, which consists of:
They came out in 2015, 2017 and 2019, respectively, so the visuals are spectacular and they’re fresh in people’s memories. These movies are set around 30 years after the original trilogy, and they introduce a new generation of heroes and villains alongside older characters.
You may have seen wildly varying reactions to these movies on social media — forget all that and make up your own mind.
The prequel trilogy is the weakest link in the franchise, but there’s still a lot to love if you enjoy this universe, and it set the trend for modern blockbusters in its pioneering use of computer generated imagery (CGI). It’s made up of:
These movies were released in 1999, 2002 and 2005, and they’re set in the decades prior to the original trilogy. They bring you into the era leading into the rise of the Galactic Empire.
That brings us to the two spinoff movies:
They take place between the prequels and the original trilogy and aren’t a part of the main Skywalker Saga. Rogue One came out in 2016 and reveals the events leading up to A New Hope, while 2018’s Solo is an origin story for charismatic smuggler Han Solo.
Neither of these is as important to the franchise as the Skywalker Saga movies, but they’re better movies than the prequels, and they tell compelling tales about other aspects of the universe.
Watch the TV shows, from The Clone Wars to The Mandalorian
You’ve likely heard about The Mandalorian, the franchise’s first live-action show, which hit Disney Plus in late 2019. This show created huge social media buzz, mostly focused on one particularly cute character, and it’s getting a second season this October.
The first season consists of eight episodes and is set a few years after Return of the Jedi. It introduces the titular armored bounty hunter and the ludicrously popularto tell a largely self-contained story, so you could watch it with no foreknowledge and it’d make sense. However, you’ll get more out of it if you’ve seen the original trilogy.
The Clone Wars is a CGI animated series that reveals the intergalactic conflict between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. It started with a pretty iffy movie in 2008 but developed wonderfully over seven seasons. It was canceled in 2013 but was revived for one last season on Disney Plus — the aired May 4, 2020.
At 133 episodes, it might seem daunting, but this show tells us some of the best Star Wars stories ever, after hitting its stride in season 2. You’ll want to watch the prequels before diving into this.
If you like The Clone Wars, check out follow-up CGI series, which jumps to the years before A New Hope. You don’t need to have seen The Clone Wars for it to make sense — you could watch Rebels after watching the original trilogy. It introduces characters from The Clone Wars during the course of its four series but mostly focuses on a group of rebels fighting the Empire.
The two CGI shows fill in some background for The Mandalorian but aren’t essential viewing to enjoy that series.
Star Wars video games
The single-player campaign of 2017’s Battlefront 2, which is available on PS4, Xbox One and PC, is set after Return of the Jedi. You’ll want to have seen the original trilogy before playing. You also get a fun online multiplayer shooter that plenty of people are still playing every day.
Jedi: Fallen Order, which came out in 2019, is also canon. This third-person lightsaber-swinging adventure is set between the prequels and the original trilogy.
Star Wars canon books and comic books
Literature has been a huge part of Star Wars since the early days of the franchise, but only stories that’ve come out since 2014 are still considered canon. The books and comics often dive into obscure corners of the universe, but I’ll recommend one author you should look out for in each medium.
In terms of recent novels, Claudia Gray’s work stands out:
Bloodline (political thriller prior to The Force Awakens).
(Jedi adventure leading into The Phantom Menace).
On the comics side, the series written by Charles Soule stand head and shoulders above all else. The two big ones are:
Darth Vader: Dark Lord of the Sith (about his early days, just after Revenge of the Sith).
The Rise of Kylo Ren (four-issue origin story, set before The Force Awakens).
That should be enough to help you dip your toe into the franchise — you should pretty much start with the original trilogy and go from there. Just know that once you start down the Star Wars path, forever will it dominate your destiny.