If you’re a Star Wars fan like me, or even just coming to know Star Wars, you’re probably planning to watch the films now that they’re all available digitally. After being inspired by The Machete Order, we decided to try our own take on the reorganized saga: I, IV, V, II, III, and VI. Except for my usual annoyance with Episode II, the new order was a much better experience than watching all six straight through, and here are some thoughts on why.
First, let’s get one thing out of the way, Star Wars is the story of Anakin Skywalker, not Luke Skywalker. Luke is in only three films, Anakin is in all six, it’s that simple. Now, what does that have to do with the new order? Everything. (spoilers below)
When watched in sequence from I to VI, the conclusion of Episode III completely robs the cliffhanger reveal in Episode V of all its meaning and shock value. “No, I am your father!” Vader, I know, we confirmed that two whole films ago. “No, that’s not true, that’s impossible!” Oh, it’s true, I saw it with my own eyes. “Search your feelings,” no need for that, I just re-watched the 1:16:40 mark of Episode III, it’s indeed true. This is what bothers me the most about the prequels, even more than Jar Jar Binks. “I am your father,” was one of the most profound reveals in cinema, but when watched with the prequels first, it’s not shocking at all, it’s expected.
When watched in my new preferred order (I, IV, V, II, III, VI), the “I am your father” reveal is still first and still shocking. We begin with Episode I to learn about the naive young Anakin Skywalker, who is swept up into something he can never hope to understand (Your complaints about this episode aside, you can’t have a meaningful story about Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption without the chapter on this naive young boy). We flash forward 32 years for Episode IV to see that things aren’t so well for the galaxy, and that we have a new hero in Luke Skywalker, who is apparently Anakin’s son. We continue the story in Episode V where we learn that Darth Vader is indeed Anakin, and we’re just as devastated as Luke. We flash back 25 years for Episodes II and III where we learn exactly how that naive young boy fell so far and became the terrifying Darth Vader. Finally, we return to the “present” timeline in Episode VI, to finish the saga and witness Anakin’s redemption.
The order restores the impact of the “I am your father” reveal, forms a much more solid narrative around Anakin Skywalker by introducing both distinct phases of his life in the first two films, and also takes advantage of the larger than usual time spans between Episodes I and II and Episodes V and VI to support the flash forward/back structure.
Above all, Star Wars is a great saga that you deserve to enjoy however you want to. I personally prefer this new order, but you don’t have to take my word for it.
Edit: Here’s a revised order including the new films: I, Rogue One, IV, V, II, III, VI, VII, VIII, and IX. Solo doesn’t really have a perfect spot, I recommend watching it any time after IV.