A Beginner’s Guide to Star Wars


Mike Rosenfeldt, Staff Writer

Today is May 4, but it is far more than just another normal day for all the Star Wars fanatics out there celebrating Intergalactic Star Wars Day. If you visit Facebook, you’ll probably see statuses saying “May the Fourth be with you” as a play on the popular Star Wars phrase “May the Force be with you.” On this day, it is common for fans of the space opera to have a movie marathon and watch the iconic fight between the light and dark sides of the force. But what about those who have never seen the Star Wars movies? How are they to understand this holiday?

Many people who have never seen the movies simply don’t understand the story and don’t know where to begin. This is largely because of the nature in which the films were – and continue to be – released. As of right now there are seven episodes including “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” which is not considered an episode but is still part of the overall story.

Before episode 7 came out in 2015, the movies were split into two groups of 3 and considered two trilogies. The first three movies were released in 1977, 1980 and 1983. Now, most people would assume these first three releases would be the first three episodes, right? Wrong. Episodes 4-6 were actually the first releases as the original trilogy. It wasn’t until 1999 that episode 1 was released, followed by episode 2 in 2002 and episode 3 in 2005. Even more recently, after Disney bought the rights to the movies, they started producing additional movies to add to these episodes. The two most recent movies are episode 7 and “Rogue One.” In order to understand the proper order to watch the movies, it is important to understand a little bit about the plot.

Without giving away spoilers, episodes 4-6 follow the main protagonist, Luke Skywalker, as he trains to become a Jedi Knight and seeks to destroy the evil Galactic Empire. The Empire is a dictatorship that rules the entire Galaxy.  The main antagonist throughout the plot is the Galactic Empire which is led by The Emperor and, most famously, Darth Vader, the apprentice of The Emperor. In order to destroy the Galactic Empire, Luke joins the Rebel Alliance, a group trying to overthrow the Empire and restore order to the galaxy.

Episodes 1-3 are an origin story, explaining what takes place before episodes 4-6. They show how the empire rose to power, how the Dark Side seduced Darth Vader, and how the Jedi Knights tried to stop them. The main protagonists of these films are Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker.  Obi-Wan is Anakin’s teacher in the ways of the force while Anakin is training to become a Jedi. Saying any more would reveal plot twists, so I will leave it at that.

So, what order should you watch the films in? The quickest answer is that there is no right answer. Star Wars fanatics have debated this very question for years, and there are many theories with no clear right or wrong answer; it is all a matter of personal opinion. The two main ways to view the original six films are in “release order” and “episode order.”

Release order requires watching the movies in the order of their release (4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3) and is most useful when only watching the original six movies. It gets a little tricky when introducing episode 7 and “Rogue One.” The plot of “Rogue One” takes place between the happenings in episodes 3 and 4, so it wouldn’t make sense to watch it after watching the other six movies just as it wouldn’t make sense to watch the remaining episode 7 after episode 3.

In my opinion, the easiest way for a new viewer to watch the movies would be in episode order (1, 2, 3, “Rogue One,” 4, 5, 6, 7). The pro of watching the films this way is that the viewer can gain an understanding of the events in the order they took place. There will be less headache. However, this way is not perfect because it lessens the impact of plot twists. (If you care about the impact of plot twists I would suggest watching the original six in release order before going back to watch episode 7 and “Rogue One.”)

No matter what order you choose, these films are an extremely important part of pop culture in America. My last piece of advice is to not stress too much about the order in which you view the movie series. As long as you pick an order and stick with it, the films should be enjoyable!