Star Wars: How to watch the movies and TV shows in order
We’re opening up the Jedi Archives once again and exploring the ever-expanding galaxy of Star Wars shows and movies. While it was once simply a case of watching George Lucas’ original trilogy of Chewie not getting a medal, that big Darth Vader reveal, and dancing Ewoks, a lot has changed since Return of the Jedi bowed out in 1983.
With prequel trilogies, sequel trilogies, anthology movies, and a whole Dagobah system of spin-off TV shows, it’s hard to keep track of where everything fits in the increasingly complicated Star Wars timeline.
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It’s time to do the Kessel Run of chronology for those new to the galaxy far, far away... or simply those who want to revisit this world of Wampas and Wookiees to watch in order.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)
This is where it all started — with Chancellor Valorum dispatching two Jedi Knights to broker a deal with the Trade Federation. Of course, this was only the start of the story, as Ewan McGregor’s young Obi-Wan Kenobi and Liam Neeson’s stoic Qui-Gon Jinn find themselves in the middle of a bitter war between the Sith and the Jedi.
Jar Jar Binks aside, The Phantom Menace is a crucial jumping off point for the Skywalker Saga, because it's here we meet Anakin Skywalker. Even though it’s hard to believe Jake Lloyd’s bowl-haired podracer could grow up to be Darth Vader, his legacy as the Chosen One starts here.
The Phantom Menace also introduces major players like Darth Maul, Natalie Portman's Padmé Amidala, and the malevolent Sheev Palpatine pulling the strings as a hooded Darth Sidious.
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002)
Although 2002’s Attack of the Clones gets a bad reputation as the 'boring' one, it’s not all Senate legislation and Anakin feeding Padmé pears using the Force. As the name suggests, Attack of the Clones leans heavily into the Republic scrambling to win the war with an army of Clone Troopers — all based on the likeness of Temuera Morrison’s Jango Fett.
There are plenty of enemies stepping out of the shadows, with Christopher Lee's Count Dooku and General Grievous doing the bidding of Palpatine. We also get to see Yoda in his prime (albeit with some questionable CGI).
The big talking point is the blossoming romance between Anakin and Padmé, while the former makes some major steps to becoming Lord Vader as he struggles to contain his rage in the aftermath of his mother’s death.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 movie)
Most will associate The Clone Wars with the long-running CG animated series, but it actually began with Cartoon Network's 2003 2D animated series of the same name, which ran for three seasons.
The success of this led to Dave Filoni’s 2008 animated movie. In a typically roundabout way, Count Dooku and Ziro the Hutt try to move Jabba the Hutt against the Republic by kidnapping his nephew. Dooku’s apprentice, Asajj Ventress, is also there to throw a spanner in the works.
If trying to prove the Jedi aren’t behind Rotta the Hutt’s kidnap wasn’t bad enough, Anakin Skywalker also has his own Padawan to train in the form of Ahsoka Tano. But, more on her later.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2014, 2020 TV series)
For those who enjoyed The Clone Wars movie, how about seven seasons of The Clone Wars series? Filling in the gaps between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, the timeline gets a little muddy as it runs alongside both of Lucas’ movies. Thankfully, this one isn’t all Clone Troopers being built on Kamino.
From bounty hunters like Cad Bane and Boba Fett to the shocking reveal Darth Maul is alive, Anakin and Ahsoka parting ways to Obi-Wan falling in love with Satine Kryze, we also get a lot of Mandalore backstory. Even covering the devastating Order 66 in later seasons, The Clone Wars basically throws the kitchen sink of Star Wars canon at its 133 episodes.
Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)
This is the big one of Lucas’ prequel trilogy, and is remembered as the heavily memed one with the 'high ground'. When the galaxy tears itself apart during a Civil War, Anakin is plagued by visions of Padmé’s death. Falling straight into the hands of Palpatine, the Sith Lord unleashes Anakin’s full potential of the Dark Side and leaves the Jedi all but extinct after enacting Order 66.
It’s goodbye to Samuel L. Jackson’s fan-favourite Mace Windu, and although we also lose Padmé and (effectively) Anakin, at least Luke and Leia are born.
Setting the stage for the events of A New Hope, there’s even the iconic heavy breathing of Darth Vader as a charred Anakin embraces his new moniker.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (2021-)
The events of Order 66 are felt across the galaxy, which neatly sets up Disney+’s animated The Bad Batch. The elite group of Clone Troopers first introduced in The Clone Wars are back. The Bad Batch gets its name due to each member’s genetic mutations, but they don’t let it stop them.
Also along for the ride is Omega, an unmodified female clone made in the same blueprint as Jango Fett. Everyone is out to snatch Omega from the Bad Batch, and with a lot of wild theories about her place in the saga, expect to find out more in the upcoming second season (streaming from 28 September, 2022).
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
A Han Solo “solo” project had been in the works for years before Ron Howard finally delivered the nerf-herding smuggler’s origin story. Alden Ehrenreich steps into Harrison Ford’s shoes as a much younger Han, while Donald Glover takes over from Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian.
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As well as exploring Han and Lando’s complicated relationship, we see how Chewbacca comes aboard the Millennium Falcon and how Han earns his famous ship. Dangling plot threads like Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra and a certain horned head of Crimson Dawn remain unresolved, but with a sequel looking unlikely, we’re waiting to see when/if these characters return.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022-)
With Lucasfilm seemingly giving up on live-action anthology movies, those plans for an Obi-Wan standalone have been reworked for Deborah Chow’s six-part miniseries. After going into hiding on Tatooine for the past 10 years, Obi-Wan is called off-planet to rescue a kidnapped Princess Leia.
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The Inquisitors are hot on the trail of any remaining Jedi, with Reva the Third Sister hell-bent on taking out Obi-Wan once and for all. Hayden Christensen is also back as Anakin Skywalker, with Obi-Wan learning his former apprentice is still alive.
Star Wars Rebels (2014-2018)
Largely giving us a brand-new cast of original creations, Rebels charts the rise of the Rebel Alliance. The crew of the Ghost conduct covert operations against the Empire, as the likes of Ezra Bridger, Hera Syndulla, and Kanan Jarrus try to take out Vader, Tarkin, Grand Admiral Thrawn, and rest of the Empire’s high-ranking officials.
With cameos from Leia and Maul, there’s plenty of crossover with the original trilogy — gearing up for Leia’s infamous hologram message. The Rebels epilogue supposedly takes place after the Battle of Endor at the end of the original trilogy, but as Filoni has warned, it might not be that simple.
Set before the events of Rogue One, new Disney+ series will show how Diego Luna's Cassian Andor became involved with the Rebel Alliance, turning from thief to spy.
Genevieve O'Reilly also returns as future Rebellion leader Mon Mothma in the series which hits Disney+ in August 2022.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
The first of the anthology movies was Gareth Edward’s Rogue One. Filling in the gaps between trilogies, the movie features the Rebel Alliance trying to steal the plans for the Death Star to stop the Empire’s secret weapons. Anyone who has watched the original trilogy will know how that ends.
A rag-tag group of outcasts is led by Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), while Imperial Weapons developer Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) tries to obliterate this “rebel scum” as the movie’s big bad.
Despite being purposefully filmed in a different style to other Star Wars movies, expect cameos from some familiar faces.
Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)
Going back to where it all began, 1977’s A New Hope was the first time we saw the twin suns of Tatooine. Luke Skywalker is trained by Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ways of the Force, unaware of his legacy and ties to the forgotten order of the Jedi.
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Luke and Obi-Wan team up with Han Solo to rescue Princess Leia Organa, who claims she has a way to destroy the Death Star. Luke and a crew of fighter pilots lead a last-ditch run on the Death Star’s weakness, but Darth Vader isn’t far behind.
Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Death Star is no more, but that hasn’t stopped the Empire from chasing down the Rebels. After a dramatic battle on the ice planet of Hoth, Luke heads to the Dagobah System in search of the legendary Master Yoda. Elsewhere, Darth Vader hires bounty hunters from across the galaxy to locate the Millennium Falcon.
Han seeks sanctuary in Bespin’s Cloud City, Luke learns the truth about who his father is, and this particularly dark entry ends with things looking pretty grim for our heroes. Still, The Empire Strikes Back delivers one of the most iconic twists in cinematic history.
Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Han Solo is frozen in carbonite and Luke Skywalker is missing a hand, but still, the Rebel Alliance is determined to topple the Empire amidst the threat of a second Death Star. A dramatic rescue of Han from Jabba the Hutt leads to high-speed chases on the Forest Moon of Endor.
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Emperor Palpatine still has his seat of power, and with Luke being tempted by the Dark Side, could he really be the next Darth Vader? Although Lucas’ original trilogy ended here - and it looked like the story was over - the divisive 1983 movie was just the start of Star Wars.
The Mandalorian (2019-)
Set five years after celebrations on Endor, Jon Favreau’s The Mandalorian is the first live-action Star Wars show that kicked off our current obsession and the franchise’s place on Disney+. Din Djarin is a wayward Mandalorian making his living as a bounty hunter. Despite being tasked with eliminating a target, he can’t bring himself to shoot the adorable Baby Yoda.
Taking “The Child” with him, the titular Mando is chased by Moff Gideon and the remnants of the Empire. Djarin comes to learn that Baby Yoda is actually called Grogu, and could be the key to a Jedi resurgence. Runaway Jedis Ahsoka Tano and Luke Skywalker try to take Grogu under their wing, all while Djarin battles for control of the Darksaber and his own potential as the next leader of Mandalore.
The Book of Boba Fett (2021)
After his miraculous survival from the Great Pit of Carkoon, Boba Fett has teamed up with The Mandalorian’s Fennec Shand to take over at Jabba’s Palace. The power vacuum has led to unease on Tatooine, as no one seems to accept Boba’s claim to the throne.
Formidable bounty hunter Black Krrsantan is dispatched to take out Boba, but as the Pyke Syndicate and Cad Bane try to seize Mos Espa for themselves, Fett recruits acquaintances old and new to free the spaceport from tyrannical leaders.
Star Wars Resistance (2018-2020)
Bringing events in line with the sequel trilogy, the two series of Star Wars Resistance take place just before The Force Awakens and after The Last Jedi. New Republic pilot Kazuda Xiono is another plucky hopeful joining the Resistance to spy on the First Order.
There’s also aspiring pilot Tam Ryvora and repair shop owner Jarek Yeager aboard the refuelling station known as the Colossus. Kaz is the protege of Poe Dameron, while other sequel trilogy faces like BB-8, Captain Phasma, and General Hux appear.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Some 32 years after Lucas seemingly ended the Skywalker Saga, Episode VII charts a whole new generation of Force-sensitive favourites. Effectively being a female Luke Skywalker, Jakku junker Rey (Daisy Ridley) joins former a Stormtrooper deserter called Finn (John Boyega) and hotshot Resistance pilot called Poe (Oscar Isaac). The threat of war is everywhere, as the shadowy First Order picks up where the Empire left off: building its own superweapon.
General Leia Organa (a returning Carrie Fisher) fronts the Resistance, while Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is in hiding on Ahch-To. A grizzled Han Solo (Harrison Ford) takes on a new challenge as Rey’s mentor, but has bigger problems thanks to his own son leading the First Order’s charge as the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
The black sheep of the sequel family has the scattered Resistance trying to escape the First Order. Finn joins Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) on a trip to the casino Canto Bight hoping to find a way to evade the First Order for a little longer.
As Rey undergoes her own training with Luke Skywalker, the reluctant Jedi worries she could go the same way as Darth Vader and Kylo Ren. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is usurped as the head of the First Order, and as Kylo Ren goes full Vader, there’s a final showdown between him and Luke on the planet Crait.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
And this is where it ends. For now. Emperor Palpatine is back from the dead and puts his own plans for the "Final Order" into motion. Lost without Luke Skywalker, Rey is under the watch of General Organa and carries the hopes of the Jedi on her shoulders.
Palpatine is coming for Rey, who is convolutedly revealed as his granddaughter. Together with Kylo Ren, they could restore the Sith to their former glory and extinguish the Jedi and Resistance in one go. Even if it looks like all hope is lost for our heroes, the spirit of those we’ve lost lives on in a heroic Rey “Skywalker”.
Every Star Wars movie and TV show is available to stream on Disney+.
Watch: Rian Johnson and Mark Hamill talk to Yahoo about The Last Jedi disagreement