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The Great Star Wars Debate

The Great Star Wars Debate

Ben at age 4Ben, my almost 5-year-old, has been introduced to Star Wars through Angry Birds. The Star Wars version is his favorite to play, and to be honest, I kind of like it too. Not only does he like the game, he’s become very interested in all of the bird characters which mimic those in the movies and their back stories. He and my husband have had many talks about who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Why did Anakin Skywalker go to the dark side to become Darth Vader? If people had been nicer to him, would he have stayed good? Where do the Star Wars guys live? Etc. etc. etc. We still don’t think Ben is quite old enough to watch the actual movies. He still scares easily and doesn’t do well with shows where there is a clear mean “bad guy”.

That being said, when the time does come, my husband is in great distress about which movie Ben should watch first. Does he start with the original Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope, the 1977 classic that we saw as kids, OR does he start from the now beginning of the series Episode I, The Phantom Menace? Watching Star Wars is kind of like a rite of passage and this isn’t one we want to mess up.

So, help me Internet, you’re my only hope. Which movie should come first?

By the way, here is a great site for the movie synopsis in case you don’t know which character actually becomes Darth Vader or answers to other important questions.

Editor’s Note: More Star Wars films have emerged since this article was published. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to integrate the rest of the saga into the mix.



  1. Rachel February 24, 2014 at 8:21 pm

    Four! You start with four! And for what it’s worth, I think we did that on my little man’s fourth birthday.

  2. Rebecca February 26, 2014 at 9:51 am

    At about age 4.5, we watched Episode Four together with our daughter. My husband, being a Star Wars purist, insisted we start with that one, just like when we were kids. He lamented the additional special effects added recently!

    Our daughter who seems more sensitive to bad guys being mean, was fine. We did sort of gloss over Luke’s return home to find his step-parents dead, but it didn’t distress her, perhaps because she didn’t understand the image.

    My cousin who has older children and who has been through this many times, suggests starting with the one with the Ewoks (Episode 6: Return of the Jedi), because little ones can relate to the “teddy bears”, and then they really get into it.

  3. R.C. February 26, 2014 at 10:55 am

    This is a KNOWN problem with a KNOWN, WIDELY-ACCEPTED solution.

    The solution is called “Machete Order” and is the “standard” viewing order of Star Wars aficionados throughout the whole Internet.

    The problem is: How to watch the episodes in an order which:

    1. Introduces the characters and the basic layout of the Star Wars universe in a logical way;
    2. Preserves or even amplifies the drama of finding out that Vader is Luke’s father;
    3. Avoids where possible some of the disasters that Lucas’ bad writing later foisted on the public.

    “Machete Order” is this order:

    IV (“A New Hope”)

    V (“The Empire Strikes Back”)

    II (“Attack of the Clones”)

    III (“Revenge of the Sith”)

    VI (“Return of the Jedi”)

    In this order, all you have to say is: “Now that you know that Vader, somehow, is Luke’s father, it’s time to watch episodes II and III, which are a flashback to show you how that happened.” And then you watch II and III.

    This is the correct order for a FIRST TIME viewing.

    Now, later viewings can include episode I as a sort of apocryphal curiosity, in much the same way that Tolkien fans read the Silmarillion or even “Book of Lost Tales.”

    But not the first time. It’s rude and unfair to the viewer to make an already long epic story (five episodes) even longer (six episodes) and what do you get for it?

    – Bad dialogue
    – What looks like a six year old kid getting to know a what looks like an attractive sixteen year old queen with whom he’s eventually going to have a child (?!)
    – Improbable origin story for droids
    – Some characters that get killed off
    – A “scientific” explanation of the force that explains nothing
    – Jar Jar being annoying

    ….aaaand that’s pretty much it. Story-wise, you lose absolutely nothing by skipping it. But you lose an hour and a half of your life if you don’t.

    …gives the basic justification in greater detail. And a video review by “Mr. Plunkett” at Red Letter Media explains in hilarious detail just how bad Episode I: The Phantom Menace really is, albeit with some disturbing interjections and some bad language in places.

    Do the world a favor: Machete Order.

    • Rebecca February 26, 2014 at 12:45 pm

      The internet has an answer for everything! I’ll be sharing this with my husband! I’m certain he will agree with many of these points. Too funny!

    • Brian April 27, 2014 at 8:57 am

      Man, machete really is helpful in every situation isnt he.

  4. Boyd April 10, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    I don’t know the exact name, but there is a suggested order of watching.

    IV Star Wars
    V Empire Strikes Back – only up until the scene where Darth tells Luke he’s his father.

    You then “cut-away” from the original trilogy.

    I Phantom Menace
    II Attack of the Clones
    III Revenge of the Sith – then after Anakin becomes Darth Vader

    Return to Empire Strikes back to finish it.

    Then watch VI Return of the Jedi.

    The entire “pre-trilogy” is treated as a massive flashback to Darth’s origins.
    And it leaves you with a “happy” ending after Jedi.

  5. George Reynolds April 27, 2014 at 9:10 am

    My personal recommendation to enjoy the Star Wars movies in their fullest, would be this: Before you show all of the films in their chronological order show a trailer with some of the most exciting scenes from all of six of the movies. This will give new viewers a chance to sample all of the saga without spoiling it for them. These are the scenes I would show them in a custom made trailer.

    1. Episode VI Obi-Wan tells Luke that his Father was seduced by the Dark side of the Force
    2. Episode V Luke duels with Vader on Bespin
    3. Episode VI Star fighter battle over Endor
    4. Episode V Vader snatches Han’s weapon as the Rebels are captured
    5. Episode II Obi-Wan hears the information about the Clones on Kamino
    6. Episode II Palpatine addresses the senate about entering the Clone Wars
    7. Episode I Pod racing scene on racetrack
    8. Episode I Queen Amidala says that she refuses to sign the Naboo treaty
    9. Episode III Anakin duels Obi-Wan on Mustafar
    10. Episode V Rebels escape Bespin as the Tie fighters chase them
    11. Episode V Battle of Hoth scene

  6. Profile photo of Brian Procopio

    Brian Procopio May 2, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    I have to totally agree with Boyd above. The Machete order is good, but I think there is in fact a bit more in Episode One that helps set up 2 & 3 and its absence does create a bit of a hole.

    Going IV-V-I-II-III-VI helps preserve the greatest “WHAT!” moment in film history (Luke’s parentage) and also preserves the Luke and Leia are twins reveal until just before the end too (it’s in the final minutes of episode 3, and then soon in Episode 6 we get Luke’s reaction to the news).

    My daughter Kate was first introduced to the SW world when she was about 2.5 years old. Now, I’ve been a lifelong fan myself (I was two when the original came out and saw all of the films in the theater) but didn’t want to push it on her. There was a tour that came through called Star Wars in Concert… basically it was a 2-3 hour concert performance of a full orchestra and choral accompaniment, narrated by Anthony Daniels (C3-P0), with lights, lasers and huge video screens that told a condensed version of the Star Wars story. I had gotten free tickets from work, so we decided to take Kate even though we thought she might be a bit young for it (free tickets… no real loss if we had to leave early). She was absolutely transfixed by it.

    Later that summer we went to Disney for the first time and went to one of their Star Wars weekends on our first day there, and the first character she wanted to meet was Darth Vader. Not Mickey, not a princess. We waiting in an ungodly long line in near-100 degree heat to get to him (roughly 90-100 minutes) and afterwards she stomped off angrily. I figured, first time meeting a “character” somehow upset her… nope, according to Kate, “I am SO angry because I met Darth Vader and I did not get to fight him with my lightsaber!!!”

    Still, we waited on the films until she was about five, she had some of the little kid books so she knew some of the characters and such already. Going in the above-described order over a month of two of watching was perfect and, I might add, gave even this Star Wars die-hard a new appreciation of the films. Before I always thought of them as “the Luke trilogy” and “the Anakin trilogy” but watching them in the 4-5-1-2-3-6 order, you realize the entire story being told really is all about Anakin and his journey from light to dark and back again. Needless to say, Kate took to the films like a moth to a flame, and her reaction at the end of episode three with the Luke and Leia news was priceless.. totally one of those moments where she watched it… didn’t react, and then ten seconds later shot up with a “WHAT!?!?!” exclamation.

    Anyway, she has since become a huge fan, and she is beyond excited by the Disney-Lucasfilm merger and the upcoming films (her first reaction, “Dad… this means WE can see new Star Wars movies in the theater… TOGETHER!” at which point my geek heart grew three sizes too big that day). A month or two after finishing the saga, I picked up the Clone Wars animated movie (that launched the just-finished series) for $5 at Target, figured it would entertain her, etc. Well… I watched it with her on a day off, and by the time my wife got home from work I made her watch it with us for a second time. Shockingly good… and the characterization of Anakin is so much more fleshed out and multi-dimensional than in any of the prequel films. We quickly started getting the past seasons on DVD and watching them as a family. The issues tackled in the story arcs led to countless hours of discussion among us and turned my wife (who had seen all the films and was a “fan” but not really a “FAN” by any means) into nearly as much of a fanatic as the two of us. The nice thing is that many of the storylines are spread over 3-4 episode arcs and play almost more like mini-movies in the depth of coverage as opposed to anything you’d see in a traditional cartoon. I can’t highly recommend the show enough (especially now that it’s on Netflix), it really helps the overall story of the prequel trilogy (the character swing of Anakin to the Dark Side seems entirely more believable, as does the loss of faith in the Jedi Order).

    Oh, and last summer we were able to go to Disneyland and Kate took part in the Jedi Training Academy and fought Darth Vader with her lightsaber 🙂 Her sixth birthday party was a Jedi Training party in which we went all out.. kids made lightsabers out of pool noodles, had various challenges and trainings to complete, and in the end fought off Darth Maul. Absolutely epic time. In November we went to our first convention together (if you had told me… or more importantly my wife.. that we would ever attend a con AND cosplay we would have thought you were insane), I in my Endor Luke Skywalker outfit, my wife as Luminara Unduli, and Kate as Padme on day one and Ahsoka Tano on day two… we posed for countless photos, met Billy Dee Williams and got our pic with him (as well as some minor on-screen characters). Just an incredible family time. We’re heading to Disney World for a Star Wars weekend in about a month (fortunately my wife has a conference in Orlando at the same time!) and Kate is beside herself for the chance to meet Ashley Eckstein, who was the voice of Ashoka (Anakin’s Padawan learner in the Clone Wars show) and the founder of Her Universe, which is an awesome company that makes clothing and accessories for fangirls.

    So anyway, that’s my long-winded account of what to watch when. May the Force Be With You! (And happy Star Wars Day!)

    • Geoffrey May 12, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Revenge of the Soth has an even greater “What!!!!” as a kid. The lead becomes a toaster oven, all the jedi die, the chancellor is a bad guy. Much like Harry Potter, going I- VI makes it so each movie that follows gets progressively better. It also goes from light to dark and makes the original trilogy all the darker for it. I have seen kids watch episode 3 and are way more shocked. They keep expecting anakin to pull back before it is too late. Episode 3 is an epic shock if you don’t know what is coming. And for very young children that may be all the more reason to possibly skip it until they are older and just explain it.

      I would like to add Godfather part 2 order. I-IV-II-V-III-VI. Just a warning though, following III with VI is very underwhelming. Following III with IV is also underwhelming, but by the time they are into Empire kids are more invested than they would be in machete order.

      I always watch them I- VI cause it really does work best that way. Especially with little children. They infact like Jar Jar believe it or not. I was a special edition child so my view may be biased.

  7. r2d2 May 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    If you want your child to watch Star Wars, have the child start with 4 through 6. If you start with 1-3, the child may find better options than watching Star Wars and never see 4-6.

  8. Profile photo of Jake Blackman

    Jake Blackman May 15, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Reading this post… funny.

    Almost exactly like my son. He’s almost 5 and was introduced to Star Wars through Angry Birds too.

    Same questions: Who is this, what can he do, is he good/bad, etc.

    This led us to watching the movies, all of them, over and over. The order of episodes is long forgotten but I’d go with them chronologically I – VII.
    He is now fairly obsessed with Star wars, has many toys and constantly wants to re-enact various scenes and light-saber fight me with the foam swords he has. It’s a blast.

    I have even been collecting some vintage toys for him for his birthday.
    I think it’s great. it is really stoking his imagination

    Much better than Pokemon or Skylanders or some other pay-to-play junk.

  9. Stephen May 22, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    It’s pretty simple and uncomplicated. Watch the original trilogy (IV, V, & VI)… Then pretend like the prequels never happened! Seriously, those things are awful!!

    • Bob July 2, 2014 at 3:13 pm

      This is the correct answer.

  10. Profile photo of Terry Steiner

    Terry Steiner June 6, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    You have to watch episode IV and V first. After that you can debate if you slip in the prequels or watch them in release order. My reasoning is that watching the prequels will ruin one of the greatest reveals in cinematic history. If you were to watch the prequels first then when Darth Vadar says “No, I am your father” it will not be a shocking at all.

  11. Matt June 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    The obvious thing to do is watch Episodes IV, V, and VI and pretend that I, II, and III never happened. The reason why this is a good idea is because I, II, and III are really terrible movies, and IV, V, and VI are really great. You know this to be true.

  12. Ra-Gee July 28, 2014 at 11:45 am

    Why get him started on that at all? Wouldn’t Meditation, Yoga, travel and reality be better? I enjoyed the Star Wars films. Don’t care about more coming. Had my fill. (Will see it). Read real books. If there was no electricity what else could you do with your child while you have him? Sing, Dance, Play softball, football, basketball, bowling, ping pong, caroms etc. Hike, go on long walks at the beach and swim….pools, lakes, streams…National parks, camping. Just playing catch with him or her would build some self confidence. Give up worry that does no one any good.

  13. Joe January 27, 2015 at 9:31 am

    Just watch Epsiodes IV-VI and that’s it. Pretend I-III don’t exist. Seriously. They are banal, awful movies that are simply cashing in on the franchise. They fundamentally change the story line too. Why did Luke have to learn and earn his Jedihood in V (like a medieval knight)? Aren’t you a Jedi automatically just by taking a blood test (Ep. I)? How did the whiny Anakin turn into the badass James Earl Jones Dark Vader in Ep. IV? It’s just not believable. Just dumb. Do your kids a favor and skip them. They can watch them later if they’re inclined.

  14. Loc March 25, 2015 at 12:14 am

    I chose to show my son the movies in the order that I watched them which was: IV, V, VI, I, II, III.

    A big factor for me was that I didn’t feel Episode 3 was appropriate for him for a long time. I just recently let him watch it about a month after his 8th birthday. I was glad I waited as long as I did because he was appalled at everything that happened though I think that he handled it well.

    That takes in to account my son specifically, and I think kids can be drastically different in this respect.

  15. Damon November 17, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I just read quite a few post in response to the question asked “which one should I start with”. As we all know S.W. can be a complex series to follow at times. The order the movies were all made are in such a screwed up order that we sometimes have to remind ourselves where the current movie is picking up from, if at all. With that being on the table, why are we going to subject a young impressionable mind to the twists and turns this story has, by watching them in the order we all saw them as kids. Yes kids are more technologically advanced then we were as kids, but that does not mean they have the ability to understand a story being told in a mixed up order. If you want to show your child a movie that has many parts and are not in numerical order. Why not ask the child which one he or she wants to watch 1st. If that doesn’t work, why not try what every one of us learned from grade school. 1,2,3,4,5 so on and so forth and if the child has questions, not only will they will be easier to answer and understand, but in some cases, they will be answered in up-coming scenes or movies. Watching Star Wars in order of production means remembering what happened in previous movies to understand the current actions as opposed to remembering a past scene.

  16. Patrick McDonough May 4, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    The only reason to watch them in numerical order is that jumping around in the timeline can be confusing to someone watching them for the first time. Episode 1 is easily the worst of all the movies & a lot of it is irrelevant to what comes afterwards. It’s better to start with the original Star Wars (Episode 4) & follow it up to Force Awakens. Then go back to the prequels.

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