“What order do I watch the Star Wars movies in?” This is the eternal question since 2005, and there are many ideas of how to do this out there, especially for those who haven’t seen them before. Those of us who are old enough watched them in the Release Order, and I daresay the concensus is this stinks (to put it nicely). The problem with the Episode Order, watching them from 1-6, is the main dramatic surprise of episode 5 is ground into the dust long before we arrive at that point in the story. Also, watching in Episode Order tempts the neophyte to give up on the series three+ hours in, because the movies to this point are abysmal (I would wonder why the MST3K guys weren’t at the bottom of the screen). Since a lot of my congregation and the next generations of my family will be addressing this question, I have discovered an order that makes sense.
The Machete Order has been floating around the Internet for a while: watching episodes 4 and 5, then inserting the Prequels before finishing with 6. This makes a lot of sense as far as pacing, for at the end of 5 we can take a digression to see the full backstory of how this came about. My solution is better:
IV A New Hope
V The Empire Strikes Back
Weird Al Yankovic The Saga Begins
III The Revenge of the Sith
VI The Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace is not only a disaster from the beginning, but has nothing to add to the larger story other than trivia. Episode 2, Attack of the Clones, has some good footage in the second half, but one has to endure two incredibly boring and largely irrelevant stories to get there: the creation of a clone army, and the least believable romance in the history of the universe between Anakin and Padmé. All the plot elements from Attack of the Clones are best left to references in Revenge of the Sith. Plus, the only story that really matters to the whole, how Palpatine seduced Anakin to the Dark Side, is told completely in Revenge. This story sets up Luke’s inner conflict in Return of the Jedi beautifully, and makes Darth Vader’s evolution more credible as the story winds to its ending.
Why Weird Al? Lucas had a great sense of humor in episodes 4 and 5 which he forgot when making the Prequels (what else explains Jar Jar?) After the dramatic climax of Empire Strikes Back, Weird Al unpacks the points of the first movie in three minutes better than Lucas did in 2+ hours. It’s a wonderful refresher for the palate before diving into the unmitigated darkness of Revenge of the Sith after the great calamity at the end of Empire. It also presents the only thing important to know from episodes 1 and 2: Anakin’s compelling ambition to excel on his own terms.
I call it the Extreme Machete Order with a Twist. If you haven’t watched Star Wars and are ready for a binge, take it this way. If the magic really gets you and you can’t resist, then go back and see episodes 1-2, for you’ll have the stamina to pick through the rubble for the rare good bits. Granted, we love the series in spite of the fact throughout it has plot holes big enough to drive a Star Destroyer through, and Lucas is an uneven storyteller at best. This order gets you through the quality parts of the series in 8 hours, without enduring 4 added hours of painful nonsense.
Star Wars is a fantastic story that gives us great iconic figures in Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. All that said, George Lucas is a mediocre storyteller who gets lucky on occasion, the next episodes of Star Wars are likely to be on the level of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and the greatest story of the 20th Century is The Lord of the Rings.
P.S. I’ve seen the trailer for Star Wars VII. I stand by my prediction: this will likely be another Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The new lightsaber looks dumb.