Watching Star Wars - in what order?
April 13, 2005 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to watch the whole Star Wars series now that Episode III is going to hit cinemas. I was never really a big fan, and watched some of the installments with not much attention. In what order should I watch the episodes? 4-5-6, and then 1-2-3? Or 1-2-3, 4-5-6?

If you could keep spoilers to a minimum I'd appreciate it a lot, even if it makes your reply sound a bit generalised.

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by kchristidis to Media & Arts (31 answers total)
i'd go 4-5-6-1-2-3... the way most everyone else has experienced it.
posted by ruwan at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2005

I'd say probably the way to watch it is 1-2-3, 4-5-6... and then 1-2-3 again. There are a lot of things in 1-2-3 that don't have much resonance unless you already know what happens in 4-5-6. But watching them in story-chronological order is really the only way to get the full narrative effect Lucas claims he intends.
posted by jjg at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2005

Ideally you'd be able to watch 123456 and be one of the few people (of my generation) to do so. Howerver, 1 and 2 are such stinkers and contain such vastly different production values when compared to 456 that you're better off starting with 456 and then 123, although you could be forgiven if you skip 1 completely and maybe even 2 and just go straight to 3. At least that's the way I look at it.
posted by furtive at 6:12 PM on April 13, 2005

In summation: 3-4-5-6
posted by furtive at 6:13 PM on April 13, 2005

I recommend 456.
posted by josh at 6:14 PM on April 13, 2005

Best answer: 4-5-6 then 1-2-3.

That's the way they were released and if you do it 1,2,3,4,5,6 the story won't unfold the way it's supposed to. The things that are supposed to be "twists" in the original trilogy will be ruined.

Also, the special effects get progressively better.

I'm tempted to tell you to just watch the first trilogy and skip the newer ones but since you're seeing them (mostly) for the first time as an adult you won't have the same emotional attachement to the first trilogy that a whole generation of fanboys had. So they'll all probably be equally bad or good.

'cept Empire. That one rules no matter what.
posted by bondcliff at 6:15 PM on April 13, 2005

So they'll all probably be equally bad or good.

i doubt that.
posted by jimmy at 6:16 PM on April 13, 2005

I'm tempted to tell you to just watch the first trilogy and skip the newer ones but since you're seeing them (mostly) for the first time as an adult you won't have the same emotional attachement to the first trilogy that a whole generation of fanboys had.

I'd agree with this. I didn't have much attachment to the first lot, although I thought they were good, but then also thought Episode 2 wasn't as bad as people made out, still quite fun. People get too attached to these things. It's hardly like the contrast between Cruel Intentions 1 and 2 or something.
posted by wackybrit at 6:19 PM on April 13, 2005

There's a moment of dramatic irony in Episode Two that works (to the degree it works at all given that Lucas is now an utter hack) only if you've seen 4, 5, and 6 already. So, right, 456123.
posted by nicwolff at 6:34 PM on April 13, 2005


Or, maybe 6,1,5,2,4,3. Just a thought.
posted by geekhorde at 6:40 PM on April 13, 2005

Best answer: You know, I think I want to change my vote. The dramatic impact of many moments in 4-5-6 would be blunted by knowing all the backstory from 1-2-3, and 4 really tells you everything you need to know to follow and appreciate 4-5-6. There are only a couple of very small things in 4-5-6 that don't make sense or mean anything unless you've seen 1-2-3. So maybe 4-5-6, 1-2-3 is the way to go.

Again, Lucas says the series forms one complete arc from 1 through 6, and that's the story he's always been trying to tell, but frankly I don't really believe him. I do wonder how someone would react to seeing 4-5-6 for the first time after seeing 1-2-3. The two trilogies are really different in style, and not just because of advances in special effects.
posted by jjg at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2005

Watching them in the order in which they've been released makes sense, however it's frankly not very important to enjoying them. First, there is very little consistency from film to film, each is best enjoyed on its own terms. Also, these movies define the style of "blockbuster", they're spectacles where characters and plot are equally important as the music and visuals-- it's not like reading a series of books where character evolution is an important part of the enjoyment. You could watch them in reverse order, and you wouldn't loose very much. There are deeper themes lurking underneath the puddle-deep dialogue, but basically it's as much about cool moments as it is about the people in them.

In other words, relaxing and going with it is the real key to having a good time.
posted by dong_resin at 6:46 PM on April 13, 2005

Best answer: Well, if spoilers are really a concern, you don't want to see 3 or 6 before you've seen 5. I remember at age 6 or so being absolutely flabbergasted by the big surprise....
posted by mr_roboto at 6:54 PM on April 13, 2005

4,5,6 ... If you start at 1, you won't make it any further.
posted by o0o0o at 7:05 PM on April 13, 2005

Best answer: If you want to keep spoilers to a minimum, then I think you have to watch it 4-5-6 then 1-2-3, as that is how they were filmed. Regardless of what Lucas says about story arcs, he has let a ridiculous number of "wink-wink, nudge nudge, remember this?" type jokes leak into 1-2-3 that have the potential to ruin what they reference in 4-5-6, or simply make no sense to a fresh viewer without the 4-5-6 background.

You don't need anything in 1-2-3 to enjoy 4-5-6 (we enjoyed them quite successfully for years without prequels), and there are some weird inconsistences that might only be worse coming from a plot-chronological angle. I actually wonder how well 1-2-3 would stand as a triology in their own right, without knowing what's coming. Although I admit significant bias, I don't think it will function as a cohesive, neat story the way that 4-5-6 do. There are far too many "back" references to what is actually the future. But I digress.

4-5-6, then 1-2-3.
posted by nelleish at 7:28 PM on April 13, 2005

4 -5, then (maybe) 3. The end of Empire (5) will be much more powerful if the only other Star Wars you've been exposed to is the original Star Wars (A New Hope).
posted by andrewraff at 7:43 PM on April 13, 2005

My wife and I are planning to show it to our daughter, whenever she's old enough, 4-5-6-1-2-3.

Judging by the storyline given in the Revenge of the Sith novelization, you may get confused and lose track of certain plot points.
posted by icontemplate at 7:46 PM on April 13, 2005

Best answer: Despite the fact that Lucas is all "1-6 is one complete arc!" it is perfectly valid to tell a story out of order. People's enjoyment of lots of (most) stories hinge on the revelation of information, and 4-5-6 are definitely meant to reveal information in a certain way.

Plus, 1 and 2 are such wretched movies that they really don't stand on their own if you're not invested in the universe, and even then, barely.
posted by SoftRain at 8:05 PM on April 13, 2005

In addition, I'd suggest watching 456 in their original form (at first, at least). The enhanced versions contain alterations that a large number of reasonably balanced people consider non-trivial, and if you're being introduced to the series, I think you ought to have the same experience that created the phenomenon. If your copy of 456 is labeled "remastered", that's fine, but if its called "Special Edition" or somesuch, you're looking at Star Wars 1.1.
posted by gsteff at 8:50 PM on April 13, 2005

A good point, GSteff, but it's worth noting that 4-5-6 are not on 1.1, they're on 1.2.

The "Special Editions" were released in 1997 and had moderate alterations.

The DVDs released over the last couple of years contain further alterations, including both changes and additions to the originals, and changes to what was added for the Special Editions. (In the latter case, these aren't so much substantive changes as they are redone special effects; Lucasfilms's circa-1996 CGI engines and craftsmenship leave a lot to be desired by 2003-2004 standards.

I suspect that there will be at least one further round of revisions as Lucasfilm prepares and releases the HD-DVD versions of the movies in the latter part of this decade. This may include the wholesale replacement of most of the original 1977-1983 special effects shots. (To the extent the scene was left intact, the Special Editions and the DVDs haven't redone many of these original special effects, either.)

This, I think, could be a tragedy. The originals in many ways represent a pinnacle of virtually ever form of pre-CGI special effects.
posted by MattD at 9:47 PM on April 13, 2005

The best edition of the original Star Wars series to watch is the digitally remastered widescreen VHS. The "originals" haven't been released on DVD and the digitally remastered tapes really look better than the simply "widescreen THX" edition released in the very early '90s. I know a number of video stores in my area bought the digitally remastered version, but I have no idea if they got rid of them when the Special Editions were released on VHS.
posted by skynxnex at 8:00 AM on April 14, 2005

If you want to watch the series as Lucas intended the story to unfold, watch them:


Star Wars Holiday Special.

posted by herc at 9:25 AM on April 14, 2005

Ha! Classic, herc.

Oh, man, the thought of someone actually following your advice....very amusing.
posted by breath at 9:42 AM on April 14, 2005

What about the couple of Planet of the Ewoks movies? After 6?
(Heh. I think that you should watch them as 123456, even though you probably won't enjoy 'em much. But if you watch 456 after this long of not seeing 'em, you'll probably say "What the hell was all that hype about....?" They are kinda crap space operas, anyway...)
posted by klangklangston at 10:11 AM on April 14, 2005

...a whole generation of fanboys...


Oh, and 4-5-6-1-2-3 is the proper order.
posted by deborah at 11:46 AM on April 14, 2005

Best answer: 4-5-6-1-2-3.

Without giving away anything, there are things that happen in 456 that are meant to be a surprise, and they're really not if you've already seen 1-2-3. So it kind of ruins it if you see 'em 123456
posted by unreason at 11:48 AM on April 14, 2005

Best answer: My suggestion:


There's really nothing in 6 that you need to worry about being spoiled, and that way you'll get the 'last last'. I'd not want to see 5 after seeing 123. And 5 is probably better seeing 4 first.
posted by delmoi at 1:09 PM on April 14, 2005

You should definitely see at least 4 and 5 before you see any others, especially 2, or you'll come away with some awfully weird impressions. There was a review on (I think) that put together the fact that the love story in 2... wasn't as good as it could have been along with the fact there are clones who helped the good guys and came away with the decision that Lucas thought we should all reproduce by cloning -- which is obviously somewhat opposite the effect which is intended, but which relies on the knowledge of whom the clones BECOME.
posted by dagnyscott at 2:49 PM on April 14, 2005

I think delmoi's got the perfect solution.
posted by jjg at 5:10 PM on April 14, 2005

Well, if spoilers are really a concern, you don't want to see 3 or 6 before you've seen 5. I remember at age 6 or so being absolutely flabbergasted by the big surprise....

To be honest, that 'surprise' is so well known now in common culture that I doubt it's a surprise to anyone at all. I never watched episode 5 and I already know what it is.
posted by wackybrit at 7:29 PM on April 14, 2005

Response by poster: Nice suggestions everyone, thank you so much for taking the time to post your opinion here.

While it's tempting to go 123-456, and be one of the few people (of our generation) to do so [1], I think I'll pass. Sure, George Lucas speaks of a complete story arc [2, 3], but you have convinced me that "the things that are supposed to be 'twists' in the original trilogy will be ruined".

So, I'm now stuck between going 456-123 (as the majority of you has suggested), or... 45-123-6 (I "curse" delmoi and jjg for introducing this dilemma to me...)

Lots of best answers to mark here, thanks again!
posted by kchristidis at 3:38 PM on April 15, 2005

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