Before we settle into this, I want to say a few things.
- I’m not a huge Star Wars nerd or anything, but have still seen them all a bunch of times
- Despite not being a huge nerd, I did do the curtain drop at Disney Hollywood Studios during Star Wars weekend a couple years ago, and was more excited than my kids
- I am trying to do my best to go into the new movie cold, so that means I’m doing my best to avoid seeing trailers or going all geek on secrets or plot stuff prior to the release. This has worked in the past for other blockbusters and I like the surprise
- My kids have seen all the movies over the years, some more than others. Me and Loudboy stayed up last weekend to watch IV-A New Hope which we hadn’t seen in awhile
So, maybe you’ve heard the quote “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” I’m far from an artist (with words or otherwise) but this is a flat out copy. I first heard of the Machete Order from a friend of mine who worked with teenagers on cable access, and some of those kids were flat out Star Wars savants, like encyclopedias on the topic having memorized way too many minutia of the movies (and spinoffs such as books and the Clone Wars cartoon).
It attempts to answer the age old question:
What is the Best Order to Watch the Star Wars Movies (Episodes I-VI)?
As we get ready for what will surely be the biggest movie of the year (and maybe 2016 as well), we all need to prep in our own way. And if it is your kids’ first time seeing this in a theater, or ever, even more so. So the two primary ways to watch them are Episode Order (I, II, III, IV, V, VI) or Release Order (IV, V, VI, I, II, III). Neither is ideal, but there is a better way.
First, I think we can agree that the original trilogy kicks the new trilogy’s ass, despite the cool shiny special effects of the newbies. There are some decent parts, but the stories get bogged down a lot more in backstory setting up the originals.
So if you watch straight through in Episode Order (I-VI in order), you get a lot of boring backstory stuff (Anakin born by immaculate conception, political movements, rebellion, clone wars, the rise of the Emperor, and the turning of Anakin to the Darkside). Ok, it’s not all boring, but it is very linear. There is no surprise at the major reveal in Empire Strikes Back that Darth is Luke’s father since you already have seen Anakin put on the helmet, Obi Wan get exiled, and it’s just something the audience knows that Luke doesn’t. Now contrast that to a kid who may not know this (not sure how they could not by this point, but let’s pretend) it will surely be an event to see for your own eyes as you watch their minds be blown right in front of you. Plus, Episode I is pretty bad, and with all the bloat in I-II- and III, they may not even make it to VI-A New Hope.
The argument that is made is that if you watch them as released (IV-Star Wars A New Hope, V-Empire Strikes Back, VI-Return of the Jedi, I-Phantom Menace, II-Attack of the Clones, and III-Revenge of the Sith) you already know the outcome, so it’s just like a rewind to fill in the gaps about what was the clone war, who was the Emperor, what happened to the rest of the Jedi’s and so forth. This was the order most of us watched them in, and not sure if you felt this way, but I found the whole story arc anticlimactic for the bulk of Eps I-II-III.
Clipped right from the Machete Order article:
Effectively, this order keeps the story Luke’s tale. Just when our main man Luke is left with the burning question “did my father really become Darth Vader?” we take an extended flashback to explain that it’s true. Once we understand how his father turned to the dark side, we go back to the main storyline and see how Luke is able to rescue him from it and salvage the good in him, which is the only way to destroy the Empire.
Putting the prequels in the middle in general (which a commenter has pointed out is called Ernst Rister order) allows the series to end on the sensible ending point (the destruction of the Empire) while still beginning with Luke’s journey. The prequel backstory comes at the perfect time, because The Empire Strikes Back ends on a huge cliffhanger. Han is in carbonite, Vader is Luke’s father, and the Empire has hit the rebellion hard. Delaying the resolution of this cliffhanger makes it all the more satisfying when Return of the Jedi is watched.
I like that in this order you see the Emperor only in holograms, until you go to the backstory and see him come to full power with his calculated moves to take over the Empire, before flashing forward and see him after he’s reached full power. I remember thinking in Jedi “Who the hell is this guy and where did he come from?” The Machete Order answers that very satisfactorily making the Grand Finale that much sweeter since you HATE Palpatine even more.
I like the absence of Episode I too. That’s the only movie that we don’t own. As Machete says:
Every character established in Episode I is either killed or removed before it ends (Darth Maul, Qui-Gon, Chancellor Valorum), unimportant (Nute Gunray, Watto), or established better in a later episode (Mace Windu, Darth Sidious). Does it ever matter that Palpatine had an apprentice before Count Dooku? Nope, Darth Maul is killed by the end of Episode I and never referenced again. You may as well just start with the assumption that Dooku was the only apprentice. Does it ever matter that Obi-Wan was being trained by Qui-Gon? Nope, Obi-Wan is well into training Anakin at the start of Episode II, Qui-Gon is completely irrelevant.
Patten Oswalt even got in on this (no need to watch, he says exactly what I passed along):
Try it out in this order, we have, and we really like it. As you get your kids ramped up for the new movie over the winter, it’s a way for us to bond over a shared love of Star Wars. And check out the full Machete post, it’s pretty well thought out.
And for any girlfriends or wives reading, don’t forget every dude’s fantasy, and remember that Christmas is a time for giving. This would be way better than a new tie or iTunes gift card. Just sayin’.