by W.T. Bane
Unless you’ve been living under a rock on Tatooine, you’ve heard about the new Star Wars movie coming out next week. Excitement is reaching a fever pitch and if you’re like me and many others, you like to rewatch the old films in excitement for the new movie coming out. The debate has raged for a long time, “which order should I watch them in?” Some say release order. Some say chronological. Both have good reasons. I went back and forth until a year ago when I heard about the Machete Order (named after the blog which originally posted about this specific order to watch them), and now I will never watch them in a different order.
To break it down, Machete Order goes 4-5-2-3-6. You start with the original movie that started it all. You continue into Empire and just when Vader tells Luke that Vader is his dear ole Daddy, you take a long flashback to watch the story of Anakin as he rises to Jedi Knight and falls to the darkside to become the Dark Lord of the Sith. Then you flash forward to the end of the original trilogy to wrap everything up with Return of the Jedi. It sounds a little crazy but there are so many reasons as to why after viewing it in this order, you’ll never go back.
You Should Always Start With 4
Star Wars: A New Hope, or to some purists just Star Wars, is the only place to start the series. It has one of the absolute greatest openings in history with the long shot of the overhead Star Destroyer that immediately hooks you in. You are gripped into the story of good vs evil from the get go. From the first scene you know by the very music that Darth Vader is one evil tyrant and proves it by flinging around Rebels by their necks while only using one arm. As the story progresses and you follow the droids to meeting the young hero of the story, you find someone very relatable in Luke Skywalker. This is another young person wishing for so much more in his life. He is stuck in his dead end job on his uncle’s farm wishing for a life of meaning. It is through his eyes we are slowly introduced into the mythology of this universe as he learns what the force is, a mystical energy field that surrounds us and binds the galaxy together. It is every living and nonliving thing that makes this universe one. We watch as this young man is forced out into a larger world on an adventure as he struggles to find purpose and takes up arms against the evil Empire and witness him triumph over evil.
This is the only place to start the series when viewing. If you start with Episode 1 you aren’t introduced into the mythology in the same gradual manner. You are given two Jedi who are on a mission to negotiate a Trade dispute. Instead of the wonderful mysterious explantation of the Force that Obi Wan gives, you’re given and overly explained pseudoscience about EXACTLY what the force is and why some are more powerful than others. Gone is the capturing relatable centerpiece of someone who is learning and growing into becoming more than the man he is. In it’s place are two people already in that life and a third who was chosen to be a part of it. By the time you get to the original trilogy, there is such a giant shift that it feels off-putting. We watched as everyone knows what the force is and what Jedi’s are and then we are being re-introduced to it all over again. The series is in full swing by the end of three and then takes a giant leap backwards to reintroduce everything with a new Act One.
Then the Trade Federation being the antagonist just does not have the universal appeal of the classic good vs evil tyrannical oppressive genocidal maniacs that are the Empire. A New Hope simply is the best introduction into what Star Wars is. It has more relatable main characters who you follow as they learn what that world is and then the universe gradually expands. I
Watching Empire Next Preserves the Greatest Twist Ending Ever
Ok. So everyone knows the twist ending to Empire now, to the point that no one even thinks of it as a twist ending anymore, which is by nature exactly what it is. Luke was told his father was dead. Then as he watches his hand fall away to oblivion where he will soon join it, he is told by the arbitrator of all evil that this very warlord is his father. That’s a twist ending no one saw coming. We all know it now, but that emotion is still present every time I watch Empire. Every time I watch 4 then 5, I become completely emotionally attached to this story of a young man finding out his father is the centerpiece of all that is wrong with the world, wondering if it’s true. Wondering if that evil is inside of him as he continues to struggle with his own identity in his search to become the first new Jedi. It’s a terribly heart wrenching moment and is the most misspoken line in all of cinema (it’s “No. I am your father.” not “Luke, I…”).
Again, if you start with the prequel trilogy, it robs the movie of that powerful moment. Anakin falls in love, marries Padme, has a kid and turns evil. When we finally get to Empire, the emotion to that reveal is gone. We already know it’s true. We just watched it a couple of nights ago. One of the greatest moments in the entire series is completely void of its emotional context. Stick with Empire second and keep the moment intact.
Flashback To a Longer Time Ago With Attack of the Clones
Again, now that Luke has found out about his father and left to question its legitimacy, we jump back to experience who Anakin Skywalker was and how he ended up the way he did.
I know what you’re thinking. “What happened to Episode 1?” Hear me out. Everything that is introduced in Episode 1 is either removed or reintroduced in the following two episodes. The Trade Federation is replaced by a larger conglomerate of systems that are seceding from the government and in process starting a war. Episode 1 is more focused on Qui Gon and Obi Wan than it is Anakin and by skipping to two, it keeps the story focused on the Skywalker saga. Qui Gon and midichlorians are only mentioned once more each and when removing Episode 1 from the viewing order, it doesn’t remove much at all. The only thing you’ll miss is Darth Maul, who really doesn’t even have a character in the film anyway and is really only a fan favorite because of his appearance (reminds me of someone else).
By jumping to Clones next, you get introduced to the part of the Prequel Trilogy that matters, the story of Obi Wan and Anakin and their relationship. We’ve already seen them duel before, now we get the back story we wanted over the next two films. Anakin has a better character arc as he is the quintessential teenager who rages against anyone in charge because he is selfish and overly emotional. Basically, he is your teenager living at home except he knows he is far more powerful than you’ll ever be and is struggling to maintain humility and keeping himself in check. It’s not as relatable as Luke’s journey, which is the classical mythological everyman, but it’s a better place to start Anakin’s story than him being a footnote of the plot like he was in Episode 1.
The conflict of this part of the trilogy is more interesting than in Phantom Menace. Episode 1 centers around two groups having a business disagreement. Episode 2 begins with a difference in political opinion dissolving into a rift in the state of the galaxy that spirals into a full blown war.
Episode 1 is optional but you won’t miss much if you skip it.
Revenge Of the Sith Has a Better Sibling Reveal Than Jedi.
Continue to Episode 3, where we see the fall of Vader, the rise of the Empire and the rift between two brothers. It’s the best of the Prequels. There are two main benefits to watching it here. The first is the twin reveal. Early in the film we are told that Padme is pregnant and that’s a big part of the story that leads to Anikan turning to the darkside. It’s only at the end that we are told that she is having twins. Now, just like in Empire, for any of us who have seen the movies before we know that Luke and Leia are siblings so it’s not that big of a shock anymore, but putting the reveal here that the two are twins makes for a better storytelling moment than it does in Jedi when the reveal is a little more awkward when Luke just all of a sudden knows that Leia is his sister. In Sith the first child comes out and it’s Luke. Then she names the other one Leia and it clicks with a resonance that is better served than the conversation between Luke and Obi Wan about why they were separated.
The other main benefit to Episode 3’s placement here is the Emperor himself. We see him briefly in Empire then a few years later Ian Mcdiarmid brought the Emperor to life in Jedi. There wasn’t a lot of information on the Emperor at that point. We knew he must be a big deal if even Vader bows before him and calls him Master, but we don’t see him do that much in Jedi. By watching his rise to power in Clones and Sith before getting to Jedi, it creates a stronger presence to the character every time you see him in Jedi. You understand how evil, conniving, powerful and Machiavellian he is by the time you reach Jedi and it provides a great backstory to the character that adds more meaning to his presence on scene.
It Ends As It Should, With the Return of the Jedi
The story concludes with the Return of the Jedi. It is the most fitting ending as the Rebels win a major battle in the war with the Empire, Luke becomes a Jedi, Vader finds redemption, Han gets the girl, the good guys win, and an Ewok hugs Han Solo’s leg. Is there a better way to end the story than that?
If you watch the Original Trilogy then the Prequels, you’re left with the story circling over. Luke is looking to the distance waiting to become a Jedi. Jedi just has the more complete ending to the entire series.
More importantly, by taking the two movie break to witness Vader’s rise and downfall and knowing his back story, every interaction between father and son has so much more meaning to it. It’s so much more powerful watching Darth Vader tell his son “You don’t know the power of the dark side” after just watching Anakin fall to it. It adds an additional depth by getting that extra story in the middle. It brings the whole story together as you see the end of the Skywalker’s story from both Luke and Anakin’s story.
Also by spacing out the Death Star’s at the opposite ends of the series by watching 4-5-2-3-6, it keeps them from feeling redundant.
This is the Machete order. I didn’t come up with it, but after watching the films in this order, I can’t see another way of watching them ever again.