Starring iconic characters who have been enthralling old fans and attracting new followers for decades, Star Wars is a massive franchise, comprising numerous movies and shows. However, many of these were not released in a serial order. Thus, for those who are just starting to deep-dive into the mythology and understand character developments, it is best to watch Star Wars in a chronological order.
The world of Star Wars is a creation of George Lucas, who directed many of the films in the franchise. At its centre are three sets of trilogies, also known as the ‘Skywalker saga’ because they focus on the lives of Anakin Skywalker and his descendants.
In the order of their release, these are known as the original trilogy, prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogy. Then there are live-action and animated series other than stand-alone films that add details to and fill the timeline between the three trilogies. Outside these are several animated shorts, games, comic books, novels and other series that flesh out the characteristics of iconic Star Wars characters or add to the mythology.
Eight of the nine films of the three trilogies are among the top 200 highest-grossing movies by lifetime, and some of them have won Academy Awards in multiple categories. The shows, too, have received accolades.
The best Star Wars viewing order would, therefore, include all nine of the ‘Skywalker saga’, the anthology films and at least six of the shows, including three outstanding animated series.
Star Wars movies and shows in chronological order
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Why watch: The start of Star Wars’ story.
A nine-year-old Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) is spotted by Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and his young padawan, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) when the latter arrives on the planet Tatooine. Qui-Gon decides to train Anakin into a Jedi but dies in a duel with Darth Maul (Ray Park/Peter Serafinowicz). Obi-Wan then takes Anakin under his wings.
Though highly anticipated at the time of release, the film could not impress critics. Despite this, it is an essential watch as it gives a preview of everything that follows in the Star Wars universe. It is also in this film where Anakin first meets Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), his future wife.
Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz), C-3PO (voiced by Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker)— three of the biggest Star Wars characters —appear for the first time in the canon with this film.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)
Why watch: The first appearance of the enigmatic Christopher Lee and a young Boba Fett.
The second film of the prequel trilogy ought to be watched after The Phantom Menace. The events in this film are set roughly 10 years after the 1999 movie. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), a young man, is a Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi, but struggles with his growing emotions for his dear ones, including Padmé, against the strict code of the Jedi order.
The film shows how the conflict between the Republic and a separatist movement led by a mysterious Sith lord named Count Dooku (Christopher Lee) has reached a critical point.
In this film, Obi-Wan finds how clones are created on the ocean planet of Kamino, as well as their template bounty hunter Jango Fett (Temuera Morrison), who has a clone son Boba Fett.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008-2020)
Why watch: Introduction of a galaxy of famous Star Wars characters and the story.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars is also the name of a 2008 film that served as a lead-in to the animated series of the same name which premiered the same year. Together, the film and the series make up the latter part of the timeline of Attack of the Clones and end alongside the conclusion of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005). Everything shown in The Clone Wars encompasses roughly three years of the Star Wars timeline.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (voiced by James Arnold Taylor) and Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) are the main characters of the series, which also features several famous clone troopers. But at its heart, it is about the rise of Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) from a young Jedi padawan into a hero on whom the fate of the Jedi depends.
The film and the series feature several Star Wars characters who appeared in movies released before and after The Clone Wars. Among them are Jabba the Hutt, Cad Bane, Bo-Katan Kryze and Saw Gerrera. The series also marks the first appearance of a young Tarkin — one of the greatest antagonists in the franchise’s lore.
The series part of The Clone Wars is spread across seven seasons and is counted among one of the finest animated series. It is the first weekly TV series from Lucasfilm Animation.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Why watch: The transformation of Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader.
Throughout the events of Attack of the Clones and The Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker continues on a downward spiral that eventually consumes him in Revenge of the Sith. This is the third and final film of the prequel trilogy. It is set roughly three years after the events of Attack of the Clones and runs almost parallel to The Clone Wars.
As the Jedi fight the separatist forces across the galaxy, Anakin is lured to the dark side of the Force by Senator Palpatine who is actually Darth Sidious (Ian McDiarmid). Padmé dies giving birth to twins Luke and Leia Skywalker. As Anakin, now Darth Vader, turns into a dangerous foe, Obi-Wan goes into exile alongside Yoda after securing the safety of Luke and Leia.
This film was noteworthy for the performances of its cast, the action and laying the foundation of the events that follow.
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (2021– )
Why watch: A group of ‘misfits’ trying to keep a unique clone girl safe.
The Bad Batch is another Star Wars animated series that connects events between the prequel trilogy and the sequel trilogies. It takes forward the story of Clone Force 99 or “Bad Batch”, first seen in The Clone Wars animated series. The Bad Batch comprises four clones whose genetic modifications gave them special abilities. As such, the Bad Batch acts as a special force.
The story of The Bad Batch is set immediately after the events of The Clone Wars, where the four were joined by Echo — a clone trooper who is not genetically modified. It begins at the point in the Revenge of the Sith where Order 66 is issued, leading to the clones turning against the Jedi. As one member of the Bad Batch turns against the group, the rest must figure out how to stay alive and learn what led to the clones betraying the Jedi. In the process, they are joined by a young clone girl, Omega (voiced by Michelle Ang) — someone the Empire wants.
Dee Bradley Baker voices all members of the Bad Batch. The series also marks the first appearance of Fennec Shand (voiced by Ming-Na Wen) and Caleb Dume, aka Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.).
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Why watch: The origin story of Han Solo.
Solo is a stand-alone film whose story is set nine years after Revenge of the Sith and The Clone Wars. In it, Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) works for criminals to survive. His life takes a turn when he meets a 190-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo).
In need of a fast vessel to complete a mission, Solo, his love interest, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), and Chewbacca contact a smuggler named Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) who owns the Millennium Falcon — one of the fastest vessels in the galaxy.
To many, Han Solo is perhaps the most famous hero in the Star Wars canon. To fans, Solo’s friendship with Chewbacca is exemplary and so is his almost brotherly rivalry with Lando Calrissian. This is exactly what the film tried to capitalise on, even though it was not praised by critics. However, Solo won the Oscar for Best Achievement in Visual Effects.
Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022)
Why watch: To know what the Jedi master did during his exile on Tatooine.
The Disney+ miniseries is the first live-action Star Wars series in chronological order. Its story is set 10 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith and marks the return of Ewan McGregor as Kenobi. Hayden Christensen physically portrays Darth Vader, but the character’s voice is lent by James Earl Jones.
The series primarily revolves around the titular character, living in hiding on Tatooine under the alias ‘Ben’ and keeping a watch over a young Luke Skywalker. Pursuing Kenobi, and all other surviving Jedi, is a special squad of the Galactic Empire, known as the Inquisitors.
While the story’s focus is certainly Kenobi, it has been praised for its portrayal of a 10-year-old Leia Skywalker (Vivien Lyra Blair) — Luke’s twin sister. As Kenobi is drawn out of Tatooine to protect her, the series answers a crucial question fans have been wondering about for long, which is how a grown-up Leia knew Kenobi so well and eagerly sought his help as was shown in Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977).
Star Wars: Rebels (2014-18)
Why watch: The beginning of the rebellion against the Empire.
Rebels is set five years after the events of Solo and spans five years before the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. The 3D animated series revolves around the crew of a starship that mounts a challenge to the growing hold of the Empire on the galaxy.
The four-season show introduced a set of new main characters in the Star Wars mythology: the young Jedi Ezra Bridger (voiced by Taylor Gray) and his team, Sabine Wren (voiced by Tiya Sircar), Hera Syndulla (voiced by Vanessa Marshall), Garazeb “Zeb” Orrelios (voiced by Steven Blum), and Chopper (voiced by Dave Filoni).
Additionally, several characters who appear before Rebels in earlier shows and films include Kanan Jarrus (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr), Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones, Captain Rex (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), Bail Organa (voiced by Phil LaMarr), Ahsoka Tano (voiced by Ashley Eckstein) and Grand Moff Tarkin (voiced by Stephen Stanton).
Rogue One (2016)
Why watch: A great stand-alone film with outstanding characters.
Set 19 years after Revenge of the Sith during the Galactic Civil War, Rogue One precedes the events of A New Hope. A band of Resistance fighters, led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), are tasked with an extremely difficult mission — to steal the plans to destroy the Death Star.
The Death Star is a devastating weapon of the Empire and looks like a dwarf planet in size. However, it can obliterate other planets with its powerful cannon.
The film introduces several new characters other than Erso. Chief among them are Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed).
Rogue One is significant also because of its ending, which features an outstanding lightsaber scene of Darth Vader, establishing a connection with the opening scene of A New Hope.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
Why watch: The film that started the Star Wars franchise.
The first of the Star Wars films to hit cinemas, A New Hope is all about a grown-up Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke (Mark Hamill) fighting the Empire, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) joining them in their quest.
Nineteen years after he was left in the care of his uncle and aunt on Tatooine, Luke meets Obi-Wan Kenobi who tells him about Darth Vader. After Kenobi dies protecting Luke and Leia, the Resistance fighters go against the Death Star commanded by the ruthless Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing).
The film is packed with iconic characters and the actors who originally played them. Alec Guinness essays Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anthony Daniels plays C-3PO, Kenny Baker is R2-D2, Peter Mayhew immortalises Chewbacca, and David Prowse plays Darth Vader with James Earl Jones as the voice of the character.
A New Hope was a tremendous critical and commercial success. Many consider it a path-breaker in blockbuster filmmaking. It won seven Academy Awards and was nominated for another four, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Supporting Role (for Alec Guinness).
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Why watch: For Yoda and the epic duel between Luke and Darth Vader.
The Empire Strikes Back is the most critically acclaimed of all films and series in Star Wars on Rotten Tomatoes. It is universally hailed as the best in the canon because of the deft execution of epic sci-fi elements, such as the ice planet Hoth, and the story. Upon release, it won two Oscars — Special Achievement for visual effects (statuette) and Best Sound — and was nominated for two others.
All main characters and actors from the preceding film return in The Empire Strikes Back, which is set three years after the events of A New Hope.
The film also has the first appearances, according to release, of Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz), Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams) and Boba Fett (played by Jeremy Bulloch and voiced by Jason Wingreen).
As the Resistance forces continue their struggle against an even more merciless Empirical force of Darth Vader, Luke begins training in the ways of the Jedi with Yoda. Eventually, Luke faces Vader to protect his sister and Solo in a lightsaber duel ensues. Later, Vader urges the young Jedi to join him.
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
Why watch: The conclusion of the main trilogy.
Return of the Jedi follows the events of Empire Strikes Back. It revolves around Luke’s attempts to rescue his father, Darth Vader, from the dark side of the Force. The film marks the epic conclusion of the original trilogy. Its highlight is the ultimate confrontation involving Vader, Luke and The Emperor (Ian McDiarmid), as the rest of the Resistance works to bring an end to the Galactic Civil War.
The film was awarded an Oscar for Special Achievement for visual effects (statuette).
The Mandalorian (2019–)
Why watch: For a bounty hunter and perhaps one of the cutest Star Wars characters.
The Mandalorian has been especially praised for the portrayal of Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal), a cold-hearted bounty hunter from Mandalore who becomes a caring father-figure to one of his bounties — Grogu, fondly referred to by fans and the media as “Baby Yoda”.
Set five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, remnants of the Imperial forces are hunting for a creature who is of the same species as Yoda. Djarin is tasked to get Grogu but decides to protect the baby from the Imperial forces. As he is pursued by Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito), who wields the ancient Darksaber, Djarin realises the truth about ‘Baby Yoda’ and decides to bring him to the Jedi.
Spread across two seasons, the series has received critical acclaim for its story, direction, expansion of Star Wars mythology, characters and action. The two seasons combined have won 14 Primetime Emmy Awards and have been nominated individually for numerous others, including Outstanding Drama Series for each season.
Among old and new major characters who appear across the two seasons of The Mandalorian are Greef Karga (Carl Weathers), Kuiil (voiced by Nick Nolte), IG-11 (voiced by Taika Waititi), Cara Dune (Gina Carano), The Armorer (Emily Swallow), Bo-Katan Kryze (Katee Sackhoff), Cobb Vanth (Timothy Olyphant), Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen), Boba Fett (Temuera Morrison), Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
The Book of Boba Fett (2022)
Why watch: It’s Boba Fett, need we say more?
Boba Fett is one of the most celebrated Star Wars characters of all time, and this is the first series dedicated to the bounty hunter. Temuera Morrison reprises his role as Fett and so does Ming-Na Wen as Shand.
The series is set after the events of The Mandalorian and is portrayed through flashbacks; it is connected to the scene in Return of the Jedi where Fett is shown falling in the Sarlacc pit.
The Book of Boba Fett is about the former bounty hunter trying to gain control of the criminal underworld in Tatooine that was once controlled by Jabba the Hutt.
Like The Mandalorian, the series also features several prominent characters from previous series and films, including Din Djarin, Grogu, Cobb Vanth, the Armorer, Ahsoka Tano, Luke Skywalker and the first live-action appearance of Cad Bane.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Why watch: A highly-anticipated sequel to the main canon and the end of an iconic character.
The Force Awakens is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi and introduces fans to a slew of new characters who become the mainstay of the following two films in the sequel trilogy.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a Force-sensitive scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku. She comes across a droid carrying a map that contains the location of Luke Skywalker, who went into exile years ago. Along with Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper defector, Rey is drawn into a new conflict involving the New Republic and the First Order — a new threat led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), which emerged from what remained of the Galactic Empire. Joining them is the exceptionally skilled pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac).
The film brings back a host of major stars from the original trilogy, including Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew.
The Force Awakens was met with critical acclaim upon release and was nominated for five Academy Awards. It was also a massive financial success and is the highest-grossing Star Wars film of all time.
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
Why watch: For Luke Skywalker’s grand battle with Kylo Ren.
The Last Jedi follows the story immediately after The Force Awakens and underlines Rey’s training as a Jedi under Luke. The First Order gains an upper hand over the New Republic-backed Resistance and is prepared to eliminate all, forcing Luke Skywalker to return with his lightsaber.
Like its predecessor, the film was both a critical and commercial success.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Why watch: The last of all films and series in Star Wars in chronological order.
Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has been resurrected and the First Order is ready to make its decisive move to completely quash the Resistance forces.
Rey, now an exceptionally trained Jedi, and her friends must find a way to reach Palpatine and bring an end to his designs. Complicating their mission is a determined Ren in pursuit and Rey’s conflicting emotions for him.
The Rise of Skywalker was not received well upon release, but it remains significant since it is the final film of the Star Wars mythology.
(Main image: © Walt Disney pictures and Lucasfilms LTD/IMDb; Featured image: © 1980 – Lucasfilm, Ltd./IMDB)