Ready to dive into the greatest space saga of all time? If you’re new to George Lucas’ sprawling franchise, dipping your toes into the galaxy far, far away for the time can be intimidating, especially in a world inundated with Star Wars content and opinionated nerds swinging lightsabers in indignation at the mere mention of ‘midichlorians.’
The best order in which to watch the films is hotly debated among Star Wars fans, and at the bottom of this article we’ll be sharing alternate viewing orders for those who inevitably disagree. Our opinion of the best viewing method, however, is to watch in order of theatrical release - it preserves one of the biggest twists in movie history. We also recommend waiting on the spin-off content until you’ve finished with the main story.
Currently, all the theatrically released Star Wars films are streaming only on Disney+. The Disney streaming service costs $7.99 / month, or $79.99 / year ($6.67 / month). You can bundle it with Hulu and ESPN+ for just $12.99 a month (cheaper than Netflix).
Clicking each “Sign Up” button will take you directly to each film on Disney+.
How to stream every Star Wars movie online
May 25, 1977
The Star Wars film that started it all! Considering that this is the movie that launched the franchise, we think it’s the best place for any viewer to start. It’s the classic adventure of Luke Skywalker learning the ways of the Force from Obi-Wan Kenobi and leaving his home on Tatooine to go save a princess. A New Hope also does a fantastic job of illustrating the galaxy far, far away, and sets up for the next two films in the original trilogy.
May 20, 1980
Considered by many to be the strongest film in the series, the movie starts with a bang and doesn’t pull any punches. Princess Leia’s relationship with Han Solo develops further, as does the rivalry between Luke and the villainous, mysterious Darth Vader. Our reason for putting the original trilogy first rather than the prequels is in no small part thanks to the jaw-dropping plot twist towards the end; perhaps the best in cinematic history?
May 25, 1983
Return of the Jedi concludes the journey of Luke Skywalker’s rise to Jedihood as he faces his destiny and learns more about how his family fits into the shape of the galaxy. Long way to come for a Tatooine farm boy, isn’t it? With Jabba the Hutt, Ewoks, a second Death Star, and the Emperor himself arriving to clean house? Now that’s the way to cap off the original trilogy in style!
May 19, 1999
The first film in the prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace starts off with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his young apprentice, Obi Wan Kenobi (remember him?) as they collaborate on a seemingly benign routine investigation of the Trade Federation. A young Anakin Skywalker is introduced here, and viewers will get more of a deep dive into the methodology of the Jedi, the Force, and what the galaxy was like precluding the fall of the Republic and the ensuing… star wars.
May 15, 2002
Equal parts space adventure and political thriller, Attack of the Clones shows Obi-Wan taking up the role of mentoring fledgling Jedi Anakin Skywalker, all while he pursues a forbidden romance with Senator Padmé Amidala. The clone army (that looks suspiciously similar to the stormtroopers) makes its first appearance here, and we get more hints that dark forces are at play beneath the seemingly placid waters of the Republic.
May 17, 2005
The greater the paradise, the farther the fall. And fall it does! Revenge of the Sith is the darkest film of the prequel trilogy, and it unfolds as we all knew it had to: With the rise of Emperor Palpatine, the birth of a galactic Empire, and the tragic eradication of the Jedi. A wedge is driven between Obi-wan and Anakin, and after a climactic battle over raging fires and molten lava, we’re (mostly) set up for the ensuing story of Luke, Han, and Leia.
December 15, 2015
The first film of the sequel trilogy, we’re given a familiar formula to the beloved A New Hope, but with a few twists and turns to shake things up. Our new protagonists, Rey and Finn, search for the lost Luke Skywalker (with the help of Han Solo and General Leia Organa) and also search inward, confronting the demons and the mysteries of their past. Kylo Ren also assumes center stage as our new villain: A young man desperate to prove himself while suffocating in the shadow of Darth Vader’s legacy.
December 13, 2017
Thematically similar to Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi puts our heroes in their darkest moments. Rey searches for her place in the galaxy, trying to convince the disillusioned Luke Skywalker to aid the Resistance while Kylo Ren attempts to turn her to the Dark Side. Finn and Rose learn the toll war takes on this galaxy, while Poe struggles to find trust in leadership.
May 15, 2018
Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo meets his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and encounters the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian.
December 18, 2019
The definitive end to the Skywalker saga, Rise of Skywalker brings back the series’ iconic antagonist, Emperor Palpatine, and pits him against Rey and the Resistance in the ultimate struggle between the Jedi and the Sith. Rey learns the truth of her past and what it means for her destiny, and a final confrontation decides the fate of the galaxy.
Alternate Star Wars viewing orders
While the theatrical release order is the method we would recommend to first time viewers, Star Wars fans love to discuss and argue the merits of different viewing orders.
One of the more popular ways to watch the films is in the so-called Machete order: 4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 9. This order begins with the first two parts of the original trilogy. But after the plot twist of Empire Strikes Back, we flashback into the galactic history of the prequels. Once the origin of Darth Vader is established, we go to Return of the Jedi to finish off the original trilogy with more weight before tackling episodes 7, 8, and 9.
George Lucas’s preferred order
The Star Wars creator himself recommends watching the movies in numerical order starting with Phantom Menace and following the timeline accordingly. He’s been generally less than complimentary to the films beyond 1-6, so take that as you wish.
Going beyond the main Star Wars saga
Star Wars now spans two animated series, two films independent of the Skywalker saga, and also The Mandalorian on Disney+. As such, the complete timeline of Star Wars can be confusing, so to help you out we’ve put everything in chronological order.
The complete Star Wars chronological timeline
- Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
- Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
- Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Star Wars Rebels
- Solo: A Star Wars Story
- Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
- The Mandalorian
- Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
- Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
- Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Again, the simple way to see all of these great stories is simply to sign up for Disney+.
The Forgotten Spin-Offs
George Lucas would love if you’ve forgotten that a few other weird Star Wars movies exist. There’s the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which is one of the strangest things you could ever see. (Bea Arthur sings a sad song to the aliens in Tatooine’s Cantina. Seriously.)
There’s also 1984’s Ewok Adventure and 1985’s Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. Two short-lived Star Wars cartoons (Droids and Ewoks) also exist, but you won’t find any of these spin-offs available for streaming. They’re all shoddy cash-ins that have no bearing on the main story. But completists would love to have access to those relics, so time will tell if Disney ever opens the vault.
Happy viewing and May the Force Be With You!