We all have that friend who has never seen a Star Wars movie. And it’s important when bringing new fans into the fold that we choose the perfect viewing order, one that piques their interest and makes such a large universe easy to digest.
Most fans fall into one of two categories. Many will recommend viewing Star Wars “as intended,” beginning with the original trilogy and watching the films in release order. Others advise watching the prequels first and following a chronological viewing order. Both of these are flawed, however.
As beloved as the original trilogy is, for the casual fan in 2021 it can be hard to get in to. Unless the prospective Star Wars fan is a classic movie buff, they will have a hard time engaging with the slower pacing and aged effects. It’s quite possible a modern fan would get bored with the release viewing order.
The chronological viewing order is also problematic, mainly because it ruins one of the greatest reveals in all of cinema — that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker. This is a memorable twist that would hook a new fan instantly, and having this knowledge allows for greater appreciation of the foreshadowing sprinkled throughout the prequels.
To preserve this surprise, I still propose beginning with the original trilogy era, specifically Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Rogue One is a fast-paced, modern sci-fi flick that will captivate most contemporary viewers. New fans would be thrown straight into the Galactic Civil War, and would immediately be interested to see where the story goes and learn more about the universe. Armed with this background knowledge, they would be interested enough to appreciate the decades-old original trilogy and stick with the franchise.
This viewing order actually introduces Darth Vader as the fearsome, technological terror he was always intended to be. The disturbing interaction between Vader and Krennic at his castle on Mustafar creates the aura of mysticism that should surround a Sith Lord, and that hallway scene towards the end showcases his raw power in a way his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi in A New Hope never could.
After viewing Rogue One and the rest of the original trilogy, new fans should watch the prequels. I recommend skipping the Clone Wars animated movie and TV show for now, as this much content could be overwhelming. Having seen the original trilogy, viewers will watch helplessly as gallant Jedi Knight becomes evil Sith, just as they were meant to.
As for the rest of the order, it’s pretty self-explanatory: the sequel trilogy comes next, and Solo: A Star Wars Story can fit in pretty much anywhere. On the whole, I believe including TV shows in a first-time watch-through could overload a casual fan, and so I recommend skipping even The Mandalorian.
As Star Wars fans, we live for inducting our friends and family into our unique fandom, and choosing the correct way of going about this is incredibly important. Now, armed with the perfect viewing order, go forth and make new fans!