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Those new to the Star War franchise are encouraged to watch the movies in the order they were released to avoid spoilers. But if you’re rewatching, it’s OK to start with The Phantom Menace and end with The Last Jedi to follow the official Star Wars timeline.
The Phantom Menace is set 32 years before A New Hope, the original film. The story follows two Jedi Knights, Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, who set out to search for someone who can bring peace to the Force, eventually encountering a gifted boy, Anakin Skywalker. At the same time, they have to contend with the return of the Sith.
The movie stars Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman, among others. It has a 54% score on Rotten Tomatoes, proving that the Star Wars prequels were off to a rough start. Still, the special effects are dazzling and the movie can end up being a lot of fun with low expectations.
Set 22 years before A New Hope, Attack of the Clones revolves around Obi-Wan Kenobi, who uncovers a sinister plot to destroy the Republic while pursuing an assassin. With the fate of the galaxy hanging in the balance, a vicious battle ensues.
In this installment, Anakin Skywalker — now older — is played by Hayden Christensen. Attack of the Clones is considered an improvement upon The Phantom Menace, bringing on more thrills and visual flair. Things mostly get better from this point on.
Revenge of the Sith takes place 19 years before A New Hope, so the time gap between the final two prequels is smaller. This time around, Anakin joins forces with Obi-Wan to help free Chancellor Palpatine, but he gets drawn into Palpatine’s confidence. Their deepening friendship threatens the Jedi Order and the Republic.
This is a riveting conclusion to the Star Wars prequel series, delivering on both the action and emotion fronts. It compels viewers as it chronicles the rise of Darth Vader, which is pretty much what fans wanted from the prequels in the first place.
The action of Solo: A Star Wars Story is set about a decade before A New Hope. The movie explores the early adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca, who get involved in a large-scale heist within the criminal underworld. The cast includes Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
This might not be a particularly “important” story in the saga, but it’s a fun western that delivers plenty of action via chases and fight scenes, along with great performances.
Rogue One is set before the original film and actually ends moments before A New Hope. The movie follows a group of rebels on a mission to steal the blueprints for the Death Star. At the center of the action is Jyn, whose father was forcibly taken by the Empire to help it complete a dangerous super weapon. The main cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn and Mads Mikkelsen.
The movie has a slightly different aesthetic to the rest of the Star Wars films, but that’s a good thing. Rogue One has action, humor and great CGI. More than that, it features a Star Wars story worth telling.
The film that started it all, A New Hope revolves around Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, who have to free Princess Leia from Darth Vader’s grasp and destroy the Death Star. The classic and beloved space opera stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Peter Cushing.
To call this movie a phenomenon would be an understatement, even today it has a 93% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Even with all the prequels and sequels released so far, A New Hope stands the test of time, taking viewers on a memorable adventure.
Set three years after A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back is regarded as the best entry in the Star Wars franchise so far, with fans and critics praising it for its strong emotional beats and visual wonders. The story continues to follow Luke Skywalker as he trains to become a Jedi Knight, with Darth Vader adamant about turning Luke to the dark side.
Splashy and immersive, The Empire Strikes Back is a treat for fantasy fans, featuring some of the most iconic scenes in cinema history. It still takes your breath away.
The conclusion of the original trilogy, The Return of the Jedi is set four years after A New Hope, as Luke attempts to bring Darth Vader back to the light side of the Force. At the same time, the Rebel Alliance embarks on a mission to destroy the second Death Star.
Exciting and intense, the movie is an excellent conclusion to the original trilogy, likely to satisfy viewers who sign up for this wild ride. It may be less brilliant than the first two installments released, but it doesn’t disappoint.
The Force Awakens is set 34 years after A New Hope and it’s a mix of familiar faces and fresh blood, delivering that same high the original trilogy gave. When a new order threatens to destroy the New Republic, Finn, Rey and Poe, backed by the Resistance, must find a way to fight back and find Luke, the last surviving Jedi.
The cast of The Force Awakens includes veterans Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, as well as Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Lupita Nyong’o. The movie was highly anticipated and rose to the occasion, offering plenty of thrills, great dialogue and some much-needed nostalgia.
Building on the success of The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi takes place immediately after and follows Rey as she receives Jedi training from Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, the Resistance struggles after a devastating attack.
Another great entry in the franchise, The Last Jedi is entertaining, witty and full of heart, capturing the spirit of Star Wars perfectly. It ensures a great end to your marathon and will more than get you excited for The Rise of Skywalker, the final episode of the nine-part Skywalker saga.
The most recent release in the Star Wars series hasn’t yet been added to the Disney+ service. Which is a shame. This is where the entire series completes its arc and whether you love it or hate it, it is without a doubt an ending to everything we’ve enjoyed for decades.
The relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren remains the most intriguing element of the newest trilogy, but you’ll also get to say goodbye to a host of other characters new and old in a film that has fan service front of mind.
As to the question of when The Rise of Skywalker will arrive on Disney+, that’s unclear. It only arrived on Blu-ray in mid-March 2020, suggesting it would not come to the streaming service until mid-year at best. However, the coronavirus outbreak may tip Disney’s hand towards an earlier launch. It would not be an unprecedented move, with Disney already greatly moving foward other films, such as Onward.
Eager to add some series into the mix as well? The Clone Wars series is set between Episodes II and III, while Star Wars: Rebels is set between Episodes III and IV. The Resistance storyline develops during the sequel trilogy time period.
As for the new hit show The Mandalorian, the action takes place between Episodes VI and VII. Once you’ve seen all that, you might also want to check out Jedi Temple Challenge, the first Star Wars game show. It’s set to debut on Disney+ next year.
Image source: Star Wars website
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