Watching Star Wars is not as simple as you think. Especially if it's your first time visiting this galaxy far, far away.
The obvious place to start would be at the beginning, right? Wrong.
Because where even is the beginning of this thing? The first movie, you say. Well, that's Episode IV. If you start with the first one then you're coming in smack bang in the middle of the story.
Or did you mean start with Episode I, the fourth film they made? Okay, cool, cool. Only staring with Episode I instead of Episode IV means the big plot twist of Episode V is completely and utterly destroyed.
As this is one of the most famous and impactful "whoa" moments in all of cinema you do yourself a great disservice by starting at the beginning. And all of this is before you even begin to consider adding the recent spinoffs into the equation.
Fortunately, great minds have pondered this dilemma someone came up with a solution. It's called Machete Order and it allows you to watch the complete Skywalker saga while keeping all plot twists and surprises intact.
Ladies and gentlemen this is how you watch Star Wars.
The stating point of Machete Order is 1977's Episode IV: A New Hope. You then follow that chronologically with 1980's Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. You get the saga's big plot twist unspoiled and then end on a bit of a bummer.
Now this is the part where this viewing order gets its title from. Instead of continuing on, you leave our heroes in their various perilous situations and cut back (storywise) to the films of the Prequel Trilogy to create a multi-film flashback sequence.
Only you cut out 1999's Episode I: The Phantom Menace altogether and instead jump straight into 2002's Attack of the Clones.
Yes, that's right, one whole movie is exorcised. We won't get bogged down on The Phantom Menace's merits – or lack thereof – here, instead we'll just say that the events of the film are completely inconsequential to the story.
You still get Darth Vader's origin story, only with the added benefit of no Jar Jar Binks and no children. Skipping to Episode II is all gravy, baby!
Once 2005's Revenge of the Sith wraps up with the birth of Luke Skywalker and Vader emerging in his suit you then snap back to the present and movie into 1983's Return of the Jedi before segueing seamlessly into the Sequel trilogy of 2015's The Force Awakens and 2017's The Last Jedi.
Machete Order is not your only option. You've got chronological order, if you don't mind spoilers, or release order. This jumps around the timeline only in a more clunky, less story-pleasing fashion.
The truly hardcore (or insane) will also want to add in the recent spinoffs. Here's how they fit in the timeline chronologically. Anything more complicated you're on your own.
Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Episode II: Attack of the Clones
The Clone Wars (animated TV series)
Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Solo: A Star Wars Story (spinoff movie)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (spinoff movie)
Episode IV: A New Hope
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
The Mandalorian - TV show
Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker - in cinemas today