The Great Star Wars Saga Viewing Order Question

The Star Wars saga, remastered (again) and pressed onto Blu-Ray, is coming out this Friday, September 16th.

Must have!

Naturally, I have it on pre-order and Amazon.com promises that I will have it on Friday.  So you can guess what is part of the plan for this coming weekend.

Yes, I know George Lucas couldn’t resist pissing on our memories yet again.  The man who said, “People who alter or destroy works of art and our cultural heritage for profit or as an exercise of power are barbarians” cannot help but play the barbarian repeatedly himself.  Maybe I missed a footnote with an auteur exception somewhere.

But I am a sucker.  This is the Blu-Ray version.  And who knows how much he’ll change the next time around.  Howard the Duck will probably end up as one of the bounty hunters in the next version. (As somebody wryly asked, why doesn’t he mess with that movie?  It sure as hell needs more tinkering than Star Wars does.)

Plus look at all the extras it has!  The first six discs are the movies, then there are three more discs of additional material.

Disc Seven – NEW! Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III

  • Including: deleted, extended and alternate scenes; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; concept art; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; a flythrough of the Lucasfilm Archives and more

Disc Eight – NEW! Star Wars Archives: Episodes IV-VI

  • Including: deleted, extended and alternate scenes; prop, maquette and costume turnarounds; matte paintings and concept art; supplementary interviews with cast and crew; and more

Disc Nine – The Star Wars Documentaries

  • NEW! Star Warriors (2007, Color, Apx. 84 Minutes) – Some Star Wars fans want to collect action figures…these fans want to be action figures! A tribute to the 501st Legion, a global organization of Star Wars costume enthusiasts, this insightful documentary shows how the super-fan club promotes interest in the films through charity and volunteer work at fundraisers and high-profile special events around the world.
  • NEW! A Conversation with the Masters: The Empire Strikes Back 30 Years Later (2010, Color, Apx. 25 Minutes) – George Lucas, Irvin Kershner, Lawrence Kasdan and John Williams look back on the making of The Empire Strikes Back in this in-depth retrospective from Lucasfilm created to help commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie. The masters discuss and reminisce about one of the most beloved films of all time.
  • NEW! Star Wars Spoofs (2011, Color, Apx. 91 Minutes) – The farce is strong with this one! Enjoy a hilarious collection of Star Wars spoofs and parodies that have been created over the years, including outrageous clips from Family Guy, The Simpsons, How I Met Your Mother and more — and don’t miss “Weird Al” Yankovic’s one-of-a-kind music video tribute to The Phantom Menace!
  • The Making of Star Wars (1977, Color, Apx. 49 Minutes) – Learn the incredible behind-the-scenes story of how the original Star Wars movie was brought to the big screen in this fascinating documentary hosted by C-3PO and R2-D2. Includes interviews with George Lucas and appearances by Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.
  • The Empire Strikes Back: SPFX (1980, Color, Apx. 48 Minutes) – Learn the secrets of making movies in a galaxy far, far away. Hosted by Mark Hamill, this revealing documentary offers behind-the-scenes glimpses into the amazing special effects that transformed George Lucas’ vision for Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back into reality!
  • Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi (1983, Color, Apx. 48 Minutes) – Go behind the scenes — and into the costumes — as production footage from Return of the Jedi is interspersed with vintage monster movie clips in this in-depth exploration of the painstaking techniques utilized by George Lucas to create the classic creatures and characters seen in the film. Hosted and narrated by Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams.
  • Anatomy of a Dewback (1997, Color, Apx. 26 Minutes) – See how some of the special effects in Star Wars became even more special two decades later! George Lucas explains and demonstrates how his team transformed the original dewback creatures from immovable rubber puppets (in the original 1977 release) to seemingly living, breathing creatures for the Star Wars 1997 Special Edition update.
  • Star Wars Tech (2007, Color, Apx. 46 Minutes) – Exploring the technical aspects of Star Wars vehicles, weapons and gadgetry, Star Wars Tech consults leading scientists in the fields of physics, prosthetics, lasers, engineering and astronomy to examine the plausibility of Star Wars technology based on science as we know it today.

Extras! Extras! Extras!

Though I have to wonder, with George Lucas at the helm, what constitutes a deleted scene these days?  Han shooting first?

Whatever.   It is a coming to our house this weekend.

Which leads me to the first real question (since there was no question about me buying it).

In which order should this new set be viewed?  I have a few thoughts on the subject, each with a different driving emotion.

Logic – Pure logic says that episode order is correct.  But then you hit that episode IV drop in production values and acting skill.  I’m sorry, but there is a reason that Harrison Ford had a huge post-Star Wars movie career while Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher did not.  Plus that order pretty much ruins any surprises in the second half of the series, not to mention the distinct possibility of Jar-Jar binks provoking violent reactions.

Nostalgia – Nostalgia says that the release order is really the way see the series.  That is the way you would show it to somebody who had never seen the films before.  Episodes III pretty much spoils episodes IV and V after all.  But I am always somebody who likes to get the hard part out of the way first, so maybe it is better to bite the midichlorian bullet first.  Besides which, I hate Ewoks so much, I might throw something at the TV, ending the showing half way through.

Practicality – Practicality says that watching episodes IV and V is enough and then we should start in on the extras, thus avoiding both Jar-Jar and Ewoks.  Except that is something of a waste.  I bought all six movies.  Plus I like episode II and have to salute anybody having the balls to take on making episode III.  How do you make a movie even watchable when everybody knows both where it starts and how the whole thing has to end. We all went into episode III with a huge mental checklist of exactly what had to happen.  It was an impossible task.  Plus I must admit I cheered when Darth Vader took his first rasping breath in his new suit.

Fluff!!! – Given three discs of extras, I could probably spend my time just immersed in that without watching any of the movies.

So I figure it is time for a poll.

Feel free to suggest your own ordering or selection or to take issue with any or all of my above assertions in the comments.  Grousing about George Lucas, Darth Maul, Jar-Jar Binks, Ewoks, midichlorians, or any other aspect of the series is also welcome.

You’re among friends and we all have to get through this together.

26 thoughts on “The Great Star Wars Saga Viewing Order Question

  1. Snick

    Star Wars is one of my first great loves, but now 33+ years later, it has faded considerably, perhaps for good. I no longer get upset over the horrible turns in the prequels, although midichlorians was certainly the worst for me. Dear God, George – why oh why did you have to explain away the pure magic of Force in such a clinical fashion? I almost feel like he thought that somehow by putting more detail and plot points into the prequels would somehow make Star Wars better for the classic fans and more interesting to the new generation of movie-goers born since the originals. It’s pretty obvious the success of Harry Potter and the simplified adaptations of Lord of the Rings for the movie theatre kills that notion.

    For my part, I would probably watch the original triliogy, in order, following each episode with the original Making of feature. I loved those making of’s. They inspired me to read George’s original Biography, read the spin off Han Solo novels and ultimately enjoy Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s with a Thousand Faces and myth cycles.

    I think it’s fair to say, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the gestalt of the original Stars Movies to prime my imagination.

    May the Force be With You! Always…

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  2. mbp

    Pthawww … that box set is incomplete. It doesn’t have the Holiday special.

    I worry that anything other than release order could be hugely disappointing.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @kinzlayer – Ewoks, and the Ewok battle on Endor specifically, broke my youthful bond with the series. I cannot express what a punch in the gut episode VI was after loving V. After that, episodes I-III were like, ‘betrayal? what, again? whatever.” But that is very much tied in with who I was at that moment, so I have learned to understand that some people do not view Ewoks as abominations the way I did then. And it let me enjoy episodes I-III, since my expectations were very low. Same with The Clone Wars. We watch them every Friday night when the season is running.

    @SKapusniak – It would be like that Seinfeld episode.

    @mbp – I think George Lucas could atone for a number of sins by putting the holiday special on the extras disc, merely because he is on record as hating it. Suffer, as you have made us suffer! I recall, at our house, when it aired, we changed channels.

    @Snick – Heir of the Empire (which I always say in my head as “Heir of Empire”) is 20 years old. I might go re-read that after the movies. I’ve read maybe a dozen and a half Star Wars novels, and those the three that start with that one are the only ones I can remember.

    @HZ – I am beginning to think that I should have made, “Don’t Buy It, It’s A TRAP!” one of the choices in the poll.

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  4. Aufero

    I’ve been re-watching them in release order the last couple of weeks, pre-geeking-out over SW:TOR. It’s been a few years, and I’d forgotten how painfully bad the acting in episode IV is. I must have been overwhelmed by the special effects when I watched it in the theater as a teenager.

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  5. flosch

    I’d be so on the “TRAP!” choice. Star Wars is worse than dead to me. I have never even watched Episode III because I so thoroughly lost interest. One less thing to get worked up about, at least. There’s always SOE to fill that spot. ;)

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  6. Anjin

    Track down the laserdisc (therefore original) versions of the original trilogy. I had actually forgot how the first movie looked until I watched it the other night. And, by goodness, Han actually shot first.

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  7. flosch

    @Aufero: Or you just might not have noticed back then. I think feeling for bad acting often only sets in later.

    And an addiition to the original question of order: What about pretending it’s a David Lynch movie, and roll dice to create a random order?

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  8. wizardling

    To quote PA years back when Episode I was released – “George Lucas raped my childhood”. Yeah, VI was a little goofy with the Ewoks, but it had some great stuff too like all the space scenes, and basically anything without Ewoks front and centre. The Empire Strikes Back remains the best ever Star Wars film.

    Anyway – I say watch the original trilogy – IV – VI and forget anything else ever existed. Better yet get an old copy without all the annoying changes. Han shot first baby! That’s right!

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  9. bhagpuss

    The Howard the Duck movie is better than any of the Star Wars films except “Star Wars” and “Empire Strikes Back”. (Sorry, even though I saw the movies on original release I have no idea what numbers they go under).

    I’d watch those two and Howard and call it a day.

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  10. Yeebo

    @Anjin: wow, you actually have a working laserdisk player?

    I still like Star Wars as a franchise, despite the atrocious prequels. I even own all six of the movies on DVD and two of the original 3 on VHS. Sadly, my VHS copy of the Empire Strikes Back died in a murder suicide. My previous VCR player ate the tape, taking its own life in the process. I don’t mind Ewoks, but then I was a kid when that movie came out. Nostalgia still does a pretty good job of smoothing them over for me when I watch that movie.

    As for the franchise, games, books, and comics based on the movies do a lot more for me than most of the movies themselves.

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  11. Carson

    Other – “wouldn’t watch it if you paid me.”

    I loved Star Wars when I was a kid (the original trilogy came out neatly dotted through my young childhood). Mad keen fan, had a box full of Star Wars figures, couldn’t get enough of it.

    But I rewatched that trilogy as an adult in the 90’s, and it just wasn’t there. The acting was, as you say, mostly bad. The universe feels completely cardboard and empty – there is no sense of anything happening off camera (compare, e.g., to what Babylon 5 was doing at that time). The whole thing just wasn’t good enough for nostalgia to carry it, for me.

    And then of course the prequels came out. I was dragged along to episodes 1 and 2 by my ex, who did still love Star Wars, and they were two of the worst movies I have ever been unfortunate enough to see. Episode 3, people told me it was better, but I didn’t see it and never will. Paying to see a movie starring Hayden Christensen after seeing episode 2 just seemed too much like punching yourself in the groin.

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  12. Potshot

    I’m a IV and Ver myself though I’d like to see some future reboot with more Samuel L Jackson as Jules from Pulp Fiction throughout and maybe replace Landau with Harvey Keitel from Bad Lieutenant and Werner Herzog as Obi-wan.

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  13. Straw Fellow

    “Shouldn’t these movies come with patch notes?”

    Agreed!

    I am part of the “other” crowd and would like to repeat my suggestion: Watch everything but Episode 1. It added exactly nothing of use to the series.

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  14. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Hah! We have a virtual world that we spent a lot of time in, can never really change, and which the devs keep changing!

    Episode IV – Build 2371

    * Han Solo erroneously appears to fire first in confrontation with Greedo in Mos Eisley cantina. Changed so Han displays the correct “hero” class behavior, firing only in defense.

    Episode V – Build 1744

    *Added “generic Bespin activity” around window where Lea stands to distract from Carrie Fisher’s acting.

    Episode VI – Build 4439

    *Removed ugly old guy ghost from final scene replaced with Hayden Christensen ghost. Issues still outstanding, why is Anakin young but Obi-wan old. Suggest replacing Alec G. with Ewen McG.

    Episode VI – Build 6138

    *Darth Vader now says, “No… Noooo!” before attacking the emperor. This is to resolve the issue of 3 year olds not understanding that Vader is facing a deep, emotional dilemma.

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  15. Fnord

    First, watch episodes IV and V. That way, if you get fed up later, you’ve already managed the good parts. THEN go back and watch the prequel trilogy, which you can now do without ruining the big surprise. Then watch episode VI last to tie up all the plot lines.

    If you want to get fancy, you can watch episode VI up through the scene on Degobah before the prequel, which gets all the surprises out of the way, while still putting off the Ewoks for as long as possible (and saving the climax for the end).

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  16. Pingback: Sika’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time! 21. Star Wars – The Original Trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983) « Lunki and Sika – Movie, TV, Celebrity and Entertainment News. And Other Silliness.

  17. Mats

    @damage Thanks from Sweden didnt know those existed. Finally back to our real childhood movies. The VHS tapes are since long dead
    /MJ and SF

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  18. lvl54spacemonkey

    Unfortunately there’s no getting away from the effect the prequels have on the original trilogy’s story no matter what order you watch them in. If you are going to view them all I’d say episodic order is the correct way. Well, the real correct way is to watch A new Hope and Empire Strikes Back over and over while occasionally watching Return Of The Jedi and select action scenes from the prequels.

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