Star Wars viewing order

posted by Jason Kottke Sep 28, 2007

Look, I know it's Friday you're just looking for some fun stuff to end the work week with, but we've got a pressing matter to discuss. Let's say you're a new father and a movie fan. When your child is of an appropriate age to start watching movies, in which order will you show him/her the six Star Wars movies? By original release date (Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith) or according to the intra-movie chronology (Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith, Star Wars, Empire, Jedi)?

We're currently leaning toward by original release date, but I can see the advantages of the other way around too. At dinner the other night, a friend asserted that not only was original release date the way to go, but that viewing the original versions on VHS was essential as well. I believe the relevant tapes and a cheapo VCR have been stashed away for this purpose already.

What do you think? How would you approach this? (thx to rehan for the suggested topic)

Reader comments

DevinSep 28, 2007 at 10:46AM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith.

What you need to do is find Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi on LaserDisc. Highest quality, nothing ruined.

fsSep 28, 2007 at 10:46AM

Any responsible parent wouldn't let their children watch the three most recent Star Wars movies.

sacSep 28, 2007 at 10:46AM

I'd do it by release date as the other way would only sour the kid on Star Wars before he got to the good ones.

Gareth SimpsonSep 28, 2007 at 10:47AM

You have to show them in release order.

If you show them in number order then some of the plot holes will be even more glaring.

Darth Vader not recognizing the droids (one his childhood companion, the other his painstaking labour of love) for example. It would surely be maddeningly obvious while you were watching it that it made no sense to the point of ruining the (better) films.

In release order it is something you would ponder after the fact. Or after more viewings.

George.Sep 28, 2007 at 10:50AM

I'd recomend watching them using the foil method...first, outer, inner, last. Or completely backwards could be interesting.

davidSep 28, 2007 at 10:51AM

We also did it in release order (although we only got to Phantom Menace). It will be a while before he is old enough to see the most recent.

JamieSep 28, 2007 at 10:54AM

Arguably, the biggest moment in the entire story line is when Vader reveals he's Luke's father. How could you take that away from a SW virgin?

Of course, it's also one of the most well known plot twists and movie lines: "I am your father". What are the chances the movie will be spoiled before he even gets to that part...

My vote is for release date.

ReneSep 28, 2007 at 10:54AM

Ofcourse in release order. Otherwise you ruin the „Darth is Lukes father“- and the „Luke and Leia are Brother and Sister“-Twist...

NicoleSep 28, 2007 at 10:59AM

As someone who's never seen any of them, I've thought about this for myself. I don't see myself committing to watching all six anytime soon, but when I do I'm considering watching them in intra-movie chronology.

aleshSep 28, 2007 at 11:00AM

I'm going to give the devil's advocate position a shot. What we have here is a cognitive bias; because you guys saw them in this order, that's the only order they should be viewed in. Now sure, episodes IV - VI are better films then I - III, but there are two compelling reasons to try Lucas' preferred order on the kids:

1) The artistic vision/plot cohesion reason. Sure we just notice the plot holes (and the tweaks done to the earlier movies, which are from a certain valid perspective unforgivable), but to a first-time viewer, those may well be quibbles, and a larger truth/beauty may emerge experiencing the movies "as they were meant to" be experienced.

2) The child viewer reason. I'd say the narrative weaknesses and relative crapiness of episodes I - III are unlikely to be noticed by kids, who lack the jadedness and high expectations that we carried to these films. Plus the eye-candy factor will draw them into story.

What this really calls for is a study -- show half a group of kids the films in one order, the other in the other order, and ask them when they get older how powerful an experience was.

tomSep 28, 2007 at 11:00AM

I am always mesmerized by the fact that someone believes that Star Wars has some intrinsec value, i.e. some value not depending on the fact that we were so young _and_ never seen anything like this _before_...

Just show him the seven samurais (six times if you really want six movies)

...mesmerized indeed.

DavidSep 28, 2007 at 11:01AM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi.

The rest suck.

JosephSep 28, 2007 at 11:03AM

It's got to be in order of original release. First of all, "I'm your father" has to go down as one of the most unexpected plot twists any any piece of science fiction. Devastating scene. How could Darth be Luke's father?! It blows my mind thinking of it. You could argue that one sequence elevated the entire original triliogy from flash-in-the-pan to cinema classic. The emotional wallop is completely blown if the new trilogy is seen first.

Jeffrey VeenSep 28, 2007 at 11:04AM

I won't contribute to the viewing-order debate, but rather the method. Sure, the dusty old VCR with tapes will be a cool tradition - like my parents pulling out the old projector and unfolding the screen in the living room to show vacation movies.

But consider saving the experience of your son's first viewing for the big screen. As a seven year old, I remember the absolute thrill of a 25 foot tall Star Wars logo creeping back into space accompanied by that overwhelming orchestral score. There must be revivals in New York once in a while, yeah?

Actually, I guess I do have a preference for order: Show him Episodes 4 and 5 together and let him know that "They find Han - he was ok." Leave it at that. Let him experience the later disappointments as we did - all grown up.

judson Sep 28, 2007 at 11:06AM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi

and go see them at a revival festival in a real movie theatre

MikeSep 28, 2007 at 11:06AM

Original trilogy first, prequels later.

If he sees how much the first three movies sucked he'll have no incentive to watch Episodes IV, V and VI. Think of the generation gap that will ensue.

bobSep 28, 2007 at 11:07AM

Ditto FS and David 11:01.

IvanSep 28, 2007 at 11:07AM

Appropriate age to start watching movies?

We have a 6 month old who often sits in our laps while we watch movies on a projector. He seems to enjoy them.

There is simply no question that you should watch them in the original release date order.

And you might even consider not showing the prequels. They add little, and literally demystify the force.

tony shengSep 28, 2007 at 11:09AM

release order.

i started with my two daughters when they oldest was 7 and the other was 4 [and when my wife was away for the weekend...]

incidentally, all their neighborhood friends were amazed they got to watch them and i was known as the cool dad....

Matt PSep 28, 2007 at 11:09AM

One of my favorite childhood memories is watching the original three Star Wars on VHS quite early in the morning on weekends with my father, so I'm probably coming to this question from a pretty biased place, but I would say original release date. I say this for a variety of reasons, but mostly because I remember, as I watched the first three as a child, the mystery and intrigue that surrounded the characters and their history. Even after the conclusion of the original three, with most loose ends tied up and , there lingered the questions about Darth Vader's origin, the history of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, etc. And that sense of mystery, of immersion into a universe where you're not exactly sure how everything works and which way is up, contributed a lot to my love of the series. It makes it believable, enthralling, engaging. It makes the Star Wars universe seem real and distinct, a place we were lucky to glimpse into, but aren't guaranteed to ever understand fully. And while most of the series' mysteries are explained away in the newer three films, for me the sense of wonder and immensity in scope never faded away. Watching the movies with their intra-movie chronology in mind may be equally compelling, but I would never change the way I first experienced Star Wars, and thus this is the only viewpoint I can speak from. Lovely question, and I hope, regardless of the order in which they are presented, your son's eventual first encounter with Star Wars is a magical one, as mine was.

Mark LarsonSep 28, 2007 at 11:10AM

Do they have to be viewed in separate sets of 3? No hyper-textual interplay? Maybe... 4, 1, 2, 5, 3, 6.

KatSep 28, 2007 at 11:10AM

This is interesting. I see that the majority votes for release-date order, as opposed to narrative order. I suspect that they recommend release-date order because that is the way that they experienced the films, and they want future generations to experience Star Wars the same way they did.

Obviously, this opens up the door for you to practice fun social experiments on Ollie. How would the whole Star Wars experience be altered for him if he were to view the movies in narrative order? Would it make the whole thing better? Would it ruin the whole thing for him, or improve it? Would he walk away from the whole thing saying, "Meh, I don't see what the big deal is."

Personally, I suggest you show him Star Wars, Empire, and Jedi, and then let him choose to watch the last three on his own. View it as a rite of passage; something your son must choose to finish for himself.

Ed FladungSep 28, 2007 at 11:11AM

Definitely by release date. I agree about the "Darth Vadar as Luke's father" reveal, if you boiled Star Wars down into one moment, that'd be it. Watching the prequels would definitely have an adverse affect on that moment. Actually, now that I think about it, I didn't even know that people considered watching them in intra-movie chronology, for first timers. I think it would ruin a lot of the mystique that's built up through IV, V and VI and then explained and broadened in I, II and III.

daveSep 28, 2007 at 11:12AM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi. Don't show the rest.

AndrewSep 28, 2007 at 11:12AM

I recently had to make exactly this decision (though not for a son). I went with internal chronology simply because the prequels are so weak compared to the originals that it would be disappointing to end with them.

Also, my experience is that most adults, even if they have never seen the movies, already know all about the Luke - Vader relationship... if only from overhearing some geek huskily declare, "Luke... I am your father."

daveSep 28, 2007 at 11:13AM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi. Don't show the rest.

PeteSep 28, 2007 at 11:13AM

Everyone's going on about the "I'm your father" plot twist, but the truth is that this particular twist will almost certainly have been "spoiled" by the time your kid gets round to seeing the film.

I also agree that you shouldn't bother with I-III.

MattSep 28, 2007 at 11:14AM

A question I've been struggling with myself as my son is now 6 and wants to watch the movies. So far he's only seen Star Wars. I'm going with original release dates, but it has challenges.

Kids now can see all these Star Wars cartoons and comics as well. They're already exposed to the idea of Anikan as a kid and person (not as the evil Darth Vader) before they even get to the movies. They've already attached personalities and identities to many of the characters--something we didn't have growing up. It can get a little confusing for them with all the jumping back in forth in time and the relationship between Anikan - Darth Vader - Luke.

JohnSep 28, 2007 at 11:14AM

I have no intention of ever showing the prequels to my 1.5 year old daughter. In fact, Return of the Jedi is questionable.

The "original theatrical" versions that came out on DVD this year are good and will probably be a better bet than hoping VHS and VCR last another half-decade or so.

That said, I'm not giving up my VHS copy any time soon. My dad still has a Laserdisc player and tons of classics -- including the original three Star Wars -- stashed away.

barlowSep 28, 2007 at 11:14AM

I have four sons, and the problem I run into is when we're talking Star Wars, I inevitably will say "the first movie" and my know-it-all 3rd grader will say - "do you mean episode I or episode IV" - and so I think more important than the viewing order is simply to train yourself to say the right episode number.

I've found that episode one really appeals to children - with Jar Jar and little Anakin, but episode three is really graphic for a little kid to handle. So beginning with 4 through 6 is nice because they can see all three with no fear of bad nightmares. If you start with 1 and go through that way, you've got to cover their eyes during a lot of episode 3. One of my kids freaked out about Darth Maul too, but all kids are different in what they handle...

I would also recommend getting them all the DK books on Star Wars - they are amazingly detailed and just right for a kid to learn all the trivia and vocabulary that any up and coming child of a Gen-X-er needs.

jjgSep 28, 2007 at 11:14AM

I like the advice given in this Ask MetaFilter thread: Star Wars and Empire, then flash back for the prequels, then come back around for Jedi to wrap everything up. That preserves the mystery about the past in the first two movies, but also ends the story at the end.

TimSep 28, 2007 at 11:15AM

My son saw "Star Wars" first, and then we waited a long time to see "Empire" and "Jedi," then almost as long for the prequels.

"Star Wars" is the film that works the best for a naive audience. It's completely self-contained, while "The Phantom Menace" most certainly is not. And it's the most iconic story. Also, nobody gets cut in half -- besides Obi-Wan, whose body vanishes, which makes it the least violent and least traumatic film in the series.

The first trilogy, also, tells a chronologically tighter story. There are gaps between the films, but they aren't decades-long. None of the actors change, and their behavior isn't radically different -- except perhaps Luke in "Jedi."

But I think the prequels have some value. For one thing, they really do answer a lot of questions, and small children have lots of questions. Also, while my son's heart belongs to Han Solo, for Halloween this year he's dressing up as "young Obi-wan."

Robert C.Sep 28, 2007 at 11:17AM

Release order, not because that's the way I saw them (I can't remember the first time I saw them, I was too young. I may have seen Jedi first or something), but because the prequels are legitimately terrible, just god-awful, and really dumb, too.

elliottSep 28, 2007 at 11:22AM

release date.

Like other films that play with timeline continuity, the story works quite well in the order they were released (plot holes not withstanding) regardless how crappy/awesome each film was.

Mark LarsonSep 28, 2007 at 11:22AM

I said earlier: "Do they have to be viewed in separate sets of 3? No hyper-textual interplay? Maybe... 4, 1, 2, 5, 3, 6." Have to agree with JJG above. Mix it up.

I'm thinking of it not just as 6 movies, but one entire experience with its own emotional arc. It's kind of liking making a songlist or a concert program, or planning a book or conference or whatever. Intro and conclusion generally go at beginning and end. But you wouldn't line up 5 hours of consecutive garbage, right?

Andy CrollSep 28, 2007 at 11:22AM

Get hold of the Phantom Edits of I and II. It's amazing how a film can be improved by selective and judicious editing.

Particularly the 'first' movie, the love story of Clones is basically beyond redemption.

Google is your friend.

history is a weaponSep 28, 2007 at 11:22AM

There are only 3 films. You show them in order. When the kid is eighteen, not living under your roof and paying their own bills, and old enough to make their own mistakes, they can do whatever they want to with their life. But until that day, you have three films to show in the order they were released.

TimSep 28, 2007 at 11:28AM

I say watch based on release date for two reasons:

1. The first three are terrible, and shouldn't be watched.

2. Kids may not know this, and may be sucked in to the splashy effects and violence, leaving them unable to appreciate the slower-paced original trilogy.

cameron thomasSep 28, 2007 at 11:28AM

jason, thank you for bring productivity to a halt at creative root studios.


for the record i'd have say 1,2,3,4,5,6.

TWSep 28, 2007 at 11:30AM

Original release date. Definitely.

jon dealSep 28, 2007 at 11:30AM

Original release date.

And George Lucas can BITE ME.

That is all.

greg from dtSep 28, 2007 at 11:32AM

This is one of the cleanest hypotheticals out there, but I don't think replicating the experience of a parent's youth will recreate the sense of discovery and engagement; too much has changed.

Maybe if you want a kid to get a visceral thrill from watching Star Wars, the best thing to do is to ban the movies completely, and let him sneak around and watch them behind your parental back. After that, you can reveal your master plan with a big confrontation: "Now you know the truth, my son."

MarkSep 28, 2007 at 11:32AM

I think a friend of mine did original release and his kids had a hard time understand that Anakin, whom they liked and identified with in Ep I, was Darth Vader. When Ollie's old enough to watch his first (I have a 4.5 month-old.. this dilemma hadn't even crossed my mind), starting him on the kid-friendly Ep I, rife with Jar-Jar, might go a little smoother.

If nothing else, you'll have a great little sociological experiment to observe.

BillSep 28, 2007 at 11:34AM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi - possibly with each separated by a substantial amount of time.

I'd be hesitant to blaze through all three of those in a short span of time - I'd be more inclined to try to show one, then re-watch that one a few times before moving on to the next one. Maybe show the three of them over a six-week timespan, one every two weeks. Make each next film an event with anticipation.

Not sure if that'd work, though - I woudn't be surprised to hear a "Not that one again I want to know what happens next!" response.

As for the prequels, I'm torn. Definitely not for a while, if at all. They're in line with the Star Wars Holiday Special, in my view, and that's definitely not for impressionable young eyes.

cgSep 28, 2007 at 11:36AM

original release order. and furthermore, do your best to keep the kid from ever knowing about the last three. you can probably keep him in the dark about it until he's at least at the age where he starts to question the legitimacy of santa claus. ah, the innocent years.

Karisfa!Sep 28, 2007 at 11:36AM

I think I'm going to have my son view them in release order (original versions, none of that "re-edited crap) and then after Jedi, tell him that G. Lucas was murdered and replaced with an evil robot who sought out and destroyed the prequel scripts.

gobiSep 28, 2007 at 11:38AM

Chronological order. I've shown them to a couple of appropriately aged kids that way and they seemed to enjoy it immensely -- none of the ESB shock seemed to have been ruined, either. Interestingly, and despite what they'd seen in episodes I-III, the kids thought Vader was lying -- just as I did when I first saw it in the theater.

Sam RyanSep 28, 2007 at 11:39AM

I must agree with Mark Larson. The prequels should come after Empire Strikes Back and then, after you see Vader's fall to evil in III, you see his redemption in VI.

AdamSep 28, 2007 at 11:39AM

I sort of suspect that your kid won't be all that interested in Star Wars. Won't these someday be the rough equivalent of the Sinbad movies? (Not Sinbad the terrible comedian, Sinbad the poorly-acted pirate who battles jerky stop-motion creatures.)

I mean, muppets and plastic models? Kids will be getting better special effects, acting, and story lines on their gaming systems in a few years.

SpaceMonkeyXSep 28, 2007 at 11:41AM

I've been pondering this very question myself - and my daughter isn't even due until January. Yes, I'm thinking that far ahead. I think DCFS will be waiting at the door when we bring her home from the hospital.

I'm going with original release order. As someone above said, ANH is pretty self-contained and can be appreciated by anyone at virtually any age. If she likes that one, we'll move on from there, then go back to watch the Prequels if she wants to. Honestly, I can make a case for not even bothering with them.

If she doesn't like ANH, I will put her up for adoption immediately.

Dr. PorkchopSep 28, 2007 at 11:42AM

You should have a second child. Show the first child the proper order, which of course, is by release date. Show the second child the consecutive order, and then let us know how it all works out.


koosSep 28, 2007 at 11:42AM

Stars Wars 4, 5, and 6. If I'm lucky, he won't ever hear of 1, 2, and 3.

Mike ChampionSep 28, 2007 at 11:45AM

I'd vote for release date, AND making sure you show the versions where Solo shoots first. None of this Lucas Redux crap.

Also, try to prepare yourself for your child not liking it that much. I equate it to when I heard the Beattles -- everything has been so influenced by them, that hearing them now doesn't recreate what it like for people hearing it when it happened.

KSep 28, 2007 at 11:47AM

My children are not watching 1-3. I refuse to do that to them.

MikeJSep 28, 2007 at 11:49AM

Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia, The 400 Blows, The Third Man

Daniel Sep 28, 2007 at 11:49AM

Luckily by the time your child is old enough to watch Star Wars, the VHS vs. the DVD won't be an issue. I've seen a high def version of the updated Star Wars and it is absolutely beautiful. After seeing that I would hate to watch it on a VHS.

If Lucas knows one thing, he knows how to make money. I'm sure within the next couple years he'll release the movies on a high-def format and in both the original theatrical version and the updated version. Personally I want to see the original theatrical version in high def. That would be close to nirvana.

TimSep 28, 2007 at 11:52AM

Neither original release nor intra-movie chronology. If you must show them the prequels, then:

A New Hope, Empire, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith, Jedi.

This way, they still get the Luke/Vader shock, but they can have the Vader backstory before the redemption.

RyanSep 28, 2007 at 11:52AM

Show Star Wars, Empire, then jump back for 1,2,3 to give some context to the "I am your Father" revelation, then jump back to jedi.

This will save the "omgwtf" element of empire for them (unless they are spoiled early), will still include the new 3 for completeness's sake (and maybe increased interest after empire will be enough to survive phantom), and still close out at the end of the whole mess.

rlSep 28, 2007 at 11:53AM

For those of you who are advocating original release order, do you realize how little the average little kid cares about artistic integrity or plot holes, or, more to the point, about our anger over Lucas' post-Return of the Jedi treatment of the Star Wars franchise?

It's tempting to fall into the trap of thinking that, as the first generation to be raised on Star Wars, we have some sort of "ownership" or "rights" to the series. However, they were and are movies that are marketed to children, and as such as each generation of viewers will interpret them differently. There are many little kids alive today who saw and loved the prequels and have no idea that episodes IV to VI even exist . (One of the saddest things I've ever seen was in the lobby after Phantom Menace - as the theater emptied, a guy in his late twenties tried to explain to a seven-year-old how much the movie stank. The seven-year-old was visibly thrilled at what he'd just seen and couldn't have cared less about the opinion of some adult who couldn't see the appeal of a space opera. That just made the twenty-something even angrier.)

The fact that we as adults still cling to the Star Wars films as important cultural and personal milestones makes no difference to children seeing the prequels today, nor will it make any difference to children in the future. Attempting to instill nerd-angst in those younger than us isn't just cruel, it's downright irresponsible. Let them make their own discoveries and come to their own opinions.

Anthony BowerSep 28, 2007 at 11:53AM

I'm currently thinking about this with my girlfriend, she says she saw them but was confused about a lot of the jokes in the recent Family Guy that was a parody of Star Wars.

I've been considering the following:

4, 5 - "I'm your father!" (What? Let's go back and see how this happened...)

1, 2, 3 (Ah, ok, that's how it happened, how does it end?)


the dukeSep 28, 2007 at 11:58AM

The next generation is going to see all 6 Star Wars movies as simply "that crap my dad made me watch".

doubt me? When I was a kid, I got bored real quick watching John Wayne and Gene Autry movies every weekend. While I can appreciate it now, whatever you force on a kid is going to backfire. That's parenting 101.

RogerSep 28, 2007 at 11:58AM

4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6

You have to preserve the Vader's reveal to Luke in "Empire". And, I think, you also need to end with Vader's redemption. As I much as I like "Sith", it's a crummy way to wrap up the series from a plot perspective.

mjpSep 28, 2007 at 12:00PM

I very much like jjg's MetaFilter idea of 4 5 1 2 3 6.

The way I always worked it out was like this:

4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Both of these ways preserve the surprises, and Episode VI still provides closure.

NathanSep 28, 2007 at 12:01PM

my two and a half year old daughter has already seen the entire run through many times, we enjoy each movie as a stand alone story, not necessarily folowing the release order or storyline order, more of a which do I feel like watching today order. Not that we watch one every day.

While they maybe one of my favorite sets of movies of all time, I remember that it is just that, just a bunch of movies so it doesn't really mean all that much in the Grand Scheme of things which order she sees them. After two hours of passive entertainment, any healthy kid needs to run off and do what they do best, engage their very active imagination in playtime.

ThomWSep 28, 2007 at 12:01PM

lol So many comments match my own thoughts. My little dude's five and I'm planning on asking him at six if he wants to see them, since that's how old I was when my parents took me to the theater to see the first flick.

ANH, ESB, ROTJ and that's it. He's on his own to watch 1-3. haha

beeboSep 28, 2007 at 12:05PM

I have had in depth discussions on this very matter recently.

You show them by release date, and the original versions of the first 3 first. That way, your newborn sees the movies as we saw and understood them. Then show the next 3 movies so, like us, all of our questions are answered.

If then your child needs to see them in intra-movie chronology, you can show them 4, 5, 6 followed by the updated 1, 2 & 3.

Ara PehlivanianSep 28, 2007 at 12:06PM

Hands down, intra-movie chronology is the way to go. That way you can actually follow the story!

Del ShimandleSep 28, 2007 at 12:09PM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, and that's it. I'm with all those who say scrap the last (first) three and don't even let your kids know they exist.

I can still remember the impact of seeing the originals when I was 10 years old in the United Artists Theater in Oakbrook IL (sadly no longer there...). My eyes glaze over again just thinking about it. Wish I could show my kids the same way.

Both of my sons have read a couple of the children's books but not seen the films yet. Next month for Ian's birthday (the oldest) we will be watching Star Wars for the first time. (Josiah's still too young for it.) We're both very excited. And we'll allow for some time in between the next two installments. Gotta savor each story... let it sink in.

Can't wait till they're old enough for Bladerunner!

MollySep 28, 2007 at 12:16PM

But when are they old enough to start? My 3 year old discovered Star Wars when I bought some Star Wars postage stamps last spring. He has been promised he can watch them when he is "bigger."

Vincent van WylickSep 28, 2007 at 12:16PM

Show him the first three (IV, V, & VI), then wait 10 years, building up the suspense. The show him the rest and crush his expectations. That's sort of the way it went for me...

RabbitrunSep 28, 2007 at 12:18PM

The original trilogy has to been seen first. And REMEMBER, show the kid the Star Wars version that shows Han shooting FIRST!

DetheSep 28, 2007 at 12:18PM

Star Wars, Empire, Jedi. I may let them watch the prequels some day, but they're 7 and 10 and I would consider it child abuse to show that crap to them now. Seriously, there are two different scenes just about murdering children, and the scenes with Anakin and whats-her-name have all the plot, believability, and pacing of a porn flick.

Thank goodness Lucas doesn't appear to be making movies anymore, he's got a bad lack of anyone near him who can say, "George, that's a really terrible idea."

David ElySep 28, 2007 at 12:19PM

IV-VI are much better movies, but their effects are lacking. Even with a film degree I have problems appreciating some older movies just because they're slow. IV was amazing to 1970s audiences who'd never seen anything like it, but if you put IV-VI next to the later films, the difference in what a Jedi can do is pretty glaring. I worry that a kid might not see the things that make IV-VI better movies if he's seen the better effects in I-III first. Let him see IV-VI first, then show him the newer ones with the idea, "now check out what the full Jedi could *really* do." The plot problems won't be as important to a newer view who never went through the stages of grief about the newer films.

Narratively, I think showing him I-VI is a better idea. You can point out the glimpses of the Death Star in II and III. You can delight in seeing Yoda come back again after being gone for an episode. You can build up the Emperor as the true villain, who rises in I, is mostly hidden in II, shows himself in III, isn't seen in IV, only appears briefly in V, then is defeated in VI. You also get to see how the different mentors try and fail their Padawans (Gui-Gon dies, the Jedi can't guide Anakin, the Emperor takes him under his wing and is reveals to be evil, Obi-Wan dies, Yoda dies, Luke ascends on his own.)

While Phantom Menace may be kid-friendly with Jar Jar and the comical battle droids, IV-VI give you Chewie, and VI gives you Ewoks, with whom kids identify strongly.

The best compromise: IV-VI, I-III, then IV-VI again. Go out on the high note of Jedi rather than the low note of Sith.

karanSep 28, 2007 at 12:20PM

1, 2, 3, then break for 3 or 4 years, to give a relative "time passed...", then 4, 5, 6.

Ultimately, it's intra-movie chronology, but the break means that by the time the child returns (maturer, more able to grasp real plot devices), they will have only a shadow of the earlier movies on their minds, and Ben's story will seem like a long time away.

And they can always watch it differently later. 4 5 1 2 3 6 is way too long a "flashback" sequence.

mikeSep 28, 2007 at 12:21PM

star wars, empire and jedi are the ONLY REAL star wars movies worth watching. the others were horrible and shouldn't even be associated with the first 3. don't ruin your kid's life by showing him/her the later movies.

ChristopherSep 28, 2007 at 12:23PM

Skip the most recent ones and only see the original three. That's the way I would go. There are too many good movies and books for the poor kid to consume. Why waste his time with dreck? (I mean if I was raising the kid, he wouldn't watch any of them but Empire, but that would probably be child abuse and social engineering of the highest order and so I can't advocate that for others.)

LavaladySep 28, 2007 at 12:24PM

Here's my vote:

Original release order (OF COURSE!!!!), and the original releases of the first three, if you've got 'em (the fancied up versions can wait).

Personally, I'd stop at Empire, but that's just me. I've never been able to get through any of the 'prequels', although my kids love them, and I could live happy without ever seeing Ewoks again.

AmosSep 28, 2007 at 12:24PM

Why I normally wouldn't advocate lying to your child, you might want to consider showing only Star Wars and Empire, in that order, and then mention in passing how it's one of the great film mysteries why the trilogy was never finished. Of course, this would only work if you keep the kid in a box for the remainder of their life.

Seeing as how that probably would turn out badly for your relationship, the lying and the box, I'd go with watching them in the order of theatrical release date, but this is, like you mentioned, because that's how I experienced them, and I'd want to share that with my child.

A lot of it has to do with the goal I suppose. If you're shooting for a seamless narrative experience then 1-6 would be the way to go. If you're looking to create an appreciation for film's power to inspire and entertain then viewing by the release date would be more appropriate.

You could also relinquish the responsibility entirely and let your kid pick which ones to watch based solely on their preferred DVD cover, or better yet, preferred movie poster.

Eric StollerSep 28, 2007 at 12:25PM

I think it would be best to do 123456. It's basically delayed gratification. I feel that it's best to end on a high note.

Oh and grainy VHS is definitely the way to go for 456. The artwork on the boxes is perfect!

MikeHSep 28, 2007 at 12:26PM

Part of the idea of watching it in narrative order is that you know more than Luke does. In Empire, Vader knows, and you know, and that's about it. It was a surprise to everyone!

MikeSep 28, 2007 at 12:28PM

Star Wars, Empire, then back to Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith then all culminating in Jedi.

leaves a little cliffhanger
saves the best till last
allows for viewing of all of the films

Kevin SteeleSep 28, 2007 at 12:39PM

Star Wars first. Then no others.

As far as I am concerned, each additional chapter to the story further undoes the magic of the original. The completion of the first trilogy transforms a story of normal people becoming heroes in extraordinary circumstances into a story of a superpowered aristocracy.

By the end of the second trilogy, the whole set of movies ends up being a story about the very banal bad guy.

Spoon BoySep 28, 2007 at 12:43PM

Show him Episodes IV, V, and VI, and pretend the other ones never happened.

RobogeekSep 28, 2007 at 12:43PM


Don't abuse your child with the bloody prequels, for heaven's sake.

Soulless, mindless toy commercials, they. ("Midichlorians" alone ruins the original trilogy, not to mention the revelation that Darth Vader is merely a whiny, stupid brat.)

BrianSep 28, 2007 at 12:46PM

I believe it depends on the age of your child when they ask to see them. I held off as long as I could but some parents will take their 3 year old to episode 3 in the theater and make it hard to tell yours that he can't watch any of them.

At the age of 5 my son had only seen 1. Honestly he liked it a lot because it has a child in it that he can relate to which was an interesting view and interesting to watch.

He experienced 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 via playing the Lego Star Wars Games with me. This was also very interesting and it made it some of the harder parts for a child (Vader in the Lava) very abstract.

At 6 now, we introduced 4, 5 and 2. Next time he asks we will add 6. The last will be 3. Honestly it's less of a which order I want to show them but, which order will NOT keep me awake with nighmares.

I'd never planned it this way but life just sometime decides for you. The biggest thing I have tried not to do is influence his view on any of the movies. He needs to make that call.

DonSep 28, 2007 at 12:47PM

I like the idea of the 451236, but would take it one step further: 4536.

You can watch Sith without Phantom and Clones and it would still have the same impact. Phantom and Clones are completely worthless in building the story of Darth Vader.

Dave MungerSep 28, 2007 at 12:53PM

456123, but not for the reasons given.

For a small child, the special effects in 123 are so much better that 456 will seem boring by comparison.

J.D. RothSep 28, 2007 at 12:55PM

There is only one right answer here:

Star Wars
The Empire Strikes Back

The end.

These two films are full of imagination, and end with a cliffhanger that you can complete on your own better than Lucas did. And why would you want to spoil everything by watching the first three films. (Er, last three?)

Just watch SW & TESB

TBSep 28, 2007 at 12:57PM

I haven't seen episode 2, so I might be making a big mistake here, but how about 1-2-4-5-3-6? That way, you get a sense of the chronological order without outwardly ruining the major twist - it'll be hinted at with with the slow change in 1 and 2 and when Ben states that Darth Vader was a pupil of his in 4, but not explicitly stated until 5. Then flashback to 3 to explain everything, then back to 6 to end the story - almost chronological, but mystery maintained.

Matthew BaldwinSep 28, 2007 at 12:59PM

A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Ewok Adventure, The Star Wars Holiday Special, American Graffiti, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, Willow, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (19 episodes), Cartoon Network's animated Clone Wars shorts, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Phantom Menace, Captain EO.

Jeff ColemanSep 28, 2007 at 1:09PM

I have the answer!


Episode 4
Episode 5

Episodes 1, 2, 3

Episode 6

It starts the way it was meant to, Vader drops the "I'm your father" bomb, then you flashback and get the whole story about why that matters.

Then come back and watch the Empire get defeated and Anakin Skywalker redeemed.

It's perfect!

ScottSep 28, 2007 at 1:11PM

Absolutely by original release date (VHS isn't necessary). And episodes I - III can probably be skipped altogether.

kleanerSep 28, 2007 at 1:14PM

4, 5, 6 and 3 ... lets pretend 1 and 2 never happened.

Tom PSep 28, 2007 at 1:15PM

My suggestion:
Force him to watch 1 2 3, and pretend that they are the best of the bunch. Hopefully he will be so turned off that he won't be interested in watching 4-6, until someone convinces him to do so years later, when he is 30 or so, and capable of appreciating the classics.

You will have some explaining to do, but it will be worth it.

Brent PalmerSep 28, 2007 at 1:21PM

Another thought is to not try and control the experience... let it happen organically.

Maybe your kid will start by seeing something on HBO or regular TV, and let it grow from there.

My daughter is 14 now, and she grew up with the recent three films. I think we watched 4,5 and 6 after she saw 1. But then we've gone back and watched 4, 5 and 6 after 2 and after 3. It just happened that way with no planning.

I kind of agree most with Mark Larson's "hypertextual" arguement. The interplay of the mythic and symbolic figures in any of the movies or even the cartoons or books works in any order. Let it evolve for your kid like it evolved for you. Trust the times.

My daughter loves fantasy and scifi, and she's everything perfect a geek dad could hope from a daughter in terms of her coolness factor.

I'm glad I didn't try to control her experience of Star Wars.

Abbas HalaiSep 28, 2007 at 1:21PM

i had this same issue recently with my wife. i'm not really sure which world she was living in before she met me, but the words jedi, the force, vader, and yoda were not only not in her vocabulary, but she had never even heard of such words.

so came the task of me trying to figure out how she would watch the films. it was decided that she would watch 4. 5 and 6 and then three. she really didn't have to bother with 1 and 2 as they really hold no appeal for a first time viewer. and then if she felt like it, could catch up with them later.

kevin.Sep 28, 2007 at 1:29PM

Release date and make sure you get the version of the original trilogy where (here it comes) HAN SHOOTS FIRST!

Actually, don't even bother showing the prequels. Please...? They sucked. If no one shows them to their kids, then we can all just pretend that the prequels never existed.

Eric MarcoullierSep 28, 2007 at 1:42PM

Watch them in the original order, because if nothing else, it presents an extremely cool narrative twist.

After watching 4,5 & 6, you go "This is a story about Luke Skywalker."

Then, after watching 1, 2 & 3 you realize that the entire story, from 1 to 6, was about Anakin's fall from grace and redemption. Luke was just a side character.

It's neat.

GeneSep 28, 2007 at 1:58PM

The question you'll probably face, as Brian and others have suggested, is when to show the prequels. We watched the first two movies (eps 5 & 6) when my son was four or five. He couldn't watch Revenge of the Sith until this year (he's now 9).

You could probably play Lego Star Wars Adventure with him before watching any of the movies.

ChrisSep 28, 2007 at 2:01PM

I would do it in order of release. The Star Wars story was written with the literary device of in medias res where a story starts out in the middle of the action and goes back to the beginning to provide background info. Ultimately the story then goes on to discuss the end, but in the case of Star Wars I don't think we are ever going to find out what happens to Luke and Leia.

JWSep 28, 2007 at 2:03PM

Han/Chewy = must; Ewoks = doable; Jar Jar = forbidden

MC Stay in SkoolSep 28, 2007 at 2:09PM

I'd show Star Wars, Empire, first half of Jedi, and that's it. Make sure to hit stop before the first Ewok hits the screen. Up until that point, the train was still on the rails and the shark had not jumped.

DanSep 28, 2007 at 2:22PM

My favorite answer to this question when I saw it posed somewhere else last year:


DougSep 28, 2007 at 2:23PM

Suggested viewing order:


Like shampoo, repeat if necessary for the next 35 years.

As a precaution, burn all accessible copies of I, II, and III and never speak of them to your children or grandchildren. If he or she accidentally sees them at a friend's house, tell them that they were made by a crazy person who, like Vader, became so obsessed with his own power that he became accountable to no one. It wouldn't be a lie.

Thomas MottsSep 28, 2007 at 2:26PM

I would watch IV, V, VI. Then stop

If the child becomes enough of a fan you can then have a discussion as to the relative merits of the other 3 and let them decide for themselves. Ask questions like "what do you think Darth Vader was like at your age?". If they think he was a whiny annoying twat then, well that probably raises more questions about your kid than anything.

Alternatively you could just show them I, II and III either before or after and then be prepared to reconsider how much you love them based on their reaction. If they really enjoy them then they don't deserve the originals. If they hate them then you've probably ruined the series.

I suppose it depends on the children.

DrewSep 28, 2007 at 2:28PM

Release order, absolutely. This can apply to books as well. The only example I can think of right now is the Chronicles of Narnia, which are much more entertaining in the order they're written than in "chronological" order.

It's got something to do with the mystery of it all and the establishment of the story. I find that prequels work best as prequels. For instance, who wants to watch "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" before "Raiders of the Lost Ark"? (For the record, I think "Temple of Doom" is a great movie in the vein of "Gunga Din," etc. It's just not as good as the others. How I got on this tangent I don't know.) "Raiders" is where it all begins.

TomSep 28, 2007 at 2:33PM

Absolutely by original release date, and I whole-heartedly support VHS viewing if at all possible. The newer "special edition" movies with cleaned-up special effects have lost the magic of the originals.

As to the second, prequel, trilogy, I would suggest not screening them at all, ever, because they never had any magic to begin with. Better to let him remain blissfully unaware until he runs across a rumor or random internet page, and let him broach the subject - the same as telling him he'd been adopted.

Greg JanéeSep 28, 2007 at 2:43PM

Release order, most definitely. What you're really doing here is following the time-honored tradition of trying to pass on some of your culture to your child. And the release order of the films best reflects your culture for a lot of reasons: it reflects the rise of the social phenomenon, the origin of all the wonder and excitement, the technical evolution of the filmmaking, the plot expansions and adjustments, and so forth.

JohnSep 28, 2007 at 2:44PM

Honestly I don't think it matters much. With so much other material out there today ("canonical" and not -- Clone Wars cartoons, games, novels, Wookieepedia, etc.) my son thinks of the movies as little more than a sliver of a much larger, more complete, if admittedly fictional universe. He's too young to understand the artistry, but too engaged not to want to know it all. He'll one day learn the story of the movies' creation and the mastery of the first trilogy, but right now, knowing as much as about it all is all that really matters.

jmSep 28, 2007 at 2:49PM

Original release date. Curiously, my boy was enraptured and obsessed by all things Star Wars before seeing any of the movies. We watched Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, and he was more obsessed than ever. But after episodes 1,2, and 3, the joy was gone and he was off to dwell on Harry Potter and Pokemon.

janelleSep 28, 2007 at 2:49PM

you're a very thoughtful and caring father.

RichardSep 28, 2007 at 2:51PM

Watch the Original Trilogy first. Then, when they're ready, have them watch the Prequels, but with RiffTrax. Essentially its the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000, (Mike Nelson and the robots voices) doing commentary in the same vein. The ONLY way to make them entertaining. Also, Chad Vader drops in for Attack of the Clones.

PeterSep 28, 2007 at 2:56PM

As much as we're all attached to the big "I am your father" shocker (and the sibling sexual tension), remember that the numbered order now sets up a different kind of tension - a generational father v. son struggle. In a way it makes the "father" stuff seem minor by comparison. New viewers get to wonder the entire time whether Luke destined for great good or great evil? Will he ever learn about his father? Would his father actually kill him? Will Anakin ever be redeemed?

Also, certain other characters like Obi-Wan, R2D2, Palpatine, and Boba Fett have much more resonance in the numbered order.

It's a different story arc for a different generation - a double-decker Hero's journey that explores the dark side before it explores the light. And, it allows good to win out in the end. A little heavy for a six-year-old, but a powerful epic if you can stand to spread them out over a few years.

(That said, I personally have to agree with the majority here - the prequels work best *as* prequels, not as the actual start of the story. Also, effects aside, it's jarring to see the modern acting/pacing first. Although, the 4-5, 1-2, 3/6 version is also cool.)

Artem KaznatcheevSep 28, 2007 at 2:57PM

You have to show them as Star Wars, Empire, Jedi, Phantom Menace, Clones, Sith... not because any 3 are overall better than any other 3 in any objective opinion, but because:
- the new ones LOOK better (better visuals) so for a kid, watching the old ones after the new ones will be painfully ugly. As people who saw the old 3 before the new 3 we think the old 3 are completely better, but we base that decision not on action or visuals, but solely on story, dialogue and acting... things that are sometimes less important to a kid.
- as much as the story is suppose to go new then old... in reality since the new where made later they become even stupider if you don't know that the kid will become Vader and knowing that Vader is Luck's father ruines the old 3 as well.

acmSep 28, 2007 at 2:58PM

count me in for release order, prequels never to be screened.

and let me also argue against the person who thinks we only like these movies because we saw them originally at 10 years old (or whatever) -- I recently saw the original Star Wars for only my second time, and was struck that it aged better than most movies, and was, in fact, completely gripping and entertaining all the way through. you might be surprised to find the same (ifyou can ignore all the drek made since).

barlowSep 28, 2007 at 3:10PM

Also, don't forget Raiders of the Lost Ark. My boys finally are old enough for it, and they were completely hooked. Seeing Han Solo with a whip and a revolver was cool to them.

Craig RamsdellSep 28, 2007 at 3:15PM

My 15 year old son says release date.

DougSep 28, 2007 at 3:17PM

Don't forget that while most of us saw episodes IV, V, and VI when we were children, we technically weren't allowed to see I, II, and III until we were adults. I think the same should apply for all generations.

Carl JonardSep 28, 2007 at 3:18PM

Release order, absolutely, although 451236 is intriguing as well.

And definitely not the special editions, but VHS is unneccesary.

Now that the unaltered trilogy has been finally released on DVD (in laserdisc-quality, but I digress), that's the best way to go. (Of course, Lucas has screwed everybody over by bundling the unaltered discs as a "bonus" with the individual special edition discs that everybody already has, but there are a torrent of ways to get around that.)

JoeSep 28, 2007 at 3:29PM

My son and his pal watched all six movies, in order, without a break last year. They ended up happy to have seen them in story-chronology order, but they regretted the decision to do the whole thing in one marathon sitting. By the end, they were sick of Star Wars.

JaredSep 28, 2007 at 3:50PM

I've only got 4-6 on DVD, so that's the order my kids have seen them in. I started letting my kid watch them a few months ago, and it makes me so happy when people ask my four year old what his favorite movie is, and he answers Star Wars. It makes my wife roll her eyes, though.

ChrisSep 28, 2007 at 4:00PM

The age of viewing will come into play. The younger the viewer the more weighted the quality of the CGI becomes. An older viewer will have a better appreciation for the story and will be less critical of the CGI.

So, where does the age line fall?

>12 years old = Show movies by original release date*

*This approach should, as mentioned above, come with the choice of opting out of seeing 1, 2, or 3 at all.

IQpierceSep 28, 2007 at 4:18PM

A good question, and one that I've wondered about.

I think the way to go is something like this:
Age 6 - Let them watch Episode 1
Age 7 - Let them watch Episode 2
Age 8 or 9 - Let them watch Episode 3
Then let them watch episodes 4, 5, and 6 whenever.

My key pieces of reasoning here:
1. Episode 1 is extremely well-suited to young kids. It has less violence, and more simple and childish humor, than all the other episodes. I'd feel comfortable letting the kid watch this one earlier than the rest.
2. While Ep1 is the most suitable for a young kid, Ep3 is possibly the least suitable (Anakin is basically broiled alive onscreen). So I would let the kid get a bit older before exposing them to this one.
3. The most important reason is that the prequels have many flaws, which a young kid fortunately won't notice; while the classic trilogy has many great moments and subtleties, which the young kid unfortunately ALSO won't notice. It's a "pearls before swine" situation: a kid grows less and less of a swine over time (in terms of being able to comprehend and appreciate good films). So, give them the day-old hamburger when they're young (they'll be happy with it, and won't notice that foul aftertaste); and later, when they're more able to appreciate it, THEN give them the filet mignon (i.e. the classic trilogy). It's a win-win.

JeffSep 28, 2007 at 4:19PM

It depends on when you allow him to watch the series. If he's4-7, then he will focus on the story(s) and showing them in order of time might be appropriate. When he's a bit older you will be able to impart to him the notions of "sequel" and "prequel." And he will be happy to pass that on to his peers. The hive mind goes into high gear starting as early as 8 years old.

StanleySep 28, 2007 at 4:34PM

I would suggest chronological order, almost entirely because that's probably not the order that dad watched them in. It would be a healthy exercise to let go of trying to craft your son or daughter's experience and just let them watch the movies. When they have a different perspective than you ("I already knew Vader was Luke's father, but I was shocked at how deep the Dark Side had taken him that he didn't even remember 3PO!") you get to see them as a real person, not just an extension of your genetic material and means to immortality.

You know, if that's important to you. :)

JDSep 28, 2007 at 4:45PM

well that's just silly. First it's obvious you go original release date (and then you have to decide if you show 1-3 at all). Secondly why VHS? go for HD or Blu-ray. You want the best quality you can get in other words, but try to stay clear of all the crap that he's added, like the song and dance scenes... no one needs that.

KateSep 28, 2007 at 5:25PM

Forgive me if this was already said, I've skimmed the second half of the comments:

Just prepare yourself for the possibility that your child might not revere the experience as much as you do, no matter the order. He might think it's just a crappy movie with poor graphics (compared to what's available even in kids movies these days). Sometimes, kids just don't get what the big deal is about something their parents love. But for the sake of the world and your sanity, I hope they do!

As for the answer to the question, I agree with Stanley, just above my answer.

Phillip WinnSep 28, 2007 at 5:43PM

Real life example: I had my kids watch A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi first, and then made them wait a while (many months) before watching the others.

This year I'm buying DVD releases of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith for them, and will insist that there are five movies in the series. Two of my kids are getting a Star Wars DVD, but my third child is not. I just can't.

Of course, they've repaid me by picking different favorites. My nine-year-old loves Revenge of the Sith and says The Empire Strikes Back is her least-favorite. (Life a knife in the back!) My six-year-old prefers Return of the Jedi over all; at least he chose the correct trilogy, though the weakest of the three. My eight-year-old does best, choosing A New Hope, then The Empire Strikes Back, and then some mish-mash of prequels and so on.

By the way, my six-year-old fixates on Jabba. Loves him. It's weird.

MontanaJenSep 28, 2007 at 5:43PM

Get the hell outa my head. I was pondering this EXACT question yesterday morning in the shower. I'm not even shitting you.


I definitely think release date order, for reasons already stated, and because if you've already seen the first three, when you watch the pre-quels you sort of know what's going to happen, and it makes your heart tug for little skywalker.

I disagree with Stanley. If we can't force our children though experiences, why on earth have kids? (what? I'm kidding!)

RachelSep 28, 2007 at 5:57PM

I haven't read through all the responses, so I'm probably duplicating someone's thoughts here, but I would go with original release date with the main justification being that this must have been how Lucas wanted it. He could have made 1, 2 and 3 first, but he didn't. Clearly there was a reason for this. The movies were meant to be watched in this order. (There's probably some massive body of evidence out there debunking this statement, but I'm not going to bother looking it up.)

The idea of watching 4 and 5, then 1, 2 and 3 for the Vader backstory, then 6 is intriguing, though. 4536 is also interesting, as 1 and 2 serve little to no purpose in explaining anything about the story, and it's probably best not to mess up the memories of 4 and 5 with too much awfulness.

I can see the rationale in watching 1 first, alone, for the kid-friendly elements. If I recall correctly (and I haven't seen it in MANY years, so I may not), 1 is a stand-alone movie similar to 4. In that case, I would probably have them watch 1 when they are too young to really think about it and can fixate only on the silly or juvenile elements like Jar-Jar and Anakin's pod race, then wait until they were older and watch 4, 5 and 6 when they could be fully appreciated.

Michael SippeySep 28, 2007 at 6:09PM

Original release date. Otherwise there's no surprise in Return of the Jedi, and that would just be a shame. I remember seeing that in the theater and thinking NOOOO WAAAAYYYY!!! It would suck to know that ahead of time, since it would ruin the best of all six films.

KarinGalSep 28, 2007 at 7:12PM

We have a five-year-old son so we had to face this decision recently. Our plan?
Start with Episode 4 -- just like we all did as kids. Caveat: Every time he watched it one of us was with him to either answer his questions or act as a body to hide behind during the rough parts. (Darth Vader will scare the bejeezus out of him for a while.)

Let your child take the lead on when to view 5 and 6. Then, 1 and 2, since by age five they can easily understand the concept of things happening in the past. Truth be told, we haven't let him see Episode 3 yet -- it's WAY too graphic and violent, in my opinion. Maybe in a couple years. When he struggles with the narrative gap in the Annakin-to-Darth transformation process, we just say Annakin was unable to stay a good Jedi and he gave into his Dark Side and became Darth Vader. And for now, that's enough.

A bit more on the subject here: http://doubledutydiary.blogspot.com/2006/03/still-on-mend.html

barrySep 28, 2007 at 7:40PM

the original three, then the christmas special, the battle for endor and serentity.

barrySep 28, 2007 at 7:41PM

the original three, then the christmas special, the battle for endor and serentity.

MarkSep 28, 2007 at 7:50PM

theatrical release order and the versions as released in the theatre - Laser Disc to DVD rips of the theatrical release of the first three (IV, V and VI) or the recent special theatrical releases - just say no to enhanced versions. having your children watch IV with a han shot first shirt is also a suggestion of mine. i also suggest the indiana jones films before I-III.

KimSep 28, 2007 at 8:14PM

Lots of variables....
...should ollie's experience mirror yours (ours?) or be unique to his time?
...there's a great opportunity for compassion, adjusting judgments based on new information in the 4-5-6-1-2-3 order
...until 1-2-3, and is many ways, still today, Darth Vadar is a penultimate bad guy. If seen 1-2-3-4-5-6, he's not soooo bad.
...1-2-3-4-5-6 is the storyline...how faithful to the story do we need to be?
...the storyteller, meanwhile, decided to the tell the story 4-5-6-1-2-3...how faithful to the storyteller do we need to be?

the discs were out when my guy was five...an age WAY to young to see any of it [7-9 depending...though i think ollie is going to be way ahead of the curve]...still, at a friends house, 4 was shown and it took over his imagination...we were beholden to 456123...he's 7 and lost to The Lord of Rings (thanks again, friends house, thanks!). This Halloween, he's going as Aragorn. Aim high, baby, aim high.

KeithSep 28, 2007 at 8:22PM

by release.

part of the whole experience of being a star wars fan was the huge disappointment that episode I was. I'm not sure that the years I had to wait to be let down like that can be achieved in the 5 min it takes to switch the dvds out, but I bet your son will still think EP I sucks so he'll get some of it.

The other thing too is the small reward of piecing the last three together with the references in the first three. And come on. Ewan was a great Obi won, he saved those movies. I'm not sticking up for them, but they are part of the authentic experience that is SW fandom.


joshSep 28, 2007 at 10:49PM

I agree with this order:

4, 5, 1, 2, 3, 6

turns the prequels into a really long flashback, preserves the plot twists in 4 and 5, and really drags out one's worry about han.

raulSep 29, 2007 at 12:29AM

I've been considering trying to hide the fact the first three even exist from my sons for as long as possible. Why have thembecrushed by the dissapointement of 1, 2 & 3. My question to myself is how old should you start your kids on the series.

nexSep 29, 2007 at 2:01AM

Too many comments to read all of them thoroughly, but from skimming I'm getting the impression that people are having too much fun imagining how cool it would be to arrange the episodes into the perfect order, then wipe their memory of them, and watch them 'for the first time' again, and paying too little attention to the fact that children haven't got exactly the same tastes as adults. Isn't ep I perfect material for a 5- or 6-year-old? I think back then, I would've found Jar-Jar rather hilarious than annoying. So, I'd recommend story-chonological order.

Also, the dislike of digitally enhanced versions isn't justified when you actually have absolutely no nostalgic feelings about those dusty VHS tapes. As long as Han shoots first, any version is fine.

Spoon BoySep 29, 2007 at 2:28AM

Actually, howzabout forgetting the Star Wars thing altogether and turning the kid on to The Matrix instead. Then have him watch Reloaded. Then have him read this.

PaulySep 29, 2007 at 4:52AM

Why not read notes and queries in the Guardian...

Jough DempseySep 29, 2007 at 10:30AM

My kids will likely see them in this order:

A New Hope
Empire Strikes Back
Return of the Jedi
Attack of the Clones
Revenge of the Sith

I know what you're thinking: "you forgot Phantom Menace." I didn't, but I'm trying to.

kirkarachaSep 29, 2007 at 2:25PM

He could have made 1, 2 and 3 first, but he didn't. Clearly there was a reason for this.

I think the reason is that Star Wars was a one-off movie that became a huge unexpected hit and George Lucas pulled the rest of the movies out of his ass. That's my theory, anyway.

There are too many inconsistencies and plot holes for me to believe Lucas planned the whole saga from the beginning. (Back then he even claimed it would be a trilogy of trilogies, but I don't believe him.) There's Luke-Leia romantic tension in the first movie, then they're brother-and-sister in the second one. Darth Vader is a total badass in the first and second movies and a creampuff in the third movie. Return of the Jedi is also inconsistent with tone consider the creepy Jawas of the first movie versus the buy-the-plush-toy-in-the-lobby cute Ewoks in Jedi. They blew up the Death Star--let's build...a Death Star!

Those may be relatively minor, but there are huge inconsistencies between the first and second trilogies, some of which have already been mentioned (like Vader forgetting the droids). The Force goes from being mystical to something you can detect in a blood test. R2D2 forgets all about being able to fly and shoot frickin' laser beams. There's an incredibly massive unexplained dropoff in technology in the time between the second and first trilogies chronologically.

Also, Star Wars was just "Star Wars" when it came out. "Episode 4" was tacked on later.

So I recommend 4, 5, and a just-the-good-parts edit of 6.

(By the way, the same theory explains why the last to Matrix movies sucked.)

RyanSep 29, 2007 at 2:58PM

Considering I, II & III completely destroy all the key drama points of IV, V & VI, you should watching them in release order. Perhaps all those plot points work as dramatic irony, but who knows...

Ryan N.Sep 29, 2007 at 4:42PM

If I had a kid, I would definitely go:

4, 5, 6 (1 month pause)
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

I watched all six episodes in a row on the first day it was possible to do so, and I was surprised to find that episodes 4, 5, and 6 are thoroughly enhanced by the same-day viewing of 1, 2, and 3. The transition between episodes 3 and 4 is especially great. As bad as the acting was in the prequels, the major plot points are really wonderful and add an amazing amount of dimension to the original trilogy.

JeffSep 29, 2007 at 6:54PM

Show them in proper sequential order, but watch the first three on fast-forward up to the final lightsaber fight between obi-wan and anakin.

Chris Sep 29, 2007 at 8:11PM

Show them the originals. Let them seek out the prequels on their own if they are interested. But they probably won't be. Seriously, will our kids even care about Star Wars or, if they watch them, will it only be so as to indulge their mom and dad?

BrianSep 30, 2007 at 3:59AM

i have a five year old. and we are going through them by release date. seems to be working out fine.

jwoSep 30, 2007 at 9:44AM

I have a 6 and 4 year old and facing the same conundrum
I decided to introduce them to 4, 5, 6 and stop there.

If they venture into 1, 2, 3 on their own, then so be it, but I don't want that on my conscious.

I will say from their perspective they pretty much could care less about Star Wars vs Nemo, Monsters Inc and Cars.

AndySep 30, 2007 at 4:28PM

My GF, who is 15 years younger than me saw the as I, II, III, IV, V,and VI.

I asked her what she thought of them because I had never heard what someone who had only seen them in that order thought of them. Her response was that she thought they pretty much sucked. She said that when she learned that they didn't come out in that order, she watched the original trilogy by itself and thought it was much better.

My kid will never see I, II, and III unless she does it of her own accord. So far, she's only seen ANH, and really seemed to like it. She seems to love R2.

Paul SantoraSep 30, 2007 at 6:37PM

Entertainment Weekly had an article last year about a "Star Wars virgin". They paid him to watch all 6 movies in chronological order and write a column about it.


Not bad. He has some good insights and it is pretty well written. Could shed some light on the discussion here.

ClaireSep 30, 2007 at 10:38PM

Oh, and Dalton Ross at EW did a hilarious column about the same debate for his son, as well as the resulting birthday party he threw for the kid after he got him addicted:



peterOct 01, 2007 at 7:01AM

Show Battlestar Gallactica (Lorne Greene, Face) and the Black Hole (Max Schell, Ernest Borgnine) in between SW and ESB, and ESB and RToJ. Context.
Have a week off a show them Blade Runner

Emily Oct 01, 2007 at 12:01PM

We are the the throwes of this very earth shattering issue.

5 year old watched "Star Wars" on Saturday, with Grandpa. Clueless Grandma when asked to "pick up the next one" rented Episode II.

We are dealing with a very confused little man.

tomOct 01, 2007 at 2:50PM

Ok, I answered before, but I totally just thought of the trump-all best answer:

In the prequels Palpatine looks ridiculous. I mean, totally ridiculous. I don't know who they got to do make up, but he's basically a bad latex mask representation of his former(?) self.

In the original trilogy Palpatine is downright terrifying: shadowed, hooded, evil. In the prequel trilogy he looks like a preschool art project.

That's all I need to convince me.

JaBbAOct 01, 2007 at 3:06PM

I had to set a rule in my house - Star Wars, Empire and Jedi are either "Espisodes 4,5 and 6, OR the first, second and third movie". Too much confusion from my sons asking if they can see "The First Star Wars" and meaning Phantom Menace.

That being said, IV-V-VI is the classic, important cinema experience. I know so many twentysomethings who think Star Wars sucks because Jar Jar Binks is a part of Star Wars for them. Also, Episode III has only been seen by my boys over 11. It's too dark for the younger ones. Anakin striding into the temple killing children is too upsetting.

There no doubt in my mind, for many reasons, release order. And stop at the original trilogy unless they ask to see more.

Oh, and one more thing - Original Theatrical Release. Han the rouge is redeemed in the end. We know he's a rouge because he's willing to shoot first in the cantina. Making Greedo shoot first means there's no need to redeem the character.

chrisOct 01, 2007 at 3:29PM

My four year-old son has only seen the original three, and in order. (Jedi has only had a single viewing thus far, but not because I, unlike many other Star Wars fans, hate it. I just prefer Star Wars and Empire more. The latter's even on my iPhone right now.) And when I say "original", I mean "original"; he can see the Special Edition versions when he gets older.

I figure we'll get around to the three prequels later in his life, too. Right now, he's very much in to the Galactic Heroes series of Star Wars figures, and when we get around to setting up his new room, he says he wants it all done in a Star Wars theme.

I'm so happy, I think I might cry...

A few commenters have mentioned viewing the movies on the big screen, and I confess, I've seriously considered inquiring as to the cost of renting out a theater for the boy's sixth birthday (my age when I saw the first film), and showing the original Star Wars, but I'm sure there are copyright/licensing issues involved in doing that beyond the rental fees.

JeremyOct 01, 2007 at 5:06PM

My son is 4-1/2 and is all over Star Wars. He has only seen the 1st trilogy (4/5/6). I could probably show him #1 right now, but clone wars and revenge of the sith are probably a little too much for him to take - especially the scene with anakin in the lava at the end of Sith.

regeyaOct 01, 2007 at 5:28PM

other than the artificial attempt to make Star Wars all about Anakin, 1, 2, and 3 have almost no bearing on 4, 5, and 6, despite the fact that Luke & Leia are born, there's plenty of their mom, you find out how R2 and 3P0 first meet, etc. Just forget it all. It's not important to know how the Jedi died out, it's definitely not important to know that Anakin ever met Jar-Jar, or any of that. The last 30 minutes of III are great. V is great. Just watch the last half-hour of III, then watch V, and finally watch the throne room scene and battle at the second Death Star in VI. Everything else is fluff. And that includes all of Star Wars. No frickin way did Lucas have the "rest of the movie" written at that point. That turd was meant to stand alone and was only popular because it blew away everything else, visually. Why do you think Independence Day did good at the box office? It wasn't great acting, that's for sure!

aaronOct 01, 2007 at 8:45PM

There's no stopping the child from seeing the evil prequels. So, mix it up for fun. Episodes 1; 4; 2; 5; 3; 6. This sets up the characters' relationships in interesting ways.

zTransmissionsOct 02, 2007 at 6:06AM

sith, hope, empire, jedi - never watch episodes 1 and 2.

AnonOct 02, 2007 at 10:21AM

The Phantom Menace > Attack of the Clones > Revenge of the Sith > A New Hope > The Empire Strikes Back. And then stop. Wait years before they're willing to rewatch the first five, and then, when they're old enough, show them The Return of the Jedi.

That, or, only show A New Hope and Empire. Leave everything else out. Say, "This is Star Wars. Now buck up kid, cause life's tough, and there's a lot of shit out there."

JodyOct 02, 2007 at 11:22AM

Our kids are six. They saw A New Hope when they were almost 5. They saw Empire and Return of the Jedi when they were not quite six. They saw Episode I this summer.

They knew Darth Vader was Luke's father because they live in the world. They knew Vader not as DARTH VADER but as Anakin. Of course, they were old enough to collect all the Star Wars toys back in 2005 at Burger King (this is how they came to be interested in the story in the first place, and of course, their parents fed the obsession). So they knew of the prequel characters even though they didn't know the story -- and they asked lots of questions, so we gave vague answers. (No midichlorions appear in our version of events.)

Their childhood fondness for Anakin/Vader was deeply weird, because they CRIED WHEN HE DIED. They were also devastated when he let Luke suffer under the force lightening. How could Annakin do such a thing?

It was just -- weird. Very, very weird. Especially because, at the time, they hadn't even seen the prequels.

They saw Episode I this summer because we couldn't take the pestering anymore. On first viewing, they all three announced "this is boring." They've asked to see it three more times, though. They have a painfully age-appropriate fondness for Jar-Jar.

They've asked to see 2 and 3 but we haven't succumbed yet.

I doubt they'd have asked to see the movies if we, the parents, hadn't been interested, but their affection is genuine and it's a delight to watch the original 3 movies with them. I hope the IMAX versions are still possible someday, because I'd love for them to see them in large-screen.

Oh, and we showed them the original releases (not the special editions), first by using old VHS tapes and then by buying the new DVDs. But again, they have bad taste and really enjoy the new releases, too. Damn their ability to read the DVD boxes....

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.