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Best viewing order to introduce Star Wars to children?

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Submitted for advice and input from the community!

I think we are close to letting our oldest, now 7, watch Star Wars. She has never seen it (my kids really only have a vague idea what it is. When someone asked my 5 year old son which super hero he wanted to be for Halloween, he said “Star Wars!”). We have struggled to find the right age for this; we want Star Wars to be a cherished part of her childhood like it was for both my wife and I, but want her to be old enough to really fully experience the revelation about Darth Vader at the end of The Empire Strikes Back (my long-standing policy is that if your child tells my child who Luke’s father is, I will immediately tell your child about Santa Claus…).

So with the time fast approaching, I’m now putting serious thought into proper viewing order. I think there is a big difference if you are introducing the films to adults vs. kids, since kids actually like to watch the same movie over and over again, and once you have safely preserved the revelation in Empire for them, you can pretty safely take your times and let the Saga unfold for them over years instead of months. This gives you time to intentionally include re-watches in a pre-planned sequence prior to introducing them to new movies. Where this matters most is that you can reasonably expect them to re-watch A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back after watching the prequels but prior to watching Return of the Jedi, so that Jedi actually serves to wrap up both Luke and Vader’s stories simultaneously. This wouldn’t be something you could expect of most adults.

  1. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  2. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  3. Darth Maul: Apprentice (Fan Film)*
  4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  5. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  7. Star Wars: Solo**
  8. Star Wars: Rogue One***
  9. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  10. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  11. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Despecialized Edition****)

Unless otherwise noted, I’m planning to use Harmy’s Despecialized edition for the original trilogy, and another fan edit for the prequels (I’ve yet to see all the options, but right now I’m working on watching Hal 9000’s cuts; I know there are quite a few great cuts out there!).

Concerns/Questions:
*I wonder whether or not it’s worth it to include fan films in the actual film sequence for the kids, but the Darth Maul film is so good and sets him up as a really threatening villain. It’s also short, and with the shortened run time of the fan edits I think it can be watched directly leading into the movie, like a sort of menacing, sinister Pixar Short. I’m not really up on the latest Disney news, but I believer there’s also supposed to be a Kenobi film or tv series at some point, and if they are any good one could be worked in prior to Rogue One and the second sequence viewing of A New Hope.

**I haven’t actually seen Solo yet, but I am assuming that including this in chronological order makes the most sense. I will obviously have to see it first (and of course any recommended fan edits) before deciding if we including it in the sequence at all.

***I didn’t like Rogue One when I first watched it and thought that it was the weakest of the films to date. That was before The Last Jedi came out, however, so now I’m really considering giving it another watch, especially since it had some really genuine high points. I though most of the acting was great and loved the characters, and there were several bits (the Galactic-scale impact of the Empire’s tyranny, Darth Vader’s full scope of fighting skill, etc) that are helpful to the overall story. But from a plot standpoint there were a lot of really world-breaking moments involving instant hyperspace travel, whether or not stolen death star plans have to be transmitted wirelessly or on a big freaking floppy disk, etc, and most importantly the odd time contraction that occurs in having the battle on Scariff occur apparently mere minutes before the start of A New Hope, only for the whole plot to slow down again to the much more balanced pace of the original trilogy. My hope is that before we get there in the next 2-3 years I’ll find fan re-edit that fixes those issues, or at least makes the Rebel strike on the Imperial base on Eadu and the final assault sequence on Scarif much more coherent. If not, I’m very much on the fence about this one. Maybe they could watch it later on if they want to.

****My only, very minor hesitation with using the Despecilized edition here is that, in this particular film sequence, the insertion of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin into the final scene of Return of the Jedi is actually a good one. On the whole though I doubt it compensates for all of the other terrible, terrible changes they made to the movie, so I’m 99.9% sure we’ll be shunning the special editions entirely.

*****My biggest question becomes whether to include the new Trilogy in the Saga Sequence. The Force Awakens had it’s problems (hyperspace and time, again) but overall was good. The Last Jedi doubled-down on all the time, plot sequence and hyperspace problems of Rogue One and The Force Awakens and from my standpoint much of the film is almost unwatchable. I think at this point the final movie is probably going to determine how I feel about the trilogy as a whole. Right now, Return of the Jedi is by far the strongest film to end on. The other big consideration is how the new trilogy mutes some of the best Star Wars characters and story arcs, like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn, so letting them love Star Wars as a whole universe might be better served by not including the new trilogy. It may be better to introduce the films many years down the road, once they are getting closer to actually seeing subsequent films in the theatre.

And then there’s the question of whether or not to include the Ewok movies somewhere before Return of the Jedi, adding Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels into the mix, and of course the Star Wars Holiday Special inbetween A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back…

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Here’s a suggestion: you should use Adywan’s “Revisited” edits of ANH and ESB when introducing Star Wars to your kids.

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I would do it like that:
Original Trilogy first (NOT Special Edition)
Then all movies in chronological order. (Here the Special Edition for the OT can be used, Unsure if I would include Rogue One and Solo in between the numbered movies or put them after them)

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Hmmm… if it were me and a set of a few 7-10 year olds, I guess I’d plan on this:

Introduce the original 1977 SW (ANH), allowing any desired rewatches. Let it sit there a while, maybe a month or two. Use your OOT preservation of choice.

Introduce ESB likewise, letting it breathe before adding more. Let them wonder a bit. Again, OOT preservation of choice.

While the ‘Liar Obi-Wan Order’ has merit and can be fun, I think a 9-part saga is better paced by keeping trilogies from interrupting each other. So, I’d just go onto ROTJ next in the same way. Let it breathe, use OOT. If the kids like to read, maybe introduce Shadows of the Empire somewhere between ESB and ROTJ, if you want.

Then I’d introduce your preferred version of Episode I, maybe digging out the old N64 and playing Ep1 Racer. Feel free to introduce any EU material (Legends or Canon) you like in this and the following eras.

Then I’d do the same for Episode II. Afterward, I’d want to introduce the Clone Wars Microseries, the ‘Samurai Jack’ style one. Again, feel free to introduce any books you’d like. Or the CGI Clone Wars show, too.

Same story for Episode III.

Maybe introduce Rebels.

I’d schedule a set of viewings to lead up to moving into the sequel trilogy. This would consist of:

  • Episode I
  • Episode II
  • (Clone Wars Microseries, if desired, maybe split in two, part one after Ep2 and part two before Ep3)
  • Episode III
  • Rogue One
  • ANH (A fan edited SE version)
  • ESB (A fan edited SE version)
  • ROTJ (A fan edited SE version)

Then I’d introduce TFA, TLJ, and TROS the same way I have the prior moves. (Ran out of time to type on my phone.)

PM me for links to my edits; apparently, some feel shy about this.

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I, IV, II, V, (TCW), III, VI, VII, VIII, IX, (Rogue One, Solo, Rebels, Resistance, The Mandalorian, Cassian Andor, Kenobi etc.)

I am mostly joking - this would be very confusing for children - but I think this order does have a few interesting characteristics:

  • It starts the saga with TPM, which is (political plot notwithstanding) the most childish film in the saga, what with the literal children main characters, the poop jokes and the pod race, so it feels like an innocent starting place. It also introduces Qui Gon, who really encapsulates the concept of a Jedi. We see the glory days of the Republic and the Jedi, and are introduced to Anakin and Obi Wan, and learn that Obi Wan trains Anakin.

  • Then, IV. We learn from the crawl there is a civil war occurring - clearly things have changed since TPM, and we don’t recognise any of the characters except the robots. We see Luke on Tatooine, and perhaps for a moment you might mistake him for a grown up Anakin. It isn’t until we meet Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi that we learn that the Jedi are gone and the galaxy has fallen into darkness since TPM. A hypothetical first time audience might wonder what happened to Anakin, and possibly piece together that he was Luke’s father who Kenobi talks about, who was apparently killed by another pupil of Kenobi’s, Darth Vader. They’d certainly be curious about what happened to the Republic, and I think it adds a compelling element of mystery to Vader and the Empire and makes the few mentions of the past we get in ANH more meaningful.

  • Having learned the Republic will collapse, we go back to find out how, and what happened to Anakin. The political plot leading up to the Clone Wars is a little more interesting - perhaps we think that the separatists might overthrow the Republic and become the Empire or something. Keeps your brain slightly more engaged in the film’s mystery plot, potentially. Maybe we’re a little more invested in the romance, suspecting it will produce Luke. We see the darkness in Anakin, but no introduction of any character called Vader…

  • Back to the dark future with V. Having just seen II, you’d probably notice some of the fun parallels Lucas used, like the romance and the asteroid field and the jetpack bounty hunter and the limb loss in the duel. Of course, the twist that Vader is Anakin has been preserved, and is hopefully even more powerful now we know who Anakin is (especially if you’re watching a fanedit of II which makes him actually likeable lol). We also find out that Vader’s master is… Sidious, who we saw collaborating with Dooku at the end of II! Of course, anyone with a good eye for chins knows he’s also the Chancellor.

  • We know Anakin is Vader, and are probably curious as to how this has occurred. I recommend watching TCW here because of the great work it does for Anakin’s character and for building audience investment in the Jedi Order ahead of Order 66, which make III hit harder. Obviously it’s a TV series so it’s not feasible to slot it into a film marathon, but I’m working on a 3 to 4 hour edit focused on Anakin to serve this purpose when I test this order on myself in December (tentatively titled “Hero of the Republic”).

  • III solves the mysteries. We see how the Republic falls, how Anakin falls, Padme dies, Obi Wan becomes Ben, Yoda goes into exile… We also get the reveal that Luke has a twin sister: Leia! I think this reveal works much better in III than VI (unlike the Darth Anakin twist) because a hypothetical first time audience would not be expecting a second baby. Whereas in VI it’s just heavy-handed Dagobah ghost exposition.

  • We’ve hit the emotional low point of the saga. Now it’s time to get our satisfying, hopeful ending with VI. We’ve seen Anakin fall to the dark side, and perhaps fear that Luke will do the same to save his friends… But then we see Luke as a great Jedi, and really feel it when he says “like my father before me”, remembering the hero of the Clone Wars that Vader once was. Sidious, who we saw gradually gathering power through the three prequel films, reappears in full Sith Lord style from III to face Luke. Will Luke succeed where his father (and Yoda) failed? Anakin, who we’re as invested in as possible, is redeemed. The saga has its happy ending, and we see Anakin and Obi Wan reunited after death. The interleaved stories of Father and Son are resolved.

  • VII, VIII, IX: The PT and OT work well as standalones (or imo, interleaved) because they were produced non-chronologically and thus couldn’t rely on knowledge of the PT in the OT. On the other hand, you can’t watch VII without having seen VI because it requires knowledge of Leia and Han’s relationship, and Leia being Luke’s sister, in order to work out how Ben Solo is Anakin Skywalker’s grandson. And VIII is VII Part 2 so you can’t sandwich anything in between there. Obviously I haven’t seen IX yet but I doubt it’ll make it any more feasible. So just watch them as a trilogy; an epilogue or a “Legacy” trilogy perhaps.

  • Anthology films and other TV shows: only TCW focuses on characters from the movies, while Rebels, Resistance, Rogue One and so on all introduce new characters, so squeezing them into the saga interrupts the flow even more. Solo is very, very standalone and, even though I hope it gets a Disney+ sequel, it’s hard to argue it adds much to the overall saga (except for setting up Han’s dice). Regardless of chronological positioning, I think it’s best to watch all these afterwards.

  • Downsides: Yoda is revealed in I, not V, so you don’t get to share in Luke’s shock when he discovers the little frog man is the “great warrior” he is searching for. But perhaps we can laugh alongside Yoda instead. It also doesn’t fix weirdness like Obi Wan calling Vader “Darth”, or Vader claiming Obi Wan once thought he could be redeemed, even though that doesn’t really seem like the case in III. It is also somewhat confusing to watch two timelines. There’s probably other things I forgot.

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First, I’d say use 4K77 and 4K83 over despecialized. Not that Harmy’s work isn’t amazing and a crucial step in fan preservation history. But if you’re gonna show them the original cuts, why not go with truly original cuts where possible? Now for ESB I’d argue that the latest Despecialized is the best thing currently available.

As for order, just this year I introduced my kids (boys age 3 and 5) to Star Wars. Of course they both loved it. Some stuff certainly went over my 3 year olds head but he was still very into it and got the key info. My five year old was really into it and absolutely understood everything that he was seeing. He still will randomly say things that make me go “wow, I had no idea you picked up on that detail!”

I showed them Star Wars (via 4K77) first. Then we went to Disney world and naturally did a bunch of Star Wars stuff (the galaxys edge thing wasn’t quite open yet).

Then several months later they asked to watch Star Wars again so we watched 4K77 again. At that point I decided they could handle the rest of the OT so we watched ESB and ROTJ via ESB DeEd 2.0 and 4K83. My five year old was shocked at Vader’s ESB revelation. When asked about it during the credits he blurted out, “he’s lying!!! Obi-wan said he killed Luke’s dad!!”. It was pretty awesome! We’ve since watched ESB one more time and I suspect we’ll watch the whole OT again soon since they’ve elected to go as Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper for Halloween.

I’m sure they’ll see the PT eventually but I’ve no plans or interest in showing it to them. Plus parts of ROTS are inappropriate for their ages. I do intend to show them the Disney films in the future, but again, they’re not really age appropriate yet. As it stands it’s pretty nice letting the OT stand alone for a time. It deserves some breathing room and time for their little brains to really absorb it and ponder it. It’s also good to see the OT cementing itself as the foundation of their Star Wars experience, just like it was for me.

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I’ll give you my suggestion, which is purely based off my childhood experience. I was 4 years old when TPM came out. Vaguely recall having it on VHS, but I also had SE 97 VHS. You know what movie I played the most? Return of the Jedi. Why? The third act, especially for the space battle. Then eventually AotC came out on DVD. You know what movie I replayed the most? AotC. Flashy and more colorful, to me at the time at least. And boy, once I got my hands on RotS, I played that on repeat so many time. Point I’m making is that, sure, introduce however you wish you to, establish the order (whether that’s release or chronological) but I’d highly encourage to let your kid freely choose which Episodes/Spin offs to watch over and over. Because honestly, trying to recapture that Vader/Luke twist these days will be rather difficult. There’s too many SW film’s now. So for a kid to invest their time into SW will make all the movies sorta run together in a blur. They will pick up on certain plot points, but it will most likely not land in the way people felt it way back in 1980, when there was only one SW movie to digest. At some point, for me at least, I never had that surprised moment of Vader revealing himself as Luke’s father. It’s like asking me when I learned what the color blue was. It’s simply integrated into my mind as commonplace knowledge. Even if you somehow managed to control the flow of when to show these movies are shown to your child, that doesn’t stop peers, the internet, and random strangers from spoiling it. That’s not to say it’s not impossible.

However, I think we’re missing the point of SW if we try to hard to have newcomers experience that shocking twist. I’ll tell you that instead SW overall had inspired me in so many ways. I drew countless drawings of the characters, the ships, and scenes. I made so many different objects from that universe with creativity. My imagination was fueled! I believe that’s more cherishible as a parent, to see your child have those imaginative gears running. They will not being able to fully comprenend the nuances of the story, but that’s totally normal, and will come with years under their belt. SW is supposed to evoke a sense of adventure and fun, and a child will fully absorb themselves into it way more than an adult. Then once they’re of adult age, they will be able to express the complaints you also have with the franchise 😂

The Hope Awakens

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I really think you should consider showing them the New Trilogy at some point in the sequence, my reasoning being that they should have the opportunity to watch The Rise of Skywalker in an actual movie theatre. This may sound weird, but hear me out on this. If there’s anything I missed out on in terms of Star Wars, it’s the experience of watching the movies for the first time in the cinema. Nothing can compare to watching a story unfold on a huge screen, in a gigantic room full of people, all while being bombarded by sound and music from all directions. I watched both the original trilogy and the prequels (in that order) on a tiny 4:3 television in my living room, and I remember being so disappointed that I couldn’t see them on the big screen. By the time The Force Awakens came out I was fifteen, and it had been 10 years since I saw the previous movies for the first time. Although I was excited to finally have the chance of watching a Star Wars movie in a real theatre, I was bummed out that it was happening this far into my life. I felt that it would have had a much stronger impact on me if it had been earlier.

You’ll be doing your child a huge favor by letting them watch a Star Wars movie in a theatre when they’re still young. To me this is far more important than any viewing order. A kid probably isn’t going to think about how the backstory lines up anyway, I sure didn’t when I was a five-year-old. So if this means sitting your kid through the original trilogy and the first two films of the sequel trilogy before The Rise of Skywalker hits theatres, then so be it. Just give your kid this experience while it’s still possible, now is the perfect time.

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I’m just gonna get VHS copies of the films — SE & non-SE both — cut those ribbons to pieces, splice all the bits ‘n’ pieces together in random order, then sit my kids down, give 'em each a bowl of decades-old, mescaline-laced C-3PO’s to snack on, and let 'em enjoy the freakshow.

“Happy Halloween, ladies!”

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I understand why this question is asked so frequently, but I also think the best answer is to just let them discover it on their own, however it is they discover it - whether that’s hearing about it from a friend, picking it out of a home video library on their own, or stumbling across it on TV (or netflix, or youtube now, I guess? Twitch tv maybe?) I don’t think I missed out or lost anything by not having my dad set me down to watch Star Wars with him after having figured out the optimal viewing order. I became a fan of the original trilogy by myself, and that sense of discovery is a big part of why it stuck with me all this time. There’s a big difference between finding this very cool thing “on your own” vs. having it carefully curated and presented to you like a rite of passage. Kids can and do recognize this, even if they don’t have the words for those concepts yet.

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Rogue One, ANH: Revisited HD (when it comes out), ESB: Revisited, a 3-in-1 prequel edit, RotJ: Revisited (when it comes out), TFA (Starlight Project, when it comes out), TLJ (my upcoming edit), and TRoS (fan edit).

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FreezingTNT2 said:

ANH: Revisited, ESB: Revisited, TPM (fan edit), AtoC (fan edit), RotS (fan edit), RotJ: Revisited, TFA (NeverarGreat), TLJ (my upcoming edit), and TRoS (fan edit).

Half of those edits aren’t even out yet.

Myself, the boy, two droids, and no questions asked.

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I’m all for release order myself.

Green is not a creative color

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StarkillerAG said:

FreezingTNT2 said:

ANH: Revisited, ESB: Revisited, TPM (fan edit), AtoC (fan edit), RotS (fan edit), RotJ: Revisited, TFA (NeverarGreat), TLJ (my upcoming edit), and TRoS (fan edit).

Half of those edits aren’t even out yet.

I know that. It’s just for the future.

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ANH (4K77 and Revisited), ESB (Despecialized and Revisited), Clone Wars series, ROTS (Hal9000’s latest version), ROTJ (4K83 and DarthRush’s fanedit - I like his cutlist), TFA (Starlight Project, when it comes out finalized), TLJ (Rekindled, latest version), and ROS (whatever fanedit I like most).

Only show them TMP and AOTC with the Rifftrax, or through the excellent Lego Star Wars videogames. Blackened Mantle is also appropriate, if your kid likes reading subtitles.

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Broom Kid said:

I understand why this question is asked so frequently, but I also think the best answer is to just let them discover it on their own, however it is they discover it - whether that’s hearing about it from a friend, picking it out of a home video library on their own, or stumbling across it on TV (or netflix, or youtube now, I guess? Twitch tv maybe?) I don’t think I missed out or lost anything by not having my dad set me down to watch Star Wars with him after having figured out the optimal viewing order. I became a fan of the original trilogy by myself, and that sense of discovery is a big part of why it stuck with me all this time. There’s a big difference between finding this very cool thing “on your own” vs. having it carefully curated and presented to you like a rite of passage. Kids can and do recognize this, even if they don’t have the words for those concepts yet.

I totally get where you’re coming from and in some respects I agree with you. I grew up and discovered Star Wars on my own and it was magical. But my parents weren’t huge Star Wars fans. My dad was a John Wayne western and war movie kinda guy, so those are the types of films he shared with me.

But in a household like mine, where I have a whole collection of Star Wars models, action figures, props, and helmets on display in my man cave, they’ve been exposed in some form to this for their entire lives. So getting to sit down and share Star Wars with them the way my dad shared Patton or Rio Bravo with me was a grand experience for all of us. I’m not a huge western fan like my dad was, but I do enjoy them and have several of the classics in my movie collection. But the memories of watching my dad’s favorite movies with him are an integral part of who I am and are a cherished part of m childhood. Getting to do something similar with my kids by showing them my favorite movies has been a real treat. Maybe they’ll grow up to be huge Star Wars fans like me, or maybe they’ll find their own thing. But regardless, we’ll always have the memories of that fun experience together.

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It depends though on how you are with kids. My parents and others were constantly introducing me to movies, so being sat down to watch a big deal movie was never a problem. When I got into my teenage years was when I started discovering things for myself, which is great in its own way, but I’m forever thankful that I was introduced to specific movies as a kid.

Anyway, release order is certainly the best way to do it. But there’s definitely an argument to be made that seeing TROS in theaters is something you won’t want them to miss, in which case you could skip the prequels and spin-offs and etc. to expedite the process.

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Start with Star Wars in whichever closer to original video version or one of the projects you desire. Then let them discover the stories for themselves.
I think it works best this way and thus they see the OT in order and then go further with the prequels and then if necessary can delve into the Disney stuff if curious.
And yes I think all kids naturally gravitate towards ROTJ and then over time becomes less attached to it. I did, and we all seem to have!

Ultimately try and make it something fun and enjoyable that can be a fond shared experience. For me Star Wars was a solitary engagement as a kid because no one in my family liked sci-fi or adventure whatsoever but I can imagine it being a real keepsake memory for kids these days just getting started.

And if they get really, REALLY hooked perhaps dabble in the good ol’ EU. And especially the radio drama!!!

VADER!? WHERE THE HELL IS MY MOCHA LATTE? -Palpy on a very bad day.

“George didn’t think there was any future in dead Han toys.”-Harrison Ford

My review blog: thehificelluloidmonster.wordpress.com

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DuracellEnergizer said:

I’m just gonna get VHS copies of the films — SE & non-SE both — cut those ribbons to pieces, splice all the bits ‘n’ pieces together in random order, then sit my kids down, give 'em each a bowl of decades-old, mescaline-laced C-3PO’s to snack on, and let 'em enjoy the freakshow.

That sounds like a pretty good approximation of the experience of watching the holiday special.

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Release order. Easy question. First time viewers for any series/franchise should almost always use release order.

Weirdly, The Clone Wars (Filoni) I think benefits from watching its episodes in chronological order, making it a rare exception. But I also would stick to just the movies for a first time viewer experience and let them check out the supplemental material later if they’re interested.

a trolling bantha

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I showed them to my kids in this order:

  1. Star Wars
  2. Empire Strikes Back
  3. Return of the Jedi

“In the future it will become even easier for old negatives to become lost and be “replaced” by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.” - George Lucas

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Star Wars
Empire
Jedi

The Force Awakens
The Last Jedi

Rogue One

Then STOP in the name of all that is good.

TV’s Frink said:

I would put this in my sig if I weren’t so lazy.

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I say start with Star Wars '77 because it is the purest expression of Star Wars there is. We often forget that this was the first of everything - the Force, the lightsabers, the alien cantinas etc etc etc. I see the saga as a kind of wheel with SW '77 as the hub in its centre. Everything flows from this wonderful moment in 1977 and I think it would be cool for a child to experience it the way we did. Then, with her imagination tingling (assuming she likes the movie!), you can give her TESB, and then ROTJ and beyond…