Beyond just entertainment.

Star Wars: A Beginner’s Guide to a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Good things come in threes, including Star Wars trilogies. With the benefit of hindsight, a space opera film series released in the 1970s seems like a no-brainer. However, it’s hard not to emphasize what a tough sell it was back in 1977 (The first entry was an indie film that no studio wanted to make). The unexpected success of George Lucas’ space opera franchise led to the revival of the science fiction genre on the big screen, as well as paving the way for effects-laden film series such as Lord of the Rings and The Matrix trilogy.

With over four decades of storytelling, as well as new content being released through various media platforms, getting into the Star Wars saga can be a daunting task for newcomers. Which is why we’ve put together the ultimate beginner’s guide for anyone who’s interested in exploring a galaxy far, far away. 

So, if you’ve ever wondered what a Jedi is and are confused by scruffy-looking nerf herders, read on and the Force will be with you.

*We are keeping this list to the live-action films.

 


The Original Trilogy (1977-1983)

Star Wars: The Original Trilogy
The Original Trilogy

The original trilogy is the first set of three films produced in the saga. The trilogy consists of 1977’s Star Wars (later subtitled A New Hope), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). The original trilogy tells the story of Luke Skywalker’s quest to become a Jedi, his battle against the evil Imperial agent Darth Vader, as well as the struggle of the Rebel Alliance to free the galaxy from the clutches of the Galactic Empire. 

Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back are considered by many to be among the greatest movies ever made, both films were selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

 


The Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005)

Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy
The Prequel Trilogy

Set 32 years before the original film, the prequel trilogy consists of The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). The prequel trilogy follows the training of Anakin Skywalker as a Jedi, the corruption of the Galactic Republic, as well as the annihilation of the Jedi Order and rise of the Galactic Empire. 

The prequel trilogy is the second of the three trilogies in the Skywalker saga in terms of release order, but it’s the first act in terms of chronological order.

 


The Sequel Trilogy (2015-2019)

Star Wars: The Sequel Trilogy
The Sequel Trilogy

Following Disney’s acquisition of the Star Wars franchise in 2012, the mouse house announced plans to produce the sequel sequel trilogy. The sequel trilogy consists of The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the trilogy tells the tale of a 19-year-old scavenger, Rey, and the struggle of the Resistance against the First Order. 

The Star Wars film series centers around three sets of trilogies, which are collectively referred to as the “Skywalker saga”. 

Read more: Star Wars: Are the Sequels Better than the Prequels?

 


The Anthology Films

Star Wars: Anthology Films
The Anthology Films

In between the sequel films, two anthology films were released, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018), both films are set before the original trilogy. Rogue One depicts the story of the rebels who steal the Death Star plans directly before A New Hope. Solo focuses on Han’s backstory, also featuring Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian.

 


What order should I watch?

‘Star Wars’

With an extensive list of films, the Star Wars saga can be enjoyed in a few different ways. If you’re watching Star Wars for the first time or introducing someone to the franchise, release order is the superior order to get into the saga. It provides a strong introduction with the film that started it all, a twist in Empire and eventually brings you up to speed for new releases. 

Release order:

  • Episode IV: A New Hope 
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 
  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones 
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith 
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens 
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi 
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

However, if you’ve seen all the movies, chronological order is more suitable for rewatching purposes. The benefit of watching the saga unfold in chronological order is that it tells a serialised narrative from beginning to end.

Chronological order:

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace 
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones 
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith 
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story 
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • Episode IV: A New Hope 
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back 
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi 
  • Episode VII: The Force Awakens 
  • Episode VIII: The Last Jedi 
  • Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

 


What’s Next for Star Wars? (2019 – 2022)

‘The Mandalorian’

The next three years will see the Star Wars universe expand on Disney+. In 2019, the mouse house launched its ambitious streaming service with The Mandalorian, which is set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Future Disney+ releases include an untitled Cassian Andor series (from Rogue One) and an untitled series starring Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, reprising his role from the prequel trilogy.

Read more: The Mandalorian Season 1 Brings Back the Fun of Star Wars

Alex Low
Alex Low

Editorial director

Alex is the Editorial Director of The Cultured. An avid consumer of popular culture, he's enthusiastic about black-and-white movies, Star Wars, and Quentin Tarantino films. When not writing, Alex spends his free time playing video games, learning how to cook (it's been quite a journey, or so he says), and lurking on blu-ray.com for the best physical media deals.

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