After receiving my own copy of the newly released Blu-ray version of the epic tale, I brought it upon myself to actually do what the most popular, and accepted answer to this question was as a test to see if the answer to the question has merit, or just looked good on paper.
56 of the users of SciFi.SE voted the answer “Watch the movie in this order: Episode IV -> Episode V -> Episode I -> Episode II -> Episode III -> and finally Episode VI.” I even upvoted this question. But alas, I haven’t actually watched this series in order (any relative order, in fact) ever. The last time I watched a Star Wars movie was when Episode III came to theatres in 2005. And before that I watched Episode II and I. I never actually watched all 3 of the original trilogy in order either. I only ever watched it when it was on the TV in passing. I did see the re-release in theatres in 1997 but before that, I don’t think I ever actually saw the whole trilogy.
I always considered myself a fan of the series, but when I look back on what I have actually exposed myself to, my main viewing of Star Wars has been mostly the New Trilogy.
This got me thinking about more than just how I voted on that one question, but how I vote on a lot of questions. I fully support ever answer I upvote, but in all honesty, most of the answers that I have given the “big up arrow” to were ones I just believed were right.
But I wanted to change that. I wanted to actually use the information given to me on this wonderful site and put it to practical use.
So, lets get started…
I watched Episode IV and it was just as I remembered it (from the 2004 update) and enjoyed it thoroughly. Even though the new updates have made the CGI from the 1990’s seem archaic and lame, the same story was there and it’s good.
Then to my favorite of the movie series: Episode V. I aways thought this movie, unlike other transitional middle movies in most trilogies, was better than the other two of the originals. The pacing was just right, the visuals were stunning, and there were very minor changes made in the re-mastered versions. The climax at the end on Cloud City, I felt, was the true climax of the whole series. Brilliant.
Then on to the new trilogy: after the big reveal of Darth Vader being Luke’s father, you see him and his actual journey. Seeing Anakin Skywalker as an innocent boy and wanting to do good in the universe really made this character develop into one of the most complete characters I’ve ever seen.
Throughout the prequel trilogy, I kept remembering back to what happened in the previous movies and thought that Lucas really did do a good job of keeping the continuity, at least for the most part.
After the first and second episodes, the third was the most striking. Seeing everything culminate into the final scenes made for a great epic story. It was good. Then came what I thought was the worst of all the movies: Episode VI.
Right off the bat, the extra dance scene with the badly rendered CG was almost enough for me to stop watching. It was just awful. But I stuck through and kept on going. The pacing in this movie was very different than the other five. The movie played more slowly than I remembered. Plans didn’t seem to be thought out as much and people seemed to be in a panic. Not like any of the other movies at all.
I did like however the struggle that Luke went through with the Emperor and Vader, deciding if he wanted to join the Dark Side and take revenge on his enemies or stay with the side of good was actually very well done. But through all that, the ending was my least favorite part. In all the other movies, the ending was a giant grandiose scene with epic music and emotions out the roof. The ending of this had no followthrough, the bad guys died, the good guys saved the day and there was no reason to really care anymore. In the previous episodes (even Episode IV) the endings made you care, made you proud of the defeat of the Dark Side.
Back to the point of watching these movies: how did that specific ordering help or hurt the series? To answer that, I had to take a look at all the characters and see who was this series really about?
It wasn’t about Luke Skywalker. Or Leia. Or even Han, Chewie or Yoda. This series was about Anakin Skywalker. It was his journey from the young beloved child who was destined to bring balance to the Force to the most hated being in the universe, and back again. After finding that out, I really fell in love with the character. It was so deep and so enjoyable that I fell in love with the whole series all over again and for a different reason. Seeing where Vader was coming from and then how he acted in the original trilogy really made me understand how someone could become that evil and why he would want to make every other person fear and loathe him.
All in all, in what order should the Star Wars movies be watched? I’d say this is the perfect order if you really want to understand Darth Vader and his personal history.