Star Wars: The Force Awakens is upon us. With only 18 days, 4 hours, 32 minutes and 27 seconds until the film’s release, you’re gonna want to brush up on your Star Wars.
Conventional wisdom says you can watch the six existing Star Wars movies one of two ways: Original trilogy first (release order), or prequels first (episode order). Rod Hilton has a new, third way: The Machete Order. You watch Episodes IV, V, II, III and VI, and skip episode I.
Why watch the movies in this order? Short answer: It’s better. The Machete Order enhances the story and makes the prequels, which are infamously bad, more comprehensible. The Machete Order nixes The Phantom Menace because it basically adds nothing to the story.
I tested this method. 11 hours and one minute later, I’m a huge fan. The more I think about it, the more I realize this order is brilliant.
Here’s why you should use the Machete Order for your Star Wars marathon:
- A New Hope. This film captivated audiences and changed cinema. It even got a 1977 Best Picture nod (it lost to Annie Hall. INJUSTICE!). Luke, the franchise’s best hero, guides us through the story. We feel the wrath of Darth Vader. We know the Empire is bad. We become fully invested in a world of light sabers and Death Stars like the first audiences did back in 1977. The original may not be the best, but it’s the most original.
- It makes Luke the main character. Hilton puts it like this:
“Star Wars, the saga, is really about Luke’s journey and his decision to accept his hero’s burden by saving not only the galaxy from the Empire, but his father from the dark side as well.”
Darth Vader isn’t the hero, Luke is. No one knew Darth Vader was Luke’s father until he dropped the bomb in The Empire Strikes Back. So why should we care about Anakin Skywalker? Watching Episodes IV and V builds intrigue around Darth Vader’s backstory, so by the time you watch the prequels, you actually care. Plus, the audience gets filled in around the same time Luke gets filled in, so there’s no dramatic irony or discontinuity, which you’d drag around through IV and V if you watch the prequels first.
- No spoilers. Don’t deny yourself the thrill of “Luke….I Am Your Father.”
- You care more about Darth Vader. Granted, Anakin still comes off as a huge dick (thanks, Hayden Christiansen). The Dark Side seems pretty imminent in this kid from his first Creeper Face at Padme.
I recommend quick binge of The Clone Wars TV series between episodes II and III. The Clone Wars shows Anakin’s good side and his growth as a Jedi. In II and III, Anakin struggles with himself and lets his dark side take over. Episode III also shows Anakin fully becoming Darth Sidious’ bitch, which works perfectly because Darth Sidious rolls in right to mindfuck Vader at the beginning of Episode VI.
- This order makes the saga follow more traditional storytelling. Episode V ends with a cliffhanger. Episode III basically ends with the whole galaxy doomed. It’s classic Dark Night of the Soul. Episode VI provides a resolution. Return of the Jedi is the grande finale. There’s a ceremony and everything. Ending with III is just a bummer.
I only have one reason why it might not be the best order. After the CGI and solemn tones of episodes II and III, Episode VI feels kinda campy. The Original Trilogy has a better sense of humor (and Han Solo), but it also has puppets. I love the special effects used in the original trilogy, but if you’re the kind of person who watches old movies and says, “That looks SOOOOOO old!”, Episode VI might take some getting used to.
Overall, The Machete Order makes the story infinitely more awesome. It’s like a Band Aid that fixes the prequels. Episodes VI, V, II, III and VI better in that order.
Sorry, Phantom Menace.