It’s almost hard to believe how much the Star Wars saga has expanded over the past 20 years.
While there have long been books, games, and other lore surrounding the core series, they have primarily been the purview of diehards. What we’ve seen more recently, however, is an explosion of new films and series added to the Star Wars timeline.
For the most part, these are good things. The only drawback is that it’s almost hard to know how to approach the saga if you really want to dive into it all. It might take a head-scratch to know what sequence to marathon the story in.
Our take is that it’s best to simply go by chronology – not of release, but within the timeline of the adventures. While there are a few instances in which the order of events isn’t completely clear, the chronological approach produces a reasonable order in which to watch Star Wars. All of it.
Here’s a complete guide of the 32 Star Wars movies and shows in chronological order.
1. Star Wars: The Acolyte (2023)
Okay, a bit of a curveball right off the bat. Star Wars: The Acolyte is still in development, and thus does not exist for our purposes.
When it is uploaded to Disney Plus, however (likely in 2023), this show will depict the waning days of the High Republic – which we understand to take place before the events of The Phantom Menace.
This will be the earliest Star Wars adventure seen on the screen yet, and is likely to take the form of a thriller about emerging Dark Side powers. Though we know very little for sure.
2. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Although released 16 years after the original trilogy, this is actually where the cinematic saga chronologically begins.
George Lucas’ widely panned prequel trilogy kicks off with the story of young Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) as he is discovered on Tatooine and mentored – against the Jedi Council’s wishes – by Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson).
It rightfully has a reputation for being somewhat silly by comparison to the original trilogy. But it does set up the core Skywalker saga reasonably well, and it’s still tough to beat the lightsaber fight between Jinn, young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and the dull-but-acrobatic cartoon character serious villain Darth Maul (Ray Park).
3. Star Wars: Forces of Destiny (2017-now)
This is probably the toughest project to characterize chronologically. Star Wars: Forces of Destiny is a 2D animated YouTube series revolving around female characters from the saga. As such, it essentially features shorts that take place… well, all over the timeline.
Because its earliest episode (Monster Misunderstanding) takes place in between Episodes I and II however, it’s only fair to place the series here. That episode features Queen Amidala defending her home planet of Naboo.
4. Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
You know, the one in which angsty teen movie-Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is super irritated by sand. Chronologically set ten years after The Phantom Menace, this may not be the consensus opinion, but Attack of the Clones is a worse film than its predecessor.
What it gains in minimizing Jar-Jar hijinks, it loses in the horrendous romance between Anakin and Padmé (Natalie Portman). Throw in the unreasonably uninteresting villainous baton twirler General Grievous, and this bad sequel is kind of just a mess.
Nevertheless, it shows Darth Sidious ready to annihilate the Republic and it does serve to depict the beginning of the Clone Wars, the fall of the Jedi, and Anakin’s descent toward the Dark Side. So really, it’s bad, but crucial for the timeline.
5. Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles (2013-14)
To be clear, the Lego Star Wars outings are not considered to be canon. To some diehards, that means they more or less don’t matter. But if you’re keen on including them in your streaming journey, this one fits in after Attack of the Clones.
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Specifically, Lego Star Wars: The Yoda Chronicles is an animated series that follows Yoda and a class of Padawans on an adventurous but amusing quest to thwart Darth Sidious (aka Palpatine).
6. Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace (2011)
Another non-canonical animated outing, this one is a 30-minute TV special. And frankly it’s not clear where it belongs.
The special largely revolves round Yoda guiding Padawans on a field trip, which would suggest it takes place before Revenge of the Sith. Yet it also includes Darth Vader, which suggests the opposite.
Honestly, it’s not a bad one to skip, though it’s a good bit of fun if you’re not too concerned with its place on the timeline.
7. The Clone Wars (2008-20)
The lengthy saga known as The Clone Wars has taken various forms, but the show that ran from 2008-20 is considered to be canon. It’s a sprawling animated series featuring a ton of beloved characters from Star Wars, and frankly it’s a blast to watch.
It also fits neatly into the chronology, essentially filing the space between Episodes I and II.
8. Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
And then there’s Revenge of the Sith, the third and probably best film of the prequel trilogy. By no means is it a masterpiece, but Anakin is a little more tolerable than in his prior outing; the stakes of his transformation into Vader feel legitimately heavy; and it’s pretty hard not to enjoy some of the action.
The duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin in particular is pretty incredible, even if you don’t buy into the almighty power of the “high ground.”
9. Star Wars: The Bad Batch (2021-now)
This is an ongoing animated series that debuted on Disney Plus in 2021, and was generally quite successful. It revolves around Clone Force 99 – a group of dangerous misfit clones who survived the Clone Wars to become a sort of rogue mercenary group.
The Bad Batch may not be particularly significant to the overall timeline, but it’s a fun side story for Star Wars fans.
10. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) is discovering himself as an adventurer in this one.
Set 10 years before the original trilogy, Solo is considered to be a bit of a letdown, and it’s also more or less unnecessary. If you revisit it during a chronological rewatch though – without the hype that surrounded its original theatrical release – you might find it to be some good, carefree fun.
Ehrenreich is probably better than you remember, and there are lots of clever touches.
11. Obi-Wan Kenobi (2022)
Obi-Wan Kenobi is the most recent live-action series to appear on Disney Plus, with McGregor reprising his role as the iconic Jedi Master (which for our money was the best part of the prequel trilogy).
It’s been made clear that this story takes place some 10 years following the events of Revenge of the Sith and nine years before A New Hope. Obi-Wan is watching over a young Luke Skywalker, whilst in exile and hiding out on Tatooine from Jedi hunters.
12. Star Wars Rebels (2014-18)
It might be a little lazy to lump them together, but if you like The Clone Wars, you’ll like Star Wars Rebels.
That said, conceptually it’s a little more like Star Wars: The Bad Batch, in that it follows a sort of renegade band of outcasts. In this case, some are Force-users however, and they fight distinctly against the Empire in the years leading up to Episode IV.
13. Star Wars: Droids (1985-86)
Perhaps the most unique installment in the saga, Star Wars: Droids is an ‘80s animated series that spans 13 episodes and follows R2-D2 and C-3PO through a series of adventures 15 years before the events of Episode IV.
There’s a sort of retro charm to it, though it ultimately comes across as a George Lucas side project no one really needed.
14. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
If you’re interested in a quicker chronological journey through the Star Wars saga – and you want to cut this list more or less in half – there’s an argument to be made for starting with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
This beautiful film serves as a one-off prequel to the original trilogy, and frankly does a better job of setting the stage than the prequels did.
Commonly described as being more war movie than space opera, it’s the single best installment in all of Star Wars lore at depicting the nature of the conflict between the Rebels and the Empire. Oh… and that Vader appearance is bonkers.
15. Ewoks (1985-86)
That’s right! If you didn’t know, there was an animated TV series about Ewoks that takes place before the events of Episode IV. Why? We don’t know!
16. Episode IV: A New Hope
And here, 15 movies and TV shows into the Star Wars timeline, is the beginning. A New Hope hardly needs an introduction. It’s the film that started it all, depicting the emergence of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as a fresh pupil for Obi-Wan (Alec Guinness) and a… well, new hope… for the scattered rebels in the Empire’s shadow.
Even now, it stands tall as a one-of-a-kind adventure. A New Hope is about the most perfect thing this franchise has ever given, and we wouldn’t blame you if you started with this one instead of going through its prequels. We really, really wouldn’t.
17. The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)
The famous (infamous perhaps?) holiday special revolves around the celebration of “Life Day” at the home planet of Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
It’s wildly unnecessary, but it does feature a good chunk of the core cast from the original trilogy. So if you just can’t get enough of all of our favorite space pals, go ahead and watch it.
18. Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out (2012)
This is another non-canonical Lego outing – in this case a Cartoon Network special that took some pretty big swings!
The film takes place following the events of Episode IV, and sees Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca all straight-up kidnapped by Darth Vader. Luke and R2-D2 set out to save the gang in what basically functions as a one-off adventure completely separate from the actual post-Episode IV timeline.
Viewed as a just-for-fun Star Wars cartoon though, it’s sort of fun.
19. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
It’s considered the best Star Wars movie ever made, and frankly it’s hard to argue. For people new to the saga, it’s a masterpiece we simply don’t want to spoil with too much description.
We see the rebels overpowered by the Empire, Luke trained by Yoda, while Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han (Harrison Ford) get pursued by Darth Vader.
There are several aspects that cement this awesome sequel as a must-watch including the epic action scenes and fight sequences – but the most iconic moment has to be its big “reveal” and the famous line uttered by Darth Vader to Luke.
For those simply eyeing a rewatch, well…just settle in and let Episode V comfort you like a nice, blubbery tauntaun carcass.
20. Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures (2016-17)
Another Lego series, another bit of harmless side entertainment. Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures takes place following Episode V, and concerns a group of siblings who design their own starships out of scavenged war debris.
The action ratchets up a bit when one of the siblings discovers a lightsaber and a bit of Force ability, but mostly this show is about simple, space-pirate-ish fun.
21. Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi (1983)
The Return of the Jedi marked the original conclusion of the saga, and did so in mostly satisfying (if somewhat cheesy) fashion.
Don’t get us wrong – this film has a lot of issues. The relationship between Luke and Leia is borderline uncomfortable; the Battle of Endor makes no sense whatsoever; and it was the first real instance (out of many) of George Lucas seemingly prioritizing Star Wars merchandise and attractions over his actual film.
But The Return of the Jedi is still fun, particularly when it boils down to Luke, Vader (James Earl Jones), and Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) hashing things out. You even get an Ewok dance at the end, if that’s not a treat!
22. Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales (2015)
This Lego series is all about the droids. Strictly speaking, it takes place following the Battle of Endor from Episode VI. However, through a clever structure of R2-D2 and C-3PO recounting their full story to other droids, the show essentially turns into an episodic series of flashbacks, beginning around the time of Episode I.
23. The Mandalorian (2019-now)
Perhaps the trendiest bit of Star Wars storytelling as of this writing – if not the most popular, among younger generations – The Mandalorian concerns the adventures of a lone bounty hunter in the aftermath of the war, five years after the Return of the Jedi.
Combining the general structure of an old serial Western with some of the most gorgeous action and world-building we’ve yet seen in the Star Wars universe, it’s something of an irresistible TV show.
And of course, Baby Yoda – the most beloved made-up creature since Pikachu – doesn’t hurt either.
24. The Book of Boba Fett (2021)
Taking place around the same time as The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett sees its titular character attempting to make a name for himself in the dust of Jabba the Hutt’s criminal underworld.
Equal parts Western, crime tale, and standard space action, it is frankly a little bit lacking in soul or larger meaning. That said, it’s saved – to some extent – by fun side characters, and by crossing over into the world of The Mandalorian.
25. Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises (2016)
Lego Star Wars: The Resistance Rises more or less came out alongside the beginning of the “sequel series” and Episode VII.
It took the clever approach of lampooning the new cast of characters introduced in The Force Awakens and giving them their own, spoof-y prequel material, in a sense.
It’s by no means essential viewing, but as usual with the Lego outings, it’s amusing enough to be worthwhile.
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26. Star Wars: Resistance (2018-now)
This animated series basically seeks to do for the gap between Episodes VI and VII what The Clone Wars did for the gap between Episodes II and III.
It depicts pilots in the service of now-general Leia as the First Order (the Empire’s evil offspring) is just beginning to emerge.
The show sort of lacks the core heroes and high points of other Star Wars adventures, but it’s enjoyable in its simplicity. Casual fans probably don’t need it; those who truly love Star Wars will eat it up.
27. Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2016)
Yes, yes, it’s a borderline remake of Episode IV. For some, that made The Force Awakens a bit of a disappointment when it revived big-screen Star Wars for the first time since The Revenge of the Sith.
As far as we’re concerned though, it was still an awfully well-executed return to glory.
Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a worthy successor to the de facto Luke role; Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is at this stage an intriguing baddie; and the return of Han Solo (still Ford) is just overwhelmingly fun.
We get it if you don’t end up giving this one too many points for plot creativity, but in every other respect, it re-launched the core saga in a satisfying manner. It was, after all, the highest-earning movie of the series!
28. Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)
The Last Jedi may be the single most polarizing entry on this list. Some thought director Rian Johnson was wildly successful in his bold quest to shake up what a Star Wars film could be.
Others thought he strayed so determinedly from the events of Episode VII, and into new side plots, that he more or less crashed the modern trilogy.
Wherever you fall on it (sadly, we’re closer to the latter view), it’s essential viewing as the penultimate (for now) core project.
29. Lego Star Wars: All-Stars (2018)
This one is difficult to place in the timeline as it chronicles adventures that span all eras of the Star Wars universe.
Non-canon material, All-Stars explores the young Solo era and The Last Jedi era, so you can watch it anywhere in between as you please, but just so you know exactly what’s going on, it’s best to binge-watch it right after Episode VIII.
30. Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Lightsabers at the ready! The Rise of Skywalker marks the end of an era! After more than 40 years of wonderful space drama, we see Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren bring the sequel trilogy to an ultimate conclusion.
The Resistance faces a First Order that has obtained a level of power the Empire (arguably) never possessed. In some respects, it’s a satisfying conclusion – it’s a one heck of a spectacle, with jaw-droppingly big, weighty conflicts.
At the same time though, it was also left with the near-impossible task of wrapping up a trilogy in which the first two films seemingly wanted nothing to do with one another. As a result, Episode IX is unfortunately somewhat incoherent, and falls back on a few lazy solutions.
Nevertheless, it’s a conclusion you have to watch if for no other reason than that one day, you’ll need to know how it factors into Episode X. And if you don’t think we’re eventually getting a X-through-XII series, we don’t know what to tell you!
31. Lego Star Wars Holiday Special (2020)
This animated special is a joy to watch, even if it isn’t the holiday season.
Taking place post-Rise of Skywalker, the LEGO Star Wars show sees Rey and BB-8 travel throughout the saga, witnessing key moments and characters including Episode V’s Yoda and Luke and Episode VI’s Palpatine and Vader. Meanwhile, the likes of Finn, Rose, Poe and Chewie are preparing for Life Day on the Millennium Falcon.
32. Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales (2021)
And it’s a wrap on the Star Wars chronology – for now…
Complete your viewing by watching Lego Star Wars: Terrifying Tales which gives our favorite sequel trilogy characters a new adventure during Halloween.
After the events of Episode IX, Poe Dameron and BB-8 are told scary stories by Vader’s servant, Vaneé, including one that centers around Ben Solo’s turn into Kylo Ren; another about Darth Maul rising from the dead after The Phantom Menace; and one more that sees Luke Skywalker join the Empire and team up with Darth Vader.
These stories obviously don’t follow the canon and Star Wars cinematic universe but they do offer some fun!
There are indeed many conflicting theories about the chronology and different ways to watch all the Star Wars movies and TV shows.
Fans will argue about the “correct” timeline order, whether it’s in Episode Order, Machete Order or the Rogue One Order. But in the words of George Lucas – “Start with one. That’s the way to do it right: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, that’s the way they’re supposed to be done.”
You can’t argue with the Star Wars pioneer, right?
Let us know if you agree with our Star Wars movie and show timeline and if not, tell us what order you prefer to watch it in! And as always, ‘may the force be with you’.
This article was originally published in December 2019.