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What order to watch the 'Star Wars' movies? That's up for debate

It was Memorial Day weekend 1977 when Star Wars took our sanity and changed both moviemaking and our movie-going experience.

As Friday approaches and we prepare to lose our minds again with the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams, it may be trilogy time in your household. It's time to refresh your memory, or just bask in the Star Wars lore so you can join the debate about whether Abrams ruined it.

THE STORES AWAKEN: Is Star Wars making merchandise or is merchandise making Star Wars?

After 1999, when George Lucas started releasing the prequels, that left us with the option of picking in what order to watch the films.

The obvious answer would be the order in which they appeared in theaters, but as with all things Star Wars, there is debate among fans. Here are your options if you plan to invest in trilogy time.

Release date

The simple viewing order would be the release dates, but note that the first movie that appeared in theaters gets the fourth number in the trilogy tales: Episode IV: A New Hope (1977); Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980); Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983); Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999); Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002); Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

Anakin's story

Lucas has said that the Star Wars saga is about Anakin Skywalker. His rise, fall and redemption make him a tragic hero. So watch the films in the order the events happened in the Star Wars universe by starting with Phantom Menace (I) then II, III, IV, V, VI.

The Machete option

This was named after a blog called Absolutely No Machete Juggling, where superfan Rod Hilton wrote a blog post about the "proper" order and it went viral. It was even cited in an episode of the hit CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory. Geek comedian Patton Oswalt said watching in the Machete Order "becomes this amazing emotional journey."

The Machete Order puts the prequels in the middle. You begin with the original 1977 New Hope, and then The Empire Strikes Back, but then you jump to the prequel backstory of how Anakin became Darth Vader and return to the cliffhanger left by Empire when Han Solo is frozen in carbonite, and Vader has been revealed as Luke's father. The Machete Order is: IV, V, II, III, VI.

Notice something missing? The Machete Order skips what Hilton calls the "utter train wreck" Episode I, so it greatly limits Jar Jar Binks. Any plot point you missed is explained in the first few minutes of the crawl at the beginning of Episode II.

"Luckily, George Lucas has done everyone a favor by making the content of Episode I completely irrelevant to the rest of the series," Hilton wrote.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at swynne@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8595. Follow @SharonKWn.

What order to watch the 'Star Wars' movies? That's up for debate 12/09/15 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 9, 2015 5:33pm]
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