Next Friday sees the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which precedes the events of A New Hope, the original first Star Wars film. Years after we got the original trilogy, George Lucas filmed and released a second trilogy, which acted as prequels to the original films. That made it very easy to understand, as we all remember the first trilogy being labelled as movies IV, V, and VI. Getting I, II, and III made sense and everything was crystal clear.
However, at the end of 2015, we got film VII in the form of The Force Awakens and now we’re getting what is essentially film III.V (that’s 3.5 and I’m just trying to be clever with Roman numerals, which probably isn’t a good idea). It’s getting to be a little confusing with all the Star Wars films that are coming out and in the works, so I thought I’d take what we already have (including Rogue One) and compile it all into a clear cut timeline for everyone to understand.
I’ve decided to stick solely to films and TV shows. Yes, there are a veritable smorgasbord of original books, comics, short stories, video games, and more that are all considered canon in the Star Wars universe but that would quickly make this a very long and complicated journey to undertake. Instead, let’s list everything that allows you to plant your butt on a couch, enjoy some snacks, and take in as much of the Force as you can handle!
Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace
To kick off the current storyline we’ve been following, we need to head back to the origin of Darth Vader by meeting him as the young boy Anakin Skywalker. It is in this movie that he joins Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, as well as Queen Padmé Amidala, setting the stage for his training and ultimate love affiar with Amidala that would result in the birth of Luke and Leia. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Star Wars: Episode 2 – Attack of the Clones
Here we continue the story set in the first film. Anakin is deep into his training and he and Padmé begin to explore their strong feelings for one another. Additionally, the political backdrop is shifting and the Empire is beginning to come to power, all to the sound of, “…thundrous applause”
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
The 3D CGI animated series follows the events in the three-year span between the second and third films. Alternating between battle heavy sequences and diplomatic entreaties, the series has gone on for six seasons and focused on Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano, and Yoda.
Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith
The final film in the prequel trilogy, this is where everything crumbles and all hope seems lost. Anakin falls to the dark side, the Jedi are either slain or scattered to the wind, and the Empire rises to its full power using bloodshed and terror. This is also the film that saw the birth of Darth Vader and revealed Emperor Palpatine, two of the most iconic villains in the legacy of the Star Wars universe.
“Star Wars Rebels”
Yet another 3D CGI animated series, this one takes place 14 years after Revenge of the Sith and five years before A New Hope. It follows a crew of rebels aboard the freighter Ghost and their covert operations against the Empire. As of now, there are two complete seasons and a third is on the air.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Hailed as the first spin-off film (we’ll get to that later), Rogue One follows Jyn Erso as she attempts to get the plans of the Death Star for the rebellion. This is a plot that was mentioned but not given any real attention in A New Hope, so it acts as a means to fill a gap that has been around for decades. There is no confirmation on when the story takes place, but we do know that it is fairly close to the events of Episode IV.
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Here it is, the film that started it all. Released in 1977, it ignited a fandom that grows ever the more passionate with each passing year. At the rate it’s going, I’d honestly be surprised if the Star Wars universe ever stopped producing material for films.
This movie follows young Luke Skywalker as he teams with Obi-Wan Kenobi on a journey that will bring him against the Empire as well as on a path to meeting, and facing, Darth Vader. We also meet Princess Leia, Han Solo, and witness the devastating power of the Death Star, the terrifying feat of engineering that will see it’s inception in Rogue One.
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Widely considered by many to be the best film in Star Wars history, it’s also seen by many as the darkest. After a devastating blow to the Rebellion on the ice planet Hoth by the Empire, Luke goes to Dagobah to start his training with Yoda while Han and Leia attempt to drum up support and aid. We are also introduced to fan favorite Lando Calrissian, who runs Cloud City. The ending here is quite grim, so steel yourself.
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure
Alright, now we’re entering into some rather interesting territory. While Rogue One touts itself as the first spin-off in the Star Wars anthology, Caravan of Courage is the first true standalone film in the universe. After the disasterous Star Wars Holiday Special, which could be held as the first standalone film but, let’s be honest, should never be mentioned of or thought of under any circumstance, George Lucas made sure he had control over any ideas that were related to Star Wars, which is why this movie exists.
Based on a story from Lucas and written by Bob Carrau, Caravan of Courage follows the Towani family who become stranded on the forest moon of Endor. The mother and father are split from their children, who in turn become friends with the Ewoks (yes, Wicket makes his return here). Together, they go to face Gorax and save the children’s parents.
It’s not connected to the main characters we know in Star Wars lore, like Luke, Leia, Han, or any of those characters, but it still embraces the universe and all the potential it holds. It also allows us to see things from a new and fresh perspective.
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
Once again based on a story by George Lucas, Ewoks: The Battle for Endor was co-written and directed by Jim and Ken Wheat. This film starts off in a rather grim manner as we reunite with the Towanis only for the parents and son to be killed during a marauder raid. I’d go into greater detail but things get kinda weird and convoluted. On the plus side, it’s got Wilford Brimley.
If you liked the previous film, then you’ll probably enjoy this one, although you’ll be saddened by the opening. After all, who likes watching a young girl become an orphan?
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi
The conclusion of the original trilogy sees Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando come together for the final battle against the Empire! Well, not really as there’s a new trilogy… Whatever.
After the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope, the Empire is fast at work building a new mode that is orders of magnitude larger than the original. The Rebellion must end things once and for all, facing off not only against a fleet of Star Destroyers but also Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
The original trilogy continues with a new storyline and new characters. Here we follow Rey and Finn, one a lonely scavenger and the other a Stormtrooper who grew a conscience. Together, they manage to join the Rebellion and face off against Kylo Ren and the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke. Much like in episodes IV and VI, there is a massive weapon that has the ability to destroy planets with a single shot and it’s up to the Rebellion to put an end to the Empire’s tyrannical ways.
So there you have it! I’ll warn you that trying to watch all of these in order would take several days of nonstop viewing, so you’ll want to spread things out a little bit. Even Jedis need some rest, so, against the wise advice of Andrew W.K., don’t party TOO hard!
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