The new Star Wars movie, Episode 7, is coming out December 18th! Will your family be ready when the Force Awakens?
Our family has a few Star Wars fans, as you can tell from some of our photos over the years. For Halloween the kids were Jedi Knights, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia more than once. (The girls wore a Princess Leia costume I made in high school. Yes, we had to tape up the hem and make some other adjustments. I’m not that short.) There was even a three-dimensional R2-D2 birthday cake.
So you’d think we’d all be ready for the new movie. But while our son was eager to watch the Star Wars live action movies as soon as we thought he was old enough, our girls were happy just to watch the Clone Wars cartoons with their brother, they never had any interest in the seeing the Star Wars live action movies.
While all our kids started out as extremely sensitive movie viewers, we’ve really enjoyed going to see the Marvel Avenger movies as a family. So when we saw the trailer to Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens trailer when we went to see Tomorrowland, we knew we had to introduce the girls to all the movies.
And we wanted them to love them.
Among the three of us who were already Star Wars experts, ahem, we had a heated debate about what order we should watch them. Because let’s face it, the first movie released, a New Hope, even with updated special effects, seems a little cheesy now that movies have gotten so technical. But in the first episode, the Phantom Menace, Jar Jar Binks can be down-right ridiculous.
Just in case you aren’t as much of a Star Wars geek as we are, the original movies that were released first, were always numbered Episode IV, V, and VI (or 4, 5, and 6) in the master story George Lucas had planned out.
All writers always have backstory in mind, but maybe it was just a stroke of genius Lucas told everyone up front there was a back story.
After years of saying he would never make another movie, Episodes I, II, and III were finally made, to mixed reviews. Once again, we were told another would never be made, but when Star Wars sold to Disney, that changed!
So, if you or your kids have never watched the Star Wars movies, what order do you watch them?
Do you watch the Star Wars movies in order of release? IV, V, VI then I, II, III. (4, 5, 6, then 1, 2, 3)
Or do you watch the Star Wars Movie in chronological order of the story? I, II, III, IV, V, VI. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Duh.)
In true, Star Wars fan form, we think the original three Star Wars movies are still the best. (I’ll leave all point-by-point reviews and analysis of story line flaws for the mega fan sites.) So we decided to start out with the first movie produced, Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope. And we all agreed to to end with Episode VI the Return of the Jedi. This way you not only end on a positive note, you can move easily into the story of the new seventh movie that comes out in December, Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens.
We finally decided on the order Episode IV, I, II, III, V, VI. (That’s the original Star Wars movie, Star Wars – Episode IV A New Hope, first, followed by the prequels in order, and ending with the last two original movies. 4, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6.) If you want to see why we decided on that order and see a few tips on things to watch for if you have sensitive viewers, keep reading. Or if you want to just get a quick preview of what this order would be like, jump to the end of this post for trailers.
Circumstances meant we ended up altering our order. We started with 4, the original Star Wars A New Hope, and then went back to the prequels and watched Star Wars Episode 1 The Phantom Menace followed by Star Wars Episode 2 Attack of the Clones. But then we went back to the original set and watched Star Wars Episode 5 The Empire Strikes Back, before dropping back to Star Wars Episode 3 Revenge of the Sith. We concluded with Star Wars Episode 6 Return of the Jedi. So the order we watched was 4, 1, 2, 5, 3, 6. Got that?
And from our experience, I can definitely tell you the original order we decided on, the original 4, then back to 1, 2, 3 and then jumping back to 5, and ending with 6 would have been the best order. Below I’ll explain why we like that order. And I’ll mention some things that stood out to us, that you might think about before you show the series to younger or sensitive kids. Our kids are age 13 or above and love live action movies like the Avengers, though, so for a really comprehensive review of all of the things you might want to be aware of before you show the movies to younger kids, check out the complete Star Wars reviews on Common Sense Media.
We are glad we started out with Episode 4, because it introduces you to characters you can really care about. The girls weren’t really bothered by the older special effects (We have DVDs that aren’t original. They were remastered after the release of the second set of movies. Some things like laser fire were updated, which probably was an improvement. But some things, like Han Solo’s encounter with Jabba the Hutt were added in, but badly by today’s standards.) We did prepare them that the special effects wouldn’t be up what they’re used to seeing. We were watching a classic. We were also eager to explain to the kids how revolutionary these special effects were. These movies came out not long after my family got it’s first $80 calculator in 1975 and long before we got our first PC. (Our kids love to hear our stories of our life in the stone ages. Or maybe we just love to tell them.)
The skeletons of Luke’s aunt and uncle after the Storm Tropper attack, and an arm getting cut off an alien in the bar scene on Tattooine, seemed shockingly brutal, even to girls who have loved watching all the Avengers movies. So you might want to prepare younger kids for those scenes. The death of Obi-Wan didn’t really surprise or bother them. They’re used to “the old mentor” dying in books and movies. Anyway, the girls did get into the first, original Star Wars movie and were eager to see the rest. Whew!
The one thing we should have done first was asked the girls what they already knew about the movies, especially since they had watched The Clone Wars cartoon series when they were younger. It would have helped to explain some things from the start. They were constantly confused about Luke and Leia not knowing Darth Vader was their father. Apparently everybody knows that, why don’t Luke and Leia? And Leia kissing Luke in the Empire Strikes Back was REALLY disgusting. “THAT’S HER BROTHER!”
The very beginning of the movie confused them the most. They knew Darth Vader was a bad guy, but from watching the Clone Wars cartoons, they thought the Storm Troopers were good guys. Um, yeah. Not so much.
Going backwards next, to Episodes 1 and 2 worked well. It helped that the girls were familiar with the characters from the Clone Wars animated cartoon. But, they were really bothered by Anakin’s mother dying in 2, Attack of the Clones. Her death showed her in really brutal condition and is pretty disturbing. It becomes clear here that the newer episodes (1, 2, and 3) are more graphic than the original movies.
Circumstances meant we jumped back to Episode 5, the Empire Strikes Back, before watching Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith. Here is why we decided it was a bad idea. Watching the Empire Strikes back is when the girls started really enjoying the Star Wars movies.
That scene where Han Solo is descending into the carbonite chamber and Leia calls out “I love you,” and Han Solo answers, “I know,” plays just as well now as it did thirty years ago.
The girls found it hilarious.
Just before we watched the Empire Strikes Back, on the radio we happened to hear a clip of the lines, “I’m not afraid,” when Yoda answers, “Ahh. You will be. You. Will. Be.”
I had pointed it out to the girls when we heard it on the radio, so they had fun hearing the line in the movie.
These lines made me aware that there are lots of references to Star Wars in popular culture the girls will now recognize.
I remembered Han Solo’s torture scene in Cloud City as my absolute least favorite of all the Star Wars scenes and warned the girls when it was coming up. But I’ve watched a few more intense movies at this point, and so have they; it seemed pretty tame now. It turns out it’s only suggested, and then you hear Han Solo’s yells off screen, and see the after affects. (Which isn’t as bad as the after affects of the carbonite freezing in Return of the Jedi. Poor Han Solo really gets put through the ringer for Luke. No wonder he just wanted to take his reward money back to Jabba the Hutt and run!)
The girls were really interested in the characters and the story line at this point.
But then we ruined it all by going back to watch Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith. I was so disgusted by the graphic scenes I knew were included in this movie that I hadn’t watched it yet. So this was my first time to see it too. Anakin just isn’t a character you can root for in this movie. Obviously, the lava burn scene where Obi-Wan cuts off the legs of Anakin, his former pupil and friend, and then has to leave him for dead, is really disturbing. (I confess I still haven’t scene the scene in full. I watched it between my fingers and only took a quick peek accidentally.)
But even though the actual deaths weren’t shown, my girls were most upset Anakin killed all of the trusting and practically defenseless Jedi Younglings, children training to become Jedi Knights. The main purpose of this movie is to show you the Dark Side, and thus Darth Vader, were really, really bad. And it does show that, but it went to far.
I’m really hoping Disney will dial back the violence in The Force Awakens to the level in the original three movies. With that hope in mind, if you have really young or sensitive movie watchers, you might want to just skip Revenge of the Sith and just give your kids a summary.
Because when we jumped back to Return of the Jedi, my girls’ mood and enthusiasm was broken. Even though this is my favorite of the movies, they never got completely into it. That probably also confirms the critics’ choice of the Empire Strikes Back being the best of the original three movies. Be aware that if you don’t watch Revenge of the Sith, the Emperor causing Luke agonizing pain with blue bolts of electricity will probably seem brutal. (But after the lava burn scene, it was nothing. Plus, there are electric blue bolts in Episode 3 as well; it’s nothing new if you’ve already watched that one.)
If your kids are all excited about the hype surrounding the movie, but you don’t think they’re ready for the intensity of the live action movies, introduce them first to one of the cartoon series. When they were younger, my kids loved the Clone Wars cartoons. (My son wanted to start a cartoon marathon right after we finished the movies, but the girls didn’t want to put in the hours to watch 6 seasons!) I thought I was just going to do a quick mention of the cartoons, but as I looked, it’s a whole ‘nother post. And would to have to consult my local Star Wars animated expert to write it.
If your kids are ready for the live action Star Wars Movies, take my advice that I didn’t follow, and introduce your kids to Star Wars by showing them the movies in the following order.
Best Order to Show your Kids the Star Wars Movies
The best order to show your children the Star Wars Movies is Episodes 4, 1, 2, 3, 5, 6. But you might consider skipping Episode 3 altogether. (see above) Full names and trailers below.
Now the whole family will be up to speed and excited about seeing Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. If you can’t wait, here’s a sneak peek, a trailer (officially a teaser) for Star Wars 7.
There’s a popular list on the internet, called the Machete Order, that doesn’t include Episode 1 at all. The critics didn’t like it and long time Star Wars fans were disappointed in the movie. But I disagree with leaving it off the Star Wars movie viewing list. All my teens thoroughly enjoyed it. If you skip this movie, you’ll completely miss the Anakin pod racing scene and there’s a good chance if you have gamers in your family your kids have played some version of this in a video game, like in Lego Star Wars Nintendo Wii.
And Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn was one of my younger daughter’s favorite Star Wars characters. If you can get past the bits that probably annoyed you the first time you viewed it, you’ll enjoy the scenery and special effects as they’re spectacular in this movie. (If you click over to the Machete Order post, you can get an in-depth analysis of why uber-Star Wars fans have some gripes about Episodes 1-3, which I didn’t get into here. This post was long enough, wasn’t it?)
And if you didn’t get enough Star Wars here, check out the official Star Wars website.
UPDATE 11/18/2015: Looking for a Star Wars gift idea that encourages reading? Check out my post Encourage reading with Star Wars Force Friday! and the parent reviews of the new Star Wars middle grade novels at Reads4Tweens.
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