This Star Wars article contains major spoilers.
With Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker set to swoop into cinemas like a high-speed Millennium Falcon this Christmas, there’s never been a more pivotal moment to catch up on the iconic space opera that George Lucas created and Disney now manages. If you want to watch or rewatch the previous 10 films but don’t know where to start or in what order to watch all of the movies, check out the handy watch order below.
Note that we’ve also included a plot summary for each movie in case you don’t have time to watch them all. Either way, you’ll get caught up!
Alright, let’s kick things off:
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
If we’re doing this in narrative order, the overarching story of the Star Wars film franchise begins with The Phantom Menace: under the secret instruction of Darth Sidious (soon to also be Supreme Chancellor Palpatine of the Galactic Republic), the Trade Federation deploys a blockade around the peaceful world of Naboo, setting in motion a series of events that sees Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi escaping the planet with Queen Amidala and landing on Tatooine in search of spaceship parts.
Here they meet a fatherless young slave named Anakin Skywalker, who helps the Jedi earn the money they need to fix their ship by winning an epic pod race. Qui-Gon barters for the freedom of Anakin, whose off-the-charts Midi-chlorian count could signal that Anakin is a prophesied Chosen One that will bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon intends to train Anakin in the ways of the Jedi, but the job ends up falling to Obi-Wan after Qui-Qon is killed in combat with Sidious’ apprentice, Darth Maul. There is also a space battle that Anakin plays a part in, and a land battle that Gungan comedic foil Jar Jar Binks somehow survives.
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
Ten years later, Anakin and Obi-Wan are dispatched to aid Padme Amidala again, after an attempt is made on the queen-turned-senator’s life. Anakin escorts Padme to Naboo, where the pair discover their forbidden love for one another, while Obi-Wan investigates Padme’s would-be assassin and uncovers an enormous conspiracy – an army for the Republic has been created in secret, with cloners from Kamino basing a huge number of Clone Troopers on the genetic blueprint of a bounty hunter named Jango Fett, the father of Boba Fett.
Obi-Wan battles Jango Fett, continues following leads, and eventually gets captured by Count Dooku, who is organizing a Separatist movement to go to war with the Republic. After taking a detour to Tatooine to discover that his mother has been killed (and promptly taking murderous revenge on a community of Sandpeople), Anakin travels with Padme to rescue Obi-Wan on the planet Geonosis, where Darth Sidious is secretly building the Death Star.
The rescue goes terribly, as Anakin and Padme are also captured, but Yoda and Mace Windu arrive with the Clone Army to save our heroes from the clutches of the Separatist’s droid army. During the first battle of what will become the Clone Wars, Windu beheads Jango and Anakin gets a hand chopped off in a duel with Count Dooku. He gets a robot replacement fitted in time to secretly marry Padme.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Three years later, after the events of The Clone Wars TV series, Anakin and Obi-Wan rescue Supreme Chancellor Palpatine from a Separatist battleship during a battle over Republic capital city-planet Coruscant. Egged on by Palpatine, Anakin chops off Count Dooku’s head. Upon his return to Coruscant, Anakin learns that Padme is pregnant and he begins to have visions of her dying in childbirth.
Obi-Wan heads off on a mission to defeat General Grievous, the only Separatist general left, while Palpatine makes his move to solidify his power and turn Anakin to the dark side. Revealing his true nature as a Sith Lord, Palpatine tempts Anakin with the power to save Padme from death. Anakin gives Darth Sidious up to Mace Windu, but when it comes down to it, he stops Windu from killing Palpatine, saving the Dark Lord of the Sith. Palpatine uses his Force lightning to launch Windu out of a window to his death. Anakin agrees to become Palpatine’s apprentice, earning the cool Sith name Darth Vader.
Palpatine executes Order 66, which forces the Clone Troopers to turn on the Jedi and kill them. Anakin, along with a platoon of Clone Troopers, invade the Jedi Temple and slaughter all the Jedi inside, even the younglings. Meanwhile, the attack on Palpatine has gained him more power through fear, and he annoints himself the first Emperor of the new Galactic Empire.
Yoda takes the fight to Palpatine on the Sentate floor, while Obi-Wan travels to the volcano planet of Mustafar to try and sort Anakin out, but the good guys fail in both cases. Before the climactic duel between master and former apprentice, Padme tries to convince Anakin to give up his reign of terror but he Force chokes her. Obi-Wan defeats Anakin in a duel, amputating most of his limbs with one swing of his lightsaber, and the young Sith apprentice begins to burn in lava. But the Emperor is able to retrieve Vader’s body before it’s too late.
Having lost the will to live, Padme dies giving birth to twins – Luke and Leia. Vader, meanwhile, is told by Palpatine that he killed Padme in a rage. Palpatine, having fully turned Vader to his side, begins working on the Death Star and building up his Empire. To keep the Skywalker babies off the radar, baby Leia is sent to live with Senator Bail Organa on Alderaan while Luke is sent to the Lars homestead on Tatooine.
Solo: A Star Wars Story
More than 10 years on from Palpatine’s successful grab for power, a young orphan named Han is a footsoldier for the Empire during a mucky battle on the planet Mimban (from the first expanded universe Star Wars novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye). He runs into a group of crooks who are pretending to be soldiers, including Woody Harrelson’s Tobias Beckett. Han gets arrested for desertion and is chucked into a cell with an angry Wookiee named Chewbacca. The pair escape together and become best buds. Beckett welcomes the duo into his gang for a big fuel-stealing job, which is interrupted by a freedom fighter named Enfys Nest.
Having lost out on the fuel shipment, Beckett now owes a debt to a Crimson Dawn crime boss named Dryden Vos, who just so happens to have Han’s old flame Qi’ra in his employ. Qi’ra introduces Han to Lando Calrissian, who joins the gang (and brings the Millennium Falcon with him) to steal another load of fuel from the mines on Kessel. Han later kills Beckett in a sci-fi version of a Mexican standoff. Qi’ra, having killed Dryden in a last minute betrayal to save Han’s life, sticks with Crimson Dawn and has an ominous hologram chat with Darth Maul, the real leader of the crime organization, while Han wins the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a card game and heads off to Tatooine with Chewie in search of a lucrative job.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
After the events of the Star Wars Rebels TV series, we learn that an Imperial scientist named Galen Erso deliberately built a flaw into the Empire’s Death Star superweapon. Years after being separated from her family, Galen’s daughter Jyn is saved from an Imperial labor camp by Rebel Alliance spy Cassian Andor. She is recruited by the Rebellion to help learn more about the Death Star, and she ultimately finds the all-important plans on the planet Scarif. Jyn and her friends are killed trying to steal the plans to the Imperial doomsday weapon, and Darth Vader murders a lot of people trying to get them back, but the plans manage to make it all the way to Princess Leia aboard an iconic little spaceship called the Tantive IV.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Mere moments after Rogue One‘s dramatic ending, Leia puts the Death Star’s plans in R2-D2 and sends the little droid off with C-3PO in an escape pod to Tatooine. The droids are instructed to take a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi, but they end up getting captured by Jawas and purchased by Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker‘s uncle.
When Artoo escapes to complete his mission, Luke is forced to go after him, only to get caught by those pesky Sandpeople. Fortunately, Luke and his droids are saved by old Ben Kenobi, a hermit who lives out in the desert. Obi-Wan, deciding it’s time to tell Luke the truth about his father, gifts the young farmer Anakin’s lightsaber. Meanwhile, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are killed by Stormtroopers, so Luke joins Obi-Wan in his quest to bring the Death Star plans to Alderaan on Leia’s instruction. They meet Han and Chewie in a Mos Eisley local cantina, but by the time they reach Alderaan, Leia’s homeworld has been blown up by the Death Star.
The gang have no choice but to infiltrate the deadly space station, with Obi-Wan having one final rematch with Vader while everyone else rescues Leia and makes off in the Millennium Falcon. Obi-Wan is killed but continues to offer advice to Luke through the magic of the Force, even prompting him to turn off his targeting computer in the film’s final action scene, a last-ditch Rebel attack on the Death Star, which enables Luke to blow up the the superweapon and put a major thorn in the Emperor’s side. Everyone gets a medal except Chewie. (It’s revealed in a later Marvel comic that Chewie did get a medal off-screen.)
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Three years later, Luke and the gang are hiding out in a Rebel base on Hoth, which is promptly attacked by loads of Imperial forces. Before the battle, Luke receives a ghostly message from Obi-Wan, who tells him to seek out Yoda on the planet Dagobah. Once all the Rebels escape the Imperial invasion, Luke does just that, receiving some Jedi training from the Jedi Master and having a spooky encounter with a vision of Vader in a Force cave.
Meanwhile, Han and Leia, trying to evade the Imperial forces in pursuit of the Millennium Falcon, head to Cloud City in the hope that Lando will give them some assistance. Unfortunately, The Empire got to Cloud City first, and the gang are captured by Vader and his forces. Han is frozen in carbonite and taken to his former employer Jabba the Hutt by Boba Fett because there was a big bounty on his head.
Luke skips out on Yoda to save his friends, leading to a showdown in Cloud City where Vader chops off Luke’s arm and reveals that he’s his dad. There’s a resounding sense that the baddies have won this round, with Luke and Leia looking out glumly at the galaxy just before the credits roll.
Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Just a year after the events on Cloud City, Luke, Leia, Lando, and Chewie stage an elaborate plan to save Han from Jabba’s palace, which ends with Boba Fett being eaten by the Sarlacc pit and Jabba being choked to death. Luke then returns to Dagobah, where he witnesses Yoda’s death and learns that Leia is his sister.
The Rebels discover that a new Death Star is under construction, so they head to the forest moon of Endor to switch off its shield generator. They team up with some native Ewoks in a skirmish with Imperial forces.
The film ramps up to a third-act confrontation on the Death Star between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor, which ends with Anakin turning back to the light and chucking Palpatine into the space station’s core. Before dying, Vader takes off his helmet to look at his son’s face with his own eyes.
With the shield generator switched off, the Rebel fleet blows up the second Death Star and the Emperor is defeated. A party is thrown around the campfires of Endor, and even the ghost of Anakin turns up (although the actor will vary depending on which version you’re watching).
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Thirty years after the fall of the Empire at Endor, Han and Leia’s Force-sensitive son, Ben Solo, has turned to the dark side under the tutelage of a new big bad named Supreme Leader Snoke. Ben becomes Kylo Ren and Snoke’s revamped version of the Empire returns as the First Order. At the start of the movie the First Order already boasts a lot of firepower as well as a massive new Death Star equivalent called Starkiller Base. The First Order pretty much solidifies its power by the second act when it uses Starkiller Base to blow up the Hosnian system, taking out the capital of the New Republic in the process.
A Force-sensitive scavenger named Rey joins forces with a runaway Stormtrooper named Finn on the desert planet Jakku before bumping into Han Solo and making her way to meet Leia and join up with the Resistance in their fight against the First Order. Ultimately, Rey duels Kylo while Finn and Han infiltrate Starkiller Base to lower its shields, giving dashing pilot Poe Dameron a chance to blow up the superweapon. At the very end of the film, Rey follows a space map — the movie’s McGuffin — which leads her to Ahch-To, the remote hideaway of exiled Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
Picking up seconds later, The Last Jedi opens with Luke receiving his lightsaber from Rey and chucking it off the edge of a cliff. Reluctantly, Luke evenutally agrees to train Rey and reveals what led him into hiding – years ago, Luke sensed the pull of the dark side within Ben and felt the urge to kill his troubled nephew in his sleep. But Ben woke up and slaughtered his fellow students and burned down Luke’s temple in retaliation. We also see Kylo communicating with Rey through the Force, with Snoke encouraging this connection. At one point, Kylo is caught with his top off.
Meanwhile, First Order Star Destroyers are hot on the heels of the Resistance fleet. Poe and Leia have a falling out, and it is ultimately Admiral Holdo who saves the Resistance by sacrificing herself so the other can escape to the nearby planet Crait, the location of an old Rebel stronghold. During this time, Finn and Resistance engineer Rose Tico are dispatched to Canto Bight on a mission to find a tech whiz who can deactivate a tracking device, which would allow the Resistance to jump to hyperspace without fear of being followed. They find a chap named DJ, who betrays them later on Snoke’s capital ship.
The narrative strands then start coming together. There is a brief team-up between Rey and Kylo, with the latter killing Snoke before claiming control of the First Order. Eventually, a visit from Yoda’s ghost spurs a reluctant Luke into action. The resurgent Jedi Master projects himself across the galaxy to confront Kylo during a battle on Crait, which buys the remaining Resistance fighters enough time to escape on the Millennium Falcon. This use of the Force drains Luke’s life energy, though, killing him. Our last look at Luke is him disappearing and becoming a Force ghost as Ben and Yoda once did.
Now, the question is what will happen when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on Dec. 20? How will the movie tie up the entire Skywalker Saga together? We’ve made some predictions.