Star Wars: Flashback Method


Let me preface this by saying that A) I’ve been watching a lot of Star Wars lately and B) I’m completely aware of how geeky this discussion is- but I don’t care. I spend a lot of time thinking about a proper Star Wars viewing order. I spend a lot of time thinking about a proper Star Wars viewing order. That is… the correct way in which you should see the 6 Star Wars movies. Especially if you are a Star Wars virgin. For the uninitiated, the original 1977 Star Wars is episode 4.

I truly want to impart an optimal viewing experience onto a newbie. This is important to me. I want you to feel the same way I’ve felt for years. The wonder. The amazement. The unadulterated geekery. While it is impossible for a virgin (or anyone else who hasn’t seen it) to consume Star Wars in the same way I have, since so much of the fun is locked up in nostalgia, I do of course think anyone can still enjoy it. As long as they watch it properly.

***SPOILERS AHEAD*** If you are indeed a Star Wars newbie. Do not read any further. Contact me directly and I’ll set you on the path to the light side. It is your destiny. The following discussion is aimed at people who have seen all 6 movies and who are nerdy and brilliant enough to read on. ***SPOILERS AHEAD***

Up until a few days ago there was only one way to view these films. Original Trilogy (OT – Episodes 4, 5, & 6) first, Prequel Trilogy (PT – Episodes 1, 2, & 3) second. That’s it. No question. Watching them chronologically from Episode 1 to Episode 6 is simply out of the question. DO NOT try this. Horrible idea.

The OT is parsecs better than the prequels and will encourage any virgin to actually stick with it. These movies are all classics and not crushed under the weight of their special effects. They’re actual movies, not video games. Furthermore, the twists stay in tact. All the fun shit- like Luke finding out that Vader is his father or that the little green guy is actually the greatest Jedi ever- is not disrupted. And while I do think the prequels do have some merit, watching them first ruins all of this.

There is a distinct story-telling and special effects gap between the OT and the PT. Watching the originals first will make this transition less jarring. This is how the majority of people over 15 have seen Star Wars in the first place and it most likely still remains the best way to watch these movies. At least for a newbie. Besides, I submit that this is how Lucas intended it anyway. He could have started from the beginning if he wanted to. But he didn’t. The series is supposed to be non-linear… so why change it?

There is another. In doing a little research on the topic, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is in fact another viable way to watch the Star Wars films.

The Flashback Method. It goes like this… Watch A New Hope(4)/Empire(5), then flashback to Clones(2)/Sith(3). After Vader’s revelation that he is Luke’s pop, find out how it all went down via flashback. Then end on Vader’s redemption/Sidious’ demise in Jedi(6). Leave Phantom Menace(1) as an added bonus to go back and watch after it is all done. I honestly believe The Phantom Menace is a pointless movie and is not necessary to the story as a whole.

Yes this method essentially shortens the series to five films, but you’re basically trimming the fat. Most of the twists of the OT are preserved here I believe, with the exception of the Skywalker siblings being born at the end of Sith. (Luke and Leia were originally revealed to be brother and sister in Jedi) However, this revelation is simply moved up in the story. You know Anakin is Luke’s father, but when Padme announces she’s having twins in Sith, you’ll wonder who Luke’s twin is! Is it Han??? So it’s not spoiled, just relocated. Additionally, after the drama of Empire and Han’s imprisonment in a coffee table, he’ll be gone for two movies, which will only increase our concern as to what happens to our favorite scoundrel.

A recap:

Method 1 (Traditional)
456123 – Still the best way. OT first, PT second.

Method 2 (Flashback)
452361 – Pretty good option. Episodes 2 and 3 become a flashback.

Method 3 (Chronological)
123456 – Don’t even fucking try it.

The more I think about it, the more I love the flashback method. But I don’t know if I’d go through with recommending it to a newbie. Might only be a recommendation for Star Wars fans who are re-watching. Thoughts?

5 Comments

  1. Bryan March 15, 2010

    Flashback method is a great idea but when do you watch the Cone Wars animated feature?

  2. Greg Granito March 15, 2010

    Fair point. The Clone Wars animated movie, while feature length, should not be considered part of this discussion. The Star Wars theatrical story consists of the live-action movies. As such, The Clones Wars animated feature should be seen after Phantom Menace.

  3. Dave June 16, 2011

    I disagree with you on several points.
    1) Watching the movies chronilogically is not bad at all, and my personal favorite way to watch them. (however only if you have already seen them all)
    2) The Phantom Menace is not a pointless story at all, it shows Palpatine’s scheme from the beginning, gives the viewer more connection to Anakin (resulting in a much more emotional viewing of ep.3), and shows the council’s fears in Anakin, love for Padme, I could go on but I hope you get the point.
    3) You said that the viewer could still be wondering who Luke’s twin is, however at the end of ep. 3 Padme names Luke and Leia.

  4. Greg June 16, 2011

    Hey Dave, thanks for coming by. Let me answer each one of these here.

    1) This article was written for a complete Star Wars newbie. I’ll admit that watching the episodes chronologically does have it’s charms, but ONLY if you’ve seen it already. I would never suggest watching it that way on your maiden voyage. That method destroys many of the plot twists and pretty much ruins the experience.

    2) Perhaps I was a little hard on The Phantom Menace. There was A LOT wrong with TPM, but my childhood was not as completely ruined as it was when I saw say.. Indy 4. (midiclorians got close though) I didn’t hate young Anakin as much as everyone else seemed to. And you do make valid points. Therefore, an alternate version of the Flashback Method can be: 451236. You can watch The Phantom Menace as the first movie in the flashback.

    3) Let me clarify this one. In Empire, Yoda tells Obi-Wan (who already knows) that “There is another.” We’ve already met Luke and Leia, therefore when watching the scene at the end of Sith you are surprised to find out that Luke’s twin is Leia. Make sense? So this revelation is not really spoiled, it’s just rejiggered. We know one of the twins is Luke, but we spend the entire movie wondering who the other is.

  5. Bob Litton April 29, 2014

    why leave out ep 1. do the flaskbacks and just keep 1. still works. sure might not ad much but still doesn’t take anything away.

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