From Saga Order to Tarantino Style: Choose your own Star Wars adventure on Blu-ray

Today, all six live-action Star Wars movies are released on Blu-ray around the world – except for those of us in the United States. We have to wait until Friday.

Despite my objection to one of the latest revisions, I am still excited to obtain Star Wars: The Complete Saga Blu-ray set. There is too much content for a few seconds to ruin.

Rather than going the marathon route, I will be watching these at the rate of about one movie a week. Not only does this approach prolong the fun, but it also allows time for multiple viewings of each film and its associated bonus materials.

After more consideration than I care to admit, I have finally decided what order to watch the movies in for the first time on Blu-ray.

Star Wars creator George Lucas recommends that the movies be watched in Saga Order. This means you watch them sequentially in terms of the story:

  1. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (first released 1999)
  2. Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (2002)
  3. Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
  4. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  5. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  6. Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (1983)

Saga Order is a tried and true approach, one that I have often followed in the past.

Another school of thought is to watch them in Release Order. This means you watch them in the sequence in which they were originally produced:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (1983)
  4. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  5. Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (2002)
  6. Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005)

As someone who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s, I strongly favor the Original Trilogy (episodes IV, V, and VI) over the Prequel Trilogy (episodes I, II, and III). I love the prequels, but definitely at a different level compared to the originals.

Saga Order does not work for me, then, as it puts off the original trilogy far too long. I just do not have that kind of patience. Besides, I do not want my first exposure to Star Wars on Blu-ray to be The Phantom Menace. While I do not harbor hatred towards it like some Star Wars fans, The Phantom Menace is certainly the weakest of the six movies.

This seems to leave Release Order, which front-loads the Original Trilogy and is obviously (for the most part) the order in which I first watched these movies anyway. However, this feels way too much like eating dessert first since I would be watching my favorite trilogy in its entirety right up front.

Instead, I am going to use a third viewing order. I first read about this several years ago on StarWars.com‘s now-extinct message boards. It is called Tarantino Order.

To comprehend it, you must first understand that filmmaker Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and, incidentally, none of the Star Wars movies) often presents non-linear stories in his movies. In other words, his movies do not always show the events in the order in which they happened.

As an example, here is how the main story events of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction appear in the film:

1.) The Diner (Part 1)
2.) Vincent & Jules
3.) Mia & Vincent
4.) The Gold Watch–Butch & Captain Koons
5.) The Gold Watch–Marsellus & Butch
6.) The Bonnie Situation
7.) The Diner (Part 2)

Rearranged chronologically, though, the events would actually flow like this:

4.) The Gold Watch–Butch & Captain Koons
2.) Vincent & Jules
6.) The Bonnie Situation
1.) The Diner (Part 1)
7.) The Diner (Part 2)
3.) Mia & Vincent
5.) The Gold Watch–Marsellus & Butch

For more details on the Pulp Fiction chronology, check out James Skemp’s excellent Pulp Fiction: A Timeline of the Events of the Movie” over on his StrivingLife blog.

For Pulp Fiction, it is obvious that Tarantino’s non-linear style served the film well. Short of having Mace Windu misquote Ezekiel 25:17 before killing Jango Fett, how could Star Wars be presented Tarantino Style?

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  2. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  3. Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (2002)
  4. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  5. Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
  6. Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (1983)

From a personal perspective, it allows me to begin with the movie that started it all. From a story perspective, A New Hope is the best choice to set up the saga. It explains the Force without being overly cumbersome and is one of the best movies of all time, even as a standalone film.

Though Anakin’s darker side begins to surface in Attack of the Clones, it is not enough to ruin the major revelation of The Empire Strikes Back. The high-octane Revenge of the Sith works well near the conclusion of the viewing order and Return of the Jedi is preserved as the final installment of the saga.

Unfortunately, even Tarantino Order is not perfect for Lucas’ tangled web, as The Phantom Menace introduces Yoda — ruining a fun but not overly important surprise in The Empire Strikes Back.

The major revelation of Return of the Jedi is also lost, due to the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith. Some have suggested resolving this by watching all of Revenge of the Sith just after Luke’s scene on Dagobah in Return of the Jedi and then resuming the rest of Return of the Jedi, but that idea just is not as clean to me as the above.

This will actually be the first time I have used Tarantino Order, but I think it will perfectly serve up my first viewings of the Star Wars Blu-rays.

* * *

While we wait for Friday to arrive in the US, here are a couple more preview trailers for Star Wars on Blu to tide us over.

Star Wars Blu-ray: Every Moment

Star Wars Blu-ray: Galaxies

For even more, see StarWars.com’s The Complete Saga On Blu-ray section.

No matter which order you watch them in, have fun with the Star Wars saga!


September 15 Update: Just when I thought I had my Star Wars on Blu-ray order all sorted out, I have found a fourth valid sequence. On his I Am Your Father blog, bbarton72 proposes Flashback Order:

  1. Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  3. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  4. Episode II: Attack Of The Clones (2002)
  5. Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith (2005)
  6. Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi (1983)

This approach is similar to both Tarantino Order and Release Order, but places the entire prequel trilogy as an extended flashback between The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi. This allows A New Hope to begin the saga, keeps all of The Empire Strikes Back‘s reveals, deals with the prequel flashbacks all at once, and retains Return Of The Jedi as the ultimate conclusion to the saga.

Since both Tarantino Order and Flashback Order begin with A New Hope, I do not have to make a final decision until next week. Right now, I am leaning strongly towards Flashback Order. Decisions, decisions.