Here’s the best of the Star Wars universe, in the order you should take it in:
The original trilogy (Disney Plus)
What better way to start a Star Wars binge than the original (and still the best) trilogy? “Episode IV: A New Hope,” “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” and “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.” From the destruction of the Death Star to “I am your father,” the classics have aged well.
The first two prequels (Disney Plus)
The prequels were far from universally loved, even for the most die-hard Star Wars fans, but the success of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” — the animated series that takes place between episodes II and III — has shined a light on the richness of their universe-building. Watch “Episode I” (for podracing and the greatest live action lightsaber duel of all, among Darth Maul, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn) and “Episode II” (for the creation of the “clones” and the incredible CGI/live-action fusion of Yoda vs. Count Dooku). But before you dive into Episode III, you have to treat yourself to …
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” (Disney Plus)
If you’ve been putting off this series because you think animation can’t compete with live-action when it comes to Star Wars, you’re selling yourself short. There are spectacular lightsaber battles, cool clone soldiers (no two are alike) and the most heroic take on Anakin Skywalker.
The prequels only had time to show Anakin as a wonder kid (Episode I), a brat in love (Episode II) and a tragically gullible pawn (Episode III). In “The Clone Wars,” now in Season 7, there are hints of his fall, and yes, he’s got a temper, but he’s nothing short of legendary for more than 100 episodes. We also are introduced to Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s Padawan learner who has become one of the most popular Star Wars characters ever.
There may be nothing in the Star Wars canon as thought-provoking and captivating as this series, and to experience it you must consume it all (if you’re one of the few true fans who hasn’t).
“Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (Disney Plus)
Tragic love. The fall from grace. Anakin Skywalker vs. Obi-Wan Kenobi. And the birth of a legend: Darth Vader begins here.
“Star Wars Rebels” (Disney Plus)
“Rebels,” which takes place five years before “Episode IV: A New Hope,” is another (of multiple) animated “Star Wars” options on Disney Plus. While perhaps not as acclaimed as “Clone Wars,” the series still has can’t-miss moments, particularly Season 2’s final episode, which features a lightsaber duel between the no-longer-a-kid Ahsoka and her former Jedi master Anakin, who has been Darth Vader for quite a while at this point. If you only watch one “Rebels” episode, this is the one.
“Rogue One” (Disney Plus)
It doesn’t matter if you think “Rogue One,” a movie that ends just before the opening moments of “Episode IV,” succeeded as a Star Wars stand-alone or not. It ends with Darth Vader’s greatest moment on film. Don’t resist the urge to watch it multiple times.
“Solo” showed fan favorite Darth Maul’s brief return to the Star Wars live-action cinematic universe after his death in “Episode I,” a feat made possible by his rebirth on “Clone Wars.” Darth Maul fans can only watch and wonder what might have been if sequels had followed.
Still, this is the origin story of a Star Wars legend (Han Solo). And Donald Glover is great as Lando. The film is worth a stream, which will have to be done on Netflix until July 8 (it then moves to Disney Plus).
The comics (Marvel Comics app and ComiXology)
After humble beginnings at Marvel Comics and then two decades at Dark Horse, Star Wars returned to Marvel comics in 2015, with tales taking place after the destruction of the Empire’s Death Star. The run lasted for 75 issues, with contributions from writers Jason Aaron, Kieron Gillen, Greg Pak and a slew of talented artists. Highlights include issue No. 4, which features Darth Vader’s emotional return to Tatooine, and No. 21, with the lightsaber-wielding Sgt. Kreel and his elite squad of stormtroopers.
Marvel’s current Star Wars series, which began in January, takes place after Luke Skywalker learns Darth Vader is his father. There are other series exploring some of Star Wars greatest evil figures, including Darth Vader, Darth Maul and Kylo Ren, who’s represented in a recent miniseries by Charles Soule and Will Sliney.
“The Mandalorian” (Disney Plus)
Baby Yoda, bounty hunters and coming soon … a live-action Ahsoka Tano. Taking place after the fall of the Empire, “The Mandalorian” is the next generation of live-action Star Wars storytelling with vibes of the Wild West merging with deep space. And the arrival of Baby Yoda has proved this series is anything but predictable.
“The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi” (Disney Plus) and “The Rise of Skywalker” (iTunes, Amazon and other on-demand platforms)
“The Force Awakens” gave us the secret reveal of the next generation of Jedi, plus Darth Vader’s moody grandson Kylo Ren and the cuteness of BB-8. “The Last Jedi,” while polarizing, is the gem of this trilogy, even with its grump take on Luke Skywalker.
As for “The Rise of Skywalker,” you can purchase it now, but why spend those Republic credits ($20)? The Force tells us to do the smart thing and just wait for it to arrive on Disney Plus (and maybe it’ll even arrive earlier than you think, the way “Frozen 2” just did). “Rise” is eventually worth a re-watch for Kylo Ren, who’s still intriguing despite his predictable character turn, and Rey’s path of self-discovery at the end. This trilogy didn’t exactly end with the most surprising of bangs but at least Rey ended up with one really cool new lightsaber.