Everybody wants to be Marvel. Universal wants to be Marvel. Sony wants to be Marvel. DC really, really wants to be Marvel. Disney, who owns Marvel, now wants Star Wars to be Marvel as well. In doing so, however, they’re hoping we forget that Star Wars was already Marvel before even Marvel was Marvel. The “cinematic universe” may be Hollywood’s newest favorite con game, but the concept has existed for decades, and Star Wars has utilized it almost since its inception. Forget about “canon” and all that meaningless promotional jargon, and let’s use the remaining two months before The Force Awakens hits theaters to catch up on the cinematic story presented so far, because it’s not like you have anything better to do.
The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones
Anyone who’s never seen a Star Wars movie would do themselves a major disservice by watching them in George Lucas’s preferred chronological order rather than starting with the original trilogy. But since no such person exists, we’ll assume anyone reading this has already seen those movies and is less interested in a thrilling cinematic experience than in a grueling slog through the gutters of continuity. And what more appropriate place to begin!
Star Wars: Clone Wars Volume One
Genndy Tartakovsky, creator of such cartoons as Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack, lent his unique style to the Star Wars universe in 2003 when Lucasfilm hired him to create a series of 20 three-minute animated shorts to chronicle the events between Episodes II and III. Notable for introducing such characters as Asajj Ventress and General Lou Grievous, the first two seasons were edited into a 69-minute feature. Unfortunately, that DVD is now out of print, but if you can watch only one hyper-stylized children’s cartoon about the Clone Wars, this is the one to go with. Or you could do something cool and read the new Twilight book instead.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Animated Movie and TV Series
Star Wars: The Clone Wars, not to be confused with Star Wars: Clone Wars, followed in the footsteps of its spiritual predecessor by telling anthology stories about various characters during the Clone Wars. It focused most frequently on Anakin Skywalker’s newly introduced apprentice, kid-appeal-girl-power-Rule-34 character Ahsoka Tano. The Clone Wars ran for 121 episodes across six seasons, preceded by a theatrically released animated film that was actually four separate episodes glued together and therefore sucked.
For no discernible reason, the show’s episodes (now available on Netflix) were produced and aired wildly out of chronological order, leaping back and forth across the Clone Wars timeline. The correct narrative sequence is as follows:
Season 2, Episode 16
Season 1, Episode 16
Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 animated movie)
Season 3, Episodes 1 and 3
Season 1, Episodes 1–15 and 17–21
Season 2, Episodes 1–3, 17–19, 4–14, and 20–22
Season 3, Episodes 5–7, 2, 4, and 8
Season 1, Episode 22
Season 3, Episodes 9–11
Season 2, Episode 15
Season 3, Episodes 12–22
Season 4, Episodes 1–22
Season 5, Episodes 2–13, 1, 14–20
Season 6, Episodes 1–13
Star Wars: The Clone Wars Legacy
The Clone Wars Legacy is a series of eight unfinished episodes intended to air in future seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars before it was canceled following Disney’s acquisition of the franchise. Existing only as rough story reel animatics, the following episodes were released on StarWars.com as the official continuation of the Clone Wars storyline: “A Death on Utapau,” “In Search of the Crystal,” “Crystal Crisis,” “The Big Bang,” “The Bad Batch,” “A Distant Echo,” “On the Wings of Keeradaks,” and “Unfinished Business.”
Star Wars: Clone Wars Volume Two
The third season of Genndy Tartakovsky’s Clone Wars cartoon consisted of five 12-minute episodes depicting the events immediately leading into Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Like the first two seasons, it was also edited into an hour-long film, which is now also excitingly out of print!
Revenge of the Sith
According to the commercial prophecy, the dark side does something dark.
Droids: The Adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO
A kickass 1985 cartoon that, along with a Marvel comic series, a Dark Horse comic series, and various children’s storybooks, chronicled the adventures of R2-D2 and C-3PO in between Episodes III and IV. An obscure Spanish picture book revealed the correct chronological order of the series, not that it really matters. The earliest episode is the 48-minute special “The Great Heep,” followed by episodes 10–13, 5–9, and 1–4. Tragically, Lucasfilm has only released a handful of select episodes on DVD, cobbled together into Frankenstein features with no plot or pacing. Worst of all, they don’t even include the opening theme.
Star Wars: Rebels Shorts
Currently airing on Disney XD, the cartoon series Star Wars: Rebels was preceded by four animated shorts that introduced and established several of the show’s main characters. In chronological order, the shorts are “The Machine in the Ghost,” “Art Attack,” “Entanglement,” and “Property of Ezra Bridger.”
Star Wars: Rebels Animated Movies and TV Series
Set five years before Episode IV, Rebels tells the story of the formative days of the Rebel Alliance through a new cast of characters, including Freddie Prinze, Jr., as a Jedi Knight and Jason Isaacs as Admiral Zhao. Despite the timeframe difference, it features multiple returning characters from The Clone Wars, as well as much of the same creative team. Following the aforementioned shorts, Rebels kicked off in 2014 with the TV movie Spark of Rebellion, which led into the show’s first season. Season two, which premiered in October 2015, was preceded by a second film, The Siege of Lothal.
A New Hope
The Star Wars Holiday Special
The most infamous entry on this list, the Holiday Special was a feature-length made-for-TV variety show that aired the year after the original Star Wars was released in theaters. Featuring the first appearance of Boba Fett, musical numbers performed by both Bea Arthur and Princess Leia, Harvey Korman cosplaying as a four-armed Julia Child, and Chewbacca’s mentally infirm father watching softcore porn, this is the most highly respected film ever released in the Star Wars canon. For some baffling reason it has never officially been made available on home video, but if you’re a true fan you won’t let that stop you.
The Empire Strikes Back
“Empire committed the cardinal sin of not actually ending. Which at the time I was appalled by and I still think it was a terrible idea. . . . I go to movies expecting to have a whole experience. If I want a movie that doesn’t end I’ll go to a French movie. That’s a betrayal of trust to me.”
~ Joss Whedon, television auteur/voice of feminism
The sister show to Droids, Ewoks aired for 35 episodes over two seasons and at long last revealed the highly anticipated back story to all the memorable Ewok characters in Return of the Jedi. Follow along on their mystical adventures as they battle a witch, run afoul of swamp hillbillies, befriend giants, and learn sorcery from their tribe’s elderly shaman. Oh and in the series finale the Galactic Empire shows up to build a Death Star or something but who’d be interested in that?
The Ewok Movies
Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, released in 1984 and 1985 respectively, are a duo of made-for-TV movies that tell the surprisingly dark story of the Towani family, whose spaceship crashes on the Forest Moon of Endor. It’s like The Swiss Family Robinson in space, except a lot more depressing. I don’t even remember if these movies are actually any good, but the second one co-stars the guy from the Liberty Medical diabetes commercials, so that probably makes them worth a trip to your local Blockbuster. Oh . . . wait, no.
Return of the Jedi
At last, the long-awaited conclusion to the saga of the Ewoks. Also featuring a brief cameo appearance by Luke Starkiller or somebody like that.