Is Episode 1 of Star Wars the First Movie?

When it comes to the Star Wars franchise, there is often confusion about which movie is considered the first. Many fans assume that the original 1977 film, titled “Star Wars” (later retitled “Episode IV: A New Hope”), is the first movie in the series. However, there is actually another film that precedes it: “Episode I: The Phantom Menace.”

The Release Order vs. The Chronological Order

To understand why there is confusion about which Star Wars movie is considered the first, it’s important to distinguish between two different orders in which the films can be viewed: the release order and the chronological order.

The release order refers to the order in which the movies were initially released in theaters. In this order, the original trilogy (“A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “Return of the Jedi”) was released first, followed by a prequel trilogy (“The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith”). Finally, a sequel trilogy (“The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi,” and “The Rise of Skywalker”) was released decades later.

On the other hand, chronological order refers to the internal timeline of events within the Star Wars universe. In this order, Episode I takes place before all of the other movies (including “A New Hope”), followed by Episodes II and III (which take place before the original trilogy), then Episodes IV-VI (the original trilogy), and finally Episodes VII-IX (the sequel trilogy).

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

So why is it that many fans overlook Episode I as being the first movie in chronological order? For one thing, it was released more than 20 years after “A New Hope” hit theaters. Additionally, many fans were disappointed by aspects of Episode I upon its release – particularly its portrayal of the much-maligned character Jar Jar Binks.

However, it’s worth taking a closer look at Episode I to appreciate its place in the Star Wars universe. The movie introduces audiences to Anakin Skywalker (who will later become Darth Vader), as well as several other important characters and concepts that play a significant role in later films. We also get our first glimpse of the Jedi Order and the Sith, which are central to the Star Wars mythology.

The Importance of Chronological Order

While it’s certainly possible to enjoy the Star Wars movies in release order, many fans argue that watching them in chronological order provides a more complete and satisfying viewing experience. For one thing, it allows viewers to follow the story arc of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in a more cohesive way – something that is especially important given his central role in the franchise.

Watching Episode I before “A New Hope” also provides context for certain events and relationships within the original trilogy. For example, we learn that Obi-Wan Kenobi was once Anakin’s mentor, which adds weight to their final confrontation in “A New Hope.” Additionally, seeing how Anakin began his journey to becoming Darth Vader helps us understand why Luke Skywalker is so determined to redeem him.


In conclusion, while many fans consider “A New Hope” to be the first Star Wars movie due to its release order, Episode I (“The Phantom Menace”) actually takes place chronologically before all of the other films. While it may not be everyone’s favorite entry in the franchise, it plays an important role in setting up many of the concepts and characters that define Star Wars as a whole. And for those looking for a more complete viewing experience, watching all of the movies in chronological order can provide a deeper understanding of this beloved universe.

  • Release Order: “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” “Revenge of the Sith,” “The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi,” “The Rise of Skywalker”
  • Chronological Order: “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” “Revenge of the Sith,” “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi,” “The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi,” “The Rise of Skywalker”