Fair warning: Spoilers ahead (in the unlikely event you haven’t yet seen the Star Wars movies).
Machete Order was devised by Rod Hilton who wrote a VERY long post about it on his blog, Absolutely No Machete Juggling. He gave it its name “on the off chance that this catches on because I'm a vain asshole.” Well, I know nothing about him, but his viewing order is perfect.
I should start first by saying that when the original Star Wars came out (now called Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope), I was 18 and it was a very important film to me. To this day I can remember the opening sequence and when the Imperial Cruiser flies overhead and fills the screen, I was dumbfounded. I saw the film in the cinema many, many times.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strike Back was good—maybe not as good for my tastes, but still good. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi was, for me as many others, by far the weakest of the original trilogy.
And then we come to Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Let’s just pretend it never happened. Star Wars Episode II: The Clone War was much better (not hard to do, to be honest), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith was okay, too. Sort of. But I absolutely loathed Episode I, and still do.
Traditionally, most people would watch the films in release order, but I think that the original trilogy seems like a complete set, and the first three seem kind of out of place, as if slightly out of phase. Other people watch the films in episode order, but that has the unfortunate problem of beginning with Episode I.
Machete Order fixes all this by ordering the films this way: IV, V, II, III and VI—eliminating Episode 1 altogether. Hilton says:
Episode I is a failure on every possible level. The acting, writing, directing, and special effects are all atrocious, and the movie is just plain boring. Luckily, George Lucas has done everyone a favor by making the content of Episode I completely irrelevant to the rest of the series. Seriously, think about it for a minute. Name as many things as you can that happen in Episode I and actually help flesh out the story in any subsequent episode…But Machete Order does so much more than merely remove Episode 1: It also puts the story emphasis back where it always should have been—on Luke—by providing clear motivation for Darth Vader's being seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, his similarities with Luke, and it creates proper tension as to whether Luke will be seduced by the Dark Side, too—something entirely missing in the original Episode VI. In fact, this single benefit from watching the films in Machete Order makes Episode VI a much better movie than it had been.
In fact, the entire film series is more coherent, logical, and is so much more satisfying in Machete Order than in either release order or episode order. In addtion, most (but not all…) of the things that annoyed me in the various films are fixed by viewing in Machete Order.
There are so many good points that Hilton makes in his post—ones I completely agree with!—that I think anyone interested in the films should read the entire thing. Most of all, though, I strongly recommend Machete Order to anyone who thought Star Wars could have been better, and especially to anyone who’s never seen all the films. It's so, SO much better in Machete Order.
Go, watch. And may the Force be with you.
Tip o’ the Hat to my husband Nigel who suggested we do this and who shared Rod Hilton's post with me.