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Movie Marathon! How to Watch Movie Franchises in Order

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The 21st century ushered in the era of movie franchises: narratives that span multiple movies and hours upon hours of runtime. Dedicated fans, of course, have found ways to maximize the audience’s time and elevate the storytelling and aesthetic qualities of each franchise by creating “watch orders” –basically reordering movies of a franchise so that a person watches them in succession and in such a way that the narrative moves better. 

Here are some suggested watch orders for some of the most successful and beloved movie franchises of all time: 

The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbits Movie Order 

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug 
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 

The shortest (relative) movie franchise on this list, this Lord of the Rings movie order attempts to create a playlist that addresses the major flaw of viewing the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies in chronological order. Because of the way it was written, The Hobbit contains major spoilers, information, and plot points in the Lord of the Rings movies. 

Aside from this, this viewing order also creates a more sound narrative structure to the entire franchise. The Hobbit films are an arguably weak franchise; however, if placed in the middle of the Lord of the Rings, they reinforce the narrative of the franchise as a whole. With this order, the weakest film of the franchise, The Battle of the Five Armies, flows into arguably the second strongest movie in the franchise, The Return of the King. In this way, none of the gravitas of the original trilogy is lost, and the prequel trilogy allows for more comprehensive world building. 

Star Wars “Machete 2.0” Movie Order 

  • Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 
  • Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back 
  • Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace 
  • Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones 
  • Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story* 
  • Star  Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi 
  • Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens 
  • Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi 
  • Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker 

*optional 

Now spanning 8 movies (not including countless videogames, the Star Wars: Clone Wars TV show, and of course omitting that dreadful Christmas special), the Star Wars franchise is the gold standard of Geekdom. The “machete” order is the term used to describe the most “enjoyable” way to watch the original Star Wars trilogy. However, with the introduction of the prequel and sequel trilogies, that order needs to be updated. 

It’s worth noting that the three trilogies (what’s a trilogy of trilogies called?) vary differently in terms of quality, fan appreciation, and narrative. Arguably, the original trilogy is untouchable in terms of story (save for the Ewoks), with the prequel trilogy almost universally panned, and the sequel trilogy being contentious, with time only telling if it will hold up to the original (so far, I think it does!). 

Rogue One is placed second after A New Hope in order to provide further back story before the audience delves deeper into the series. Solo, on the other hand, doesn’t provide much in terms of moving the narrative forward, which is why it’s marked as optional. 

Marvel Cinematic Universe 

  • Captain America: The First Avenger 
  • Captain Marvel 
  • Iron Man
  • Iron Man 2 
  • The Incredible Hulk 
  • Thor 
  • The Avengers 
  • Iron Man 3
  • Thor: The Dark World 
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 
  • The Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Ant-Man 
  • Captain America: Civil War 
  • Spiderman: Homecoming 
  • Doctor Strange 
  • Black Panther
  • Thor: Ragnarok 
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp 
  • The Avengers: Infinity War 
  • The Avengers: Endgame 
  • Spiderman: Far From Home 

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is massive: so far, it contains 28 films, 21 TV shows, and 7 limited series, all of which share storylines, settings, characters, and conflicts. Taking note of all the media to watch in the MCU would take weeks, which is why we’re just focusing on the first 3 phases of movies. 

Also called the “chronological” order, this order places the movies in an order that follows the in-universe chronology, which is why it places Captain America: The First Avenger first. This is because Captain America 1 happens in 1945, even though it’s the fifth film in the franchise. 

Note also that this order pays attention to the stingers (i.e. post-credit scenes) and how it might affect the next movie on the list. Each stinger in this order plays well with the next movie, as well as further increasing the gravitas of the events in Infinity War and Endgame, the very apex of the entire MCU plot line. 

Of course, all these watch orders are just suggestions, and if you have your own version of your franchise’s watch order, hit us up in the comments below! 

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