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The best Star Wars movies on Disney+

A long time ago, in this very same galaxy, streaming Star Wars movies was a lot trickier than it is now. Ever since Disney+ became the home of the beloved sci-fi saga, though, it’s a lot easier to plan a Star Wars movie marathon.

Disney’s streaming service is now the only place you can find the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and all the spin-off films (both animated and live-action). And they’ve never looked better. The original trilogy and the prequel trilogy are both available in 4K Ultra HD, while other Disney-produced films in the franchise support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos streams (just ignore the weird new edits).

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Disney+ has a massive library of films that just keeps getting bigger, too, so if you only have time to catch three or four Star Wars movies, here’s what we recommend.

Star Wars (1977)
Star Wars
Genre Adventure, Action, Science Fiction
Stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Directed by George Lucas
Given how ubiquitous Star Wars has become, it’s easy to forget just how groundbreaking A New Hope was when it was first released. A New Hope is one of the earliest examples of the modern Hollywood blockbuster, but its first hour is paced more like an art film — and there’s seemingly no end to the concepts and lore it throws at you. We know all about the Clone Wars, Kessel Run, and Jabba the Hutt now, but imagine a time when they were all unknowns, and all you had was your imagination to figure out how they all connect. A New Hope is fun, exciting, mysterious, and just a little dangerous. And it’s no surprise it launched one of the biggest franchises of all time. What also sets A New Hope apart from other Star Wars movies is that it’s the only one completely unburdened by a larger mythology — so it tells a complete, self-contained story. Unlike everything that came after it, it’s satisfying all on its own.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Empire Strikes Back
Genre Adventure, Action, Science Fiction
Stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Directed by Irvin Kershner
After A New Hope laid the foundation, The Empire Strikes Back established the template for the Star Wars saga. It’s the movie that introduces the Jedi’s pacifist philosophy, many of the most iconic Force powers, and features Luke Skywalker’s first lightsaber duel. The Empire Strikes Back saw Luke evolve from a random farm boy to a pawn of destiny and the Rebel Alliance’s one and only hope for peace. The Empire Strikes Back turned a pulp adventure into a grand mythological saga, and the franchise has never looked back. It also delivered one of the best plot twists in movie history. If you’ve enjoyed any of the Star Wars sequels, prequels, comic books, novels, video games, or television shows that have appeared since 1980, you have The Empire Strikes Back to thank.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Genre Action, Adventure, Science Fiction
Stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Directed by Gareth Edwards
No, the third item on this list isn’t Return of the Jedi. It could be, but Rogue One is better suited for a limited re-watch. The 2016 film is a self-contained story and is one of the few installments of the franchise to delve into the more questionable side of the Rebellion, complicating Star Wars’ morality in all kinds of interesting ways. Before Rogue One, everything was black and white. Now, there are shades of gray, and the franchise is better for it.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Genre Adventure, Action, Science Fiction, Fantasy
Stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Sure, The Force Awakens‘ plot is so heavily inspired by A New Hope that it almost qualifies as a remake. Yes, the movie poses lots of questions without satisfying answers. And certainly, Chewbacca and General Leia should’ve hugged. But none of that matters with the giddy energy director J. J. Abrams infuses into The Force Awakens. Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren are all great additions to the Star Wars universe. And although you’ll probably come for the fan service, you’ll stay for the delightful new characters. Sure, it’s derivative — but when a movie is this much fun, who really cares?
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Genre Adventure, Action, Science Fiction
Stars Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley
Directed by J.J. Abrams
It might not be the most beloved Star Wars movie, but Episode IX is the final chapter in the Skywalker saga — so if you’ve come this far, you owe it to yourself to see it through to the end. Polarizing and controversial, The Rise of Skywalker brought J.J. Abrams back to wrap things up in spectacular fashion, and he somehow managed to walk a line between bringing everything full circle and laying the groundwork for future sagas set in the Star Wars universe. Sure, it’s overstuffed and chaotic, and even a little clumsy at times, but Episode IX repeatedly found ways to call back to characters, moments, and concepts throughout the franchise’s far-reaching timeline as it brought to a close one of Hollywood’s most ambitious cinematic sagas. 

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Movie images and data from:
Rick Marshall
A veteran journalist with more than two decades of experience covering local and national news, arts and entertainment, and…
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