There's No Wrong Way to Star Wars
As I cocoon myself deeper and deeper into Star Wars (and take my family in one way or another with me) I sometimes forget that there are people out there who don't have the level of investment in Star Wars that I do. There are people who don't listen to hours of podcasts, read the articles and books, lay awake at night pondering the deeper mysteries of the Force...but I digress. On Episode 97 of the podcast (listen here) the podcast crew discussed recommending a single Star Wars film. The discussion had me talking out loud to myself (thankfully, my family is used to this kind of behavior).
Recommending a single film is as difficult as it is problematic. I don't have a blanket answer. My favorite Star Wars movie is A New Hope. It's what I showed my kids first when I introduced them to Star Wars. We went on to watch the rest of the movies (but no Rogue One yet and a censored Revenge of the Sith, their request.) But I don't think that is the only answer. I think it depends on who you're recommending to.
The podcast itself made an extensive case for starting with The Force Awakens and Empire Strikes Back or A New Hope. I think The Phantom Menace is also a potential starting point, especially for a younger viewer. A kid isn't going to have the generational prejudice against the prequels that many adults have. They are also more likely to be entertained by rather than annoyed with Jar Jar. My kids latched onto young Anakin and Padmé, finding them both relatable. I'd also recommend the prequels for folks who are particularly fond of visuals or effects. The prequels also have a pacing that is more modern than the originals, something that needs to be taken into account if the person you're recommending to doesn't watch many older movies. Folks also into lush costuming (hello, Padmé, outfits!) or tragic romance may find their fix in the prequels.
Even if we just consider films, there are several options for entry points into Star Wars. But as those of us deep in the nerd bubble know, the movies aren't all there is. Animated series are an excellent way to introduce someone to Star Wars. I'm a fan of both Clone Wars and Rebels, but I'd give Rebels the edge here: it is more self-contained and episodic than Clone Wars, you can watch Spark of Rebellion and have a fairly good idea if you're going to like this show or not. Rebels also is a fantastic foundation for younglings to build Star Wars knowledge on. I think Ezra is a very accessible character and the themes of found family are powerful and very Star Wars.
For the youngest among us, (or those young at heart) I must mention Lego Star Wars Freemaker Adventures. Not only is the story self-contained and centered on a family, it is hilarious, heartfelt, and fun. This is another show that a Star Wars newbie can cut their teeth on. And the new microseries Forces of Destiny is tailor-made for younger kids. At just a few minutes long and emphasizing values like kindness and bravery this series (which I raved about here) is also another potential starting point.
Star Wars is blessed with a rich and fertile multi-media canon to choose from. For a gamer, Battlefront II may be a gateway. There are books for all reading levels and comics too. Reading the Star Wars books and comics (both canon and legends) has deepened my love for Star Wars and I know the books were the hook for either beginning or enhancing others' Star Wars love.
I love to immerse myself in ALL the Star Wars, not only because it is a passion of mine, but because I like to think of Star Wars content as buffet, and I want to know what dishes are available so I can sample what I like and leave the rest, and maybe give a recommendation to someone else ready to either nibble a dainty or swallow whole. So eat up, and eat what you like! There's plenty for all!
Note: While I titled this article "There's No Wrong Way to Star Wars" if your fandom involves gatekeeping, harassment, and not accepting others, then you ARE doing it wrong. Kindess and general respect are the foundations on which interactions should be built.
What would you recommend to a Star Wars newbie?