Considering that it's almost May the Fourth (aka. Star Wars Day), let's go ahead and have a couple of Star Wars posts this week, shall we?
I grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy and with the episode by episode releasing of the prequel trilogy. So it has always seemed natural to me (that is, once I had access to all six episodes to watch at once, which was really only rather recent) to watch the movies in released rather than chronological order. The story just makes more sense that way. (Like how most people agree that The Chronicles of Narnia don't work best in chronological order.) I did try watching the six movies in chronological order; I wrote a short post in reaction (which you can read here), describing the way in which the story became more tragic despite ending with a "happy ending."
I bring all of this up because with the addition of new films, the order in which you watch them is becoming more and more complicated. With Episode VII, I watched it by itself a lot because it was new and therefore I didn't need to combine it with all the others (which I've seen plenty of times by now) all the time. When I did put them all together, I kept to released order, which sort of made sense but also felt weird since the sequel trilogy is indeed a sequel to the original trilogy. And then along came Rogue One.
I figured okay, I probably won't want to watch Rogue One as much, anyway, so maybe it'll just stay separate from the episodes and the issue won't matter. But then I tried watching all eight films in chronological order, expecting it all to be a great mess.
It is a mess: gone are the days when you can watch all the movies in one day, or even one week. Watching one per day, it takes a week and a day now. But I found that somehow the addition of Rogue One made the entire set cohesive.
It's weird to jump from Episode III to Episode IV. But Rogue One bridges that gap with its more modern status combined with its aspiring-for-vintage style. So you don't notice the tone shift so much anymore. And because it's an outside story (that is, it's outside of the Skywalker saga), it allows you to look at the Star Wars universe as a whole rather than being caught up in the Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker character arc (and in questioning how it is best to view that character arc).
And it makes Episode IV's opening crawl so powerful and tragic. You've come fresh off of seeing the team successful and destroyed, and then you see that their efforts are still going on. Even the medal ceremony at the end reminded me of them. It was as if those in charge said, well, we couldn't do anything for the other team, so we will honor their actions by giving this sign of hope to everyone by honoring this new team. And it's as if maybe part of the reason why they so easily accept Luke and Han is because they saw what Jyn and her team were able to accomplish and so they don't want to underestimate anyone.
So I have no idea in what order I'll watch these films in the future. But for now, chronological order fits so perfectly.