Blogger Rod Hilton believes he has found the best way to watch the Star Wars films: IV, V, II, III, VI. First he lays out the problems watching the saga in episode order and filmed order:
The problem with Episode Order is that it ruins the surprise that Vader is Luke’s father. If you think that this reveal doesn’t matter since it’s common knowledge, I suggest you watch the looks on these kids’ faces. This reveal is one of the most shocking in film history, and if a newcomer to the series has managed to avoid having it spoiled for them, watching the films in Episode Order would be like watching the ending of The Sixth Sense first.
Unfortunately, Release Order is also an instant failure, and the reason is a single shot. If you’re watching the original trilogy first, then after the Empire is destroyed and everyone is celebrating, Luke looks over at his mentors, Ben Kenobi and Yoda, and suddenly they are joined by… some random creepy looking teenager who needs a haircut.
The Machete Order strengthens the storyline and ultimately makes the whole saga coherent—and dramatic:
Effectively, this order keeps the story Luke’s tale. Just when Luke is left with the burning question “how did my father become Darth Vader?” we take an extended flashback to explain exactly how. Once we understand how his father turned to the dark side, we go back to the main storyline and see how Luke is able to rescue him from it and salvage the good in him.
The prequel backstory comes at the perfect time, because Empire Strikes Back ends on a huge cliffhanger. Han is in carbonite, Vader is Luke’s father, and the Empire has hit the rebellion hard. Delaying the resolution of this cliffhanger makes it all the more satisfying when Return of the Jedi is watched.
I don't remember how I stumbled upon this article (Sullivan, probably), but the whole chain of links included children trying to understand A New Hope, a site devoted to military and political analysis of sci-fi and fantasy, and the Battle of Hoth deconstructed by Spencer Ackerman.
If I only get two days of downtime this month, I'm going down the rabbit-hole of Star Wars reification, by god!