In the entertainment industry, there isn’t anything quite as iconic as Star Wars. Ever since Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was released back in 1977, the universe has seen so many new entries that have shaped the Star Wars galaxy into a place full of iconic characters with beautifully crafted stories. At the galaxy’s center lies one specific character: Anakin Skywalker.
While the first time we technically saw the character was in the original trilogy after he became Darth Vader, the story of Anakin Skywalker before becoming the Sith lord has since been told across multiple projects. Anakin has grown into one of the best and most-loved characters in the entire galaxy, being at the center of so many different stories. Here’s how to watch Anakin’s story in chronological order.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
After a sixteen-year hiatus from Star Wars, George Lucas brought the franchise back to the big screen in 1999 with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The beginning of the trilogy now known as the Prequel trilogy, The Phantom Menace tells the story of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) who discover the whereabouts of a gifted, force-sensitive young boy, Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd).
Within the Jedi Order, especially with Qui-Gon, Anakin is seen to be the prophesied “Chosen One,” hoping that he can bring balance to the force uniting the light and dark side. The film depicts where Anakin comes from, who is living on Naboo with his mother Shmi Skywalker. Seeing Anakin’s origins as a young boy adds so much depth to the character, as audiences have all the understanding of the character’s upbringing that’s needed, leading to a stronger connection with the character.
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
The next installment into the prequel trilogy came in the form of Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, set ten years after the events of The Phantom Menace. Anakin (Hayden Christensen) is now the apprentice of Obi-Wan and has grown up into a teenager, already showing the promise that Quin-Gon saw in him. Anakin is highly skilled in almost all areas of what it takes to be a Jedi, but his emotions always seem to get the best of him.
One of the main elements of Attack of the Clones that are so important to the story of Anakin Skywalker is the relationship between him and his master, Obi-Wan, as they attempt to prevent a war between the Republic and the Separatists led by Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). Obi-Wan was the Jedi who shaped Anakin into the man he became, making Anakin’s later events so much more heartbreaking as audiences see such a strong bond formed between the two.
Anakin also develops a relationship with Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), another character who means much to Anakin and will do anything he can to protect her from evil.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
With the first season released in 2008, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is set after Attack of the Clones and ending in parallel with Revenge of the Sith. With the Clone Wars in full swing. Obi-Wan (James Arnold Taylor) also stars in the show alongside Anakin (Matt Lanter), but the show sees Anakin develop into his own Jedi, becoming a legend in the order through his countless accolades.
During the war, Anakin is given an apprentice during the Battle of Christophsis named Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Eckstein). The show sees Anakin develop a strong relationship with his apprentice as he trains her to be just as good of a Jedi as he is. Across the seven seasons of the show, so much of Anakin’s story that was missing from the prequel trilogy was explored, once again adding so much depth to any already complex character by this point.
Tales of the Jedi: Episode 5 – “Practice Makes Perfect”
Once again telling stories set at the same time as the Prequel trilogy, Tales of the Jedi is a collection of shorts focusing on two distinctly different Jedi, Ahsoka Tano and Count Dooku (Corey Burton). Although Anakin only appears for one episode, it’s one of the most profound moments in his and Ashoka’s story.
The episode shows the intense, rigorous Jedi training exercise that Anakin puts Ahsoka through to prepare her for an uncertain future. Anakin so clearly wants the best for Ahsoka in this episode, depicting the discipline that he installed into her, which to spoil anything major, ends up coming full circle in the most heartbreaking way in Star Wars: Rebels after Anakin has become Darth Vader.
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
The final installment into the prequel trilogy, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, is set later on in the Clone Wars, with Anakin now known and held to the highest standard by almost everyone in the Jedi Order, apart from the Jedi Council. Revenge of the Sith sees Anakin become increasingly frustrated with the Jedi Council as they didn’t want to give him the title of Jedi Master, leading to Anakin growing a close bond with Sheev Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).
As the two grow closer, Palpatine’s true nature begins to show, but Anakin is blinded by the promise that Palpatine can ensure the protection of Padme, the person he loves the most. Palpatine manipulated Anakin into joining the Dark Side, exploiting Anakin’s fear of losing Padme and his desire for power over his own life and the galaxy as a whole. This film is where Anakin Skywalker’s story ends, after Anakin is entirely consumed by the dark side, becoming Darth Vader after the greatest duel in Star Wars history with his own master Obi-Wan.
Currently streaming on Disney+, Ahsoka sees the return of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. While Christensen also appears in Obi-Wan Kenobi in a flashback to the Attack of the Clones setting, Episode 5 of Ashoka sees Ashoka (Rosario Dawson) lose a duel to Baylan Skoll (Ray Stevenson), leading to her ending up in the World Between Worlds. It’s here where she sees her former master, who wants to finish her training.
Throughout the episode, Anakin puts Ashoka through one last challenge to see if Ashoka is worthy of living. Even taking her back to the Clone Wars, Anakin’s complex, emotional story comes full circle, as he’s the reason Ashoka manages to live on. After everything the two characters (including his time as Vader) have been through, this episode was such a perfect way to bring Christensen back as Anakin.
Destroying Anakin Skywalker and Becoming Darth Vader
Throughout the Star Wars franchise, the story of the villain that Anakin became, that being Darth Vader, is also explored in an equally emotional fashion. Appearing in TV shows such as Star Wars: Rebels, Obi-Wan Kenobi as the main antagonist, and of course in the original trilogy, seeing the entirety of Anakin’s life journey also adds so much to the character Darth Vader, who in the original trilogy was only seen as the menacing, all-powerful villain. Now, we see Darth Vader as the broken remains of who was once one of the greatest Jedi of all time, Anakin Skywalker.