With mere hours to go before the official release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” after a 10-year drought in the film franchise, fans are eagerly awaiting the first follow up in the film franchise since 1983. With such fan-beloved source material to build off, many may be eager to go back and revisit the original trilogy of movies to put the latest one in context.
Unfortunately, because there is and always has been such a high demand for “Star Wars,” the films have remained profitable without having to keep up with the new world of video on demand, streaming subscription services and more. As a result, tracking down the original three “Star Wars” movies can be a bit of a difficult task. Short of purchasing a ticket to watch one of AMC Theaters' 38 "Star Wars" marathons on Dec. 17, there aren't a lot of ways to get the trilogy up and running on a modern streaming device. To help new or old fans get their fix of the franchise this holiday season, below is a rundown of how you can watch the movies, legally, right now.
Bad news if your plan was to look for “Star Wars” on a paid subscription service like Netflix of Hulu, the movies are not available to stream directly anywhere online. If you want to watch any of the original “Star Wars” movies, you’ll have to purchase them or download them using one of the methods below.
This one is obviously the easiest solution to the problem. The “Star Wars” movies have been around so long that they’re available on almost any physical disc you can think of. On Blu-ray, a box set of all six films (including the prequel trilogy) goes for about $90 on Amazon. While purchasing hard copies of your movies may not be the way it’s done anymore, there is one major benefit to owning a copy of the original films -- it's the only way to watch the original cut of the films.
Right now, the only digital versions of the trilogy that are available have been subject to recutting and remastering over the years. These post-release tweaks to the original films have sparked controversy for years, the biggest example being the infamous “Han Shot First” debate, which MTV News notes has to do with the iconic introduction of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in “Star Wars: A New Hope.”
As a result, if you’re interested in seeing the original “Star Wars” films the way they were intended and the way that they were presented in theaters all those years ago, you’ll have to downgrade your technology to the 2006 Limited Edition DVDs, which came out in low-quality but were untouched from the original version. As CinemaBlend notes, they’re perfect for the “Star Wars” purist, but not so great for your evolving high-tech movie collection. Each disc comes with the digitally remastered version set to play automatically. However, the original versions are available on the discs as a bonus feature. Unfortunately, because they’re in such high demand, these limited edition DVDs can be expensive, ranging on Amazon from $50 - $65 per movie. If you chose to go for the versions that aren't remastered, make sure your box says "Limited Edition" in gold and not "Widescreen" in silver. Also, if you're feeling extra nostalgic, you can still find the original versions of the film on VHS for around $30 by scouting out Ebay.
Download Them (Legally)
The first thing to keep in mind when deciding to watch the movies digitally is that you’re sacrificing your ability to watch the original cuts the way they were intended for the big screen in the 1970s and early 1980s. However, if that’s not a deal breaker for you, there’s never been a better time to try and watch the films without purchasing a physical disc. According to TIME, the movies are available on Amazon Video, Google Play and iTunes. Each service offers a bundle priced between $90 - $100, depending on where you make your purchase, that includes all six of the films (including the prequel trilogy). However, if you don’t want to bother with the critically panned prequels, each movie is available individually for only $20 each. After an initial download, it should become available to stream on any of your smart TV devices that have the app enabled such as Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation, computer, mobile device and more.
"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" hits theaters on Dec. 18.