In just over a week, your local place of cinematic worship will be filled with screen after screen preaching the good word of the Force Awakening. That leaves you plenty of time to seek out the best versions of old Star Wars movies to catch up. We went to the depths of eBay to weigh our options.
Let us be clear, these are the legal options, so certain — and arguably superior — choices aren't included.
For those who want the most original way to watch the first Star Wars
If you're looking to experience the true Star Wars in its original, virtually unaltered form, the best option is to find an old film reel. The original 35mm reels are extremely rare, but you can find a handful of high-quality 16mm versions if you're willing to pay nearly $5,000. That's less than one dollar per foot of film reel (by about $50), which is a small price to pay to see the opening crawl say "Star Wars" instead of "Episode IV: A New Hope."
If you're feeling thrifty, you can probably find a more beat-up reel for closer to $1,000, but I'm sorry, why are you settling?
16mm original uncut Star Wars: $4,750
For those who want the most original way to watch the "first" Star Wars
We're not sure why you'd want to watch a 35mm version of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it was the first time you visited the local theater. Maybe you met your true love in the popcorn line on premiere weekend, and now that you've found success as a finance person / legal person / doctor person, you want a room dedicated to that moment. I don't know. Someone recently bought a 35mm print for almost $3,000, and now I just need to rationalize that fact somehow.
Of course, a true completionist will want to find one of the original digital projectors and video files that showed the film; The Phantom Menace was the first full-length film to be screened to the public in digital. Episode I opened in digital on four screens, so best of luck finding one of the "original" digital files or projectors.
35mm Star Wars Episode I: $2,795
For those who want to live in a world where Han shoots first, but not spend thousands of dollars
The biggest changes to the Original Trilogy happened with the release of 1997's special edition, where Lucas made several major changes to the films, like adding a CGI Jabba the Hutt to Episode IV and, most notoriously, tweaking a key scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina whereby Han Solo shoots Greedo after Greedo shoots first, thus making his move more of a defensive play and less of an asshole thing to do.
Thus, if you're looking for the version all the cool kids talk about, you need to find a copy of the movie from before 1997 — and we're suggesting a laserdisc.
... What's a Laserdisc, you ask? It's basically a ridiculously large DVD that can play about 60 minutes of video on each side. Yes, there are sides you have to flip. Like a record. So hip. So retro.
Star Wars: The Definitive Collection laserdisc: $150, give or take
For those who long to recreate the last scene from Mad Men's season one finale
Here's your chance to put all those improv classes to good use. Invite your friends to a Star Wars viewing party and promise them a true 35mm experience. Buy a few extra chairs, rearrange your living room seating around a projector screen, and regale your audience with a set of 35mm slides presented as stills through a Kodak carousel. Stare intensely at the screen, away from everyone's gaze, and tearfully reminisce on how the scene in the trash compactor made a material impact on a past relationship.
35mm promotional press kit for Star Wars: $496
For anyone born after May 19th, 1999
Watch whatever version you can find online, and then Google "Han shoots first" so you can understand what your parents are complaining about.
For those who believe in George Lucas' vision, however it may change
Let's be honest with ourselves: the Blu-ray release of the Star Wars saga will please the majority of Planet Earth. Yes, it includes some superfluous CGI additions. Yes, the color correction isn't always perfect. And yes, at 1080p it looks spellbindingly beautiful on a high-definition TV. If you really want to raise your nose at lesser fans, you can always watch the movies in Machete Order.
For those with two things: a short attention span and a working 8mm projector
Who is Ken, and why did he make a Super 8 black-and-white Star Wars that features only selected scenes? Sometimes it's best not to ask questions — questions like, "why do you have an 8mm projector in 2015?" If your guests feel disappointed, just keep reminding them that J.J. Abrams made a movie called Super 8, and before people have a chance to ask why that really matters, just point to the screen and go "Look! A lightsaber!"
Star Wars Super 8 by Ken Films: $70