Star Wars episode IV: A New Hope (1977) I watched my first Star Wars film at the perfect age of 12. Some schoolmates and I were invited to the Odeon cinema in darkest Watford as part of my best friend's special birthday treat. We all trooped along one Saturday afternoon, little realising that we were about to experience one of the 20th century's great cultural classics. We didn't realise afterwards either, we just trooped back to his place afterwards for chicken and chips. But the two-word review in my diary that evening read "v good", and you can't argue with that even now. The Jedi universe soon subsumed itself into our playground culture, with fake lightsabre battles and the occasional bout of heavy breathing from deep beneath our snorkel anorak hoods. You couldn't just rush out and buy the DVD in those days so I did the next best thing and bought the paperback. I wish I'd nipped out and bought a cupboard full of action figures instead, all boxed and ready for eBay three decades later.
Star Wars episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) I watched my second Star Wars film at the troubled age of 15. My schoolmates and I were eager to reacquaint ourselves with Master Luke and Princess Leia so we rushed back to the Odeon for trilogy part 2. Again this was a best friend's birthday outing, again the screening was topped off by a special chicken meal, but this time my diary review stretched as far as "very good". There was a sense of an epic dynasty of well-rounded characters developing, a galactic soap opera in full flow, but never quite (in my case at least) total Jedi addiction.
Star Wars episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) I watched my third Star Wars film at the belated age of 24. I'd completely missed the film at the cinema when it was first released, I suspect through apathy rather than lack of opportunity. That opportunity lost I had to wait patiently until the ITV Boxing Day Movie Premiere some six years later. Even then the schedulers broadcast the film at 2:30pm, hardly prime time, and I had to videotape it because I was busy entertaining three elderly ladies who'd come round for a festive afternoon of card games and Dingbats instead. Grainy VHS quality was a big comedown from the big screen, and maybe that's why I've never taken this particular episode to heart. Or maybe it was the Ewoks.
Star Wars episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999) I watched my fourth Star Wars film at the advanced age of 34. I was down in Plymouth with the ex at the time, a couple of days before the great Cornish total eclipse. Both the film and the eclipse were much-hyped phenomena of astronomical proportions, eagerly anticipated by many after an over-long hiatus. Both promised much but delivered little, blighted in the former case by cloud cover and in the latter by the long dark shadow of Jar Jar Binks. I've rarely experienced a more disappointing week, to be honest. But hopefully the film had a more positive impact on the new target generation of 12 year olds sat in the row behind me, assuming they were paying attention between mouthfuls of popcorn, that is.
Star Wars episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) I watched my fifth Star Wars film at the tender age of 37. I took a new best mate to the cinema this time, although now no birthday treat was required as an excuse. The film's title suggested, rather disturbingly, that this might turn out to be a martial arts movie featuring men with handlebar moustaches, but thankfully this turned out not to be the case. I was less than impressed by this plot-lite soppy love story with battle interludes, and before the end credits rolled I'd conceded that the original trilogy's charm and dynamism was probably unbeatable.
Star Wars episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) I shall watch my sixth and final Star Wars film at the threshold age of 40. I'm going to the cinema by myself this time, so there'll be nobody to turn to on the way out and bemoan the fact that the special effects were outstanding but the overall effect was somewhat underwhelming. But I'm hoping that, as the plot comes full circle and a young Luke Skywalker heads home to Tattooine, I'll be transported back to my own innocent childhood, a long time ago in an Odeon far, far away.