Best Order to Watch Ghost In The Shell Movies & TV Shows

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The Ghost in the Shell franchise has existed for decades in many different media and formats – here is the best order to watch all Ghost in the Shell movies and TV shows. In 1989, a serialized manga series by Masamune Shirow would introduce Major Motoko Kusanagi and the techno dystopian world that would remain relevant for years to come. Following the manga, Ghost in the Shell was adapted into animated movies, animated TV series, video games, and even a live-action theatrical film.

Despite all the adaptations, Ghost in the Shell’s impact on pop culture comes mostly from the 1995 Ghost in the Shell movie by Mamoru Oshii. The classic animated feature combined elements from different sci-fi inspirations, such as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, with the characters and the setting from the manga, and it added a level of philosophical discussion that was not so present in the original work. Although no other entry in the Ghost in the Shell franchise managed to be as impactful as the 1995 film, each of the following movies and shows expanded the franchise in a different way and added more nuances to the story of Major Kusanagi and the Section 9.

Related: Every Ghost In The Shell Movie, Ranked From Worst To Best

Between the several movies, TV shows, OVAs, and compilations, there is no correct order to watch Ghost in the Shell. That is because there are at least three different continuities, with events that do not necessarily connect and sometimes even contradict that of the other universes. However, there is a logical Ghost in the Shell watch order that can make the experience much better. The original Ghost in the Shell movie is by far the best starting point, as the quality of the film makes up for the initially quite complicated story. That can be followed by the direct sequel Ghost In The Shell 2: Innoncence (2004), and from then on, the view can dive deep into the animated series and the straight-to-home video films. Here is a breakdown of the best Ghost in the Shell watch order.

Ghost In The Shell (1995)

The original Ghost in the Shell movie places the audience in a dystopian world in which the characters’ alignments, origins, and motives can be hard to follow. The Mamoru Oshii film obviously could not count on the footnotes commentary that Masamune Shirow used in the manga, and it went instead for a very defined “show, don’t tell” approach with scenes that go on for minutes without any significant dialogue. That said, the initial difficulty in following The Major’s story in Ghost in the Shell is not enough not to recommend the film as someone’s first and best contact with the saga. Not only was Ghost in the Shell (1995) the first adaptation of the manga but it also remains as the best entry in the Ghost in the Shell franchise to this day. It beautifully introduces the viewer to the franchise’s dystopian cyberpunk world, and it sets the tone for everything that would come later in the Ghost in the Shell franchise. It is also important to notice that the 2017 live-action Ghost in the Shell movie starring Scarlett Johansson as the Major and Pilou Asbæk as Batou is mostly a remake of the 1995 film. Likewise, 2009’s Ghost in the Shell 2.0 is a reproduction of the 1995 film with updated animation techniques and the addition of 3D elements.

Ghost In The Shell 2: Innocence (2004)

It took almost a decade, but the first Ghost in the Shell got a sequel in 2004’s Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence. Mamoru Oshii returned to direct. While the sequel is not as good as the first one, it expands upon the stories and the themes of Ghost in the Shell (1995). Most of the characters from Ghost in the Shell (1995), such as Togusa, Batou, and Section 9’s Chief Aramaki, are back. However, Major Kusanagi has been missing since her encounter with the Puppeteer, a character that served as an inspiration for Michael Pitt’s Ghost in the Shell villain, in the first movie. Giving that element of continuity, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence is better if watched right after Ghost in the Shell (1995).

Ghost In The Shell: Arise Watch Order

The Ghost in the Shell: Arise series consists of five 50-minute long episodes, plus a theatrical movie that can be seen as prequels to the events of Ghost in the Shell (1995). For example, Ghost in the Shell: Arise reveals how Major Kusanagi and the future members of Section 9 got to know each other, and it explores the characters’ backgrounds before they were a team. Arise also sees the first contact between the Major and Chief Aramaki, and it lays down the idea of Kusanagi questioning her memories and her very own existence. That said, the Ghost in the Shell: Arise series is far from being as good as Ghost in the Shell (1995), and thus it’s best to watch it after the first two movies. The watch order for the Ghost in the Shell: Arise universe is as follows:

• Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 1: Ghost Pain (2013)

• Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 2: Ghost Whispers (2013)

• Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 3: Ghost Tears (2013)

• Ghost in the Shell: Arise – Border 4: Ghost Stands Alone (2013)

• Ghost in the Shell Arise: Border 5 – Pyrophoric Cult (2015)

• Ghost in the Shell: The New Movie (2015)

Related: Ghost In The Shell: Ishikawa’s Backstory Explained

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex Watch Order

The animated show Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002) was the start of a brand new Ghost in the Shell continuity that had no connections with the 1995 film – despite featuring the same characters. The show was followed by a sequel, 2004’s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig, as well as an original movie and two compilations of previously aired episodes. Recently, the Stand Alone Complex universe continued with the Netflix CG-anime Ghost in the Shell: SAC 2045. For being the longest-running Ghost in the Shell continuity, the SAC universe is better if watched after the original movies and the Arise titles. The watch order for the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex universe, excluding the retelling compilations such as Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045 Sustainable War, is as follows:

• Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002)

• Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2nd Gig (2004)

• Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society (2006)

• Ghost in the Shell: SAC _2045 (2020)