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Avatar: How to watch James Cameron’s epic in release and chronological order

Want to get started on James Cameron’s Avatar? Here’s how to do it!

Image credit: 20th Century/Disney

Is real life bringing you down? Why not take a trip to the world of Pandora? The beautiful planet is full of luscious jungles, floating mountains, colorful wildlife, and a race of blue-skinned natives known as the Na’vi. From the imaginative mind of director James Cameron, the Avatar franchise is more than a science-fiction saga. The storyline contains themes of environmentalism, family, colonization, and so much more.

The original Avatar film is the highest grossing movie of all time, and its sequel Avatar: The Way of Water is not far behind. You might be wondering what all the fuss is about, but unsure where to start. Not to worry, Popverse has you covered. Here is everything you need to know about the Avatar franchise, and how to watch it in order.

How to watch Avatar in release order

Avatar: The Way of Water
Image credit: Disney

If you want to watch James Cameron’s Avatar saga in release order, but aren’t sure where to start, just follow this list. Please note, this list includes upcoming releases. The release dates and titles may change depending on production issues, but for now we’re going with the information we have from James Cameron and 20th Century Studios.

How to watch Avatar in chronological order

Avatar: The Way of Water
Image credit: 20th Century/Disney

Are you interested in experiencing the Avatar saga in chronological order? As of this writing, the release order and chronological order of the films are identical, but that may change if Cameron ever decides to produce a prequel. However, if you’re interested in exploring the chronology of the Avatar franchise, here is a handy timeline that breaks down when each film takes place.

  • 2154: Avatar
  • 2168: Avatar: The Way of Water (forest burning prologue)
  • 2170: Avatar: The Way of Water and Avatar 3 (Cameron has indicated that Avatar 3 takes place shortly after The Way of Water)
  • 2175: Avatar 4 and 5 (Jake Sully actor Sam Worthington stated Avatar 4 would take place 5 years after Avatar 3. Producer Jon Landau indicated that Avatar 5 takes place in the same time period as Avatar 5)

Please note: The timeline dates for the unreleased films may change as the scripts are rewritten. For now, we’re going by the chronology information given in interviews.

Are Disney’s Avatar rides canon?

Avatar Flight of Passage ride at Disney
Image credit: Disney

As you watch the Avatar films, you might find yourself wishing you could visit Pandora. Thanks to Disney, now you can. In 2017 Disney opened an Avatar themed area at their Animal Kingdom theme park in Orlando, Florida. Pandora: The World of Avatar was designed under the supervision of James Cameron and his production company Lightstorm Entertainment.

The area has large trees and colorful plants, mimicking the look of the Avatar films. Daily activities include a drum circle performance, modeled after the traditional Na’vi drum ceremony. Disney was even able to create their version of Pandora’s floating mountains, thanks to forced perspective and visual trickery.

The area features two rides, Na’vi River Journey and Avatar Flight of Passage. According to Lightstorm Entertainment VP and Avatar loremaster Joshua Izzo, Pandora and its rides are canon. The themed area is meant to take place approximately 100 years after the events of the first Avatar film, which would be roughly 2254. Disney cast members will refer to the Avatar films as “documentaries” in order to keep guests fully immersed.

What about other pieces of Avatar media?

Avatar comic book page
Image credit: Dark Horse Comics

The world of Pandora is bigger than you think. The Avatar franchise has expanded beyond movies, continuing the story of the Na’vi in comics, video games, and even a stage play. Let’s break down the Avatar expanded universe, and the canon status of each project.

  • James Cameron’s Avatar (The Mobile Game) – A game for iOS and Android phones. The game follows a marine named Ryan Lorenz, who defects to the Na’vi, similar to Jake Sully. According to Joshua Izzo, this game is not canon.
  • James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (Nintendo DS) – A video game tie-in to the first film. The game follows a young Na’vi named Nok. According to Joshua Izzo, this game is not canon.
  • James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (Nintendo Wii/PSP) – Another video game tie-in. This time around, you play as a Na’vi warrior named Rai’uk. Once again, Joshua Izzo has stated that this game is not canon.
  • James Cameron’s Avatar: The Game (PlayStation 3/Xbox 360) – Set two years prior to the start of the first film, this game follows a military officer named Able Ryder. You know the routine by now; Joshua Izzo has stated that this game is not canon.
  • Toruk – The First Flight – A 2015 stage show from Cirque du Soleil about the first Na’vi to ride a Toruk. It is set around 857 BC, centuries before the events of the first Avatar film. According to Joshua Izzo, the stage play is canon. If you missed the play, don’t worry, sections of it have been posted online, and a DVD was released.
  • Avatar: Warrior’s Journey – An endless runner game for mobile devices. The game was removed from app stores within a year of its release. Its timeline placement and canon status are uncertain, but it would be a pretty safe bet to call this non-canon.
  • Avatar: Brothers – A 2017 comic book from Dark Horse. This was the beginning of Dark Horse’s Avatar comics line. The story is set during the events of the first film. As Jake Sully prepares to make a big decision, he reminisces about his relationship with his brother. This comic is considered canon.
  • Avatar: Pandora – A discontinued MMO game. The game mixed and matched characters from various points in the Avatar timeline, and should not be considered canon.
  • Avatar: Tsu’tey’s Path – A 2019 comic book from Dark Horse. The comic is set during the events of the first Avatar film. It follows a Na’vi warrior named Tsu’tey, who finds his life turned upside down when Jake Sully arrives on Pandora. This comic is considered canon.
  • Avatar: The Next Shadow – A 2021 comic book from Dark Horse. Set two weeks after the events of the first film, this series follows Jake Sully as he tries to calm tensions among the Na’vi. This comic is considered canon.
  • Avatar: Adapt or Die – A 2022 comic book from Dark Horse. It follows Grace Augustine’s adventures as she tries to broker peace between rival clans. The exact timeline date is not certain, but we do know that it is set sometime prior to the first film. This comic is considered canon.
  • Avatar: The High Ground – A 2022 comic book from Dark Horse that served as a prequel to Avatar: The Way of Water. The plot for the comic was taken from Cameron’s original idea for the sequel. When he decided to go in another direction, he gave Dark Horse the plot outline. Due to the production timeline, this comic was the first place audiences met Spider, prior to the release of The Way of Water. The comic is considered canon. If you’re curious, it takes place in the year 2168.
  • Avatar: Reckoning: An MMORPG game set in the world of Pandora. It is set in the year 2170, and is considered canon.
  • Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – An upcoming open world video game, which allows players to explore Pandora. According to promotional material, it is set in 2169, placing it shortly after the flashback prologue in Avatar: The Way of Water. The game is considered canon.

Isn’t there an Avatar cartoon?

Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image credit: Nickelodeon

As you seek out Avatar media, you might come across an animated series called Avatar: The Last Airbender. The animated franchise has no relation to James Cameron’s Avatar saga. We understand the confusion, trust us. These are the types of things that happen when two popular franchises share the same name. If you spot any form of Avatar media that mentions Airbenders, don’t worry, you haven’t missed anything, it’s just another franchise.

Here is an easy way to tell them apart – if it’s live-action and features blue people, then it’s James Cameron’s Avatar. If it’s animated, and you see a bald kid named Aang, then you’re watching Avatar: The Last Airbender.

(That being said, it’s a popular franchise, so feel free to watch it as well)

Where can I watch Avatar?

Avatar: The Way of Water
Image credit: The Walt Disney Company

If you want to experience the beauty of Pandora, all you need is a Disney+ subscription. All of James Cameron’s Avatar films are currently available to watch on the streaming service. In fact, Disney+ has its own curated Avatar collection, which includes behind-the-scenes documentaries to supplement your viewing experience.

If you prefer owning Avatar digitally, the films are available to purchase from a variety of video-on-demand platforms, including Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV. If you want to own physical copies, that’s just as easy. Due to the popularity of the films, it isn’t hard to find physical releases of Avatar from most home media stores.

Now you have everything you need to watch the Avatar franchise. Enjoy your journey to Pandora!

Want to know what's coming up next in pop culture? Check out our guides to upcoming movies, upcoming TV shows, upcoming comics, and upcoming comic conventions. If you're looking for specific franchises or genres, we have all the upcoming MCU, upcoming Star Wars, upcoming Star Trek, and upcoming DC movies & TV for you. If you're a fan of superheroes and not specific to just Marvel or DC, we have overall guides to all the upcoming superhero movies and upcoming superhero TV shows (and new seasons) as well.

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone: Joshua is a pop culture writer specializing in comic book media. His work has appeared on the official DC Comics website, the DC Universe subscription service, HBO Max promotional videos, the Batman Universe fansite, and more. In between traveling around the country to cover various comic conventions, Joshua resides in Florida where he binges superhero television and reads obscure comics from yesteryear.


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