Ever had to binge a series that seems so intense in symbolism and subliminal messaging, that people still refuse to dismiss the lines where the creator himself did not intend to put any? Sounds very edgy for a proper watch order but, it is what it is.
In any case, the technical Evangelion watch order would somewhat differ between generations who witnessed the airing and release of a specific series. True, recaps and alternative events are everywhere. But at their core, and regardless of the split confusion between series timelines, they can be enjoyed without being connected to the much older series that literally ran out of funds as it ended airing.
If you intend to take in every Evangelion episode and movie out there, be prepared to waste a considerable amount of time with the various replays of similar-ish events. Technically you can get the timestamps to skip these. But the following events would usually also provide references to the very recaps, and so it is still quite recommended to sit through every one of them.
1. Chronological order
From a purely timeline-based standpoint, the chronological order will generally line up with the release order. But for those who want a somewhat condensed experience that can still give the whole experience of the franchise, stick to the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. Evangelion 1.0 and 2.0 are basically a mashed-up version of the original TV series, with the events eventually branching off (from the original) midway at 2.0 the moment one of the new characters appears in the story.
Evangelion: Death & Rebirth has been omitted from the chronological order list for consistency.
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone (Based on 1-6?)
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 2.0: You can (Not) Advance (Based on 7-18?)
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 3.0: You can (Not) Redo
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time
2. Release date order
Not much change, with the exception of date stamps. This list also adds Evangelion: Death & Rebirth, which is a (yet another?) what-if alternative spin-off movie. Its Death section is basically a recap of the first TV series (episodes 1-24), and the Rebirth section cuts to an alternative ending. Not required for viewing chronologically, though still worth checking out in our opinion.
Neon Genesis Evangelion (1995)
Evangelion: Death & Rebirth (1997)
The End of Evangelion (1997)
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 1.0: You are (Not) Alone (2007)
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 2.0: You can (Not) Advance (2009)
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 3.0: You can (Not) Redo (2012)
(Rebuild of) Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time (2021)
Plot of Evangelion
During some distant future the fictional year 2015, a timid teenager named Shinji Ikari is summoned to the also fictional city of Tokyo-3 by his estranged father, who happens to be the director of the organization Nerv. There, he witnesses a military group hopelessly fight what is called an Angel, which looks like an indescribable giant monstrosity that continues to wreak utter havoc around it. Later, after being (forcefully?) taken by Misato Katsuragi to some underground complex, he is shown the Evangelion Unit-01.
With no training whatsoever, this poor kid was forced to pilot the giant mech-like(?) figure. He of course was unable to do it properly, causing the Evangelion unit to completely go berserk, though at least the Angel was also ripped to shreds as a result.
Later on, additional characters and additional Eva units are revealed, unveiling more details about the organization Nerv, the true details of its research, and the actual situation that Shinji and his world have been plunged into since the fateful Second Impact event fifteen years ago…
Despite the almost infinite number of analytical discussions that emerged through the years about the series, the fact is that not all of these are going to be interpreted perfectly. Hideko Anno himself has dismissed several theories that fans made through the years, and despite that people are still adamant that there deeper hidden meanings in every crack of its frames.
True, there is a certain level of taste when trying to enjoy something like Evangelion. But our recommendation is to just enjoy watching it. Savor the complicated feelings that the very end of the last movie will give to your overstimulated brain. Cut into the deeper introspective analysis if that’s your thing, but don’t diss people unwilling to do that for entertainment.