It’s hard to believe that it’s been twenty years since we were introduced to Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn, Jar Jar Binks, and Midichlorians, but here we are. As a fan that saw the original Star Wars in theaters in 1977, the passing of years since Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit theaters doesn’t phase me. What does is the effect the film had on the Star Wars franchise.

Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Many, including myself, often have trouble focusing on the film for other than the negative aspects of it. Despite the shortcomings of The Phantom Menace, however, it did deliver one of the best moments of the entire franchise. The lightsaber battle between Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Darth Maul will forever be heralded as one of if not the best of the lightsaber battles in Star Wars. Between the action, choreography, and haunting, musical backdrop of John Williams’s Duel of the Fates, the scene is truly unforgettable.

Remembering The Phantom Menace, Twenty Years Later

The Phantom Menace; Star Wars
Our first look at young Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

The first (chronological) episode of Star Wars also gave us a padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi in Ewan McGregor. His performance as the younger version of Sir Alec Guinness’s Kenobi in The Phantom Menace won fans over quickly. In fact, McGregor’s Kenobi became so beloved that fans have been screaming for years for a stand-alone Obi-Wan Kenobi feature starring the actor. Hopefully we may get it by way of a miniseries on Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+.

Likewise, The Phantom Menace introduced us to a young Sheev Palpatine. As much as fans loved Ewan McGregor’s Kenobi, they equally loved Ian McDiarmid’s Palpatine. His nuanced portrayal of the manipulative senator from Naboo gave us great insight into how the Sith were able to rise again undetected. Like Ewan McGregor before him, Ian McDiarmid also found his character the subject of fan desire for a return.

The Phantom Menace; Star Wars
The manipulation and machinations begin. (Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.)

Fans will get that that this December when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters. The Emperor is sure to return, in some capacity, as we learned in the Star Wars: Episode IX teaser trailer last month.

Sure, it gave us Jar Jar and “Ani”. But The Phantom Menace also gave us so much more. Happy twentieth anniversary, Phantom Menace!