Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Critics Consensus

Burdened by exposition and populated with stock characters, The Phantom Menace gets the Star Wars prequels off to a bumpy -- albeit visually dazzling -- start.



Total Count: 223


Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,207,608
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Movie Info

In 1977, George Lucas released Star Wars, the ultimate sci-fi popcorn flick-turned-pop-culture myth machine. It quickly became the biggest money-making film of all time and changed the shape of the film industry. After two successful sequels (1980's The Empire Strikes Back and 1983's Return of the Jedi) that extended the story of the first film, Lucas took some time off to produce movies for others, with mixed success. In 1999, Lucas returned to the Star Wars saga with a new approach -- instead of picking up where Return of the Jedi left off, Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace would be the first of a trilogy of stories to trace what happened in the intergalactic saga before the first film began. Here, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson); Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), who will later father Luke Skywalker and become known as Darth Vader, is just a nine-year-old boy. When the Trade Federation cuts off all routes to the planet Naboo, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are assigned to settle the matter, but when they arrive on Naboo they are brought to Amidala (Natalie Portman), the Naboo queen, by a friendly but opportunistic Gungan named Jar Jar. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan plan to escort Amidala to a meeting of Republic leaders in Coruscant, but trouble with their spacecraft strands them on the planet Tatooine, where Qui-Gon meets Anakin, the slave of a scrap dealer. Qui-Gon is soon convinced that the boy could be the leader the Jedis have been searching for, and he begins bargaining for his freedom and teaching the boy the lessons of the Force. The supporting cast includes Pernilla August as Anakin's mother, Terence Stamp as Chancellor Valorum, and Samuel L. Jackson as Jedi master Mace Windu. Jackson told a reporter before The Phantom Menace's release that the best part about doing the film was that he got to say "May the Force be with you" onscreen. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


Liam Neeson
as Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor
as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman
as Queen Amidala/Padme
Jake Lloyd
as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid
as Sen.Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Ray Park
as Darth Maul
Pernilla August
as Shmi Skywalker
Terence Stamp
as Chancellor Finis Valorum
Brian Blessed
as Boss Nass
Steven Spiers
as Capt. Tarpals
Ahmed Best
as Jar Jar Binks
Hugh Quarshie
as Captain Panaka
Ralph Owen
as Ric Olie
Adrian Dunbar
as Bail Organa
Warwick Davis
as Wald/Gimy Man/Spectator
Silas Carson
as Nute Gunray/Ki-Adi-Mundi
Celia Imrie
as Bravo 5 Fighter Pilot
Liz Wilson
as Eirtae
Gin Clarke
as Adi Gallia
Jerome Blake
as Rune Haako
Benedict Taylor
as Bravo 2 Fighter Pilot
Clarence Smith
as Bravo 3 Fighter Pilot
Dominic West
as Palace Guard
Greg Proops
as Fode-Beed--Beed's Head
Scott Carpurro
as Fode-Beed--Fode's Head
Khan Bonfils
as Saesee Tinn
Mark Coulier
as Aks Moe
Ray Griffiths
as Power Droid/Sebulba
Madison Lloyd
as Princess Ellie
Geoffrey Pomeroy
as General Ceel
Alan Ruscoe
as Plo Koon/Bib Fortuna/Sil Unch
Christian J. Simpson
as Royal Naboo Pilot
Hassani Shapi
as Eeth Koth
View All

News & Interviews for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

Critic Reviews for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

All Critics (223) | Top Critics (63) | Fresh (119) | Rotten (104)

  • The movie is fun, for the most part, and several scenes are as good or better than anything Lucas created in the original films. The human characters, however, are not nearly as interesting as those in the earlier episodes.

    Dec 14, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Do kids really want to follow a plot about intergalactic trade embargoes?

    Nov 16, 2015 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • What I can't comprehend is why the political details had to be so tedious and abstract. Will the kids of our nation and the world truly be titillated by trade wars and the spectacle of a do-nothing Senate?

    Nov 16, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Look, I wanted to love The Phantom Menace, too. I was an adolescent boy and would enjoy being one again for a couple of hours. But the movie has a way of deflating all but the most delusional of hopes.

    Nov 16, 2015 | Full Review…

    David Edelstein

    Top Critic
  • Mr. Lucas is not without a certain technocratic sagacity, but I don't think he's communicating even with the young as astutely as he once did.

    Nov 16, 2015 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • Character and personality take a back seat on this ride.

    Nov 16, 2015 | Full Review…

    Jay Carr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace

  • Jun 22, 2016
    Darth Maul, double bladed lightsaber, what could go wrong with this film?! Oh yeah, comic relief Jar Jar Binks and a Tatooine pod race that went about 7-10 minutes too long. It is unfortunate that they wasted arguably the 2nd best villain of the entire franchise in the first abysmal film. About 3 minutes into Jar Jar Binks' screen time you know that the script has a long way to go to dig itself out of that hole.
    Patrick W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 26, 2016
    A technical achievement in visual effects, makeup, art direction and score that is muddled by a lackluster script and poor acting. The fight scenes, while impressive and tons of fun, lack depth and emotion, and the characters feel like the SparkNotes version of much better characters.
    Matthew M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 05, 2016
    Perhaps it is because of my self-entitled attitude which comes with being a millennial that makes me feel as through I've been wounded more than Qui-Gon Jinn at this very moment. I just sat through Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the first time in close to two years and I find myself shocked and chagrinned to discover that so many of the things I used to love as a young child about this film are hopelessly derivative and cliche. Phantom Menace was the first Star Wars film I ever saw in spring of 2001. I was just getting into movies at the time and the only real reason I saw it first was because it was on one night and one of my parents taped it (oh god, yes, 90s nostalgia!) for me to watch the next day as it's airing time impeded with my 8:00 bedtime. I watched the film the next day and thought it was the finest thing I had ever lain my young eyes on but now the last burnt vestige of withheld sympathy has finally gone up in flames and I honestly feel like the protagonist in a Smiths song minus Manchester or a specific failed relationship. The tragedy here begins and ends with how aimlessly the film's important scenes are executed. Where George struck gold in A New Hope, Phantom is a film with hit and miss acting, several characters whose necessary presences further corrode said acting, and a storyline which jumps the fence in terms of speed (slow trade talk, oh wait here's a podrace sequence!, midi chlorian rant, oh wait holy toledo it's Darth Maul!), etc. etc. and I can't help but feel betrayed by a film I put my trust in. Where the Original Trilogy had exciting storylines and whose overall ethos redefined science fiction, Phantom kicks off the Prequel trilogy like a slow-witted, self-important university frat-dweller who has no idea how hard their previous generation worked to be successful. It features a cast of actors who for some parts are wonderfully talented people, but whose performances here are watered-down and harpooned by the dialogue and the inability of the film's creative masterminds to let them do their job properly. And here I rest my point; the film stars well-established actors like Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Liam Neeson, and even more British and Scottish theatre-trained actors like Terence Stamp as ineffective Chancellor Valorum and of course Ian McDiarmid as the Palpatine we all love and hate. All strong proponents which could easily bolster the film's potential and truly make the first chronological star wars film (as of 2016) amazing and they can't because the lack of lively and meaningful dialogue suffocates them right in their tracks. But the truly optimistic fans (god bless their hearts for theirs are stronger and more loving than mine) will argue that Phantom Menace indeed has a few strong points; namely the Pod Race sequence and the juiced-up lightsaber duels which help begin to paint a picture of what the Jedi Order were like before their Downfall. To both of these points, I will partially agree and partially disagree; the Pod Race was indeed exciting - for the first lap after which the entire novelty wore off as the Anakin v Sebulba rivalry took it's sweet time resolving itself. As for the lightsaber duels, I will admit that the Duel of the Fates was the first real lightsaber duels I saw (it was 2001, guys) where I didn't feel as if the Jedi were just slacking off or just horribly trained. However, Qui-Gon's performance in said duels are bordering on plot holes in my view; he's a Jedi Master who trained Obi-Wan Kenobi and neutralized his first apprentice after he turned to the Dark Side and yet he's that winded after a 45-second duel with Darth Maul... Are you kidding me!?? Is this some sort of inside easter egg joke that I just never got or was this genuinely part of the story? And then we get to the part of this entire charade which irritates me the most. The purposely dated-looking filter in the entire movie. It's the one thing that grinds my gears worse than Jar Jar Binks because it's there the entire film, giving it such a dated look when the whole thing took place a measly thirty-two years before A New Hope. It further sucks the life and energy out of the film and dilutes it into a bleak two hours further depriving the film of the Star Wars feeling which ebbed, emanated and flowed through the original three films so spectacularly. This isn't even really a Star Wars film, it's more like a behind-the-scenes look on the Republic, it's Senate and all the pretentious clods who occupy it. At least Attack of the Clones and Revenge Of The Sith both have more exciting storylines and allow the few decent actors a little more room to do their own thing as they are meant to. None of that can be the case for Phantom though, this is the film where Star Wars crashed and burned worse than that one fighter that was shot down before even getting into space in the Battle of Naboo scene. It's that big of a let down.
    Kal X. A Super Reviewer
  • Jan 29, 2016
    "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" (1999) is the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), and his struggle to come into his own as a Jedi in the Jedi Order, which fights for the safety of the Galactic Republic. His master is Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), who, we learn, is not as shape as we would like him to be. Nor is the rest of the Jedi Order. The Dark Side of the Force is awakening in the galaxy, and yet all of the Jedi Masters seem to be oblivious to it. We, the audience, however, can already see the machinations. Senator Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is the real Secret (Not-So-Secret) Big Bad and he is succeeding on two fronts. On the one hand, he is using his Sith (read: evil) powers to create a new hidden order through his agent Darth Maul (Ray Park). On the other hand, he is using a trade embargo to push through more executive power for himself in the Galactic Senate. As soon as he gets elected chancellor, he knows he can use his political cunning to reshape the Galactic Republic into a dictatorship at his command. Again, the Jedi Knights seem to be totally oblivious to what is really happening, which is why the world we are introduced to in this film seems to be out of sorts from the jump. The Galactic Republic, for example, has no control over parts of the galaxy in the outer realm and furthermore their politicians and warriors do not even sense evil when it is right in front of their faces. This is, to be sure, the worst of the Star Wars films but it is by no means a bad movie. Compared to other Sci-Fi Adventure films, this is a perfectly adequate enjoyable film, and everyone needs to see it.
    Billie P Super Reviewer

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