Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

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Critic 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.

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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

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Cast

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

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

All Critics (218) | Top Critics (58)

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…

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…
Slate
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…
Observer
Top Critic

Character and personality take a back seat on this ride.

Nov 16, 2015 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

"Star Wars: Episode 1 -- The Phantom Menace" got dismissive reviews in 1999, and it deserves the same today. But you probably know that.

Feb 10, 2012 | Rating: 1.5/4 | Full Review…
Newsday
Top Critic

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

½

This movie is terrible

Jay Hutchinson
Jay Hutchinson

Super Reviewer

½

Phantom is a frustrating watch, however there are elements worth admiring: its ambition plot, Williams' score, the art direction, and the iconic duel with Darth Maul.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

Filled with horrific dialogue, laughable characters, a laughable plot, ad really no interesting stakes during this film, "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" is not at all what I wanted from a film that is supposed to be the huge opening to the segue into the fantastic Original Trilogy. The positives include the score, the sound effects, and most of the visual effects, which provide some great eye candy for audiences, but if that's all the film has, then what the hell is the film's purpose? It does helm one of the best lightsaber battles in the franchise and there are a few fun fan service moments, but I don't have anything else nice to say, and I could rant for days, so I am stopping here. This film is a complete mess in every way, but it still could have been worse.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

½

I've had a saying that I've used for almost 20 years now in relation to The Phantom Menace. I compare the film to waking up Christmas morning expecting some great present only to receive socks. Nothing against socks. They have a place and are quite needed, but there's no flash with it. The same goes for The Phantom Menace, a film that really doesn't live up to the excitement of the films that came before it. The film follows the early adventures of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan MacGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Jake Loyd), the boy found in the Tatoine desert by Master Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson). In that sentence the film sounds like it would have some potential. Throw in trade routes, treaties, and Jar Jar Binks and you derail any exciting ideas that are out there. Sadly, this is what the film focuses on as it fails in many ways. Bloated with CGI overindulgence and dialogue that is embarrassing the film relies on its action, which it hands out in spoonfuls. Looking back over 15 years later you can see what a great film this could have been. The opening scenes with the Jedi fighting droids and hiding on the planet of Naboo. The pod race. The ending with three fronts and Darth Maul. If these sections could have been bridged in a better way than this could have been a far superior film than it turned out to be. Why, of why, didn't we get more Darth Maul when he was plastered on every piece of merchandise back in 1999? There are the parts to a good Star Wars film there, just not enough hardware to pull it together. Would it have compared to the originals? No, but that's ok. This film was parsecs away from those films (error intended) What The Phantom menace represents is the footing that the saga is built on. It's buried deep underground and doesn't serve much purpose. It's there doing its job, even if it's an ugly mess. Kind of like socks. I've softened a bit on the film, but I can't call it anything more than average. That's it. An average film equals a horrible Star Wars film. Even years later this is still one of the most disappointing films of all time.

Chris Garman
Chris Garman

Super Reviewer

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