Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – 20 Years Ago Today

It was 20 years ago today, that The Phantom Menace began to play….

May 19th 1999 saw the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, almost 16 years after the release of The Return of the Jedi. The film’s release was extensively covered by media all over the world, and with it came a glut of merchandise and co-promotions never seen before for a Star Wars film. It became the highest grossing film of the year, and 20 years on it sits 15th in the US domestic all time chart, and 35th internationally.

The film received mixed reviews on release but judging by the size of the crowds and reactions at the Episode I panel at Star Wars Celebration Chicago last month, I would say that people’s opinions may have changed. io9 spoke with fans at the show and this is what they found.

In Tampa, Florida, it was a family affair. As Jasmin Seals recalls, her family almost had the police called on them for watching the film a bit too loud at home.

“I remember after watching The Phantom Menace at home with my dad, we played the podracing scene so loud that the neighbors came over and almost called the police on us,” she told us. “They thought something was crashing into that house. And I thought that was cool when I was younger. Then as I got older I really appreciated the political aspects of the movie. Even though it isn’t my favorite Star Wars movie I think it did a really good job of introducing so many new characters and creating a new trilogy. It’s very important to the fandom.”

Not all memories of the film are that dramatic, of course. Some are very relatable.

“I have a personal connection to that movie,” said Natassia Strayer, who was cosplaying as Rey at the convention. “When I was younger my favorite character was young Anakin and I used to have this pair of ski goggles that looked like the podracing goggles. So, when I was like four or five, I would just wear them and run around my basement like I was podracing. I know that a lot of people don’t like [The Phantom Menace] as much but for me, just because of that nostalgia, I still enjoy it because I think back to that childhood.”

Read more from the io9 article here.

James is an active member of the Star Wars collecting community, and is the Brand Director for Jedi News. James is also the host of the Star Wars Collectors Cast, and co-host of RADIO 1138 on the Jedi News Network.