When I was around 4 or 5 years old, my father showed me the original trilogy of Star Wars. As a kid, I really enjoyed the movies, especially the “snow planet” one, as I used to call it. Since there was still so much more to see, the stories from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away faded away from my mind. That was until 1999 when my whole world would be changed from seeing Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

At the time, I was 10 years old and hadn’t seen the original movies in years. I didn’t have preconceived notions as to how the movies ‘should’ be, I was just excited to be going to a movie with my father – which was incredibly rare. It must’ve been a weekday or a matinee because the theater was pretty empty and I don’t remember anyone sitting around us. So my father, his friend Sharky, my brother and I all sat in the middle of the theater, waiting to see what George Lucas had come up with to deepen the story. I was blown away.

The Phantom Menace was something I had never seen before. From the opening, I was hooked. Big explosions, droids shooting laser guns, planets filled with strange creatures, Jedi that ran at the speed of light! What was this movie and why did it take so long to get into my life? The thing that really blew us all away was the pod racing scene. The engines were loud, the stakes were high, and the entire race made us sit at the edge of our seats. In fact, my father still uses the pod racing scene as a defining test for any audio system – sometimes to my embarrassment. 

What hooked me in was the Jedi. Sure, it helped that I found Ewan McGregor to be the hottest thing since sliced bread, but they were completely new to me. They were monks, active in trying to bring peace to the galaxy while skillfully and swiftly fighting with a lightsaber. I was in awe of them. Did Luke Skywalker fight this swiftly in the original films? I couldn’t recall. Then the fight with Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul happened and I don’t think I could breathe. Every time the film cut to their fight, my stomach would knot up. I cared deeply about these two, I didn’t want something to happen to them. Unfortunately, Qui-Gon met his noble end and I was sad. Yet, I was totally enamored with this world.

Luckily for me, my childhood best friend also saw the movie and loved it, too. So we would play Star Wars on the weekends, creating our own stories all while using sticks as lightsabers. We would play trivia, rewatch the movie and hours of behind the scenes footage (especially the lightsaber portion!), overuse the word “mesa” and so much more. The film became a part of my language. It also opened up my world to embracing the geeky side and let myself become a big fan of these “not cool” franchises. 

It’s been 20 years since the film came out and I still list it as my favorite prequel movie. I cannot help but give all my love to The Phantom Menace. It’s so nostalgic for me and the reason I became a Star Wars fan in the first place. The franchise has inspired me time and time again, carving out new opportunities and creative outlets. I would not be writing for this site had it not been for the little movie series George Lucas created. The movie changed my life.

Happy 20 years to The Phantom Menace and May the Force Be With You, Always.

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Erin Lynch