George Lucas Says The Phantom Menace Is One of His Favorite Films

At Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas called The Phantom Menace one of his favorite films.
At Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas called The Phantom Menace one of his favorite films.
Photo: Lucasfilm

The maker wasn’t there in person, but he was there in spirit. And via video.

At today’s 20th anniversary panel for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace at Star Wars Celebration, George Lucas sent in a taped video message to thank fans for coming—and to talk, very briefly, about the film’s legacy.


Here’s his quote:

Thank you for coming to the Celebration. [The Phantom Menace] one of my favorite movies and of course Jar Jar is my favorite character. Ahmed [Best], you did a fantastic job. It was very very hard. Also for John Knoll and all the guys at ILM, I made it impossible for them. We broke a lot of ground. We were using test equipment but it was the beginning of digital, even though we didn’t get to shoot the whole thing digitally, we got to shoot part of it so it was really one of the first digital features and I’m very proud of that. The fans are always such a big part of these films and obviously those of you who are here are the fans of Episode 1 and I love each and ever one of you.

And here’s the full panel, synced up to 1:01:28 when Lucas came on.

Lucas’ praise of Best was a theme at this year’s convention, likely in part due to a recent outpouring of fan support since Best admitted he was suicidal after the negative reaction to Jar Jar. During the Phantom Menace panel, Best received enthusiastic cheers, much like he did on the main stage at the convention a few days earlier. You can watch that video below.

To hear Lucas say Phantom Menace is one of his favorite films is a little surprising, but you have to also remember the film was pure George. There was no one there to tell him “no” at any stage. Plus, it pushed technology so far ahead compared to other films of the era. More than almost anything else, that was the takeaway from the panel—sure, some fans like the movie, but the fact that Phantom Menace ushered in a new era of Star Wars, and filmmaking technology as a whole, is really its biggest legacy.

For more from this year’s Star Wars Celebration, read below.

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The Phantom Menace is probably about as close as any movie ever got to what George Lucas’s vision of what Star Wars was supposed to be. If you read the earliest drafts of his screenplay for the movie we now call A New Hope, the tone is much closer to TPM — a clear pastiche of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon comic strips and pulp space opera like E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensmen saga. But the fans wanted Star Wars® as it existed circa 1977-83. And I’d argue that’s what the new movies are trying to give them, to the point of absurdity. (“Hey kids, look! Another desert planet! No, it’s not Tatooine!”)

There’s a clear parallel with Gene Roddenberry and Star Trek. The 1979 movie is arguably Roddenberry’s Platonic ideal of what the show was supposed to be like, as was a good chunk of the first season of TNG. Another example of why it’s a mistake to assume that the creator’s “vision” is the thing you love about something.