Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace brought plenty of new elements to the franchise, but there were many ways it lifted straight from the original trilogy. George Lucas designed each movie in the prequel trilogy to parallel the original Star Wars films, that way they would rhyme – like poetry. This was made clear right from the start of The Phantom Menace thanks to callbacks to the original movies, some of which were obvious and others more subtle. As a result, Lucas was able to strike a balance between old and new, making each trilogy feel distinct, yet connected, as part of a larger saga.
While certain parallels between the two trilogies may be a coincidence, there’s a great deal of evidence to suggest that even the most minor details were crafted intentionally by Lucas. The popular Star Wars ring theory analyzed the prequels through this lens, drawing attention to moments big and small throughout the movies that connect each Star Wars era. This would mean that The Phantom Menace would have a number of callbacks to both A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, but there are a few references to The Empire Strikes Back, as well. Here are five ways that The Phantom Menace lifted from the original Star Wars trilogy.
Dialogue References To The OT
One of the most recognizable references to the OT throughout The Phantom Menace is the dialogue. From Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “I have a bad feeling about this” at the beginning, Nute Gunray’s “Close the blast doors!,” and Yoda’s “Our own counsel we will keep…,” The Phantom Menace is packed with lines lifted straight from the OT. There are plenty of subtle dialogue references as well, including Anakin Skywalker asking Qui-Gon Jinn “Are you alright?” just as Luke Skywalker would eventually ask Ben Kenobi in A New Hope. Another is Queen Amidala saying she won’t wait on a committee, which mirrors a Han and Leia exchange in The Empire Strikes Back.
The Phantom Menace even stays consistent with alien languages that were introduced in the OT, most notably Jabba the Hutt’s language of Huttese on Tatooine. Sebulba frequently uses the term “Poodoo” to insult Anakin and express frustration, just like Jabba did in Return of the Jedi. Another small attention to detail is in Anakin’s first exchange with Sebulba, where he notes that Sebulba would have to pay for him if he got hurt. Anakin uses the term “Moolee-rah,” a Huttese verb for payment, which is the same word Jabba used in A New Hope‘s special edition when asking why Han hadn’t paid him back.
Anakin’s Hero’s Journey vs. Luke’s
Another of Lucas’ intentional parallels was the similarities between Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s hero’s journeys. Lucas was greatly inspired by Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces when creating Star Wars, which laid out a basic pattern that most heroes tend to follow in every form of mythology. Luke followed this pattern throughout the OT, starting as an ordinary young man who gradually grows into a great Jedi who helps redeem his father. Anakin followed a very similar path, starting on Tatooine before setting off to become a Jedi, fighting in battle to destroy a space station just like Luke in A New Hope.
The biggest difference between Anakin and Luke is where their journeys eventually led them, with Anakin falling to the dark side and Luke choosing to embrace the light. Lucas stated that he wanted to make it clear that Anakin and Luke had very similar experiences, but they made different choices, making each hero’s journey familiar, yet distinct. Having Anakin’s journey mirror Luke’s makes The Phantom Menace an essential part of the overall saga, showing how both the hero and the villain often start their stories the same way, but everyone has the potential to be a great force for good or evil.
Shots That Evoke Scenes From The OT
As the Star Wars Ring Theory demonstrates, there are too many shots to count in the prequel trilogy that mirror shots from the OT. Some of this can be attributed to how Lucas likes to frame a scene, but other moments are clear references to what came before. The very first scene of The Phantom Menace shows the Jedi requesting permission to land, and the framing is very similar to Darth Vader’s shuttle arriving at the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. These parallels continue all the way to the end of the movie, including the final lightsaber battle, where Darth Maul falls down a long shaft like Palpatine did in Return of the Jedi.
Just like certain dialogue references aren’t as obvious at first glance, the same goes for some shots that mirror the original trilogy. During the podrace sequence, Anakin finds himself high in the air, and manages to sneak up on Sebulba and land in front of him. This is nearly identical to the speeder chase on Endor in Return of the Jedi, where Leia used a similar trick on a stormtrooper. With so many visual references, the saga really feels like it comes full circle in Return of the Jedi, which culminates in the Rebels teaming up with the native Ewoks, just like the Naboo aligned with the native Gungans.
Plot And Story beats Taken From The OT
The Phantom Menace has many references to Return of the Jedi, but it lifts several story beats from every OT film. One of the first is the Jedi having to rescue the Queen, just like Luke and Han embark on a rescue mission to save Princess Leia in A New Hope. The overall plot of The Phantom Menace revolves around Palpatine manipulating events to his advantage from behind the scenes, which is how he managed to lure the Rebels into a trap in Return of the Jedi. Yoda and the Jedi Council were initially hesitant to train Anakin, stating that he is already too old, which was one reason that Yoda didn’t want to teach Luke in The Empire Strikes Back.
Musical Cues That Reflect The OT
John Williams composed a breathtaking new score for The Phantom Menace, but managed to work in some cues from the OT. The heroic music that plays as the Jedi fight the battle droids is the same track heard when Luke and Leia fight the stormtroopers on the Death Star in A New Hope. However, one of The Phantom Menace‘s more subtle musical cues was the ending song referencing Return of the Jedi by reworking the Emperor’s theme. From music, to dialogue, to the hero’s journey, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace found several ways to lift from the OT while still delivering something new.