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15. Anakin Skywalker wins the pod race
By and large, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is bereft of meaningful Anakin Skywalker moments. The big takeaway from the first chapter of the prequel trilogy seems designed to illustrate the concept that no one is born evil.
As such, the viewer learns that Anakin was an exceptionally bright, but generally normal child during his adolescence. The key to his later darkness was rooted in the fact that his mother Shmi was understandably unable to protect him from the horrors of slavery. That said, The Phantom Menace does feature one standout sequence featuring the future Darth Vader.
There are a series of contrived circumstances, Anakin ends up in dangerous podrace with the stakes being his freedom. Despite being only nine years old, Anakin proves to be an exceptional racer. Not only is he able to overcome a field of much more qualified adult competitors, he also compensates for another racer’s attempted sabotage.
In this scene, the audience finds out that even as a child, Anakin was exceptionally talented and remarkably attuned to the Force. And why Qui-Gon Jinn would believe that Anakin should be admitted into the Jedi order despite his advanced age.
Of course, Qui-Gon was wrong. Anakin was in fact too old and too consumed by fear to be a Jedi. Instead of being the prophesied savior who would bring balance to the Force, Anakin would instead cast it and the galaxy into darkness. However, watching Anakin defy the odds to win the podrace is so thrilling. You can see how it would prompt a Jedi Master to make a tragic once-in-a-lifetime exception.