Watching the Phantom Menace trailer 20 years later


The first trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out 20 years ago. We take a look back at the trailer with 20 years of Star Wars experiences.

Twenty years ago this week, the first trailer for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace hit theaters and just like that, Star Wars  was back.

Remember, 1998 was pre-Youtube scrutiny. No blogs analyzed screenshots. Fans weren’t hitting Twitter for instant reactions and memes. You had to buy a ticket to see, like, A Bug’s Life if you wanted to catch a glimpse at how the saga was going to continue by starting at the very beginning.

Much has changed since then, more than platforms on which Star Wars fans view and discuss new material. We know so much more about where the prequel trilogy was going, where the franchise in general was going, and beyond.

So… what’s it like to revisit the Phantom Menace trailer in 2018? Here’s what I noticed when I watched it, cold, after two decades and a whole lot of Star Wars.

Even the font is different

The “Lucasfilm” logo (a little more bright green and innocent than it looks now) still feels magical, but the traditional “the following PREVIEW has been approved for all audiences” screen looks so different than it does now. Also — remember 20th Century Fox?

The FIRST shot is Gungans

Bless George Lucas’ heart, honestly. Were they really that confident that these characters would be popular?

“Every generation has a legend”

Those are the first words in the trailer, placed over those misty Gungans. Wait a second, wait a second, wait a second. Is Anakin Skywalker the legend? Because someone should tell one Ben “Kylo Ren” Solo, if that’s the case, as he clearly was never briefed on this part of the story. Let’s hope this means that the legend of Luke Skywalker begins with his father.

That’s definitely Natalie Portman

More from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

It’s weird that Padme’s identity was supposed to be a twist, right? Watching now, it’s pretty clear that the only young female character in the trailer, whether in makeup or Tatooine street fashion, is the same person. Wouldn’t it have been more shocking if the shots in the trailer of Queen Amidala were actually her decoy? Yet, somehow, it worked.

Fun fact: the first time I saw Pirate of the Caribbean in theaters, I was convinced Natalie Portman was playing Elizabeth Swann, not Keira Knightley. I blame Sabé!

Not a lot of new music

You’d expect Lucasfilm to want to show off Duel of the Fates, the banger of a tune that came out of this film — yet the first John Williams classic we hear is the Binary Sunset/Force theme.

So many new creatures

The trailer doesn’t have too many lines of dialogue, but there are a ton of funky aliens.

Anakin is the story

Sure, today there’s a bigger deal made about what constitutes a “teaser” trailer and a full trailer in terms of how much of the story is revealed. However, looking back at the trailer, Qui-Gon finding Anakin, and the concern from both Obi Wan and Yoda that the boy is both dangerous and a potential savior seems to be what this movie is about. There’s no mention of the political thriller side of this movie, or Padme’s character at all — and she’s kind of the protagonist, from a certain point of view.


For a trilogy about the origin of the galaxy’s biggest baddie, this trailer is so jovial! It looks like a fun adventure when you take out all of the trade embargos. It doesn’t give that much away. Also, why didn’t we ever talk about Anakin’s basic backpack?

Next. The Phantom Menace: The Good, The Bad, and The Midi-chlorians. dark

BONUS: Samuel L. Jackson is not credited