The Phantom Menace references to original Star Wars

In 1999, 22 years after Star Wars was born, the new film, The Phantom Menace which is set 32 years before the film that introduced us to that Galaxy Far, Far Away was released. It told the story of Anakin Skywalker who would later become the popular villain we know in the original film from 1977 and its sequels in 1980 and 1983 respectively. While the film received mixed reviews, it did keep the spirit and popularity of Star Wars alive and perhaps best of all did its best to make references to the films we already knew so well

  • Famous characters from the original films are still maintained in The Phantom Menace (in order of appearance); Obi-Wan Kenobi (who is an apprentice to another Jedi), the evil Emperor Palpatine (who is really known as Darth Sidious) R2D2, C3PO, Anakin Skywalker (who later becomes Darth Vader) Jabba the Hutt and his majordomo Bib Fortuna and Yoda. Chewbacca’s people the Wookies also make an appearance as does the friend of Anakin who is a Rodian that Jabba’s eventual bounty hunter Greedo is.

  • The original Star Wars is told through the eyes of the droids, R2D2 and C3PO while in The Phantom Menace it is told through the eyes of Obi-Wan and his master Qui-Gon Jinn

  • At the movie’s start, the Republic Cruiser, Radiant VII, carries Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan toward the Trade Federation’s main starship. The ship’s captain communicates with Viceroy Nute Gunray, who grants them permission to board. This mirrors the beginning of Return of the Jedi, where Darth Vader’s flagship approaches the second Death Star, and those on board it await his arrival. It also alludes to the opening of the original Star Wars, with the Tantive IV pursued and engulfed by an Imperial Star Destroyer, resulting in the loss of most of its crew. However, in this film, the Jedi successfully hold off their attackers upon boarding and realizing that they have been decieved.

  • The Jedi’s negotiations with the Trade Federation go awry when the Neimodians attempt to kill them with droids, mirroring the situation in Return of the Jedi, where Luke, Leia, R2 and their group of friends resort to fighting after failed negotiations to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.

  • The Trade Federation preceded the Galactic Empire, which originated from the Galactic Republic governing the Galaxy although eventually, the Empire’s agents, the Sith, led by Emperor Palpatine (Darth Sidious), despite being in lead with the Federation, wiped it out. The Rebel Alliance, also known as the Rebellion, formed to overthrow the Empire and restore the Republic, thus being called the Alliance to Restore the Republic.

  • Darth Sidious who will later become known as the evil Emperor Palpatine is first introduced as a hologram and later seen in the flesh. This alludes to The Empire Strikes Back where he is first introduced as a hologram and later in Return of the Jedi where he appears in person.


  • According to the Opening Crawl of the Film the Republic is corrupt and in dispute which causes the Trade Federation to invade Naboo while they are in league with Darth Sidious who happens to be from Naboo and hopes to have his home planet invaded in order to become (Supreme) Chancellor of the Republic. In the original Star Wars, the galaxy is in a period of civil war according to its Opening Crawl.

  • Princess Leia is pursued by the Empire to hand over the plans to the Empire’s planet-destroying battle station known as the Death Star which could be destroyed by the Rebel Alliance before it destroys anymore planets after Alderaan which Leia comes from, while Queen Padme Amidala faces the Trade Federation seeking her planet’s occupation. Leia is captured while delivering the plans to R2D2 who escapes with C3PO and returns to rescue her with Luke, Obi-Wan, Han Solo and Chewbacca, while Amidala escapes with the Jedi’s assistance.

  • Leia sends a message to Obi-Wan Kenobi to join the Rebel Alliance in the fight against the Galactic Empire which is a mirror image of when the current Supreme Chancellor Vallorum sends for help from the Jedi to negotiate with the Trade Federation to cease their blockade of Naboo.

  • The Wookie Chewbacca, Han Solo’s first mate, isis revealed to have been freed from being a slave of the Galactic Empire by Solo, along with his family such as the Wookie Chief Attichitcuk who is his father, his cousin Shoran, his wife Mallatobuck and son Lumpawaroo although they are all rescued by Chewbacca and other Wookiees who are Chewbacca’s people. Jar-Jar Binks is saved by Qui-Gon on Naboo, and both Naboo and the Gungans (Binks’ people) are later invaded but liberated by their Queen and the Jedi.

  • When the Jedi land on Naboo amid the Trade Federation invading the Planet, Qui-Gon saves Obi-Wan and Jar-Jar from a droid speeder by using his green-bladed lightsaber to destroy it. Luke eventually does the same with his lightsaber to a stormtrooper on a speeder in Return of the Jedi.

  • When the Jedi are leaving with Jar-Jar in a Bongo submarine shortly after helping him escape a death sentence from his leader Boss Rugor Nass for returning when Binks was banished due to his clumsiness, they are hounded by an opee but manage to flee, just like in the original Star Wars when Luke, Han, and Chewbacca face a dianoga in a trash compartment, with Han rescuing Luke. However unlike the dianoga, the opee is killed by a sando, which also takes down a pursuing colo.

  • The Jedi and Jar-Jar rescuing the Queen is clearly a homage to how Luke and Han along with Chewbacca saving the Princess

  • When the Queen is escaping Naboo and they are pursued by the Trade Federation’s main ship and when they are hit, R2D2 is able to give the Queen’s ship a fix which allows them to escape but necessitating a stop on Tatooine for repairs. In The Empire Strikes Back, R2 does the same to aid the Millennium Falcon’s escape from the Empire.

  • When introduced, Anakin Skywalker resembles his son in his youth, and both grew up on Tatooine, though we never saw Luke at that age. Anakin was born into slavery, while his son was not, but both feel constrained by their circumstances on Tatooine. Anakin’s Toydarian master, Watto, limits his freedom, and Luke’s aunt and uncle prevent him from joining the Rebel Academy by falsely claiming they need him, though their true concern is his safety.

  • Qui-Gon’s bargaining with Watto for ship parts is reminiscent of Obi-Wan and Luke’s negotiation with Han and Chewbacca for passage to Alderaan. Watto refuses Republic Credits, prompting Qui-Gon to use a mind trick, which fails. Similarly, Luke’s attempt to mind trick Jabba during the mission to rescue Han with Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO fails, although it succeeds on Jabba’s majordomo (and counterpart), Bib Fortuna (which Qui-Gon succeeds with on Boss Nass for travel).

  • During dinner at Anakin’s home, he asks Qui-Gon if he is a Jedi to which Qui-Gon asks what makes Anakin think that at which he tells him that he saw Qui-Gon’s lightsaber. 32 years later when Luke is eating with his aunt and uncle and tells them that R2D2 may have been stolen after he finds Leia’s message for Obi-Wan in R2, his uncle asks him the same question regarding that.

  • The podrace , set in Beggar’s Canyon which is mentioned by Luke in the original Star Wars), resembles the Battle of Yavin to destroy the Death Star (also in the first film) in its pursuit theme: Sebulba’s chase to defeat Anakin in the race mirrors Darth Vader’s pursuit to stop Luke from destroying the Death Star, though Sebulba knew Anakin for many years while Vader discovered Luke’s identity (as his son) only later.

  • Anakin is freed from slavery and reluctantly leaves his mother to train as a Jedi while Luke does not heed Obi-Wan’s offer to join him in training to be a Jedi until his aunt and uncle are killed by stormtroopers seeking R2D2 and C3PO. Difference is while both leave Tatooine to train as a Jedi, Anakin choses to do so while Luke is forced to leave Tatooine when his aunt and uncle are killed.

  • The discussion of the Senate in regard to stopping the Trade Federation’s invasion of Naboo clearly mirrors how the Rebel Alliance gathers together to destroy the Death Star except matters are not taken into one’s own hands like Amidala choosing to free her planet on her own whereas her daughter Leia has no participation in the battle against the Death Star like her brother Luke.

  • Anakin is thought too old by Yoda to start his training much as Yoda later thinks Luke too old to train as a Jedi when he first meets him in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda later recants and decides to train each of them when Obi-Wan convinces him to train the respective Skywalkers although in Anakin’s case it is when Qui-Gon who was supposed to be Anakin’s master dies

  • Much as Darth Vader serves alongside Grand Moff Tarkin at the behest of his master in the Galactic Empire Darth Maul serves alongside Nute Gunray in the Trade Federation. Both Sith Lords however, despise the officers that they serve under as much as their own masters do although the Emperor does see Tarkin as a worthy and respectable ally.

  • As mentioned earlier, the Queen’s unsuccessful pleas to the Galactic Senate for help against the Trade Federation invasion on Naboo mirror the Rebel Alliance’s preparations to destroy the Death Star on Yavin. However, Amidala takes matters into her own hands, with Jedi assistance, to liberate Naboo after Senator Palpatine becomes Supreme Chancellor. The Alliance, in contrast, uses conventional methods to unite and destroy the Death Star.

  • Obi-Wan believes Anakin’s training is a mistake due to his perceived danger. Qui-Gon disagrees, stating it is a matter of perspective (since the Council only views Anakin’s future as uncertain rather than dangerous although Yoda does say towards the end of The Phantom Menace that he fears grave danger in Anakin’s training). In Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan (while confirming Yoda’s words that Anakin is Darth Vader) reveals that truths depend on one’s point of view.

  • The Queen seeks help from the Gungans to defeat the Trade Federation, much like her daughter seeks help from the Ewoks to defeat the Empire. While Leia encounters the Ewoks by chance, the Jedi meet the Gungans serendipitously. The Gungans aid the Queen, Anakin, and R2D2 in entering the palace to stop the Neimodians by distracting the Federation’s droids, similar to the Ewoks aiding Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, R2D2, and C3PO in reaching the bunker to disable the deflector shield for the Rebel Alliance to destroy the new Death Star.

  • While Anakin’s travel into space with the other Naboo pilots to destroy the Trade Federation droid control ship clearly mirrors how Luke shortly after joining the Rebellion takes part in the battle against the death star with R2D2 in the original Star Wars, it is also similar to the climactic battle of Return of the Jedi which features a space battle, a primitive battle and a lightsaber duel. The differences are


  1. During the space battle in The Phantom Menace, it seems more as if, Naboo pilots focus on escaping droid fighters instead of direct confrontation against them, unlike the original Star Wars, where Rebel pilots in their X-Wings engage TIE fighters and attack the Death Star. Anakin accompanied by R2D2 in his starfighter succeeds in destroying the Trade Federation ship, similar to Luke’s success in destroying the Death Star while also being accompanied by R2 in his X-Wing. However, R2 is damaged during the Battle of Yavin but repaired before the film ends, while he sustains no damage in the battle of Naboo. Also Anakin gets stuck in the main control ship due to a power shortage when he falls into the main Federation starship but manages to escape while unintentionally destroying the ship. This parallels Return of the Jedi, where the Rebel fleet struggles against the Empire until Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian destroy the new Death Star (though that is their mission), leading to the fall of the Imperial fleet and the Empire’s defeat.


  2. Unlike the Gungans who use Kaadus and Fambaas as beasts of burden battle, the Ewoks use no beasts of burden into battle. Also, Gungan weapons seem to have some degree of technological level unlike Ewok weapons which are simply spear, arrows or catapults.
  3. Unlike the original Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace features two opponents against one in its lightsaber duel although . When Qui-Gon is killed by Darth Maul, Obi-Wan screams a ‘No!’ which is similar to the original Star Wars wherein, he is killed by Darth Vader and Luke suffers a same reaction. Maul gaining the upper hand over Obi-Wan is similar to when shortly after Vader defeats his son, Luke while telling him the shocking truth that he is his father, Luke falls down the shaft and is rescued by Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, R2D2 and C3PO in The Empire Strikes Back although in Obi-Wan’s case shortly after Maul disposes of his blue-bladed lightsaber he manages to leap back and defeat Maul by slicing him in two using his fallen master’s green-bladed lightsaber. His acquisition of Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to replace his lost one is much like when Luke loses his father’s blue-bladed lightsaber when fighting Darth Vader before learning that Vader and his father are one and the same. He later constructs a new green-bladed lightsaber which he uses to defeat and redeem his father while Anakin after overcoming Darth Vader kills Darth Sidious who for 19 years was Emperor of the Galaxy. Maul falling down the shaft after getting sliced in half is also similar to the death of his master in Return of the Jedi. When Obi-Wan goes to comfort his dying master hoping to save him, Qui-Gon admits that his death is adamant and affirming his faith in Anakin, requests Obi-Wan to train the boy which Yoda reluctantly allows, it is similar to when Luke attempts to comfort his dying father hoping to save him as well but Anakin during his final moments says his son has already saved him by redeeming him which is something that those he lost in the past including Qui-Gon, his mother Shmi and Amidala who was his wife said for their faith in him.
  4. Unlike the original Star Wars films, The Phantom Menace features a lightsaber duel between two opponents and one, although the first lightsaber duel seen in the film between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul mirrors the duel between Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in the original film. When Obi-Wan is killed by Vader, Luke screams ‘No!’ and Obi-Wan reacts with a similar ‘No!’ when Maul kills his master. Maul gains the upper hand over Obi-Wan, similar to Vader defeating Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, but Obi-Wan manages to defeat Maul using his dying master’s lightsaber. The acquisition of Qui-Gon’s green lightsaber by his apprentice who earlier had a blue lightsaber mirrors Luke losing his father’s blue lightsaber before learning the truth. Later, Luke constructs a new green lightsaber during the quest to redeem his father, while in the process of this Anakin overcomes Darth Vader and kills the Emperor. Maul’s demise down the shaft echoes his master’s fate in Return of the Jedi. Obi-Wan’s unsuccesful attempt to save his dying master and simultaneously Qui-Gon’s faith in Anakin resemble Luke’s efforts to save his father, ultimately leading to his redemption as he acknowledges the good that his son saw in him and brings back to him memories of the faith that others such as his mother Shmi and Amidala who was later his wife had in him.
  5. The Ewoks celebrate in the fall of the Empire by the death of numerous stormtroopers at their hands is much like the Gungans do so when their droid opponents are disabled by the destruction of the control ship that operates them. The difference is in Return of the Jedi both the natives and the Rebel teams celebrate their victories against the Empire although the Jedi until the end do not celebrate their victory in their battle against the Sith except when Naboo involves them in celebrating the planet’s liberation from the Trade Federation which involved the Sith (while the Jedi realize that the Sith have returned).
  6. Qui-Gon’s funeral which is a typical Jedi one involving cremation is basically Anakin looking at his own future wherein shortly after his death, his son cremates him in a Jedi funeral as well.
  7. The victory ceremony at the end of The Phantom Menace is a combination of the victory ceremonies at the end of the original Star Wars and Return of the Jedi except the former concerns the Rebel Alliance while the latter is for the entirety of the Galaxy although like the original Star Wars, much like Luke and Leia smile at each other during the ceremony, Anakin and Amidala do the same during their victory ceremony that they are involved in as well

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