‘Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace’ Is Returning to Theaters for Its 25th Anniversary

image from the 1999 movie
© Lucasfilm Ltd./Courtesy Everett Collection
Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) battle Darth Maul (Ray Park) in Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace

It may seem hard to believe, but Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, George Lucas‘ first installment of his Star Wars prequel trilogy, has now been around a quarter-century: The film premiered May 19, 1999, amid an incredible amount of hype, anticipation and expectations from those who had been starved for any Star Wars big-screen content since 1983’s Return of the Jedi, as well as newcomers to the Star Wars universe.

Whether those expectations were met and if the build-up (or even the entire prequel trilogy as a whole) was worth it has been up for often-heated debate among fans over the ensuing 25 years. But like it or not, Lucas did unapologetically present his unique vision in Phantom Menace, which he continued in the next two prequel films, 2002’s Attack of the Clones and 2005’s Revenge of the Sith.

I do like how Phantom Menace and the other prequels largely maintained the old-time space opera movie serial feel that Lucas also brought to the original trilogy (even the title Phantom Menace sounds like it could have been the name of a chapter in a 1930s Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers serial).

And Episode I did renew interest in Star Wars among a wider audience (hardcore fans had already been exploring further adventures in that galaxy far, far away through novels, comics and other outlets; in high school during the late ’80s, I was one of the few among my cohort who was still occasionally thinking and talking about Star Wars).

Ultimately, amid its failings and various cringeworthy aspects (a lot of those involving the character of Jar-Jar Binks), Phantom Menace does have notable and exciting visual and audio elements (incredible special effects and another tremendous musical score by John Williams) that make it worth seeing again on a big screen.

And you will have the chance to do just that when the movie gets a weeklong theatrical re-release beginning May 3, 2024 (the day before Star Wars Day 2024).

movie poster for the 25th anniversary theatrical re-release of "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace." At top are the words "25th Anniversary," below which reads: "Every Saga Has a Beginning." A large, extreme close-up of the face of character Darth Maul fills the backdrop, below which are illustrations of the characters Padme Amadala, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

© & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC. All rights reserved.

This release will also feature an exclusive look at The Acolyte, an upcoming Disney+ Star Wars series set about 100 years before the events of Phantom Menace. Tickets are on sale now (check Fandango or other movie ticket sites, or your local theater).

Along with this anniversary celebration, Lucasfilm is really keeping the party going on Star Wars Day 2024 with something that may test even the most hardened fan of the franchise: The Skywalker Saga May the 4th Marathon, a one-day theatrical screening of all nine films in the so-called Skywalker Saga.

poster art for the "May the 4th Skywalker Saga Marathon" It lists all nine films in the Star Wars "Skywalker Saga," which will be screened back-to-back in movie theaters on May 4, 2024.

© 2024 & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd.

So, during this May the 4th marathon (which looks like it actually begins the evening of May 3, at least in my area; check the link above for more details) you can sit and watch, back-to-back, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker.

The marathon is listed as clocking in with a total runtime (not including any intermissions, I would guess) of 20 hours and 22 minutes! I’ve got to tell you, I’m not sure even my 7-year-old self could sit through that much Star Wars.