Star Wars: Episode I, The (1999)
Star Wars: Episode I, the Phantom Menace
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace is a 1999 American epic space opera film written and directed by George Lucas. It is the fourth film in the Star Wars saga to be released, the first of a three-part prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, and the first film in the saga in the story chronology. The film was Lucas' first production as a film director after a 22-year hiatus following the original Star Wars film, and only his fourth film overall.
The film's narrative follows the Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi. They escort and protect Queen Amidala, who is traveling from the planet Naboo to the planet Coruscant, hoping to find a peaceful end to a large-scale interplanetary trade dispute. The story also features a young Anakin Skywalker before he became a Jedi; he is introduced as a young slave boy who appears to have unusually strong nascent powers of the Force and must contend with the mysterious return of the Sith.
Lucas began production of this film after he concluded that film special effects had advanced to the level he wanted for the fourth film in the saga. Filming started on June 26, 1997, at locations including Leavesden Film Studios and the Tunisian desert. Its visual effects included extensive use of computer-generated imagery (CGI); some of its characters and settings were completely computerized and did not exist in the real world.
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace premiered in theaters on May 19, 1999; sixteen years after the premiere of the previous Star Wars film, Return of the Jedi. The film's premiere was extensively covered by media and was greatly anticipated because of the large cultural following the Star Wars saga had cultivated. Despite mixed reviews by critics, who tended to praise the visuals and action sequences but criticized the writing, characterization and acting, it grossed more than US$924.3 million worldwide during its initial theatrical run, making it the second-highest-grossing film worldwide at the time—behind Titanic. It became the highest-grossing film of 1999, the highest-grossing Star Wars film, and is currently the fifth-highest-grossing film in North America unadjusted for inflation. A 3D reissue, which has earned an additional US$102.7 million at the box office and brought the film's overall worldwide takings to over US$1 billion, was released in February 2012.