The best viewing order of Star Wars films is a never-ending debate between fans, from those who prefer chronological by story, chronological by release date, and altogether different combinations. Throwing your kids’ first Star Wars movie viewing experience into consideration can add even more to ponder.
If you’re looking for just the right Star Wars film for your youngling once you’ve decided they’re ready, we suggest Star Wars: The Phantom Menace — which was released 20 years ago this month — for a movie night that’s fun for the entire family. Not only is it the first chapter of the Skywalker saga, younger viewers especially will find a lot to love in the most kid-friendly Star Wars film of them all.
1. Jar Jar Binks makes an instant impression.
The moment Jar Jar Binks runs into Qui-Gon Jinn, he makes an unforgettable impression on young viewers. From his distinct walk to his eccentric manner of speaking, Ahmed Best masterfully created a character that kids will find irresistible and irrepressible. And that’s not even taking into account the comic relief Jar Jar brings to The Phantom Menace as he gets into trouble with his tongue.
There’s no one else like Jar Jar in Star Wars, and kids will sit up and take notice.
2. The Phantom Menace puts kids in the galaxy.
There aren’t a lot of young protagonists in Star Wars. Luke Skywalker is delightfully teenaged as A New Hope begins, but it’s young Anakin Skywalker (with a shoutout to his best friend Kitster) that makes kids feel like they have a place in the galaxy. And Anakin quickly proves that even the youngest heroes can make a difference in a galaxy far, far away.
3. Now this is podracing!
Podracing in the Boonta Eve Classic is one of the most heart-pumping scenes in any Star Wars film. Don’t be surprised if your kids ask you to replay it again and again.
4. See the Jedi at the height of their power.
Before The Phantom Menace, Star Wars fans could only imagine what a galaxy protected by Jedi Knights looked like. Thanks to Episode I, we see them at full strength, wielding the Force and acting as peacekeepers of the galaxy. And best of all, The Phantom Menace features a Jedi lightsaber battle for the ages with one of the most compelling villains in the saga.
5. Kids can meet Artoo and Threepio, getting a real feel for all things Star Wars…
Classic characters like C-3PO and R2-D2 will spark recognition in kids who have some background knowledge on Star Wars and the Rebellion’s unsung heroes. They’ll also meet Yoda, another familiar face even if you’ve never seen a Star Wars movie.
6. … And then see them again in A New Hope, which is the perfect second Star Wars movie!
Once the credits roll, we suggest following up The Phantom Menace with A New Hope now that the kids feel more at home in the galaxy.
And then it’s all you. An animated series next? The continuing adventures on Star Wars Kids? The Empire Strikes Back? Back to the prequels? You and your kids can decide together as you continue your journey as a family.
Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.
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