Thanks to Paramount Pictures remaking the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, which is expected to have a disastrous $11 million debut this weekend, and to the Vimeo user Jacob T. Swinney cutting together a Ben-Hur/Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace mashup video, new attention is being brought upon the similarities between Anakin Skywalker's pod race and Ben-Hur's (played by Charlton Heston) chariot race.
Let me make this very clear, as many other site's running this story haven't, this isn't a new revelation. Shortly after Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, many-many people were discussing how similar the two scenes were. Clearly, George Lucas, who wrote and directed the the first Star Wars prequel, was inspired by the iconic scene; however, as you can see in the side-by-side comparison video above, the line between tribute and theft were NOT crossed.
Listen: You can knock Lucas for his stale direction and abysmal dialogue in the prequels, but you can't call him a thief for having a race scene play out like so many other race scenes have played out. Lacking originality isn't the same as stealing.
Experience the heroic action and unforgettable adventures of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. See the first fateful steps in the journey of Anakin Skywalker. Stranded on the desert planet Tatooine after rescuing young Queen Amidala from the impending invasion of Naboo, Jedi apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi and his Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn discover nine-year-old Anakin, a young slave unusually strong in the Force. Anakin wins a thrilling Podrace and with it his freedom as he leaves his home to be trained as a Jedi. The heroes return to Naboo where Anakin and the Queen face massive invasion forces while the two Jedi contend with a deadly foe named Darth Maul. Only then do they realize the invasion is merely the first step in a sinister scheme by the re-emergent forces of darkness known as the Sith.
The cast featured Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiarmid, Pernilla August, Oliver Ford Davies, Hugh Quarshie, Ahmed Best, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and Frank Oz.
Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace was written and directed by George Lucas.