Right when I was graduating high school I worked at a comic shop— we had a bootleg (VHS) copy of The Phantom Menace and I remember really enjoying watching it repeatedly, way before it was available on home video (this was back when home video releases were shady as fuck and un-determinable).
Anyway, I really liked Phantom Menace (still do) but of course, we all had it in our heads that it was pretty silly, and the two movies to follow would obviously be superior, so we’d allow Phantom Menace to be our little guilty pleasure until the true radness arrived.
Years later, the other 2 films are long since out, and they are utter crap. So, with that in mind, I still declare Phantom Menace to be my obvious choice for my fav prequel. Yeah, the little kid sucks (though arguably not as bad as older Anakin), and Jar Jar was annoying— but besides that, it had Pod Racing (which was pretty innovative / original for a Star Wars flick), Liam Neeson as a Jedi (badass), Ewan McGregor BEFORE Obi Wan became a whiny ponce, and motherfucking DARTH motherfucking MAUL.
So there you go, my argument for Phantom Menace as the best (at least “least shitty”) of the Star Wars prequels.