The best movie prequels

They're a risky exercise in meddling with classics.

A QUIET PLACE: DAY ONE, (aka A QUIET PLACE PART III), from left: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, 2024. ph: Gareth Gatrell / © Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
A Quiet Place: Day One. (Paramount Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Movie prequels are something of a hit-and-miss venture; for every A Quiet Place: Day One you can end up with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, or Red Dragon.

Casting an Oscar-winning actress in Lupita Nyong'o as the lead will absolutely help a filmmaker's cause, not least when you're entering a well-established cinematic universe. Day One rewinds the clock to the exact day those sound-sensitive monsters crash-landed on Earth and rampaged across a screaming civilisation.

What it lacked in close-up alien action - A Quiet Place and its sequel A Quiet Place: Part II provided more than enough of that - the new blockbuster directed by Michael Sarnoski generates a surprisingly gentle vibe through its terminal illness subplot, and once the credits roll you realise it's the best this horror franchise has to offer.

With Alien: Romulus due out on the big screen next month, which sandwiches itself between the events of Alien and Aliens, the act of 'prequelling' shows no sign of slowing down. To commemorate that fact, continue scrolling to see what happens when it's executed perfectly.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Year : 2016 USA Director : Gareth Edwards Felicity Jones, Diego Luna
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Lucasfilm)

Taking place just one week prior to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, this gritty voyage into a galaxy far, far away chronicles the Rebel Alliance's first major victory over the Galactic Empire, with Felicity Jones's Jyn Erso and Diego Luna's Cassian Andor swiping the plans for the Death Star.

Written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy for director Gareth Edwards, Rogue One stands proud as the greatest of the many Star Wars prequels. A special Darth Vader cameo will leave your jaw on the floor.

INDIANA JONES ET LE TEMPLE MAUDIT INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM 1984 de Steven Spielberg Harrison Ford. Prod DB © Lucasfilm Ltd - Paramount Pic
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. (Lucasfilm)

From the one and only Steven Spielberg, this prequel to 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark treats us to Harrison Ford's second outing as the archaeologist Indiana Jones. In it, he's tasked with tracking down a mystical stone while rescuing village kids from a black magic cult.

Notably, the movie brought about the introduction of the PG-13 rating following complaints of its violence.

X-Men: First Class. (20th Century Fox)

Boasting the likes of Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult in its cast, X-Men: First Class applied 1960s style to this superpowered mutant franchise. Watching Magneto, Mystique, Professor X and The Beast in their younger years is both exhilarating and charming.

It's also a top tier Matthew Vaughn movie.

DER PATE - TEIL 2 The Godfather - Part II Michael Corleone (AL PACINO), Sohn des verstorbenen Paten, setzt sich als unumstrittener Chef des Familienclans durch, den er jedoch im Kampf um die Macht zerstört ... Regie: Francis Ford Coppola aka. The Godfather - Part II
The Godfather Part II. (Paramount Pictures)

Released two years after Francis Ford Coppola's crime classic The Godfather, the superior Part II could be a contentious choice for this list given its timeline setting.

As both a sequel and a prequel, the drama concurrently follows Al Pacino's newly appointed Don Michael Corleone and his father Vito Corleone (portrayed by Robert De Niro) during childhood and up to the point of his New York City ascension.

Il Buono, il brutto, il cattivo The Good, the Bad and the Ugly  Year : 1966 Italy / Spain  Director : Sergio Leone  Clint Eastwood Restricted to editorial use. See caption for more information about restrictions.  It is forbidden to reproduce the photograph out of context of the promotion of the film. It must be credited to the Film Company and/or the photographer assigned by or authorized by/allowed on the set by the Film Company. Restricted to Editorial Use. Photo12 does not grant publicity rights of the persons represented. credit:Photo12/7e Art/PEA
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. (United Artists)

The ultimate spaghetti Western, Sergio Leone's final piece of his Dollars trilogy revolves around three warring gunslingers: the Good (Clint Eastwood), the Bad (Lee Van Cleef), and the Ugly (Eli Wallach), who are trying to unearth a buried cache of gold.

This iconic image of The Man with No Name is unrivalled in terms of cinematic significance.

Australia. Anya Taylor-Joy in Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga (©Warner Brothers) is a 2024 Australian post-apocalyptic action film directed and produced by George Miller, who wrote the screenplay with Nico Lathouris. It is the fifth installment in the Mad Max franchise, serving as both a prequel and spin-off to Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), and focuses on the Fury Road character Imperator Furiosa. The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Alyla Browne as younger versions of Furiosa (originally portrayed by Charlize Theron), alongside Chris Hemsworth and Tom Burke. Ref: LMK110-MB004-280624 Supplied by LMKMEDIA.
Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga. (Warner Bros. Pictures)

Anya Taylor-Joy straps on the mechanical arm previously worn by Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road in this year's Furiosa. Once again directed with demented delight by George Miller, it's another Wasteland triumph as we learn about the eponymous warrior's origins.

Come for guaranteed vehicular chaos, stay for Chris Hemsworth's most unhinged performance yet.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (20th Century Fox)

Again, another debatable entry in this gathering of prequels, but Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (itself a sequel to reboot Rise of the Planet of the Apes) does technically unfold before the events of Planet of the Apes; Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, and Battle for the Planet of the Apes.

Matt Reeves directs his first Apes movie here, cultivating a more dangerous atmosphere than its predecessor while also bringing in Gary Oldman as the villainous Dreyfus.

USA. Amber Midthunder in (C)Hulu new film : Prey (2022) .  Plot: The origin story of the Predator in the world of the Comanche Nation 300 years ago. Naru, a skilled warrior, fights to protect her tribe against one of the first highly-evolved Predators to land on Earth. Ref: LMK106-J8238-100822 Supplied by LMKMEDIA. Editorial Only. Landmark Media is not the copyright owner of these Film or TV stills but provides a service only for recognised Media outlets.
Prey. (20th Century Studios)

It's Predator transported to the Great Plains of 1719, what's not to love?

Starring Amber Midthunder as a young Comanche named Naru, Prey shows why you can never question the limitless cool of this hunter alien. It proved such a hit with audiences that director Dan Trachtenberg is currently developing a connected project titled Badlands.

Original film title: BUMBLEBEE. English title: BUMBLEBEE. Year: 2018. Director: TRAVIS KNIGHT. Stars: HAILEE STEINFELD. Credit: PARAMOUNT PICTURES / Album
Bumblebee. (Paramount Pictures)

After the Transformers movies lost their spark, Paramount Pictures boldly opted for a prequel focussed on the yellow Autobot, Bumblebee.

Set in 1987, an injured Bumblebee is found and helped by teenager Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), but it's John Cena's coming-of-age performance as Jack Burns and Travis Knight's delicate direction that makes this one a particularly memorable watch.

THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK 2021 de Alan Taylor Joey Diaz Alessandro Nivola. d'apres les personnages crees par David Chase
The Many Saints of Newark. (New Line Cinema)

14 years since The Sopranos infamously cut to black after seven seasons, creator David Chase jumped back into the Mob world with the late James Gandolfini's son Michael. Commendable and entertaining in its own right, this cinematic prequel deep-dived into Tony Soprano's youth and the personalities that shaped him.

It could've gone so wrong, but The Many Saints of Newark comes out smelling of roses.