Sometimes, it feels like a movie doesn’t need a sequel. Or maybe one sufficed, but two (or three or…) was a bit much. What about prequels, though? These films are designed to take us earlier into the story, often to serve as an origin story. On occasion, a prequel works well. “Monsters University,” for example, plays off “Monsters Inc.” quite well. Other times, though, a prequel feels perfunctory. Here are some film prequels we did not need. Now, not all of them are necessarily bad. They just either add nothing to the world of the other film, or films, in the series, and perhaps even actively work against the enjoyment of the original or originals. We also decided to spare you anything that went directly to DVD or streaming since those scream more of “cheap cash in” and, while unpalatable, at least you get what is expected from such a release. Nobody watches “Van Wilder: Freshman Year” expecting anything more than an unnecessary prequel.
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“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999)
20th Century Fox
Was there a lot of story to be told in the “Star Wars” universe? Perhaps, though, we were pretty good with the original trilogy. That being said, the rise of Anakin Skywalker, seeing him become Darth Vader, could have been good. No, “The Phantom Menace” proved unnecessary because, well, it’s terrible. It has no value in terms of quality, and it actively hurts the franchise as a whole.
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One last “Star Wars” movie. “Solo” is a better movie than “The Phantom Menace.” It’s also less “necessary” as a prequel. We didn’t need to know anything about Han Solo’s past. Also, we didn’t need to know how he “got” his name or how Chewbacca became called “Chewy.”
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“Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd” (2014)
New Line Cinema
Bad andpointless, a real losing combination. What made “Dumb & Dumber” work? Well, some actually funny jokes, but also the performances of Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd and Harry. Now, let’s say you take two characters who, while funny, are fairly two-dimensional, and replace those great actors with a couple of lesser lights. That gives you “Dumb and Dumberer.”
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20th Century Fox
Here is when we lean on the “unnecessary” part of this. “Prometheus” is an interesting movie, and even pretty good. As a prequel to “Alien,” though, it is unnecessary. “Alien” is a taut, streamlined horror classic that did not need any preamble. Frankly, “Prometheus” feels almost tacked on to the “Alien” world and could have been better if it was not trying to be a prequel to a standalone horror classic (even if said classic also had three sequels of diminishing quality).
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“Exorcist: The Beginning” (2004)
“The Exorcist” is one of the most successful horror films ever, whether you measure it critically or commercially. It was a huge hit and an Oscar nominee. Since then, though, they have decided to make several sequels and this belated prequel, and none of them have resonated in the same way as the original.
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“The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas” (2000)
Did you ever wonder how Fred and Wilma got together? Or Barney and Betty? What’s that? No? What if we told you Stephen Baldwin played Barney? Still no? Yeah, us too.
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“The Scorpion King” (2002)
Obviously, there were people in Hollywood who believed in The Rock, now known as Dwayne Johnson, as an actor. Giving him a chance to star in a film made sense, and he’s done it dozens of times since. That being said, why “The Scorpion King,” a spinoff of, and prequel to, “The Mummy?” The special effects haven’t held up, but the story didn’t even work back then.
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“Hannibal Rising” (2007)
Anthony Hopkins was on screen for a sliver of “Silence of the Lambs,” but still took home Best Actor. His performance as Hannibal Lecter was disconcerting and indelible, overtaking Clarice Starling in the zeitgeist. We definitely didn’t need to see a younger version of him as the protagonist of a movie, though. It turns out Hopkins was pretty important to the character.
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“Oz the Great and Powerful” (2013)
Everything about this “The Wizard of Oz” prequel was a misstep. Sam Raimi is a great director when he gets to do his thing, but he put himself in director jail with this one. James Franco slept through another leaden performance he didn’t seem interested in. Also, why would we want to watch a movie about the man who would become the Wizard of Oz? This was a story that did not need to be told.
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What makes Leatherface an iconic horror villain is that he’s a movie monster. He’s a human, sure, but there’s nothing “human” about him. The dude is the primary baddie in a film called “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Leatherface didn’t need to be explained. He should have been elemental. No wonder this movie flopped.
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“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)
20th Century Fox
If you were going to make a prequel about one member of the X-Men, Wolverine makes sense. Although, that full-on prequel series with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender is fairly successful. “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” is a disaster, though. Even with Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, it’s a total flop.
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“Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” (2023)
This one is sort of weird because it’s a prequel to Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series, but also tied to the prequel/spinoff “Bumblebee.” While “Bumblebee” was sort of its own thing and pretty good, certainly better than any other “Transformers” film, “Rise of the Beasts” involves robot animals and feels like a true prequel, but also one that seems like a needless slog. Also, the giant robot animals are silly.
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“Orphan: First Kill” (2022)
“Orphan” isn’t much of a horror film, but it does have a bold twist. Of course, “Orphan: First Kill” can’t pull that twist because we already know the circumstances. There is no mystery, just a bunch of legwork building toward…nothing. It’s kind of fine as a horror film, but totally unnecessary as a prequel.
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“Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” (2009)
With prequels and also sequels, sometimes the subtitle can really tip you off. “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” feels like a parody of a prequel movie title. They decided they needed to set the table for the war between vampires and werewolves (aka Lycans) in the “Underworld” franchise. Now, we’re happy Michael Sheen got to chew every last ounce of scenery, but otherwise, this is definitely an unnecessary prequel.
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“Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” (2004)
We never thought, for a second, about the idea of doing a prequel to “Dirty Dancing.” Why? Also, it’s really just a warmed-over remake set in Cuba to try and make it different. Plus, “Dirty Dancing” had Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. It had a killer soundtrack. “Havana Nights” had none of that. It is a true zero of a prequel, and the definition of totally unneeded. If you want to complain about the oversaturation of IP projects in film, maybe save a little contempt for “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights.”
Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the booksThe Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000andThe Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.
- 3 'Pearl' (2022)
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- 5 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' (2016) ...
- 6 'Red Dragon' (2002) ...
- 7 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom' (1984) ...
- 8 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly' (1966) ...
- 9 'The Godfather Part II' (1974) ...
- 10 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me' (1992) ...
The ideal viewing order for the Star Wars movies is the Prequel Trilogy, followed by the Original Trilogy, and then the Sequel Trilogy. While Rogue One and Solo can be enjoyed at your convenience, they are best watched after the Skywalker saga as they add depth to the overall story.What was the first prequel movie? ›
And others restore a filmmaker's original vision, which brings us to the oft-overlooked 1920 horror classic The Golem: How He Came Into the World, the first prequel ever.What is an example of a prequel? ›
A prequel is an installment in a series of books or movies which describes action that occurred in the past, before the original. Monsters University, Batman Begins, and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace are famous prequels.Are prequels meant to be read first? ›
While many people swear by watching shows or movies from a franchise in the order that they were released in, like the Star Wars movies, I have found that beginning with the prequel is often the best battle-plan.Why are the prequels more futuristic? ›
Since the prequels were made decades after the original trilogy, the special effects of course look a lot more better, and that might make the ships and technology look more advanced than what the originals had, but it doesn't really have to mean that those things actually *are* more advanced within the universe.