The cast of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Let’s Give the 11 Best Prequels of All Time Their Due

Sometimes, the greatest stories are the ones that come before the main stories.

Prequels have a bad reputation in fiction, arguably even more so than sequels, but when done right, a good prequel can equal or even surpass the original text. So, in honor of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes joining the prequel ranks, here are 11 of the best prequel movies and TV series.

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

the cast of Rogue One a Star Wars Story
(Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The Star Wars prequels are endlessly controversial with some loving them, some hating them, and some regarding them as wasted potential. However, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a film that mostly lives up to its promise and has (mostly) gotten better with age. The action is amazing but is made all the more satisfying for the build-up to it. I also feel like the core group in this is underrated and the most tragic part is that we will never see all of them together again. The fact that it also led to the creation of Andor, my favorite Star Wars show, does soothe the sting of disappointment on that front.

Black Widow

Scarlett Johansson in Black Widow
(Walt Disney Motion Pictures)

Black Widow is a weird case, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe constantly jumps backwards and forwards in time. However, I consider it to be a prequel, as the best part is the opening scene with Natasha as a child spy. This film does suffer from the fact that it was made after Natasha’s death, and as such, feels like too little too late. Still, I’m glad it exists, as the character deserved a film of her own.

Bumblebee

Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie and Bumblebee in 'Bumblebee' from Paramount
(Paramount Pictures)

Bumblebee is also technically meant to be a prequel to many of the Michael Bay Transformers films. However, it works just as well as a standalone film. A bit like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the film follows a young protagonist as they find and befriend an alien, and fight to protect their newfound friend from the military/government. The emphasis on human characters is frequently regarded as a flaw in the live-action Transformers films, but I think it works well here. Charlie and Bumblebee’s friendship is super sweet, and it honestly makes me wish that this weren’t a prequel so we could get more movies of Bumblebee hanging with Charlie.

X-Men: First Class

Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in X-Men: First Class (via Fox)
(20th Century Studios)

Magneto did nothing wrong. Excellent casting, solid effects, and X-men costumes with actual colors? All wonderful. X-Men: First Class is not perfect by any means (they did Darwin the mutant particularly dirty) and I am sad that a lot of the cast got killed off-screen prior to Days of Future Past, but it’s still a fun, solid superhero film

Pearl

pearl getting ready to kill
(A24)

X (2022) was a great subversion of the traditional slasher. However, I think its prequel, Pearl, is much more unique for being an exploration of its incredible villain protagonist. Mia Goth is the star of this film, and she kills it (no pun intended). I also appreciate the look at early Hollywood that reminds us how young a medium film is, and the many references to The Wizard of Oz.

The Godfather Part II

James Caan as Sonny Corleone in The Godfather II
(Paramount Pictures)

What can I say about this film that hasn’t been said already? While it’s often called one of the best sequels of all time, it is also a prequel that tells the story of Vito Corleone. It’s honestly amazing that the flashbacks make for a great story on their own, but when taken with the main timeline, both make each other stronger.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Church scene between Amanda Seyfried and Meryl Streep in 'Mamma Mia Here We Go Again'
(Universal Pictures)

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is as much a sequel as it is a prequel, but it succeeds well at both. Lily James is effervescent as Donna and manages to balance comedy and drama incredibly well, and all the other “young” versions of older characters are near perfectly cast. The film is a fever dream of positive vibes and ABBA music, and is so good that Meryll Streep broke her rule about “no sequels,” appearing as a cameo at the very end of the film. Still, she didn’t phone it in, delivering an incredibly sweet farewell to the character and the world of Mamma Mia!

Better Call Saul

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'.
(AMC)

Technically, this series has a lot of scenes that take place during and after the events of Breaking Bad. However, the majority of it explores Jimmy McGill as he becomes Saul Goodman, the lawyer who helped Walter White. Many fans even argue that it’s better than Breaking Bad, thanks to an amazing understanding of the show’s protagonist.

Andor

Poster of Cassian Andor in Andor.
(Disney+)

I say this as a Day 1 fan of The Clone Wars: Andor is the best Star Wars show. It has incredible worldbuilding, showing what life is like for the 99% of the galaxy who don’t have the Force but still have to live in the dystopian Star Wars universe. The Empire has always been evil, but this show reminds us that under the cartoonishly evil machinations of the Emperor, there are still a million everyday evildoers whose collective action makes the Empire work. At the same time, the core message of the show is still one of hope, about controlling your own destiny, making a difference, and how small actions can lead to big change.

House of the Dragon

Emma D'Arcy as Rhaenyra Targaryen in HBO's House of the Dragon
(MAX)

House of the Dragon follows the Targaryen family as they destroy themselves in a war for succession. While it is a prequel to Game of Thrones, it has thankfully learned many of the lessons from the mishandling of the previous show. The stories and lives of the Targaryen women are what arguably drive the show, and it excellently explores the complexity of motherhood when you are heir to the Iron Throne.

Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Young Indiana Jones with Lawrence of Arabia and his bike
(Lucasfilm/Paramount/Amblin Television)

Let me be clear: Not every part of this series aged well. There is a lot of racism in this series, much like the racism in the original Indiana Jones films. However, there’s also a lot of fun to be had; every episode is basically “What historical figure is Indy meeting today and what lesson will they teach him?” I also do like that they explore Indy’s mother and how she uprooted her life for her husband’s career, and how isolating and stressful that can be. In any case, I’ll never get over 9-year-old Indiana asking the Archduke Franz Ferdinand for his daughter’s hand in marriage.

What are your favorite prequels? Comment below!

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)


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Author
Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.