The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movie Prequels, Ranked


In the age of blockbuster movie franchises, it is almost a given that a film which falls into this category will either get a sequel or prequel based on how the original film performs at the box office. The latter has become more prominent over the years, as prequels go more in-depth with the context and backstory of the story and characters that have already been established by the original movie. The very definition of the prequel makes the science fiction genre particularly ripe for this type of moviemaking, as the worlds within this particular genre are often born of imagination, making for the perfect ingredients for fleshing out the environment and characters within them.

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Any science-fiction film almost begs for a prequel, with plenty of intricate law, history and scope that can be explored within a movie’s vast universe. One of the latest sci-fi prequels, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, does just that, enriching and further expanding the world of Panem by going deeper into the lore of how the Hunger Games came to be. Granted, prequels can sometimes feel unnecessary, but there have been many in the sci-fi genre that are worthy additions and elevate their franchise. The following 10 movies are just the tip of the sci-fi prequel iceberg.

10 ‘Prometheus’ (2012)

Tomatometer Score: 73%

Michael Fassbender in 'Prometheus'
Image via 20th Century Studios

In 1979, Ridley Scott directed Alien, which would go on spearhead one of the genre’s best-known franchises. 33 years later, Scott returned to his roots with the 2012 prequel Prometheus, the Alien prequel which takes place before the events of Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and the Xenomorph (Bolaji Badejo), follows a group of explorers who find clues to the origin of mankind in outer space, only to discover they are not alone.

Despite not actually featuring a single Xenomorph alien, Prometheus did a fantastic job building upon the franchise by exploring deeper lore around the alien race, philosophical themes and other dark corners within the Alien universe. Michael Fassbender’s droid David is introduced, who also appears in Alien: Covenant, the film Prometheus sets up. While tying into Scott’s original movie, the 2012 film also stands on its own as a chilling sci-fi thriller, proving that it didn’t need the Xenomorphs to score at the box office.

Prometheus Film Poster

Prometheus

Release Date
June 8, 2012

Director
Ridley Scott

Cast
Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green

Rating
R

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Watch On Netflix

9 ‘Kong: Skull Island’ (2017)

Tomatometer Score: 75%

Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson in front of a giant skull in Kong: Skull Island
Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

In 2014, Warner Bros. established their MonsterVerse with the release of Godzilla, a new take on the classic radioactive monster. With that film being a box office hit, Warner Bros. followed it up with the 2017 prequel Kong: Skull Island, which takes place forty-one years before its predecessor. The film follows Monarch, the monster-hunting organization seen in Godzilla, during the 1970s.

Just after the Vietnam War, a team from Monarch head out on an expedition to Skull Island, where they are met by the mighty ape Kong. Along with Kong, Skull Island also introduces an array of dangerous primal species that are even a threat to the King himself. With vibrant cinematography, gripping action and an all-star cast including Tom Hiddleston and Brie Larson, the film also works as an analogy for war, with an aesthetic heavily inspired by Apocalypse Now.

Kong Skull Island

Kong: Skull Island

Release Date
March 10, 2017

Director
Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Cast
Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Corey Antonio Hawkins, John Goodman, Jason Mitchell

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Adventure

Watch On Amazon Prime

8 ‘Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith’ (2005)

Tomatometer Score: 79%

Anakin Skywalker on the brink of turning into Darth Vader at the end of 'Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.'
Image via LucasFilm

The Star Wars prequel trilogy definitely has its flaws and critics, but most fans can agree that Revenge of the Sith is the strongest of the three, and, perhaps, also one of the best Star Wars films in the franchise. The movie sees the downfall of Jedi Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), as he gives into the dark side and becomes one of the most iconic cinematic villains of all time, Darth Vader.

If the prequels do one thing right, it’s that they establish the backstory of Anakin well, which gives the audience a glimpse into the good-hearted person he was before falling into the Emperor’s (Ian McDiarmid) trap. Anakin garners a lot of empathy from viewers, making his downfall all the more tragic. It is also poignant to see how the former bond between Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is destroyed, as they go from brothers to enemies.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

Release Date
May 17, 2005

Director
George Lucas

Cast
Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiarmid, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Watch On Disney Plus

7 ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’ (2011)

Tomatometer Score: 82%

rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes-caesar-2
Image via 20th Century Studios

The original Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston, was released in 1968 to critical acclaim (especially for one of the more shocking endings in any movie). The success of that movie paved the way for several more sequels and even a Tim Burton remake, mostly to diminishing returns and mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike. The release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 marked the beginning of a prequel trilogy that completely reinvented the franchise into something fresh and epic. Rise follows Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimp who is given a drug that advances his intelligence.

When he faces injustice, he decides to lead an ape uprising against humans. While the apes in the previous films appeared fake and puppet-like, groundbreaking visual effects were used to bring Serkis’s incredible motion capture performance as Caesar to life, changing the game in the VFX industry. With deeply thought-provoking themes, the film breathes new life into an aged franchise.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Release Date
August 3, 2011

Director
Rupert Wyatt

Cast
James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Watch On Hulu

6 ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ (2016)

Tomatometer Score: 84%

Rogue One group led by Jyn Erso

Star Wars appears once again on this list thanks to 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a standalone prequel to the original trilogy that feels completely different from any other Star Wars project. The film follows a group of rebels who embark on a quest to steal the Death Star plans.

This ragtag crew of unlikely heroes is made up of new characters like Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), the latter who also got his own Disney+ series later on. Director Gareth Edwards brings grit and maturity to the Star Wars world that viewers haven’t previously seen, and gives them the ultimate heist film. The film further demonstrates the brutality of the Empire, especially with its boldly devastating yet hopeful ending.

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5 ‘X-Men: First Class’ (2011)

Tomatometer Score: 86%

The X-Men looking in the same direction in X-Men: First Class.

The X-Men franchise went back in time with 2011’s starry X-Men: First Class, kicking off a new trilogy set years before the 2000s films. Before they become Professor X and Magneto, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) team up during the Cold War to find other mutants like themselves.

While Charles believes humans and mutants can live side-by-side peacefully, Erik does not, and instead believes the only way mutants can thrive is if humans are extinct. Their opposing views cause a fallout in their relationship, and push Magneto to become the super villain he is in the original X-Men movies. The casting of and chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender as Charles and Erik is genius, as the pair give more depth and insight into the fractured relationship between the two mutants.

X-Men: First Class

Release Date
June 1, 2011

Director
Matthew Vaughn

Cast
James McAvoy, Laurence Belcher, Michael Fassbender, Bill Milner, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Watch On Apple TV Plus

4 ‘Bumblebee’ (2018)

Tomatometer Score: 91%

Bumblebee crouches next to Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) in a scene from 2018's 'Bumblebee'
Image via Paramount Pictures

While the Transformers movies are some of the most successful blockbusters of all time, they have a mixed reception in terms of quality. The release of Bumblebee, a prequel to the Michael Bay films set in the ‘80s, marked the first in the series to receive high acclaim from both audiences and critics.

The film follows everyone’s favorite yellow-and-black Transformer (Dylan O’Brien), who is sent to Earth by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) to form a group base. On the run, he meets teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), and the pair form an unlikely bond. With its back-to-basics action and nostalgic setting, Bumblebee offers a good old-fashioned adventure flick that has what most of the Transformers movies lack: heart. Here, viewers will fall in love with Bumblebee all over again.

Bumblebee

Release Date
December 15, 2018

Director
Travis Knight

Cast
Hailee Steinfeld, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Studio
Paramount Pictures

Watch on Paramount Plus

3 ‘Wonder Woman’ (2017)

Tomatometer Score: 93%

Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman with her shield strapped across her back in Wonder Woman
Image via Warner Bros.

DC fans were first introduced to Gal Gadot’s version of Wonder Woman in 2016’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. In 2017, the beloved hero got her own origin story movie, which served as a prequel to Dawn of Justice. Set during World War I, Wonder Woman sees Amazon warrior Diana Prince team up with pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) in order to stop Ares, the God of War.

Gadot’s iteration of the character introduced Diana to a whole new generation of moviegoers, giving audiences a strong heroine for our times. As one of the first successful female-led superhero movies, Wonder Woman is groundbreaking on all fronts and one of the best DC films of all time. Thanks to Gadot’s charm, her chemistry with Pine, thrilling action and the period setting, it really is something special.

wonder-woman-poster

Wonder Woman

Release Date
May 30, 2017

Director
Patty Jenkins

Cast
Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Ewen Bremner, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Studio
Warner Bros. Pictures

Watch On HBO Max

2 ‘Prey’ (2022)

Tomatometer Score: 94%

Naru hiding from a Predator
Image via Hulu

When one thinks of the Predator films, they think of Arnold Schwarznegger, guns and macho men. All that went out the window with 2022’s Prey, a prequel that reinvents the entire franchise with distinctive and intelligent execution. Set in the Great Plains, the film follows Naru (Amber Midthunder), a skilled Comanche warrior who must protect her tribe from a highly advanced alien predator (Dane DiLiegro) that arrives at Earth.

While Prey goes back to the basics of the original, its historical setting feels inspired and works superbly alongside the predator creature. In a franchise that is so male-dominated, it is refreshing to have an Indigenous woman as the lead, who proves she doesn’t need guns or fancy technology to outsmart her opponent. Prey is exactly what you’d want a Predator movie to be, and so much more.

Prey 2022 Film Poster

Prey

Release Date
August 5, 2022

Director
Dan Trachtenberg

Cast
Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush

Runtime
100 minutes

Main Genre
Sci-Fi

Watch On Hulu

1 ‘Godzilla Minus One’ (2023)

Tomatometer Score: 100%

godzilla-minus-one
Image via Toho Studios

There have been countless Godzilla movies over the years, but the latest, Godzilla Minus One, just might be the best one yet. Set some years before the events of 1954’s Godzilla in post-war Japan, the film sees the legendary monster emerge, bathed in the power of the atomic bomb. The film returns Godzilla to his Japanese roots, and the result is a genuinely terrifying and emotional film that effectively explores the trauma of war.

The radioactive lizard has never been more brutal, and the action is turned up to one hundred. While there is plenty of spectacles, there is also real depth and thematic resonance to back it all up. Just when you thought nothing new could be brought to an IP that is nearly seventy years old, Godzilla Minus One sneaks up on you with a ferocious bang.

Godzilla Minus One Film Poster

Godzilla Minus One

Post war Japan is at its lowest point when a new crisis emerges in the form of a giant monster, baptized in the horrific power of the atomic bomb.

Release Date
December 1, 2023

Director
Takashi Yamazaki

Cast
Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Yûki Yamada, Sakura Andō

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

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NEXT:Every American ‘Godzilla’ Movie, Ranked



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