When The Hunger Games first hit the big screen, it dominated the global box office, catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into stardom and caused Katniss costumes to fly off the shelves at Party City. And so, Suzanne Collins, who wrote the trilogy that served as the basis for the adaptation, returned to the page with a prequel novel set 64 years prior to the events of the first book. Now that book,The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, has received the adaptation treatment, too, with a film starring Rachel Zegler, Jason Schwartzman, Peter Dinklage and Viola Davis.
Of course, prequels are hardly foreign to Hollywood. While most successful franchises look to the future, sometimes the lack of forward-moving material means that the only logical way for a story to continue is to take it to its origins. To that end, here are some of the great comedy prequels that have taken us back — way back.
The King’s Man
The King’s Man, which is not to be confused with The Kingsman, is the cleverly titled prequel to Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation that details the creation of the Kingsman organization. Admittedly, it veers more on the action side of things as opposed to the tongue-in-cheek comedy central to the original film’s success, but there’s still a healthy amount of Ralph Fiennes having the time of his life.
Orphan: First Kill
Orphan’s entire premise is deliciously camp: a psychopathic woman who looks like a child is on the hunt for blood. While the 2009 original plays it a little more straight with its horror, the prequel leans into the dark comedy inherent in its absolutely absurd concept.
Disney princesses get all the fanfare, but there’s no character quite like a Disney villain. Case in point: The fur-wearing, black-and-white aficionado Cruella de Vil, who is such a magnetic character that you almost forget she’s a puppy murderer. The style icon got the origin story treatment when Emma Stone stepped into the role that Glenn Close made famous and tracked Cruella’s rebellious rise during London’s punk movement in the 1970s.
From Andy’s gang of toys in Toy Story to the Parr family of superheroes in The Incredibles, Pixar has extended the life of several of its hit films with sequels. But there is still only one prequel amongst them: Monsters University, which follows Sulley and Mike’s enemies-to-besties arc as students at the titular university.
Please stop brandishing your pitchforks and indulge me in perceiving Pearl (the prequel to X) as a comedy in the Shakespearean sense. Ti West’s technicolor tragicomedy explores the joy that comes with pursuing the American dream and the peril when it all comes crashing down. Sure she’s a sexually repressed homicidal maniac, but she’s a star!
Minions: The Rise of Gru
After the Despicable Me prequel Minions became a global box office sensation, Illumination decided to take things a step further with a sequel that’s also a prequel — a presequel, if you will. The Minions, who gravitate toward the most evil person alive at any given point in time, link up with the then 11-year-old Gru as he fleshes out his childhood dream to become a supervillain. Come for the Gentleminions and Steve Carell’s voice work, stay for the funky Jack Antonoff-produced soundtrack that has no business being as good as it is.
The Transformers series, like most Michael Bay movies, are known for their gratuitous explosions, jarring editing and something that vaguely resembles a plot. Ironically, the best Transformers movie, Bumblebee, swerves in the opposite direction. The Hailee Steinfeld vehicle (pun unavoidable) delivers a charming coming-of-age narrative about a young girl and the yellow 1967 Volkswagen Beetle that would become Bumblebee.
Puss in Boots
When Shrek & Co. returned for Round Two, there was a price on Shrek’s head at the hands of a very nefarious fairy, which introduced us to Far, Far Away’s most ruthless bounty hunter: Puss in Boots. Antonio Banderas’ adorable rapier-wielding tabby cat was so beloved that Puss earned himself a spin-off series that started with the 2011 titular prequel that explored the origins of the almost ogre killer.