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Top 10 Best Origin Story Movies

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Noah Levy Sometimes the best place to start is at the beginning. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 origin story movies. For this list, we’re looking at movies that depict the backstories of key characters or concepts in franchises. Special thanks to our users Steven Jaramillo for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Transcript
Script written by Noah Levy

Top 10 Best Origin Story Movies


Sometimes the best place to start is at the beginning. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 origin story movies.

For this list, we’re looking at movies that depict the backstories of key characters or concepts in franchises. However, we’re omitting the first “Harry Potter” movie because his story was on-going throughout the series. We’re also excluding movies like the “Batman” and “Spider-Man” franchises, since we’re giving superhero origin story movies a list of their own.

#10: “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” (2012)

Before Frodo and the Fellowship, there was a Hobbit who just wanted to stay in Bag End. In 2012, almost a decade after concluding his original trilogy, director Peter Jackson returned to Middle-Earth to tell the prelude to “The Lord of The Rings.” In it, wizard Gandalf recruits a reluctant Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins to embark on a journey with a company of Dwarves to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug. On their quest, they encounter Elves, Goblins, and even a mysterious Ring in the possession of a creature named Gollum. If Bilbo knew better, he should’ve just left that thing alone. But then… well, this wouldn’t be an origin story, would it?

#9: “Monsters University” (2013)

If you thought these two were dysfunctional in the first movie, then you should’a seen them in college. Monsters University takes us back to when Harry first met Sally – we mean, when Mike first met Sully - during their formative years at the titular institution. Although they initially begin their academic careers as bitter adversaries, their rivalry soon lands them in enough hot water that the two are forced to learn to work together if they ever hope to succeed. Re-introducing us to many of the characters we know and love from the previous film, Monsters-U provided heartwarming context to the friendship that’s at the core of this charming franchise.

#8: “Prometheus” (2012)

Big things have small beginnings. Despite all the claims by director Ridley Scott, it’s almost impossible to look at this movie as anything but an origin tale for the “Alien” universe. Several iconic elements from the franchise’s four films are revisited, including facehuggers, the Weyland Corporation, and the Space Jockey, and even a new creature directly related to the Xenomorph called the Deacon. “Prometheus” develops one of the most iconic science-fiction universes of all time with the same dependence on practical effects. We give Scott and company major props for finally answering questions we’ve been asking since 1979… but we still wish we knew what the Engineers actually did.

#7: “Maleficent” (2014)

One of Disney’s most loved animated films, “Sleeping Beauty” also happens to feature one of its greatest villains, Maleficent. In 2014, this story was brought back to life in an entirely unexpected way, focusing not on Princess Aurora but on the dastardly villainess, this time being portrayed in live action by Angelina Jolie. Jolie is fantastic in the role, helping to tell the story of how Maleficent was originally a disgraced fairy, and how she cursed the Princess, the daughter of the man she used to love. As much a reimagining as it is an origin, this film is surprising, dark, and even heartwarming at times.

#6: “Kill Bill: Volume 2” (2004)

You’d think the title would say it all. The second half of Quentin Tarantino’s ode to martial arts and kung fu films builds on the world of the Bride and shows us an as-yet-unseen part of her story. In “Vol. 1,” the titular Bill is never shown onscreen, but that changes in the opening of the sequel, when Tarantino flashes back to the Bride’s wedding, and shows Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad murdering her groom and leaving her for dead. Seeing the tragedy firsthand sheds new light on the Bride’s journey for vengeance, and makes us hope even more that she actually gets to kill Bill.

#5: “Hannibal Rising” (2007)

While Hannibal the Cannibal got a prequel of sorts with 2002’s “Red Dragon,” we didn’t truly find out how he became the killer with a taste for humans until 2007. This is the only film in the series to portray Hannibal as a sympathetic character, as well as the first one since 1986’s “Manhunter” to not have him played by Anthony Hopkins, with the film instead opting for French actor Gaspard Ulliel. The film shows his evolution from a child scarred by World War II to a murderous madman, a journey that sees him become a cannibal and, of course, don his iconic facemask.

#4: “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” (2011)

In 2011, the legendary, but often cheesy and confusing “Apes” franchise was given a modern makeover. Starring James Franco as human lead Will Rodman and the amazing Andy Serkis in motion capture as Caesar, the film shows a world in which chimps evolved due to man’s meddling with science, with Caesar eventually leading an ape revolution against humans. Bolstered by Serkis’ performance and a smart screenplay, this outing in the series was a greater success than anybody thought it would be, providing a much-needed new beginning for the franchise.

#3: “Star Trek” (2009)

By 2009, Gene Roddenberry’s sci-fi universe seemed like it was never going to get a proper 21st century incarnation. Then director J.J. Abrams came along and decided to reboot the entire Enterprise, giving us the story of how Kirk, Spock, Uhura, and the rest of crew originally came together. Actually, Star Trek has the unique distinction of being both an origin story movie AND a reboot at the same time – thanks to some clever use of alternate timelines. But, this ambitious concept is lent a fair amount of authenticity by the fan-pleasing appearance of the late-great Leonard Nimoy, reprising his role as Spock. Or, Spoke Prime, whatever.

#2: “Casino Royale” (2006)

It’s hard to believe that the James Bond series went forty-four years on the big screen without ever establishing a concrete origin for 007. But in 2006, it was decided that the series would go back to basics and tell the story of Britain’s most famous secret agent from the very beginning. A modern update of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel, the film stripped 007 down to his bare bones, showing a Bond who had yet to earn his license to kill. “Casino Royale” shows him developing his taste for drinks, cars, and especially dangerous women – and it was one of the best action films of the decade, to boot.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a couple honorable mentions:

• “Oz the Great and Powerful” (2013)

• “Annabelle” (2014)

#1: “The Godfather Part II” (1974)

How did Vito Corleone rise to power and become the head of the most powerful crime family in New York? This sequel fleshes out what is widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, exploring the Don’s origins, from his birth in Sicily to his journey to America. What makes Vito’s story truly extraordinary is that it’s told in parallel to the story of Vito’s son Michael, showing the similarities and differences between the two mob bosses at different periods in time. As “Godfather” author Mario Puzo wrote, “great men are not born great; they grow great,” and that saying can also be applied to this seminal franchise.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think are the best origin story films? For more original top tens posted every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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