literary, dramatic, or filmic work whose story precedes that of a previous work

Prequel is a term in drama and literature: it is a fusion of the words 'precursor' and 'sequel'.

When a story is told in several stages, it is natural to tell it in order of time. For example, a series of books on the Second World War started with the 1930s and ended up in 1946.[1]

For various reasons, this does not always happen. In the movie series Star Wars, the first movie was Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977). It was followed by three prequels, which were Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999); Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

For correct use, the term 'prequel' is only applied when work is part of a series, and when the later publication refers to an earlier time. It is an old idea, but one which is often used today for drama on movie and television. The Cypria, a work of Ancient Greek literature, is a prequel to Homer's Iliad. A related idea is the back-story, which is the background story of a main story or character.


  1. Churchill, Winston S. 1948–1953. The Second World War. 6 vols, Macmillan, London.