People know that Frank Herbert’s Dune franchise is for science-fiction what Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is for fantasy; ironically enough, Tolkien was not a big fan of Dune, but that is a completely different topic. Frank Herbert has written a total of six novels, but the literary franchise was continued by his son, Brian, and author Kevin J. Anderson. Today, Dune‘s not just one of the most important sci-fi franchises, but also one of the biggest ones.
Such popular franchises, of course, end up being adapted into one or more movies or TV shows and Dune is a franchise that has both. Starting with Lynch’s butchered 1984 film to Villeneuve’s recent masterpiece, Dune is a franchise that offers several adaptations that you can enjoy. In this article, we are going to bring you all the Dune works in the proper watch order, so you know how to approach the material from a narrative and structural point of view.
How Many Dune Movies Are There?
We’ve said that Frank Herbert’s Dune has been adapted for the screen on several occasions. Now, as of 2021, there are just two Dune movies, and they are:
- Dune (December 3, 1984)
- Dune: Part One (September 3, 2021)
Now, Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to adapt the book in 1973, but the adaptation ultimately failed and was the topic of the lauded documentary movie Jodorowsky’s Dune. Also, the contemporary adaptation by Denis Villeneuve is actually only the first part of an intended trilogy, which explains the unofficial title.
But, unlike some other franchises, Dune has also been adapted for television, with two critically acclaimed shows – Frank Herbert’s Dune and Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune. Both of these miniseries have received praise and several awards, including the prestigious Emmy Awards.
Dune Movies in Order
Since all Dune adaptations are standalone works, there is no fixed order. The order, as presented here, is how we think you should watch the adaptations. Lynch’s Dune should be a start because it was the first, after which you can approach Villeneuve’s first movie, before continuing with the two miniseries.
Director: David Lynch (Alan Smithee)
Writers: David Lynch
Running time: 137 minutes
Release date: December 3, 1984
In the universe of the distant future, travel in space is possible only thanks to the Navigators Guild. Using a special substance – the spice melange, navigators acquired the ability to foresee the future and to navigate ships through the folded space. Spice is mined only in one place in the Universe – on the desert planet Arrakis (also Rakis or Dune). Thus, whoever owns Arrakis has real power over the entire galactic empire.
The Padishah Emperor of the Human Universe Shaddam IV Corrino transfers the concession for the extraction of spice on Arrakis from the cruel house of the Harkonnen to the more peaceful Atreides. This alarms the Navigators Guild, as these actions can affect the supply of the spice they need, and one of them comes to the emperor and requires an explanation. The Emperor reveals that he hopes to play off both houses in the struggle for power and to weaken House Atreides, since House Atreides in its power was practically equal to House Corrino.
This suits the navigator, but before leaving, he makes it clear that he is interested in the obligatory death of the heir to the House of Atreides, Paul. The Atreides are about to move to Arrakis. Before that, their planet was visited by the soothsayer of the Emperor Helen Moachem, since the concubine of Duke Leto Atreides, Lady Jessica, was a pupil of the Bene Gesserit school of soothsayers. She wishes to get to know their son Paul and learn about his abilities and why the navigators wish him dead.
Soon the Atreides arrive at Arrakis, where they meet the local Fremen, who they make a good impression on, especially after Duke Leto rescued the crew of the spice collector from a huge sandworm. On the planet of Gidi Prime, poisoned by industrial waste, the cruel and vain Baron Harkonnen, unaware that the emperor is manipulating him, intends to attack the Atreides and reclaim Arrakis.
After the recruited traitor weakens the duke’s defenses, the Harkonnen sardukar warriors attack the Atreides house and arrange a massacre, in which almost all of its members die, the Duke’s son Paul Atreides, his mother and several minor characters (Gurney Halleck and Sufir Hawat (in some translations of Tufir)). Paul becomes Duke of House Atreides.
He and his mother join the Fremen, the desert dwellers. Paul takes on the tribal name Muad’dib and gains great influence among the Fremen. The Freemen begin to venerate the young duke as the messiah, according to the prophecy sent to save them. After comprehending the wisdom of the people of the desert and creating a mighty army from them, Muad’dib coups and destroys the Harkonnen house and seizes control of Arrakis.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Writers: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth
Running time: 156 minutes
Release date: September 3, 2021
In 10191, Duke Leto of House Atreides, ruler of the oceanic planet Caladan, is assigned by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV to replace House Harkonnen as fiefdom rulers of Arrakis. Arrakis is an inhospitable desert planet and the only source of “spice”, an invaluable substance that extends human vitality and is essential for interstellar travel.
In reality, Shaddam intends for House Harkonnen to stage a coup to take back the planet with the help of the Emperor’s Sardaukar troops, eradicating House Atreides, whose influence threatens Shaddam’s control. Leto is concerned, but sees the possibility of allying himself with the native Arrakis population, the Fremen, as the first step in increasing the position of the Atreides in the Landsraad.
Leto’s concubine, Lady Jessica, is an acolyte of the Bene Gesserit, an exclusive sisterhood wielding advanced physical and mental abilities. Although Jessica received instructions from the Bene Gesserit to have a daughter whose son would become the messianic Kwisatz Haderach, she instead had a son, Paul, out of love for Leto.
Throughout his life, Paul is trained by Leto’s assistants Duncan Idaho, Gurney Halleck, and the Mentat Thufir Hawat, while Jessica trains Paul in the Bene Gesserit disciplines. Paul confides in Jessica and Duncan that he is worried about visions of the future. Due to his developing foreknowledge of him, Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam arrives in Caladan and subjects Paul to a deadly test to assess his impulse control, which he surpasses.
Later, Mohiam instructs the House patriarch, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, to forgive Paul and Jessica during his coup, deceptively agreeing. House Atreides arrives in Arrakeen, the Arrakis stronghold formerly held by House Harkonnen, where Idaho and an outpost have been learning about their world and the Fremen. Leto negotiates with Stilgar, the chieftain of the Fremen, and meets Dr. Liet-Kynes, a planetologist and imperial judge.
Kynes informs Leto, Paul, and Halleck about the dangers of spice gathering, including the giant sandworms that travel under the desert. During a flight, they see a sandworm approaching an active spice gatherer with a stranded crew. The crew is rescued before the sandworm swallows them. Paul’s exposure to spice-laden air elicits intense premonitions. After an attempt on Paul’s life by a Harkonnen agent, Leto puts his soldiers on high alert.
Doctor Suk Wellington Yueh deactivates Arrakeen’s protective shields and allows the Harkonnen and Sardaukar troops to overwhelm the Atreides forces. Yueh incapacitates Leto and tells him that he made a deal to hand him over to the baron in exchange for his captured wife. Yueh replaces one of Leto’s teeth with a poison gas capsule and dies after delivering the Duke to the Baron.
Leto releases the poison gas, killing the Baron’s court members and himself, but the Baron survives. Idaho escapes and steals an ornithopter, but Paul and Jessica are captured. The Harkonnen take them to the desert to die, but overpower them using the “voice”. Finding a survival kit that Yueh left them, Paul and Jessica spend the night in a tent; Paul experiences visions of a “holy war” that spans the entire universe under his name.
The baron hands over command of Arrakis to his brutal nephew Rabban and orders her to sell reserves of spice and restart production to compensate for the cost of the coup. Paul and Jessica are found by Idaho and Kynes and they head to an old research station, but the Sardaukar quickly locate them.
Duncan and several Fremen sacrifice themselves to allow Jessica, Paul, and Kynes to escape the facility. Kynes, ambushed by Sardaukar’s troops, lures a sandworm that devours them along with her. Paul and Jessica arrive in the deep desert and meet the Fremen, including Stilgar and Chani, the girl from Paul’s visions. Fremen member Jamis protests his admission and is killed by Paul in a ritual duel to the death. Against Jessica’s wishes, Paul joins the Fremen with the intention of bringing peace to Arrakis.
Frank Herbert’s Dune (2000)
Director: John Harrison
Writers: John Harrison
Running time: 295 minutes (3 episodes)
Release date: December 3, 2000
The series includes several scenes that were missing in the book. In particular, the role of Princess Irulan has been increased. Some of the extra scenes are only available in the DVD version. In the distant future, the existence of the galactic empire depends on a substance called spice, which is mined on the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune.
Emperor Corrino took the planet away from the violent representatives of House Harkonnen and placed it under the control of the more peaceful House Atreides. This leads to an increase in the long-standing feud between the houses: the people of the Harkonnen make several attempts on the leaders of the Atreides and ultimately destroy the enemy’s house. Only the Duke’s concubine Jessica and her son Paul survive. The remaining Atreides join the Fremen (“free”) – the aborigines of the desert.
Bedouins recognize in Paul the messiah prophesied as Muad’dib. Among the Fremen, he finds his love – a girl named Chani. Meanwhile, the Harkonnens, with the help of the Emperor and the Space Guild, seize power on the planet and begin to oust the Fremen from their lands. Paul Muad’Dib, at the head of the people of the desert, overthrows tyranny, declares the Emperor deposed, and himself – the new emperor of the universe with the capital on Arrakis.
To secure his rights, he was forced to go to a dynastic marriage with the daughter of the former emperor, Princess Irulan.
Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune (2003)
Director: Greg Yaitanes
Writers: John Harrison
Running time: 266 minutes (3 episodes)
Release date: March 16 – March 26, 2003
This second miniseries combines the two novels chronologically following Frank Herbert’s famous Dune Messiah and Children of Dune. It retains the subdivision into three episodes of the previous miniseries but, taking advantage of the fact that the novel Messiah of Dune is about a third of both Dune and The Sons of Dune long, it is actually divided into two distinct parts.
The first episode covers the events narrated in the Messiah, that is, up to the birth of the twins Atreides (Leto II and Ghanima); the second and third episodes are to be considered a unicum similar to the previous miniseries, and cover the events of Leto II up to his acceptance of the Golden Path and the beginning of his reign as tyrant.