Alan Taylor’s The Many Saints of Newark premieres in theaters and on HBO Max this week. The film follows Michael Gandolfini as a teenage Tony Soprano, the character his father, the late James Gandolfini, owned for six seasons in The Sopranos —which many considered to be the first great television series of the modern era. All eyes are on this origin story and whether or not it lives up to its respective mob boss and series. A good origin story should add to the overall interest and complexity of its subsequent narrative. There have been many over the years. Some introduce us to characters while others take on already-established dons. This list will rank the latter, just in time for the revisitation of Tony Soprano.
Cover Photo: HBO Max
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ranked origin films
10. 'Prometheus' (2012)
While set in the same universe, Prometheus originally was intended to be an Alien origin story. However, despite the whole Engineers ordeal, the film shows audiences exactly how the Xenomorph Aka the franchise’s eponymous extraterrestrial was created.
9. 'Star Trek' (2009)
J.J. Abrams’ rebooted the tales of the Enterprise and told the origin story of James T. Kirk by setting it in an alternate timeline (the Kelvin Timeline). Led by a pitch-perfect cast, Star Trek was introduced to the actual next generation while brilliantly paid homage to the established canon. Even if it’s not a philosophical as previous entries in the franchise.
8. 'Joker' (2019)
The Joker is arguably the greatest comic book villain of all time, and part of what makes him so enigmatic is his usual lack of a backstory. With Joker , Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix did the impossible by making a Tax Driver-esque crime drama that just so happens to follow a failed comedian who likes to wear face paint in a city called Gotham. Whether or not this is really an origin story for the Joker is debatable. Regardless, Phoenix gives a mic-drop-worthy, Oscar-winning performance.
7. 'Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith' (2005)
In the wake of Disney/Lucasfilm’s lackluster sequel trilogy, the fandom has warmed towards George’s prequels. While they still don’t hold a torch to the original trilogy, the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader is still one of the ages. However, you probably could get away with just watching Episode II as it is
easily the best of the three, contains the pivotal turn to the dark side of the Force, and features some very unlucky younglings.
6. 'Iron Man' (2008)
Full disclosure: after watching Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings , its Master of Kung Fu may have the best origin film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Iron Man isn’t just the story of Robert Downey Jr inimitable Tony Stark and his super-powered suit of armor, but it laid the groundwork for the MCU—there wouldn’t be a twenty-fifth film without the first.
5. 'Spider-Man' (2002)
2000’s X-Men may have kicked off the 21st century’s obsession with comic book-inspired cinema but Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man cemented it. All of the iconic moments are here: the radioactive spider bite, the death of Uncle Ben, and “with great power, comes great responsibility.” This film is the reason why Spider-Man: No Way Home is the most anticipated movie of the year. With villains like Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock returning, fans pray the rumors are true and Tobey Maguire suits up once more.
4. 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' (2011)
When it was announced the powers that be were rebooting the Planet of the Apes franchise, many rolled their eyes. Now, despite being acclaimed, the prequel trilogy is an underrated gem, and it all began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes . Quite frankly, Andy Serkis should’ve received an Oscar nomination for his mo-cap performance. Or, at least a few more pats on the back. The scene in which Cesar speaks for the first time is as powerful as it gets.
3. 'Casino Royale' (2006)
It took forty-three years and twenty-one films for the Bond franchise to give 007 an origin story, and Casino Royale did not disappoint. The film introduces Daniel Craig’s MI6 agent as he gains his license to kill, exercising the camp of previous installments without diluting the vodka, designer suits, fast cars, and women.
2. 'Batman Begins' (2005)
Coincidentally, Batman Begins did for the caped crusader what Casino Royale did for 007. Following campy entries like Joel Schumacher’s nipple-touting Batman & Robin (1997), Christopher Nolan’s trilogy grounded Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne in reality, revealing how and why the orphaned billionaire trained under the League of Shadows and donned the bat suit. Thanks to the masterfully crafted Batman Begins , The Dark Knight trilogy can be credited with revolutionizing the superhero genre.
1. 'The Godfather: Part II' (1974)
In the hierarchy of cinematic mob bosses, Don Vito Corleone reigns supreme. Following Marlon Brando’s electric performance in The Godfather , Part II explores his character’s (played by Robert De Niro) now-iconic backstory of how he escaped Corleone, Sicily as a child, changed his name, rose to prominence in New York, and avenged the murder of his family.
As summaries go, that was pretty shitty. The bottom line is this: The Godfather: Part II isn’t just a great origin or even crime drama, it’s widely hailed as one of the greatest films ever made. So, of course, it’s number one on this list.