Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune features an incredibly detailed world full of deep lore. It was thought of as a very difficult adaptation, and certainly has challenges set up for big screen adaptations. A 1970’s adaptation from Alejandro Jordowsky never came to fruition, but it wasn’t long before the franchise appeared on the big screen. David Lynch directed 1984’s Dune, and 2021 saw Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One followed by 2024’s Dune: Part Two. If you want to know where these movies rank compared to one another, you’ve come to the right place. 

3. Dune (1984)

Dune, Movies, Science Fiction, Dune 1984

David Lynch’s Dune is well known for it’s stupendous box office failure. The reasons for this are many. The film adapted the entirety of the first novel in just over 2 hours, and while this doesn’t make it a short film, it means a lot of events are crammed into one film. The result is a break-neck pace, with a narrative taking place over many years, with poor use of character narration, and an over-reliance on character driven exposition. The special effects, while not at all overwhelmingly bad, does not wow audiences, and some of it has aged poorly. The casting was well done overall, but the addition of Sting as Feyd-Rautha distracts. Additionally, while a faithful adaptation, Lynch leaned a bit too far into the novel at times, and some of it translated to film poorly. I don’t think Lynch’s Dune is as bad as some, but it is clearly not the best adaptation. Keep in mind that Lynch’s original vision was also allegedly cut to pieces by the studio, resulting in Lynch distancing himself from both the film and franchise.

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2. Dune: Part One (2021)

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Dune: Part One suffers from some of the opposite issues that Lynch’s does. While only adapting the first portion of the novel, Dune: Part One is able to ease audiences into the world more slowly, and it helps us familiarize ourselves with the world, characters, and the dynamics between the Houses. On the other end of the spectrum, this causes the movie to seemingly stall at times, and the narrative can feel like it slows to a grinding halt after about the midway point of the movie. The casting is well done, as is the aforementioned world building, and the first time we see a sandworm on screen does feel supremely epic. It’s just the inconsistent pace that mars this entry, as at times it feels like setting up the sequel is the only purpose of the film. 

1. Dune Part II (2024)

Dune, Dune: Part Two, Science Fiction, Movies

Dune Part: Two is easily the best adaptation put to the big screen thus far. There are fantastic character introductions (such as Austin Butler’s Feyd-Rautha) as well as wonderful character development (it is written!) with Paul Atredies and his mother Jessica moving away from clear-cut heroes to being driven by more sinister ambitions. The action scenes are also noteworthy, particularly the duel between Paul and Freyd-Rautha that is already iconic. The only noteworthy issue to some is the casting choice of Christopher Walken as the Emperor Shaddam. It rubbed some the wrong way, but I personally felt that Walked portrayed an exhausted ruler incredibly well. The length of the movie, nearing three hours, might make some wary of the watch, but the pacing throughout makes it of little issue. Dune: Part Two was a huge success with both audiences and critics, with many declaring it one of the best science fiction films of all time. 

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More Arrakis Coming Soon

Due to the success of Dune: Part Two an adaptation of the second novel, Dune Messiah, is underway, and I’m excited to see how audiences react to the actions of the central characters. If you want even more from this universe, you may be interested in the 2000 mini-series Frank Herbert’s Dune and its 2003 sequel series Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune. These shows are two of the highest rated programs broadcast on the SyFy channel, and make for a fun, albeit a little dated, watch. For more on the Dune franchise, check out our article The Differences Between David Lynch’s Dune and Dune Part One.

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