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Sequel vs. Prequel — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 19, 2023
A sequel is a work that continues the story of a previous work, usually occurring after its events. A prequel is a work that explores events occurring before the original story. Both are related to a main work but differ in chronological relation.
Sequel vs. Prequel — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Sequel and Prequel


Key Differences

A sequel is a narrative, film, or other creative work that extends the story or characters from an original work. In a sequel, the storyline generally picks up where the original left off, moving the plot forward. On the other hand, a prequel is a narrative that dives into the events, characters, or situations that precede the original story. While both sequel and prequel are designed to enhance or expand upon a primary work, they do so in opposite directions of time.
Sequels often aim to build upon the established world of the original work. They offer new challenges, conflicts, or developments that the characters must confront. Prequels, by contrast, aim to add depth and context to the characters or events in the original. They may explore the origins of characters, how situations came to be, or uncover hidden aspects of the original work.
The term "sequel" is often used in the context of books, movies, video games, and TV shows. It implies a forward motion in narrative time. The term "prequel" is similarly versatile in its application but implies a backward motion in narrative time. Though they serve similar purposes—expanding a storyline—sequels and prequels operate on opposite ends of a chronological spectrum.
Sequels are often made due to the commercial success of the original work, with the intent of drawing the audience back into a familiar world. Prequels, while also often made for commercial reasons, serve the function of filling in gaps in backstory or explaining things that may have been left unclear in the original work. Both can add value to a franchise, but they do so in fundamentally different ways.

Comparison Chart

Chronological Relation

Follows the original
Precedes the original


Advances the story
Explores backstory

Common Mediums

Books, movies, games
Books, movies, games

Narrative Direction

Forward in time
Backward in time


"The Empire Strikes Back"
"Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"

Compare with Definitions


A continuation of a story
The next sequel picks up right where the last movie ended.


A work explaining backstory
Fans loved the prequel for its in-depth lore.


Subsequent events
The sequel to the historic event was equally impactful.


Events preceding the main story
The prequel covered the events leading up to the war.


A work that follows the original
The sequel generated even more excitement than the original.


A story set before the original
The prequel explored the character's childhood.


A literary or filmic work that advances the original plot
The sequel brought new conflicts for the characters.


A literary or filmic work providing context to the original
The prequel unveiled the reasons behind the villain's actions.


A follow-up
The software's sequel introduced many new features.


A precursor
The software's prequel lacked many features that were introduced later.


A sequel is a work of literature, film, theatre, television, music or video game that continues the story of, or expands upon, some earlier work. In the common context of a narrative work of fiction, a sequel portrays events set in the same fictional universe as an earlier work, usually chronologically following the events of that work.In many cases, the sequel continues elements of the original story, often with the same characters and settings.


A prequel is a literary, dramatic or cinematic work whose story precedes that of a previous work, by focusing on events that occur before the original narrative. A prequel is a work that forms part of a backstory to the preceding work.


A published, broadcast, or recorded work that continues the story or develops the theme of an earlier one
The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel
The sequel toHome Alone


A story or film containing events which precede those of an existing work
The film is a prequel to the cult TV series


Something that follows as a continuation, especially a literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative continues that of a preexisting work.


A literary, dramatic, or cinematic work whose narrative takes place before that of a preexisting work in the same series.


A result or consequence
"Our dreams are the sequel of our waking knowledge" (Ralph Waldo Emerson).


(narratology) In a series of works, an installment that is set chronologically before its predecessor, especially the original narrative or (perhaps improper usage) any narrative work with at least one sequel.


(dated) The events, collectively, which follow a previously mentioned event; the aftermath.


(narratology) A narrative that is written after another narrative set in the same universe, especially a narrative that is chronologically set after its predecessors, or (perhaps improper usage) any narrative that has a preceding narrative of its own.


(mathematics) The remainder of the text; what follows. Used exclusively in the set phrase "in the sequel".




(obsolete) A person's descendants.


That which follows; a succeeding part; continuation; as, the sequel of a man's advantures or history.
O, let me say no more!Gather the sequel by that went before.


Consequence; event; effect; result; as, let the sun cease, fail, or swerve, and the sequel would be ruin.


Conclusion; inference.


Something that follows something else


A part added to a book or play that continues and extends it

Common Curiosities

Are Prequels always set before the original?

Yes, prequels focus on events, characters, or situations that precede the original story.

Are Sequels always set after the original?

Generally, yes; sequels continue the story or expand on events that happen after the original.

Can a Sequel and Prequel be part of the same series?

Yes, many series include both sequels and prequels to give a more complete picture of the story world.

What is a Sequel?

A sequel is a work that continues the story of an original, often advancing the plot or developing characters further.

Which is generally made first, a Sequel or a Prequel?

Typically, sequels are made first due to the success of the original, but this is not a hard rule.

Do Prequels always involve the same characters?

Generally, they involve either the same characters at an earlier time or related characters.

What is a Prequel?

A prequel is a work that explores events or characters that exist before the timeline of the original story.

Do Sequels always involve the same characters?

Most often yes, although new characters are usually introduced as well.

Do you need to watch or read the original before a Sequel?

It's generally advisable for better understanding, but some sequels can stand alone.

What genres commonly use Sequels?

Action, fantasy, science fiction, and drama often have sequels.

What genres commonly use Prequels?

Fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction are common genres for prequels.

Can a work be both a Sequel and a Prequel?

While unusual, some works can function as both, exploring events both before and after the original.

Do you need to watch or read the original before a Prequel?

Not necessarily; prequels can often stand alone and serve as an introduction to the original.

Are Prequels usually longer or shorter than the original?

Like sequels, the length of a prequel can vary widely.

Are Sequels usually longer or shorter than the original?

There's no consistent rule; it varies depending on the story requirements.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.

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