50 Greatest Movie Origin Stories

Raiders Of The Lost Ark

The Origin Story: Scholarly tweed-clad archaeology professor Henry Jones Jr leads a double life as an adventurer, who'll take risks galore in order to bag himself some rare ancient booty.

Essential Elements Introduced: He has a whip and a fedora and carries both without irony. Nuff said.

Saved For The Sequels: Want to know why Indy's so laconic and grumpy? Just have a look at his relationship with his dad…

The Matrix

The Origin Story: A hacker uncovers the truth about the Matrix - a simulated world to which humans are connected and used as a power source for giant intelligent machines. He also discovers his abilities are almost unlimited and his destiny to become the prophesied saviour of humanity, 'The One'.

Essential Elements Introduced: When plugged in to the Matrix, Neo is able to upload any ability to his brain and therefore do all kinds of awesome things. He also gets himself a snazzy coat.

Saved For The Sequels: Neo's mission to free humanity from the machines proves to be a long one as he must jump through various hoops and battle many, many Agents along the way. His powers, though, become stronger and more awesome.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

The Origin Story: On a mission to recapture his lost ship the Black Pearl, legendary pirate Captain Jack Sparrow sets about manipulating everyone ever in a clever but convoluted plot to be reunited with his beloved boat.

Essential Elements Introduced: Sparrow is dandyish, dishevelled, permanently addled and not a little like Keith Richards… but sexier.

Saved For The Sequels: Sparrow might not be well liked among his pirate brethren, but he is respected, which leads the gang to all sorts of seafaring japery.

Die Hard

The Origin Story: When his wife is taken hostage by terrorists, New York cop John McClane goes on a one-man rescue mission. Without shoes. Or a shirt. Or any kind of actual plan.

Essential Elements Introduced: McClane's cynical, sweary and fond of doing stupid things. That's all you need to know.

Saved For The Sequels: Unlike many 80s action heroes, McClane has layers. Feelings. And he proves time and time again that he'd do anything for his family.


The Origin Story: The target of a masked serial killer, Sidney Prescott must fight for her life and those around her whilst trying to unmask her attacker.

Essential Elements Introduced: Sidney is innocent yet feisty and, crucially, gives good scream.

Saved For The Sequels: Sidney might've survived the first time, but this franchise is all about the rules: the body count gets bigger, anyone can die, the past will come back to bite characters in the ass, and most importantly, never, ever assume the killer is dead.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Origin Story: A young(ish) hobbit is convinced to join the Dwarves of Middle Earth and the wizard Gandalf the Grey in their quet to take their home, the Lonely Mountain, back from the dragon Smaug.

Essential Elements Introduced:
Initially quiet and lazy and, like all hobbits, fond of his home comforts, Bilbo Baggins becomes wiser and more confident as a result of his unexpected journey.

Saved For The Sequels:
Having already faced trolls and goblins and Gollum, Bilbo has yet to battle giant spiders, warts and a bloody great big dragon… it'll be interesting to see how he handles it.


The Origin Story: A formidable robotic assassin and solider is sent back in time to prevent the birth of future messianic resistance fighter John Connor.

Essential Elements Introduced:
A robot made of living tissue over a metal endoskeleton, the T-800 is almost indistinguishable from humans. Though he is rather taciturn.

Saved For The Sequels: He's back! Reprogrammed and reassigned, the next time we see The Terminator, its as a force for good, protecting John, his mother Sarah, and ultimately his future wife Kate from further Skynet attacks.

Mad Max

The Origin Story: A patrol officer fighting for peace on the roads of a dystopic Australia loses everything when a gang of cold and heartless criminal bikers kill his partner, wife and child. And so begins his mission of retribution.

Essential Elements Introduced: An expert driver, Max is a quiet guy. But behind those eyes is a whole world of pain.

Saved For The Sequels: Over the course of three movies, Max's life is systematically destroyed and rebuilt as he regains his humanity.

Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery

The Origin Story: Cryogenically frozen 60s British spy Austin Powers is woken in 1997 to an almost unrecognisable world of political correctness and safe sex. More importantly though, he must prevent his also frozen nemesis Doctor Evil from taking over the world.

Essential Elements Introduced: A flamboyant 60s swinger with a taste for flashy cars, velvet suits and a raging libido, Powers' spy-skills are… well, a bit meh. Lovely chap, though.

Saved For The Sequels: More of the same, as Dr Evil just won't quit. But there's a jaunt to the 70s, which is fun.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Origin Story: Brilliant but troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander is dragged into a twisted tale when journalist Mikael Blomkvist hires her to help him search for a woman who has been missing for forty years. Meanwhile, she has her own issues to contend with in the shape of her abusive legal guardian.

Essential Elements Introduced: Salander is a victim turned vigilante, who takes no prisoners, refuses to suffer fools, and doesn't shy away from violence.

Saved For The Sequels: We've only just touched on Salander's story, which becomes even darker as she revisits her horrific past.