On Oct. 22, Denis Villeneuve’s soaring, large-scale take on Frank Herbert’s epic 1965 sci-fi novel “Dune” hits theaters and HBO Max, hopefully to please fans of the hugely influential novel, which is the bestselling sci-fi novel of all time.
Part of the mystique of “Dune” — or perhaps, part of its notoriety — is that, although it’s inspired some of the biggest sci-fi franchises of all time (cough, cough, “Star Wars”), it has been famously difficult to achieve a proper film adaptation of the book, although many have tried, starting in 1971 when the film rights were first optioned. In the lead-up to the release of “Dune” this weekend, here’s a guide to streaming all the previous, and potential, “Dune” adaptations to compare how Villeneuve pulls it off.
Though producer Arthur P. Jacobs was one of the first to attempt to get a film of “Dune” off the ground in the early 1970s, with director David Lean attached, it was Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky who started fully conceptualizing a “Dune” movie. He brought in creature designer H.R. Giger and screenwriter Dan O’Bannon (who both would go on to work on Ridley Scott’s “Alien”), envisioning the music of Pink Floyd and Magma for the soundtrack, and dream-casting Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger, Udo Kier, David Carradine and Gloria Swanson in major roles. Jodorowsky’s odyssey and the film that never was is chronicled in the 2013 documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” which is available to rent for $2.99 on all streaming platforms.
In 1984, producer Dino De Laurentiis shepherded a “Dune” film to completion, directed by David Lynch and starring Kyle MacLachlan in his debut film role as the young Paul Atreides. Lynch, upset that he did not receive final cut on the film and feeling that he lost creative control to the producers, disavowed the film. It was a box office bomb and critically reviled, but in the years since, it’s become a cult classic and a pioneer of the sci-fi/fantasy epics that have come to rule Hollywood. It’s a delightfully campy watch and a great predecessor to Villeneuve’s “Dune,” so give it a stream on HBO Max.
In 2000 the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) mounted a miniseries adaptation called “Frank Herbert’s Dune,” starring William Hurt as Duke Leto Atreides, the father of Paul, played here by Alec Newman. While many describe the series as slow and stagey, it was beautifully shot by legendary cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. While that miniseries is unfortunately unavailable to stream, the 2003 sequel miniseries, “Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune,” starring James McAvoy and Susan Sarandon, is available on Hoopla. Both miniseries were two of the three highest-rated programs on the Sci-Fi Channel.
Additionally, for a taste of how Villeneuve approaches science-fiction filmmaking, give a spin to his two previous sci-fi films. His 2016 aliens-on-Earth film “Arrival,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, is available to stream on Hulu, Paramount+ and Epix and available to rent everywhere else. His 2017 “Blade Runner” sequel, “Blade Runner 2049,” starring Ryan Gosling, is available on HBO Max and available to rent everywhere else.