Weekly TV shows like The Flash, Supernatural, DC's Legends of Tomorrow... always have a recap at the beginning of each episode to bring the viewer up to date with the current events of the stories' plot.

Yet, movies in theater that are sequenced to be released after one or more years seem to not often have recaps. For example The Hunger Games film series. As I was into The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 for 5 minutes, I had to pause and look at the previous film's plot to be able to grasp what was going on. However if I remember correctly, the Resident Evil film series does have recaps.

So why do movies in theaters not have recap? How are viewers supposed to catch up with the current events? Do the producers intend to force viewers to watch all the films in the series rather than just one or two?

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    I think a better question might be, given we are now in the age of streaming and binge-watching, why do TV shows still have recaps? Mar 15, 2016 at 15:54
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    @ToddWilcox tv shows have after commercial break recaps, let alone episode to episode recaps. They think we stupid.
    – cde
    Mar 15, 2016 at 17:12
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    @ToddWilcox: In defense of some recaps; they are relevant if they relate to older information (several episodes or seasons ago). A good example is the latest season of Game of Thrones, where a lot of old friends/enemies meet eachother again, some of which haven't seen eachother since Season 1 (e.g. Jon/Tyrion). A recap seems warranted for such cases. Another thing to consider, a (usually) episodic series that does a two-parter can get away with a recap of the last episode, imo.
    – Flater
    Oct 4, 2017 at 13:39

2 Answers 2


Some films in the cinema certainly have a recap of sorts. Consider the opening of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for example, where we see a repeat of Gandalf's falling scene, which is then extended to show the new film from The Two Towers showing what happened afterwards.

However, I would suggest the reason for this not being generally done is for three primary reasons:

It's generally not needed

Films are (generally) much simpler than their TV series counterparts. This is quite logical, due to the fact they are much shorter, and often with far fewer characters. Consider your The Hunger Games example with a TV series like Game of Thrones, with all of its twists, complexities and characters. Whilst a recap sequence for The Hunger Games might be nice, all of the films are generally understandable without this.

On top of that, for films broken into two parts, most people wouldn't see the second until they had seen the first (and if they hadn't seen the first, most wouldn't be sympathetic at not understanding the second!). If they did see the first, then even if they forgot some events from it, the second film shouldn't be completely alien to them.

It shouldn't be needed

If a film series becomes so complex it is unintelligible without intimate knowledge of the previous few films, it will likely stall at the box office as new viewers will be unfamiliar with it. Remember, new TV series episodes are released weekly, compared to new films which could be yearly. Watching three seasons of a series may take you back a couple of years. Watching three films may take you back six or seven years, or more. To try to counter this, "connected" films like The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings etc have been released annually, with much smaller gaps between them - but it's still a year gap, as opposed to a week. Therefore, the films have to be kept largely meaningful without having recap sequences.

After all, if a new film, with a massive budget, is created targeting only people who will have that intimidate knowledge of what has happened previously, it will seriously reduce its box office potential. Even film series like Harry Potter, with eight films, were understandable without the previous films and worked as standalone films. This made them far more marketable and would have increased their revenue potential.

It breaks immersion

TV series are a very different beast to films. Most series have breaks between them for ads (with the likes of ad-free series on channels like HBO still fairly new)1. We are watching them in our own houses. They (generally) have lower budgets than films, with less well-known actors.

Compare this to a cinema trip to see a new film, in a big room, with a huge screen, with high budgets and big name stars. It's a very immersive, satisfying experience. Putting recap sequences in front of each part of the film would definitely break this immersion.

1: @Tetsujin rightly commented that the BBC has offered ad-free television for decades in the UK - however, as the majority of the mainstream TV series are produced in the US, I feel this point still holds true.

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    just a minor point - maybe the idea of ad-free television is new to the US, but in the UK we've had it since 1936 - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_Television
    – Tetsujin
    Mar 15, 2016 at 8:40
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    "the majority of the mainstream TV series are produced in the US" This is somewhat ethnocentric. The majority of the mainstream TV series that are watched in the US (and the UK to be fair) are produced in the US. But lots of other countries exist with their own programming... quite a lot of it. Mar 15, 2016 at 10:48
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    @AndrewMartin: The quote is "majority of" not "highest-grossing" Mar 15, 2016 at 12:40
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    @BarryTheHatchet: Yes, "majority of mainstream TV series". You can't be mainstream without viewing figures, and viewing figures leads to the highest-grossing comment I made. This is all moot anyway, I take your point. But I think it's fair to describe the US as the capital of the TV series world. Mar 15, 2016 at 12:44
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    Back to the Future Parts 2 and 3 each began with the last scene from the previous film.
    – Ben Miller
    Mar 15, 2016 at 14:12

In addition to Andrew's excellent answer, think about how much of any movie's original footage gets left on the cutting room floor, often restored in a "Director's Cut" DVD. This means directors almost always have to leave scenes they really wanted in the movie out of the theatrical release due to time constraints.

You really think any director wants to dump that much more of his/her artistic vision to bring people up to speed when they can go out and rent a DVD, stream it or read the previous book?

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