Dune Part 1 Movie Plot Explained: 8 Important Things to Know Before Part 2

By Richard Nebens Posted:
Dine: Part 1 and Dune: Part 2 posters

Ahead of Dune: Part 2's long-awaited theatrical release, the time has come for fans to refresh their memories on everything that happened in Dune: Part 1.

Directed by Denis Villeneuve following his efforts on 2021's Dune, his second movie is inching closer to its March release date, with early critics already heaping praise on the sequel.

The sequel centers around Timothée Chalamet's Paul Atreides', the Duke of House Atreides, who faces terrifying new challenges on the sand-covered planet Arrakis.

Surrounded by other A-list Hollywood stars such as Zendaya, Florence Pugh, and Dave Bautista, Dune: Part 2 sees Paul seeking revenge against those who destroyed his family - all with the universe's fate on the table.

Dune Part 1 Plot & Ending Explained: Recap of 8 Key Story Points

Ahead are the eight most important plot points from Dune: Part 1 ahead of Dune: Part 2's theatrical debut on Friday, March 1.

Emperor Shaddam IV's Plan

Army gathered in front of Baron Harkonnen
Warner Bros.

In Dune's opening moments, as enacted by the unseen Emperor Shaddam IV, Stellan Skarsgard's Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is replaced as the fiefholder of Arrakis by Oscar Isaac's Leto Atreides to bring peace to the planet.

However, this is part of a plot to allow House Harkonnen to reclaim Arrakis with the Sardaukar (the Padishah Emperor's military force), destroy House Atreides, and keep the planet's Spice mining operations strong.

While the Emperor of the Known Universe did not appear on screen in Dune: Part 1, he'll take on a more fleshed-out role in Dune: Part 2 as Oscar-winner Christopher Walken portrays him.

The Emperor (and leader of House Corrino) will push forward with his plans for planetary rule in the sequel, giving new depth to Arrakis' ruling system as House Atreides fights for survival.

The Bene Gesserit & Paul's Gom Jabbar Test

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Dune
Warner Bros.

The Bene Gesserit are an exclusive sisterhood in the Dune universe whose members possess advanced physical and mental abilities, pursuing a goal to better the human race by manipulating bloodlines to serve their own purposes.

Exclusively comprised of women for generations, the Bene Gesserit are known for their longstanding selective breeding program to bolster certain bloodlines and produce a theoretical superhuman male called Kwisatz Hardeach. That male would boast incredible mental powers that could bridge across time and space, and he would be seen as a messiah in the universe.

Rebecca Ferguson's Lady Jessica is a Bene Gesserit instructed by the sisterhood to bear a daughter, who would then bear a son destined to become the Kwisatz Hardeach. However, she disobeyed the command and had a son, Timothée Chalamet's Paul Atreides, who has since followed her tradition.

As part of this training, Paul has to take the Gom Jabbar test, designed to put him through immense pain to see if his humanity will overcome his animal impulses. A poisoned needle is held to his neck during this test which will kill him if he moves too much, giving him even more incentive to pass the test.

While seeing visions, Paul pushes through the pain and passes the test as Charlotte Rampling's Reverend Mother Mohiam tells him about his birthright, both as a Bene Gesserit and the Duke of Arrakis.

Paul Atreides' Visions

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in a gold suit of armor, Dune
Warner Bros.

Throughout Dune: Part 1, Paul is flooded with visions due to his Bene Gesserit lineage, which he has trouble controlling as he comes into his own.

While these visions do not always come true, his powers allow him to see possible futures and timelines, which can all be changed and affected by his decisions. They also do not always manifest in the way he initially believes they will due to them being mostly incomplete, and they increase in intensity when he comes into contact with the Spice of Arrakis.

Those visions largely focus on Zendaya's Chani of the Fremen, setting up their meeting later in the film before Paul learns the truth behind the various peoples of Arrakis.

Along with dreams of Chani, he also sees a civil war brewing on his home planet, although those visions are not as clear. He also sees the possible results of his battle with Jamis, a bloody knife, and burning palm trees as he tries to figure out his future.

Joining with the Fremen at the movie's end, he is set up for a relationship with Chani. While Zendaya only had a minor role in Dune: Part 1, she'll be alongside Chalamet for all the action in Dune: Part 2 as the Fremen fight back against the rising empire of Arrakis.

Leto Atreides' Death

Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Dune
Warner Bros.

In Dune, Oscar Isaac plays Paul's father Leto, the Duke of Caladan, but his story ends tragically before the film ends.

Dr. Wellington Yueh (Chang Chen) is planted in the Duke's entourage as a spy for the Harkonnens, with Leto being none the wiser due to Yueh being a loyal physician, healer, and part of the family's inner circle.

Yueh makes the Atreides bunker vulnerable to a Harkonnen assault by lowering one of the bunker's shields, later poisoning Leto and paralyzing the Duke before Baron Harkonnen tortures him.

However, ashamed at how he betrayed Leto, Yueh helps Paul and Jessica escape while also supplying the Duke with a fake tooth, which would emit lethal gas into the air with the ultimate goal of killing Harkonnen.

Sadly, the Baron takes out Yueh while Leto chomps down and gets the gas into the air before the Baron can get to him, killing himself along with everybody else in the room except for Harkonnen.

To make matters worse, the assassination attempt not only fails to kill Harkonnen but only enrages the Baron, putting him on a mission to destroy anybody named Atreides and anyone associated with the family. This epic battle will come to fruition in Dune: Part 2, as trailers have already shown images of Isaac's Leto as part of Paul's journey.

Dune's Sandworms

sandworm in the desert in front of Paul Atreides and Lady Jessica, Dune
Warner Bros.

Known to Dune's Fremen as Shai-Hulud, the giant sandworms inhabit Arakis' sandy landscape and operate as the planet's clear apex predator, some measuring as big as five football fields in length, if not bigger.

Besides being able to eat anything in their path, they are also the source of the Spice that makes Arrakis so valuable across the universe. This Spice is the rarest material in the universe; when consumed, it enhances a user's mental capabilities and even grants precognition, amongst other benefits.

However, the Fremen believe the sandworms to be a physical embodiment of the One God, the universe's creator. This leads them to worship the sandworm, viewing the massive creature as a holy presence on Arrakis.

As fans see a Spice Harvester machine doing its work mid-way through the first film, a sandworm slithers through the desert and swallows the machine whole after Paul and his crew help the crew of Spice workers escape the machine. This shows just how dangerous sandworms can be to unsuspecting victims.

A much more telling moment comes after Paul and Lady Jessica escape into the desert, with a worm chasing them before Paul stares it down after it surfaces from the sand. However, a thumper calls it away before it can eat him.

Dune: Part 2 will feature Paul and others riding the sandworms through the desert. Fans can also get a unique experience with these creatures as AMC Theaters has a viral popcorn bucket emulating the sandworms' mouths, making many fans hungry and uncomfortable ahead of the sequel. 

Lady Jessica Uses the Voice

Rebecca Ferguson's Lady Jessica using the Voice, Dune
Warner Bros.

An important ability Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica, possess is called the Voice - a power passed down genetically and through tradition in the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. Simply explained, these characters modulate the frequency of their dialogue to exact absolute control over those to whom they speak.

Paul is seen practicing this talent with Jessica during their first scene in Dune as Paul commands his mother to pass him a water glass, although he has challenges due to being a rare male in the female lineage of the Bene Gesserit. Later in the story, the Voice becomes an important tool for them to use for survival after they are taken hostage in an Ornithopter by the Baron's Sardaukar forces.

In captivity, Paul uses the Voice proficiently enough to order the enemy to remove his mother's gag (put on her as a necessary precaution). Once she is free to speak, Jessica overpowers her captors and orders them to kill themselves after releasing her and Paul, saving the two protagonists' lives.

The Voice is confirmed to come into play in Dune: Part 2, as Paul is seen in the newest trailer shouting "Silence!" in that specific frequency after being asked to consider the mission on which he's about to embark.

Paul will surely become more dangerous with this technique in the sequel as fans wait to see how he'll use it and on whom it will affect.

Duncan Idaho's Death

Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho, Dune
Warner Bros.

Jason Momoa's Duncan Idaho is House Atreides' swordmaster and one of Paul's mentors and closest friends, whom Paul confides in to talk about the visions he has throughout Dune.

The first film sees Momoa's Duncan sent on a mission to scope out Arrakis and look into the Fremen population, going undercover with the natives as House Atreides starts its political takeover.

After Paul and Lady Jessica escape the Sardaukar, Duncan protects them as they devise a plan to save Arrakis from civil war.

However, the Sardaukar find their hideout, and Duncan quickly chooses to make the ultimate sacrifice. He holds off the soldiers so that Paul and Jessica (along with Sharon Duncan-Brewster's Dr. Kynes) can escape as he is tragically killed.

While it is currently unclear if Jason Momoa will return in Dune: Part 2, author Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah brings Duncan back as a clone created to be an assassin named Hayt.

Later stories even resurrect Duncan numerous times. While there is a chance Momoa is not in Dune: Part 2, future movies could bring the character back for more battles.

Paul Joins the Fremen

Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica, Dune
Warner Bros.

Upon meeting the Fremen, which include Zendaya's Chani and Javier Bardem's Stilgar, Paul has to prove himself to the tribe by fighting one of their best warriors, Jamis.

Having only ever seen his mother kill before in their escape from the Ornithopter, Paul musters all his physical and mental strength to win this battle, attempting to get Jamis to yield.

After Stilgar tells Jessica, "There is no yield…only death…," Paul has another vision of what's coming, diving in for one final blow as he kills Jamis and takes his place among the Fremen.

The final moments of Dune see Paul and Lady Jessica with their newfound family, with Dune: Part 2 focusing more heavily on these Arrakis natives as they fight for their freedom.

Dune: Part 2 hits theaters on Friday, March 1.

Read more about Dune: Part 2:

Dune 2 Gets Unsurprising Rating

First Look at Austin Butler's Bald-Headed Dune 2 Villain

Dune 2's New Planet Locations Teased by Sequel Designer

- In This Article: Dune: Part 2
Release Date
March 01, 2024
Rebecca Ferguson
Timothée Chalamet
- About The Author: Richard Nebens
Richard Nebens joined The Direct in March 2020, now serving as the site's Senior Writer and also working as an assistant editor and content creator. He started his journalism career as a hobby in 2019 and is passionate about sharing news and stories from the entertainment industry, especially comic book movies, comedy, and sci-fi. Richard looks to expand his knowledge about movies and TV every day, and he is eager to stay locked into the latest releases and breaking news at every opportunity.