Many moviegoers fancy sci-fi’s bleak and cosmic mystery, especially when tackling the subject of other alien life forms and their contact with Earth.
One of these movies is the 2016 film by Denis Villeneuve, which examines the nature of language and communication. As evident with these 13 best movies like Arrival, there are many more where it came from.
Much like any science fiction movie, Arrival deals with human issues through cosmic elements. The film is an incredible and interactive examination of language and how humans handle the unfamiliar.
The story follows the life of Amy Adam’s Louie Banks as she tackles the language of the extraterrestrial lives that found their way to Earth. The alien was dubbed ‘heptapods’ due to its pod-like shape and seven limbs. As a linguist, she must know the meaning of their Arrival on Earth and what it means to the human race.
The film garnered critical and commercial acclaim. It even received many accolades and won awards due to its brilliant soundtrack and actors. Especially the performance of Amy Adams is a hit with audiences and critics alike.
At its core, the movie examines the communication and connection of humans, not just with aliens but with other humans as well. With its excellent cinematography, writing, and acting, the movie deserves the praises it receives.
1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
English 2h 18m IMDb
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr
A classic from the well-known director Steven Spielberg, Close Encounters of the Third Kind tells the story of different people on their way to investigate the anomalies they encountered. The movie revolves around the journey of Ron, an electrical lineman from Indiana, and Jillian Guiler, a mother whose child is abducted by the aliens.
Being one of the first sci-fi films in the modern era, Close Encounter of the Third Kind tackles the connection towards the presence of an unknown force. Despite being made in the 70s, the film still holds up in terms of visual and cinematography. The clever use of effects, especially at its release time, is almost unheard of in the science fiction genre.
With this, the film brought on a couple of nominations and accolades, such as the Academy Awards. It’s also a commercial success earning around $300 million with its $19 million budget.
2. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
English 1h 53m IMDb
Director: Doug Liman
Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Edge of Tomorrow is an excellent mix of sci-fi, mystery, and action. In the face of an alien threat, soldier William Cage must learn how to fight and face the opponents. However, his incompetent fighting skill leads to him dying.
However, he finds himself alive at the start of the same day. With his limited skills and understanding, Cage must discover the mystery behind these aliens and how he could escape his seemingly forever presence in the time loop. Can he solve the alien mystery and save the human race?
Edge of Tomorrow received positive critical and audience responses. The movie has many praises for its extensive effects, fresh designs, and complex worldbuilding. Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are also well-regarded due to their excellent chemistry.
3. Contact (1997)
English 2h 30m IMDb
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt
Contact is an adaptation of a novel of the same name by the scientist Carl Sagan. It details the stark contrast between the spiritual belief and the hard facts of science when it comes to the subject of aliens.
With its complex storyline, the film poses many speculations about the nature of the universe. More than the aliens, Contact also examines the human connection through the opposing lens of religion and academia.
The film stars Jodie Foster as the astronomer, Dr. Ellie Arroway, in her journey to make contact with another lifeform. With many challenges in her path, can her project see the light of the stars? Or will it succumb to uncertainty and be gone?
The film garnered various awards and nominations and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It’s a certified hit with critics and audiences.
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
English 2h 29m IMDb
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
Of course, a list of sci-fi and space movies is incomplete without the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. A pioneer in the genre, the film is regarded as a spectacular cinematic experience amidst showing half a century ago. If you are a connoisseur of sci-fi films like Arrival, this film is an excellent movie recommendation for you.
The film revolves around the monoliths that seem to be watching over Earth since the dawn of time. In 2001, Captains Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole were with the task of identifying the mysterious force.
As evident by the various accolades ranging from Academy Awards to the Hugo Awards, the film is a hit with critics and audiences. 2001: A Space Odyssey is nominated for four Academy Awards and took home three wins for Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, and Best Original Screenplay.
5. Gravity (2013)
English 1h 31m IMDb
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Sandra BullockGeorge ClooneyEd Harris(voice)
In a harrowing tale of survival in vast and dark outer space, Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski must find their way back to Earth after satellite debris hits their spacecraft. Gravity details the struggle to survive and the existential dread of the universe.
With their high-stakes storytelling, many audiences grapple with the protagonists’ faith. The film is a certified commercial and critical success. With a budget of $100 million, the film has a gross box office of $723 million, earning it the eighth highest-grossing film in 2013.
At its core, Gravity poses the value of human life against the existential forces of the universe. Is your life worth it? Or are we pawn to the ticking of the universe?
6. Alien (1979)
English 1h 57m IMDb
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
Of course, a film by renowned sci-fi director James Cameron is also on this list. His 1979 Aliens revolves around the story of the spaceship Nostromo in its journey back to Earth. As the crew gets a distress signal, an unknown alien creature finds its way to their spaceship.
The horror of Alien deals with the unknown forces’ physical harm rather than the strange creature’s existential dread. Its mysterious effects are unknown to the crew, and they must help each other to get back to Earth safely. Can the team make it out alive while facing the horror of the aliens?
The film gathered its notoriety through its jumpscares which borders the campy vibes of body horror. Aliens is a certified part of pop culture with its storyline and excellent writing.
7. District 9 (2009)
English 1h 52m IMDb
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
District 9 is an excellent film that examines the post-alien contact society of Earth. It details the unjust condition of the aliens dubbed ‘Prawns.’
In the wake of the slum military base where the aliens live, Wikus is on a mission to infiltrate the district, which will change his life forever. The film deals with the ultimate change in Wikus forever and how humans interact with the foreign entity.
The film shows the stark segregation between the prawns and humans that can be connected to various social problems today. With the unlikely story and excellent visuals, the film has won many accolades since its release. This includes multiple Academy Awards such as Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects.
8. Ad Astra (2019)
English 2h 3m IMDb
Director: James Gray
Stars: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga
Ad Astra revolves around the missing Lima Project in Neptune. As Roy and Clifford attempt to reach out to the lost members, many twists and turns rise to the surface, causing conflict with their connection.
The film is bleak as it shows a couple of undignified human connections. However, the film’s core is well received by the audiences and critics alike.
The film garnered less in the box office department as it only gathered $130 million against the $100 million budget. With that said, the film is well-liked by the critics. It earned a score of eighty-three percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
9. Avatar (2009)
English 2h 42m IMDb
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
James Cameron’s Avatar is heralded as one of the most influential alien and sci-fi films. With its complex and extensive designs and worldbuilding, the film is a staple in the alien movie genre despite being a decade old. The movie is a relevant part of the pop culture sphere.
You might catch a glimpse of the blue aliens present in the movie without watching it. The film revolves around the struggle of Jake Sully as he explores the fantastical Pandora.
In his journey, he found himself relating to the local Na’Vi warriors and falling in love with another alien, Neytiri. Can he choose between his life on Earth or his newfound community in Pandora?
Avatar is a box office hit, earning around $2.8 billion within its $237 million budget. The film is one of the highest-grossing films of all time and is on its way to a new movie this 2022.
10. Prometheus (2012)
English 2h 4m IMDb
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender
Prometheus details the journey towards the unknown distant moon LV-223. It poses the immense and pyramid-like structure to answer where humanity came from and why they are made. With the members finding their way to the unfamiliar, they must face challenges and danger that accompany it.
Well-known directors Riley Scott and James Cameron have been playing with the idea of a sequel to the Alien franchise for a while. In 2009, Riley revisited the idea and started the production of Prometheus.
The film is well-known for its stunning visual effects, earning it multiple awards and nominations. The intricate structure and interior designs are at the forefront of praise regarding the film.
11. Passengers (2016)
English 1h 56m IMDb
Director: Morten Tyldum
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen
In between its 120-year journey to a distant planet, Starship Avalon is tasked to bring a large number of people to make a new colony.
Unfortunately, one of the pods in the ship malfunctioned, causing Jim Pratt’s Jim Preston to wake up 90 years away from the destined location. In his loneliness, Pratt obsessed with another passenger, driving him to make a drastic decision.
The film deals with the loneliness and existential dread of being present in the space without any company. The characters’ internal and external problems are the film’s primary crux.
Passengers received a generally positive reaction from audiences and critics alike. With its excellent story and set design, the film has been nominated and won many accolades since its release.
12. Men in Black (1997)
English 1h 38m IMDb
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino
If you want to break from the bleak alien fiction in this list, you should check out Men in Black. Unlike the aliens in Arrival, Men in Black takes on the sci-fi and action genre with more fun and upbeat tone.
The story follows as the agents from the organization Men in Black tackle their job. The men in the agency are tasked to eliminate any form of memory and evidence of the alien forms from the human public not to cause any turmoil.
The film is a classic, especially in the early 2000s. It details the certain upbeat twists the aliens and human connection can take.
13. Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988)
English 1h 28m IMDb
Director: Stephen Chiodo
Stars: Grant Cramer, Suzanne Snyder, John Allen Nelson
If you have heard of this movie, you might be confused by the stark contrast between Arrival and a campy horror alien from 1998. Don’t fret, as we will see how the two compare despite their opposing tones.
Killer Klowns from Outer Space is a horror sci-fi film that deals with the scary alien clowns looking to spread their evil hands at a small village. Like Arrival, the characters might grapple in the state of the unknown beings from the vast universe. In the face of these Killer Klowns, the locals might find a way to understand their motives before its’ too late.
If you read that synopsis, you might notice the similar beats as the same with Arrival. The two movies might be drastically different in town, but their core is almost identical. This film is a must-watch if you want a horror twist to your alien movie.
With these thirteen movies like Arrival, you are set for a spectacular sci-fi movie marathon. Ranging from the themes of space, human connection, and many more, you can ensure that you will have an excellent time with these films. So, get cozy, grab some popcorn, and some sodas.