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10 Movies Like Arrival To Watch If You Like Thought-Provoking Sci-Fi

movies like arrival

‘Science fiction done well is an introspective genre’. For Ted Chiang, science fiction is truly about using speculative scenarios (like alien invasion) to examine the human condition and Denis Villeneuve’s masterpiece Arrival is a great example. For your consideration, we have curated a list of brilliant movies like Arrival that you can check out.

Arrival is the creation of the brilliant director Denis Villeneuve and Amy Adams’ performance in the film is stunning, to say the least. Considered one of the best science-fiction movies of all time, Arrival perfects everything any Sci-fi movie hopes to deliver. The Arrival movie is based on a short story called ‘Story of Your Life’ by Ted Chiang which primarily deals with searching for the reason the alien crafts have arrived and what they want from Earth. 

Arrival incorporates skilful non-linear elements of story-telling with a soundtrack and visuals that speak a deeper truth about human communication and how bound by the time our memories tend to be. 

List of Movies Like Arrival

  1. Dune
  2. Sunshine
  3. Contact
  4. Annihilation
  5. Inception
  6. Ex Machina
  7. The Day the Earth Stood Still
  8. Prometheus
  9. Gravity
  10. Ad Astra

Here’s Why These 10 Movies are like Arrival

1. Dune (2021) 

IMDb Rating: 8/10
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Issac, Rebecca Fergusen, Zendaya
Director: Dennis Villeneuve

Dune 2021 is a reinterpretation of the Sci-fi novel series Dune by Frank Herbert. This story was adapted as a movie first in 1984 by David Lynch. Denis was a fan of the book series and hence after well-deserved success from Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 he took upon this project. Set almost 20,000 years in the future, Dune tells the story of a young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the Stewardship of the planet Arrakis. Arrakis is an inhospitable and sparsely populated planet but the only source of the drug ‘spice’ which extends life and enhances a person’s mental abilities. 

The movie is also titled ‘Dune: Part One’ since it only adapts the first half of the novel. Denis’ masterful and breathtaking cinematography is deeply enriching. The sound effects are thrilling. The cast delivers brilliant performances. Dune will be a franchise, with the next instalment already in the making. If you are searching for movies like Arrival, Denis’ Dune is a perfect choice for you. 

2. Sunshine (2007)

IMDb Rating: 7.2/10
Cast: Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Cillian Murphy
Director: Danny Boyle

A team of international students are sent on a dangerous mission called Icarus II in hopes of reigniting the dying Sun with a nuclear fission bomb. Set in 2057, Sunshine sets a scenario where due to the dying sun, life on earth is also dying. Whether the crew succeeds in attempting to revive the star is to be seen. Many unexpected challenges will control what the journey entails. 

Following the success of the small-budget film 28 Days Later, the director Danny Boyle, Screenwriter Alex Garland and Actor Cillian Murphy teamed up again. Sunshine with a larger budget, created grand sequences of space exploration and colonisation. Sunshine’s dialogues have an everlasting effect. Viewers are mesmerised by the endurance of humanity’s faith in this movie. Sunshine is one of the best sci-fi movies like Arrival you can see. 

3. Contact (1997)

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10
Cast: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey,
Director: Robert Zemeckis

Adapted from Astronomer Carl Sagen’s novel of the same name, Contact is a sci-fi movie directed by the whiz-kid with special effects, Robert Zemeckis. 

A radio astronomer played by Jodie Foster called Dr Ellie Arroway, loses her research funding after not achieving much success in gaining any important data from an extraterrestrial programme. When the programme is about to end, she discovers a binary message from the Vega star system. After she is able to prove first contact with the Extraterrestrial intelligent species, due to the sensitive nature of the programme, she has to deal with high-pressure National security.

The movie suggests a cultural conflict between the religious faith and science. Ellie finds herself on a trial before the entire world, recalling her experiences beyond belief. The movie involves a wormhole time exploration of Ellie’s childhood and discoveries that challenge human faith. Contact’s special effect mirror sequence continues to be one of the most talked about innovative movie sequences. If you want to watch movies similar to Arrival, you will be very pleased with Contact. 

Also Read: Movies like Alita Battle Angel

4. Annihilation (2018)

IMDb Rating: 8/10
Cast: Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Issac, Rebecca Fergusen, Zendaya
Director: Dennis Villeneuve

Annihilation directed by Alex Garland, is another movie adaptation on this list. A Sci-fi movie with psychological horror elements, this story follows a group of explorers. Jena, a biologist and a former soldier joins a mission so that she can find out what happened to her husband in a mysterious place called ‘The Shimmer’ and save him. She discovers jarring truths about this ecological and genetic blending zone. 

This movie is about more than just a woman exploring an inexplicable bubble to save her loved one. For many reasons, it reflects humanity’s collective impulse of destroying the environment leading to self-destruction. Annihilation’s terrorising reality is worth a watch if you are looking for films like Arrival

5. Inception (2010)

IMDb Rating: 8.8/10
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page
Director: Christopher Nolan

Christopher Nolan’s Inception’s reputation precedes itself, it’s one of the highest-rated Action/Sci-fi movies of all time.  The movie uses the concept of dreaming as a skill to intercept the minds of people. Don Cobb (played by the talented Leonardo Dicaprio) is a highly skilled thief in dreaming, his skills make him an in-demand commodity for corporate espionage. After being stuck in circumstances that prevent him from reuniting with his children, Cobb is desperate to find a way out.

When offered a seemingly impossible task by a powerful man who tells Cobb that he can arrange for Cobb to return home, Cobb builds a team with an impressive set of unique skills. Brilliant performances by the cast and Nolan’s proficiently complex narratives of flashbacks and incredible mind-bending visual effects make this movie a  masterpiece of the perception of reality. Considering you haven’t seen it already, Inception is a must-watch if you wish to see similar movies like Arrival

6. Ex Machina (2014)

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10
Cast: Oscar Issac, Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: Alex Garland

Ex Machina is a directorial debut for Alex Garland. A sci-fi thriller, the movie explores the existence of Artificial Intelligence. The story begins with Caleb Smith, a programmer at a large internet company winning a competition and being invited for a week to spend at the private estate of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), his firm’s CEO. Caleb is actually selected to be the one to run the Turing test to determine the capabilities and consciousness of Ava (Alicia Vikander), a beautiful robot. 

Ava is more deceptive and self-aware than either of them thought her out to be. Praise-worthy performance by the actors and the director’s well-informed ability to convey the deep essence of humanity and consciousness. Ex Machina is intelligent, thematic and a great choice if you want to see films like Arrival

7. The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

IMDb Rating: 5.5/10
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates
Director: Scott Derrickson

A remake of the 1951 movie of the same name, The Day the Earth Stood Still stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu and Jennifer Connelly as Dr Helen Benson. Directed by Scott Derrickson, the Sci-fi Drama is about an alien humanoid visitor, Klaatu and a giant Robot counterpart who visit earth. Klaatu and other such alien humanoids determine whether human civilization with destructive habits deserves to live. Dr Benson and her stepson soon discover that the seemingly threatening outer space being Klaatu is actually a friend of humanity and try to convince him to stop their extinction.

While many think Keanu’s portrayal of the character felt cold, dedicated fans defend his choices to be true to the nature of a foreign intelligent life. The movie’s message of peace and desire is portrayed decently. Though a fairly unpopular movie, it is a good choice if you want to watch movies like Arrival

If you’re interested, you can also check out the original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) after watching this film 

8. Prometheus (2012) 

IMDb Rating: 7/10
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green
Director: Ridley Scott

Prometheus by Ridley Scott tells a story about two scientists who discover a possible link with the race that might have created humanity. This search for humanity’s origins leads scientists toward a dark part of the universe. Prometheus serves as a prequel to the beloved Alien (1979). But it does so by creating its own world while making sure it keeps the nostalgia intact. The movie focuses on themes of greed and highlights the recklessness of corporations. 

The discovery of dark mysticism of the giant creators called  ‘Engineers’ however does not go according to plan. The movie may have divided reviews but it manages to incorporate some brilliant elements of visual effects and cinematography that make it worthy of a watch. If you want to watch movies like Arrival, Prometheus is a good choice. 

9. Gravity (2013)

IMDb Rating: 7.7/10
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity is a Sci-fi thriller starring exceptionally talented actors Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission with the veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky ( George Clooney). On one of their routine spacewalks things go wrong and their space shuttle is destroyed. Ryan and Matt are stranded in space. 

In this survival story, humanity’s resilience even in the most improbable catastrophes is inspiring. Sandra’s heartfelt performance is worth every praise. The movie brings a simple element of love as the strongest motivation for humans when Dr Ryan and Matt talk about their family and Children. Gravity’s quiet and impressive cinematography reinforces our compassion for the protagonist. There are few movies that can translate such emotions and Gravity is one of them, which is why if you want to explore similar movies like Arrival, this has to be on your list. 

10. Ad Astra (2019)

IMDb Rating: 6.5/10
Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee-Jones
Director: James Grey

Directed by James Gray, Ad Astra is set in a future where space travel is far more advanced and frequent than today. It follows the story of astronaut Roy McBride. He has been appointed on a top secret journey to fix a problem known as ‘The Surge’ which knocks electronics all across the galaxy.

The pulses of the said problem are believed to be coming from the Lima Project which was a space expedition led by Roy’s father Clifford McBride, where he went missing. Hence, Roy’s mission becomes a journey of revelations about the advancement of space travel, a search for his father and also a search for something divine, like a God. Calm, stunning, and frightening, the movie gives a distinctly modern answer to man’s search for the divine. If you want to watch similar movies like Arrival that feature beautiful visuals of space and what connects human beings, this one is for you. 

Honourable Mentions 

These are a few great movies that were not part of our recommendations for movies like Arrival, but you should surely check them out:

  1. 2001: A Space Odyssey 
  2. Interstellar
  3. Blade Runner 2049
  4. Under the Skin

When Lost aired over a decade ago, its successful narrative created a pop culture impact and changed the landscape of television. If you are a fan and want to watch shows like Lost then you can have a look at this list we made just for you.

Lost

The hugely successful television series Lost aired in 2004. The premise, as we know, deals with a group of people surviving a commercial passenger plane crash on a remote island. The show masterfully explores supernatural and sci-fi elements on this mysterious south Pacific island. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTu8iDynwNc

The use of cliffhangers at the end of each episode of Lost kept the viewers on the edge of their seats, desperately craving for the next episode to come. Even though it's a large ensemble cast, most of the characters receive a justifiable personal arch. Lost was inspired by the movie Castaway and became one of the most expensive pilots to be shot at the time! Lost continues to be appreciated for its originality in storytelling and dynamic character arcs. 

List of TV Shows Like Lost

  1. The Leftovers
  2. Manifest
  3. Lost Room
  4. Twin Peaks
  5. The Prisoners
  6. Battlestar Galactica
  7. The New People
  8. Flight 29 Down
  9. Fringe
  10. Alcatraz
  11. Under the Dome
  12. Dark

1. The Leftovers (2014)

IMDB ratings: 8.3/10

Cast: Carrie Coon, Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman and Margaret Qualley

Creator: Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta

The director of Lost, Damon Lindel also created a supernatural drama series called The Leftovers. The show begins 3 years after an unexplainable global event called ‘Sudden Departure’  where almost 2 per cent of the population, nearly 140 million people, disappear. The Leftovers isn't about WHY people are gone, it's about how the ones who remain dealt with their loss, people often try to comfort themselves with dreams, angels, gods, or even death.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLT3YUALJno&t=8s

The Leftovers will leave you with so many questions but beyond words, you have to feel it and savour its unanswered questions to find peace. The Leftovers is an incredible television series that starts incredibly well but loses its way by the series's end. I have to say though, Carrie Coon has brilliant moments in the end. The Leftovers is so weird, fragmented and nonsensical at times that it reminds me of Lost. If you are looking for shows like Lost, I recommend that you give The Leftovers a try.

2. Manifest  (2018) 

IMDB ratings: 7.1/10

Cast: Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas and J.R. Ramirez 

Creator: Jeff Rake


The Manifest is a supernatural drama show about a bunch of people who discover that they lost 5 years of their lives when they landed in New York after their aeroplane faced severe turbulence. All the people on the plane were presumed to be dead. Now, these people have to find a way to adjust themselves to a new life around their loved ones. Mild spoiler! They learn their loved ones and the rest of society is not as they left it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1hNAIzkQWY

I found that the show’s premise was very intriguing and the actors give a very convincing performance. The narrative details of the show, however, in my opinion, are a bit sloppy and inconsistent. The writers surely have room for improvement but their concept is incredibly thrilling. Every episode of Manifest keeps you on your toes. Manifest has completed 3 seasons up until now and continues to be on air. Manifest is a pretty good choice if you want to watch TV shows like Lost.

3. Lost Room (2006)

IMDB ratings: 8.1/10

Cast: Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies and Peter Jacobson

Creator: Christopher Leone, Laura Harkcom

This lesser-known show The Lost Room is an American Sci-fi television miniseries which only had 3 episodes of 90 mins each and no follow-up seasons. The show was based on a very unique idea where the room in question (known as the ‘Lost Room’) and the objects in the said room had supernatural powers. This strange room is set in a 1960s motel along the iconic U.S. Route 66. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfWrECLnFYU

One day the protagonist (Peter Krause) Joe Miller’s daughter disappears inside the room. Joe, with the help of objects present in the room, tries to find his daughter Anna (Elle Fanning). The story of Lost Room was intensely engaging. I found the direction and the actor’s performances to be absolutely brilliant. It baffles me that the creators did not return to make another short season within the same concept. If you have been searching for TV series like Lost then I can assure you that Lost Room will be worth a watch.

4. Twins Peaks (1990) 

IMDB ratings: 8.8/10

Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn and David Lynch

Creator: David Lynch

David Lynch, the well-known director of weird and captivating films such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet created an iconic show called Twin Peaks. It is a hauntingly eccentric show about the investigation of the mysterious murder of a small-town homecoming queen named Laura Palmer. Believe me, as odd as the show may seem at first, you will grow to love it, after all, it is considered to be one of the best mystery shows ever created. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zwn9ou_nf-I

With the mysteries, the supernatural elements and the list of bizarre characters, Twin Peaks has it all. In my opinion, the cinematography of the show was truly ahead of its time. Kyle’s Dale Cooper was especially entertaining. Twin Peaks’ experimental formula of the satirical soap opera is extremely unsettling yet rewarding to watch, I must warn you, it’s not for the faint-hearted!  If you are in search of TV shows like Lost then Twin Peaks won’t disappoint you.

The Prisoners (1967)

IMDB ratings: 8.5/10

Cast: Patrick McGoohan, Angelo Muscat and Geroge Markstien

Creator: Patrick McGoohan


The Prisoner centres around an unnamed British agent (Patrick McGoohan) who tries to flee his country after abruptly quitting his high-ranking government job. He is abducted and held captive in a strange ‘sea-side’ village that is isolated from the rest of the world. This village is a highly secure and monitored place filled with weird technology. There are only 17 episodes to this late 60s show but it manages to bring up such surreal surprises, it's sure to leave a great impact on the viewer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JrNr85fPms

The Prisoner’s unique concept influenced many popular shows including Lost. The creators of Lost even cited the show. I was very impressed by how ahead of its time The Prisoners proves to be. If you want to watch more shows similar to Lost the Prisoners should definitely be on your list.

6. Battlestar Galactica (2004)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Katee Sackhoff, Edward James Olmos and Tricia Helfer 

Creator: Glen A. Larson

The 2004 Battlestar Galactica is a reboot of the original 1978 miniseries of the same name. Do not be mistaken by the title, the show is not related to Star Trek.  Battlestar Galactica is set in the 7th millennium AD and follows Cylons, the robot enemy of humanity that resurfaces to destroy the 12 colonies of Mankind. Only a few survive and are able to escape on ships led by a powerful warship called Battlestar Galactica. Mankind struggles to fight the Cylons and work their own political agendas and disputes while finding their long-lost 13th colony Earth.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TnYsf2Yv8i8

The show is a dark, intense and gritty socio-political commentary with EPIC cinematic value. The script is especially clever and as a huge fan of sci-fi shows, this show ticks the boxes in all the right categories. When the show was released, it blew the viewers and critics away. As far as an obsessive and gripping story goes, Battlestar Galactica is one of the most similar to shows like Lost. 

7. The New People (1969)

IMDB ratings: 7.3/10

Cast: David Moses, Zooey hall and Tiffany Boiling

Creator: Larry Gordon Aaron Spelling

The New People is an American Tv series that aired only for 1 season and is focused on a couple of college students who survive a plane crash. The incident takes place while they were returning from a trip to Southeast Asia, their plane crashes on an island in the south of the Pacific ocean. 

By now this show must already be sounding a lot like Lost to you, and it surely is. The remaining group of people discover an unusual truth about the island: there’s an above-ground unused nuclear test site filled with supplies for the survivors. If you want to see more plane survival stories like Lost then The New People should definitely be on your list.

8. Flight 29 Down (2005)

IMDB ratings: 7.2/10

Cast: Allen Alvarado, Halle Hirsh and Corbin Bleu

Creator:  Stan Rowgow D. J. MacHale

The show Flight 29 Down is a drama series about a group of pre-teens/teens who are stranded on a South Pacific island after their plane crashes in a tropical storm while they were flying from an eco-adventure camping trip in Palau. The show is in many ways a younger version of the Adult-centred show Lost but sans the supernatural elements. I’d say that the show draws inspiration from the show The New People.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLeG0w3kL8k

Flight 29 Down uses the technique of a video diary as a plot device for the viewers to keep up with the story of these children. It was very engaging to watch young intelligent characters finding their way on the island. The first two seasons of the show are quite engaging but I seemed to lose interest in its 3rd and final season. Regardless, Flight 29 Down is a really good series to watch if you want to see TV shows like Lost.

9. Fringe (2008)

IMDB ratings: 8.4/10

Cast: Anna Torv, John Noble and Joshua Jackson

Creator: J. J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman, and Roberto Orci

Fringe is a popular Sci-fi crime drama television series. It may seem like a standard procedural drama at first, but the show actually explores the parallel universe, alternate versions of people filled with crazy scientific experiments. I personally had a great time watching this show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29bSzbqZ3xE

Fringe is actually inspired by shows like Lost, The X-files and The Twilight Zone. The 3 main characters of the show work with a special division called Fringe. There are so many brilliant twists and turns in Fringe that in my opinion, the show is at the top of its category. If you are searching for TV series like Lost, I strongly recommend you watch Fringe

10. Alcatraz (2012)

IMDB ratings: 6.9/10

Cast: Sarah Jones, George Garcia and Jonny Coyne 

Creator: Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien, Bryan Wynbrandt

This American fiction show is based on the infamous Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary built on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. The prison is now closed but once kept some of the most dangerous criminals of America. The show takes the liberty to make a show around the conspiracies of the place.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V514ACIGp_k

In the interesting premise we see that under unknown circumstances, 256 inmates and 46 guards of the prison disappear without a trace. Later the disappeared ones start to appear one by one without ageing a day and resume their criminal activities with no realisation of disappearance. A special government unit is dedicated to finding and putting those criminals back in prison. If you are looking for mystery shows similar to Lost, try watching Alcatraz. 

11. Under the Dome (2013)

IMDB ratings: 6.5/10

Cast: Alexander Koch and Rachelle Lefevre

Creator: Stephen King

Based on a novel written by the sci-fi legend Stephen King, Under the Dome tells the story of the residents of the fictional small town called Chester's Mill, when a huge, transparent and indestructible dome suddenly cuts them off from the rest of the world. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_Y5YeYrqUk

Now the trapped residents try to find a way to discover the truth, origin and purpose of these domes. This journey forces them into situations where they learn more about each other than they ever knew. Under the Dome may not be on the top of this list but it’s quite a decent watch if you’re looking for mystery shows similar to Lost

12. Dark (2017)

IMDB ratings: 8.7/10

Cast: Louis Hofmann, Lisa Vicari and Gina Stiebitz

Creator: Baran bo Odar, Jantje Friese

The German-language Netflix series Dark is an interesting blend of Science fiction and Mystery. Truly a compelling and mind-bending story to watch. At the beginning of Dark, many children suspiciously start disappearing in the German town of Winden. The dark past of generational mysteries of 4 families living in the town namely, Kahnwald, Nielsen, Doppler, and Tiedemann is brought to light.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrwycJ08PSA

After the discovery of a wormhole, the lives of the families intertwine more than one can imagine. I believe every element of the show is top-notch, especially Dark’s cinematography, which is a TRUE masterpiece. If you are looking for TV series similar to Lost then the intense and gripping story of Dark is sure to keep you engrossed.

Honourable Mentions

Here are a few TV shows like Lost that didn’t make the list, but you can check them out nonetheless: 

  1. Carnivale
  2. Yellowjackets
  3. Game of Thrones
  4. Black Mirror
  5. Flashforward