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Movies Like Maze Runner Everyone Should Watch

Dating back to movies like "Soylent Green," "A Boy and His Dog," "Mad Max" and beyond, post-apocalyptic tales have long captured the public imagination and become one of pop culture's favorite destinations. Nowadays, books, TV shows, and movies seem to be reimagining more than ever each possible way the world could end — and how any surviving humans would struggle to keep their species alive. 

During the 2010s, these stories took on a distinctly YA feel, as seemingly every young actor of note landed their own film set in a dystopian future. For "Teen Wolf" star Dylan O'Brien, that film was "The Maze Runner," a sci-fi headtrip centered on 16-year-old Thomas (O'Brien), who wakes up in a grassy glade with no memory of who he is or how he got there. He soon discovers that the only way out is through a giant maze that constantly alters its configuration and is overrun with giant spider-like creatures called Grievers at night.

Like many movie adolescents who find themselves in the post-apocalypse, Thomas manages to rise above his circumstances with smarts, determination, and some impressive stunt work. "The Maze Runner" series' combination of charismatic teens, adrenaline-filled action, and sci-fi mysteries galore ultimately led to box office glory and two sequels: "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" and "Maze Runner: The Death Cure."

But Thomas is far from the only movie character to confront the impossible. The protagonists in the movies highlighted below are all placed in disturbing, surprising "Maze Runner"-like scenarios, whether they're trapped in a mysterious labyrinth, trying to remember a forgotten past, or doing their best to survive on a destroyed Earth. Here are 12 movies like "The Maze Runner" that fans of the series should check out.

The Hunger Games (2012)

"The Hunger Games" is the gold standard of post-apocalyptic YA movies. Like "The Maze Runner," it focuses on a group of kids who are trapped in a mysterious nature-filled area they must figure out how to free themselves from. In the case of "The Hunger Games," however, that means killing all the other children there with them. While we only learn how bleak the world of "The Maze Runner" is in the final moments of the film, "The Hunger Games" establishes just how awful its setting — the former countries of North America, renamed Panem — is from the moment we meet Katniss Everdeen, a girl from the impoverished District 12, one of a dozen districts who must send one girl and one boy to fight to the death in the annual Hunger Games.

After her younger sister Primrose is picked in an annual lottery to be part of the games, Katniss volunteers to take her place and soon finds herself in the middle of a media circus that has the whole nation riveted — and rooting for her death or the deaths of her fellow competitors. "The Hunger Games" eventually led to three sequels all based on Suzanne Collins trilogy of novels, but the first movie in the series establishes a brutal world where the masses are kept distracted from their problems by this unspeakably horrifying, yet disturbingly plausible, reality game show.

Battle Royale (2000)

Stories often pit adults against children, but that conflict has rarely been so provocatively depicted as in "Battle Royale," a tense freak-out that's a precursor to films like "The Maze Runner" and "The Hunger Games." Except in this case, the action's bloodier, a lot bloodier.

The movie takes place in a Japanese society that's falling apart, leading the nation's children to become unruly juvenile delinquents. To rein them in, the government enacts the BR Act, which forces a group of students to fight to the death in an annual Battle Royale. This year, a class of middle school students have drawn the short straw and are sent to an island to play the game under the supervision of their former teacher, Kitano (Takeshi Kitaon), who resigned in disappointment after his students stopped coming to his classes and one of them cut him with a knife.

Like the kids in "The Maze Runner," the kids in "Battle Royale" form alliances, fight one another, and come up with strategies to free themselves from their circumstances. Unlike the kids in "The Maze Runner," this involves a shocking amount of violence. The students lose their lives in graphic ways, and the gore never stops. Yet, amidst the carnage, the kids still make time for typical teen things, like expressing their loyalty to their friends and confessing their crushes. It's an unsettling story that features a mix of anxiety-laden drama, unexpected humor, and impressively-filmed action, making it well worth a watch.

Divergent (2014)

Based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, "Divergent" envisions a post-apocalyptic Chicago in which people are divided into five factions based on the one virtue they exhibit most strongly. While Tris (Shailene Woodley) was born into Abnegation (the selfless faction that runs the government), when she takes the test given to every 16-year-old she discovers she doesn't fit neatly into any single faction. This makes her Divergent. However, her tester warns her not to tell anyone her results, because the government considers independent thinkers like her to be a threat.

Much like "Maze Runner," "Divergent" depicts a future where teenagers are forced into challenging, life-or-death situations in the name of progress and security. Yet, "Divergent" leans further into Tris' journey of self-discovery as she joins Dauntless (the protectors of society) and works to fit in with that faction, only to discover a plot by the Erudite faction that leads her to embrace all the different facets of herself. Featuring stand-out performances by Woodley and Theo James as Four (Tris' Dauntless instructor), "Divergent" is action-packed entertainment that celebrates individuality.

Love and Monsters (2020)

If you enjoyed seeing Dylan O'Brien take on the post-apocalypse in "The Maze Runner" and its sequels, "Love and Monsters" is a must-see.

This time around O'Brien plays Joel Dawson, survivor of what could best be described as the bug-pocalypse. As the film's prologue explains, when the chemical fallout from blowing up an asteroid headed toward Earth rains chemicals back onto the planet, cold-blooded creatures all over the world mutate into behemoths. These monsters wipe out most of humanity, but Joel manages to survive by joining an underground colony full of ace monster-fighting warriors. Unfortunately, Joel is not one of them. Despite his inability to save himself from the giant creepy crawlies that now roam the Earth, when he hears Aimee (Jessica Henwick), his high school girlfriend, over the radio, he decides to trek 80 miles across the monster-riddled surface to reunite with her.

While that may seem like a recipe for bug-based horror, this quirky adventure is a fun, amusing delight. Joel navigates his situation by teaming up with the dynamic survivalist duo of Clyde (Michael Rooker) and Minnow (Ariana Greenblatt) as well as Boy, a very loyal, very helpful (very cute) dog. "Love and Monsters" is a unique spin on a familiar formula. The depictions of the monsters, including a remarkably oversized frog, ant, and crab, are equal parts hilarious and terrifying, and O'Brien plays Joel with wry humor and endearing heart, making for an irresistible monster mash.

Dark City (1998)

In "The Maze Runner," Thomas and his allies must free themselves from the glade they're trapped in by traversing a massive maze that regularly shifts its configuration. The citizens of "Dark City" are trapped too, but in their case the city is the maze and the citizens have no idea they are prisoners. 

That changes when one Thomas-like chosen one (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a hotel bathtub with no memory of who he is and a woman's murdered body in the room with him. The first part of "Dark City" unfolds like a film noir as the man, who soon discovers his name is John Murdoch, investigates his past, evades the police who think he's a serial killer, and runs from the Strangers, a mysterious group of men pursuing him for unknown reasons.

Soon, Murdoch realizes that every night at midnight, the Strangers alter the layout of the city while implanting each of the citizens of the perpetually dark metropolis with brand new identities. As Murdoch follows the clues, the movie goes full sci-fi, and the plot reveals the true nature of the predicament that Murdoch and his fellow city dwellers are stuck in. 

Co-starring the likes of Jennifer Connelly and Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt, perhaps the biggest fan of "Dark City" was also the most famous film critic of all time. Roger Ebert loved the film so much, in fact, that he recorded an audio commentary (he only made 6 in his lifetime, including for such monumental films as "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca"), lovingly breaking down the film's subtexts and under-appreciated elements. Even if you're already a "Dark City" fan, the track will make you feel like your eyes have been opened to an entirely new film.

Cube (1997)

What if the constantly-changing labyrinth of "The Maze Runner" wasn't just haunted by Grievers but by all kinds of deadly booby traps and tricks? That's exactly what happens in "Cube," in which a group of people finds themselves trapped together in a maze of interconnected cube-like rooms with no idea who brought them there or why. While that makes their dilemma very similar to that of Thomas and his "Maze Runner" allies, the protagonists in "Cube" have no time to wait and ponder their situation. They must keep moving to avoid the terrors of their imprisonment and, hopefully, find a way out.

The small group's circumstances make "Cube" a real nail-biter, with each character responding differently to their unfortunate position. While some rise to the occasion, others devolve into depression or violence. The tight focus of "Cube" puts viewers right into the boxy labyrinth with the characters, leading to the inevitable question of what each individual audience members would do if they found themselves in a similar situation. It's that heady premise that has led "Cube" to become a cult favorite in the 25 years since its release.

Labyrinth (1986)

This Jim Henson-directed wonder has been a cult hit since its mid-1980 release, and it's easy to understand why: between a menacing but musical David Bowie, a breakout turn by a young Jennifer Connelly, muppets-galore, and the title magical maze, there's a lot to love about "Labyrinth." The plot revolves around dreamy, dramatic 16-year-old Sarah (Connelly), who after being left to babysit her infant brother Toby (Toby Froud), wishes the goblin king would take him away. When Gareth the goblin king (David Bowie) unexpectedly grants her wish, Sarah regrets her words and enters Gareth's labyrinth, in an effort to locate Toby before he's turned into a goblin.

Sarah encounters odd and fantastical places (as well as odd and fantastical creatures) throughout the labyrinth, gaining allies and finding enemies who try to delay her progress. However, like Thomas in "The Maze Runner," Sarah repeatedly proves her ingenuity, grit, and generosity as she figures out how to survive and overcome the labyrinth in order to make it to her goal. "Labyrinth" is aimed at a younger audience than "The Maze Runner," but it's the kind of family-friendly fare that people of all ages will enjoy.

Oxygen (2021)

The challenges Thomas and the other boys in "The Maze Runner" endure are made even more disturbing because they can't remember anything about their pasts. For the first few hours after they've woken up, they can't even remember their names. French film "Oxygen" imagines a similar scenario, but even more terrifying as a woman (Melanie Laurent) wakes up alone in a cryogenic pod with no memory and discovers that the pod's oxygen levels are dangerously low and continuing to fall. With only the pod's artificial intelligence M.I.L.O. (Mathieu Amalric) to talk to, the woman must figure out who she is, why she's there, and how to get help. Along the way she makes impossible choices, in an attempt to survive while discovering shocking truths about her identity and what led to her current situation.

There's only one person onscreen throughout most of "Oxygen," but Laurent's tour de force performance ensures the movie is never less than riveting. In fact, Laurent's depiction of the movie's protagonist is so deeply felt, the film is highly relatable despite its fantastical sci-fi premise. And although the plot features twist after gasp-inducing twist, the revelations never feel unbelievable, which only draws viewers in further. If you wanted to see Thomas and his "Maze Runner" compatriots delve further into the mysteries of who they were before they lost their memories, "Oxygen" should be next up on your watch list.

The 5th Wave (2016)

When we meet Cassie Sullivan (Chloe Grace Moretz) in "The 5th Wave," she looks like all the other rough-and-tumble characters in TV and movies who've adapted to the post-apocalypse. Soon, though, the movie flashes back to a time before the world was decimated, when Cassie was just a normal high school girl who's as curious and wary as everyone else about the alien spaceship that appears in the sky over Earth. Eventually the aliens, who have been named "The Others" by humanity, release wave upon wave of destruction on the planet, from disabling electric power to triggering natural disasters to causing a pandemic. By the time the Others have started to take over human bodies in the fourth wave, only a few people remain.

If you loved "The Maze Runner" but thought it could have used some aliens, "The 5th Wave," which is based on a novel by Rick Yancey, is for you. While Cassie isn't stuck in a maze, after her brother is taken in by the military to be trained as a child soldier, she must make her way across the ruined landscape to rescue him while facing constant danger from both the Others and fellow humans. Along the way, there's star-crossed romance, impressive action, and a big twist that gives the movie's title new meaning.

Mortal Engines (2018)

Adapted from Philip Reeve's book, "Mortal Engines" presents a steampunk world set in the far future where cities are no longer situated on land but have been mounted on wheels to rove the ravaged countryside. There they practice "municipal Darwinism," as larger cities gobble up smaller ones, a concept graphically illustrated in the film's opening moments as the city of London captures a smaller town after a fantastical chase sequence. But this event gives protagonist Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) the opportunity she's been waiting for to assassinate London's mayor Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), starting her off on an adventure that takes her from slave markets to cities in the sky and everywhere in between.

If you especially enjoyed the kinetic "Maze Runner" sequels, you're sure to appreciate the "Mortal Engines" mile-a-minute action. Like "The Maze Runner," the movie does some interesting worldbuilding, and though the nonstop action prevents the story from diving too deeply into any of the potentially thought-provoking themes it presents, its gorgeous visuals and rip-roaring fight sequences keep things exciting. "Mortal Engines" is an example of style over substance, but when the style is this dazzling, it's hard to miss the substance.

The Giver (2014)

Thomas from "The Maze Runner" sees things a little differently than anyone else — it's what makes him able to figure out what no one else can. Jonas (Brenton Thwaites), the main character of "The Giver," sees things a little differently too. 

Which is why, upon his graduation from school, he is assigned the job of becoming his community's Receiver of Memory, the one person who will hold the memories of the totality of human civilization, which his predecessor, the Giver (Jeff Bridges), will share with him. Yet, as Jonas learns more about the good, the bad, and the ugly of human civilization, he realizes that even though he believed the harmonious community where he lives is a utopia, it's really the opposite: a dystopia where everyone's emotions and individual instincts have been suppressed. While this has eliminated all the worst aspects of humanity and prevented war or pain, it's also prevented all the best aspects, including love and independent thinking. The citizens of the community can't even see in color.

This lyrical adaptation of Lois Lowry's classic novel is a moving meditation on the power of emotions, love, and what makes us human. Not only is "The Giver" visually stunning, with a picture that gradually moves from black and white to color, it features impressive performances from Oscar winners Meryl Streep as the community's Chief Elder and Jeff Bridges as the title character, making for an engaging watch.

Oblivion (2013)

The boys in "The Maze Runner" have no memory of who they are or why they've been placed in such dire circumstances. "Oblivion" turns that conceit on its head. 

Jack (Tom Cruise) has had the memories of his past erased but knows exactly why he's on an Earth devastated by an alien invasion. Even though humanity eventually prevailed against the alien forces, the planet was left largely uninhabitable, forcing humanity to take up residence on a new home world. Jack is one of the few who stayed behind, and he's completely committed to his job as a repairman who services the drones that seek out and destroy the few remaining aliens. Yet, while Jack has no interest in pursuing the mystery of his past, he soon learns more about himself and what really happened to Earth than he bargained for.

"Oblivion" includes many familiar elements from other post-apocalyptic sci-fi tales, but rarely have these elements been presented quite so beautifully. With richly-imagined future technology as well as lovely natural landscapes, the movie is a feast for the eyes. Meanwhile, the action-heavy set pieces, startling revelations, romantic leanings, and a fully-committed Tom Cruise make it an experience that offers something for pretty much everyone.