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30 Movies Like Arrival You Have To Watch Next

"Arrival," starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, tells the story of humanity's first contact with intelligent life from the stars. In the film, Adams plays an expert linguist named Louise Banks tasked with deciphering the unusual language of the bizarre creatures that arrive from outer space. Realizing that the aliens' existence is entirely unlike humans' normal linear life, she surmises their method of communication might also involve shifts in time.

While the science fiction premise is presented in a grounded manner, it's really just a backdrop for the character drama at play. Ultimately the film is a story of love, loss, and family, as Banks uses her experience to learn how to cope with heavy trauma that she has yet to face. Whether it's the film's hard science fiction, or just its understated tone, you love "Arrival" for its uniqueness among bigger sci-fi fare. From stories of alien contact to somber futurist tales to moving character dramas in a science fiction setting, here are 30 movies like "Arrival" (and one bonus recommendation) for fans to put on their watchlist.

Ad Astra

Brad Pitt stars in the 2019 film "Ad Astra," about an astronaut who ventures out amongst the stars and discovers not just new frontiers, but new insights into himself. Exploring themes of family, faith, and legacy, it tells the story of Roy McBride, a SpaceCom commander who goes on a journey to find his long lost father, who may also be the cause of problems back on Earth. 

In a bleak future at the tail end of the 21st century, we learn that humankind's determination to reach beyond its grasp may be leading to its undoing, and the film earnestly examines how our world today — and our attempt to control the future — could ultimately doom us. Full of strong, understated performances, "Ad Astra" was given a four-star review by The Chicago Sun Times, which called it "thematically dense and visually sumptuous," while favorably comparing it to the likes of "The Martian" and "Gravity." 

Silent Running

In one of the many hard science fiction films of the 1970s that arrived in the wake of "2001: A Space Odyssey," we find Earth in the future unable to sustain plant life, and converting massive space-cruisers into bio-domed craft filled with living forests. Assigned with a minimal crew to tend to the flora, the ships circle the solar system to preserve Earth's vegetation. But when the order comes down to jettison the forest pods and return to Earth, one man (Bruce Dern) defies orders and goes on the run to save the last of Earth's precious ecosystems.

Alone with nothing more than a pair of robot assistants, he disobeys his superiors to ensure that the forest in his care can survive out in the loneliness of space. One of the earliest sci-fi films to boast a strong environmentalist message, "Silent Running" will satisfy fans looking for a thought-provoking tale of courage and sacrifice.


Like "Arrival," the Christopher Nolan film "Interstellar" is both an exciting science fiction story and tender family drama. It opens in the not-too-distant future, as the Earth is slowly dying and humanity is looking to find other planets to colonize. Discovering a singularity that leads to far-off planets that may be habitable, astronaut Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) embarks on a daring and risky mission through the wormhole to reconnoiter the worlds they find there. 

A film praised by noted astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson for its scientific accuracy, "Interstellar" delivers a strong family drama with themes of love and loss. Like "Arrival," it also uses time as a narrative device to explore the bond between a parent and child. Highly rated for its emotional impact as much as for its adventure, it should be the first one up on your queue if you haven't seen it.


A solitary drama, "Gravity" stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a scientist and researcher still mourning the death of her daughter. But on a space shuttle mission after a cloud of dangerous space debris kills the crew, she is left alone when her co-pilot (George Clooney) is lost during a maneuver that saves her life. Alone in the cold vast dark of space, the film becomes a sobering survivalist drama as Stone struggles to stay alive with little besides her wits and her will.

Through her harrowing ordeal, Stone learns a new zest for life, and finally comes to terms with the loss of her daughter. Though it's not without its exciting action set pieces, as Stone survives one narrow escape after another, "Gravity" proves to be another thoughtful film like "Arrival" that uses science fiction to help tell a personal story.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Rated as one of the best science fiction movies of all time (via Empire), if not the very best, it's at the very least essential viewing for fans of hard sci-fi. Inspired by a short story from Arthur C. Clarke that would be expanded into a groundbreaking novelization, the film pioneered new special effects techniques and proved that science fiction could be taken as seriously as any adult drama, with a more realistic depiction of outer space than audiences had ever seen.

In the film astronauts David Bowman and Frank Poole are sent on a clandestine mission to Jupiter that is put in peril when their ship's artificial intelligence, a computer system dubbed HAL 9000, seemingly turns against them. In a life or death battle with their own ship, they may have to abandon their mission to stay alive. Directed by visionary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick ("The Shining"), the film has been analyzed for decades as — like "Arrival" — it includes themes that go much further than the adventure on screen.


Based on the novel by celebrated science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, the 1972 Russian film "Solaris" sees the crew of a far-flung space station orbiting the planet Solaris begin to suffer emotional breakdowns due to an unknown phenomenon. When a psychologist named Kris Kelvin is sent to the station to review the situation and determine if the mission should continue, he makes a disturbing discovery about the nature of the crisis, and uncovers new mysteries aboard the station.

Eventually, Kelvin himself begins to suffer what he believes to be hallucinations of his dead loved ones, until he realizes there may be an alien life form at work that he must somehow find a way of communicating with. It's a perfect companion to "Arrival," with similar issues of dealing with family and memory in the midst of alien contact. If you're not up for a foreign film, you can always check out the 2002 remake starring George Clooney. While not quite as good as the original, it works nearly as well in its own way. 

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Directed by Steven Spielberg, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" ushered in a new subgenre of science fiction movies when it was released in 1977, the same year as the landmark "Star Wars." Instead of heroic astronauts and highly educated scientists making first contact with aliens, it is blue collar everyman Roy Neary who becomes the point person when UFOs are discovered and alien life makes first contact with humanity. Movies like "E.T.," "Starman," and "Cocoon" would follow this trend.

While "Arrival" featured a highly trained expert as its lead, the story of Amy Adams' Louise Banks parallels Richard Dreyfuss' Roy Neary in many ways. In "Close Encounters," Neary finds his personal life thrown upside down when he makes contact, while the encounter helps him learn new truths about himself and his place in the world in the process.


One of several films on this list focused on a single, solitary astronaut alone in space, the Duncan Jones-directed drama "Moon" might be the best of them all. Sam Rockwell stars as astronaut Sam Bell, whose prolonged mining mission to the moon is nearing its end. Alone for three years with little but a robot named GERTY for company, he begins to have troubling hallucinations involving a strange man and a young girl as he gets closer to his return date. 

Before long, Bell cannot tell the difference between his dreams and reality, and a shocking discovery turns his quiet mission into a nightmare. A suspenseful, poignant psychological drama about loneliness, "Moon" delivers a thoughtful exploration of one man's soul, with an effective performance by Rockwell that's both chilling and heartbreaking.


Some 20 years before "Interstellar," Matthew McConaughey appeared alongside "The Silence of the Lambs" star Jodie Foster in the sci-fi drama "Contact," about an ambitious government project to make first contact with a race of advanced extraterrestrials. Foster plays Dr. Eleanor "Ellie" Arroway, a SETI researcher who went into the field after being inspired by her late father's love of ham radio. 

When the first evidence of life outside our solar system reaches her via a transmission from deep space, Arroway realizes it includes instructions on constructing a transport device that will send her to their star system more than 26 lightyears from Earth. As Arroway's mission takes her toward her goal of first contact, it also takes her on a journey of self-discovery, putting her face to face with her family legacy, her relationship with faith and her understanding of humankind's place among the stars.

The Abyss

After "Aliens," director James Cameron shifted gears to an original sci-fi adventure story, the 1989 undersea drama "The Abyss" starring Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Ed Harris, and Michael Biehn. The story follows a team of specialists, including a former husband and wife team who are now estranged, sent to explore the wreckage of a U.S. Naval submarine. But once they reach it, they come face to face with a strange alien life form that has made a home deep beneath the waters of the Caribbean Sea. 

With groundbreaking digital effects for its era, it plays on similar themes as "Arrival" as the two former lovers are faced with an impossible problem that brings them closer together. Filled with plenty of the tension and action you'd expect from Cameron, it remains according to some his most underrated film.

Blade Runner 2049

Though it doesn't share much in the way of story or characters with "Arrival," the 2017 cyberpunk sequel "Blade Runner 2049" is highly recommended for fans of the film. With both movies sharing the same director, viewers will no doubt find a lot in common tonally between the two films, with the Ryan Gosling-led crime noir epic being an evocative and stylish drama. 

40 years after the events of the original film, new Blade Runner and Nexus-9 replicant Agent K hunts and kills a rogue replicant, but finds evidence that another such replicant has given birth biologically. Assigned to track and kill the child to destroy evidence that replicants are evolving, his investigation will reveal new information about his own kind and the people behind their creation. It will also bring him into contact with infamous former agent Rick Deckard, who lies at the center of the conspiracy.

Colossus: The Forbin Project

An under-appreciated science fiction drama from 1970, "Colossus: The Forbin Project" explored the then-outlandish notion of an artificially intelligent computer system controlling the nation's defense systems. The A.I. becomes self-aware and begins to defy orders from its programmers, simultaneously joining forces with its previously unknown Soviet counterpart and pledging total dominance over the human race. While government bureaucrats worry about how to handle the situation politically, scientists and researchers must figure out how to communicate with the advanced computer systems and convince them to end their deadly endeavor. 

Well ahead of its time, the film predicted a seemingly unbelievable run by computers, and how one problem could lead to disaster. If you enjoy the tension of "Arrival" while experts struggle to find a solution to an impossible sci-fi dilemma, this one is for you.


More of a space odyssey than "Arrival," Danny Boyle's 2007 film "Sunshine" nevertheless will scratch the itch of any fan looking for a dark sci-fi thriller. With an all-star cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Chris Evans, and Benedict Wong among its ensemble, it chronicles a critical mission aboard a starship called Icarus II, sent to reignite the sun following a previous mission that had failed under mysterious circumstances. 

With the suddenly dying star creating havoc on Earth, the crew of Icarus II contends with unusual, escalating problems, with the fate of humanity hanging in the balance. What they find when they reach their destination will shock audiences as much as it does the crew, as the grounded sci-fi film quickly becomes an astonishing thriller in the second half when secrets about the previous mission are revealed.


Director Ron Howard's first foray into science fiction, 1988's "Cocoon" is the only entry on this list that is a comedy-drama, a family film about a race of aliens who had lived on Earth thousands of years ago. Taking the form of three ordinary people living in a retirement community, a group of three aliens return to retrieve a series of cocoons they had left behind. 

But when a local boat captain stumbles upon them and discovers who they really are, the nature of their mission changes and they find themselves helping a number of fellow disillusioned residents who live in their neighborhood. Through their friendship with the group of alien travelers, the elderly residents' youthful spirit is reawakened. Set against a sci-fi backdrop, "Cocoon" is ultimately a story about growing older, and coming to terms with aging, death, and dying.

Ex Machina

"Ex Machina" is a more intimate film focused on just three principal characters largely in one location. Directed and written by Alex Garland, the film stars Oscar Isaac as brilliant tech mogul Nathan Bateman, who is working on a revolutionary artificial intelligence. To test his new creation, an android woman called Eva, he recruits a young programmer at his company named Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) and brings him to his remote estate to take part in a series of tests. Alicia Vikander gives a revelatory performance as the life-like Eva, and as the film unfolds, the experiment becomes as much a test for Caleb as it does for her.  

"Ex Machina" ponders the nature of identity, and what it means to be human, in an intimate psychological thriller. As cerebral as "Arrival" with entirely different subject matter, it's a thought-provoking analysis of artificial intelligence sure to make you give the latest advances from Google and Amazon a sideways glance. 

Under The Skin

A 2013 indie release, "Under The Skin" stars Scarlett Johansson as the human form of a lonely alien who finds herself stranded on Earth. Unable to understand the world she finds herself in, she begins preying on men in Scotland to consume their life force for food. Eventually, the alien woman comes upon a downtrodden outcast man who she finds a strange kinship with, and the two form an unusual bond.

A dark and allegorical tale about loneliness, despair and the human condition, its tone will remind you of Denis Villeneuve's best, with a foreboding visual language and a haunting performance from star Johansson. Though a box office bomb, it was showered with praised from critics, who hailed it as a "chilling masterpiece" (via The Guardian).

The Day The Earth Stood Still

While in some ways a typical science fiction B-movie of its era, 1951's "The Day The Earth Stood Still" is a more thoughtful take on the story of man's first contact with a being from the stars, and a clear allegory for Cold War fears of nuclear proliferation. Like "Arrival," much of the film involves government scientists grappling with the issue of an alien arrival, struggling to determine what he really wants and how to respond.

It all begins when a flying saucer lands ominously in the center of Washington D.C. Along with an eight-foot-tall robot capable of mass destruction, a man calling himself Klaatu emerges and claims to have a dire message for the people of Earth. While Klaatu's motives remain suspicious to the authorities, he forms a friendship with a young widow who is certain he is not the threat that the government thinks he is.


"Predestination" is another hidden treasure, a lesser-known sci-fi drama from 2014 that elevated its 12-page short story source material into a brilliant analysis of the self. Ethan Hawke plays an unnamed time agent, engaged in a cat-and-mouse game with a clever terrorist known as "The Mad Bomber" who has been terrorizing the city. In a journey through time that ping-pongs from past to future, the grizzled agent makes stunning discoveries about his own past and begins to question his entire life, including his own role in the bombings. 

Through the use of time travel, "Predestination" makes for a truly surprising examination of gender and identity, in the same ways that Villeneuve used aliens as a conduit to teach lessons of love and family. If you enjoyed the time-twisting conclusion to "Arrival" too, then the 2014 film "Predestination" should appeal to you.


From Alex Garland, director of "Ex Machina," comes another hard science fiction tale, with a cast led by Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, and Oscar Isaac. Portman plays Lena, a scientist whose husband Kane (Isaac) was lost on a military mission into an unusual region called "The Shimmer." But when he resurfaces a year later without explanation, Lena must go back to The Shimmer and lead a new team inside to figure out what happened to him — even as the zone and its bizarre properties begin to expand.

Though not an action movie, and not quite a horror movie, "Annihilation" lies somewhere in between, as an introspective character drama with impressive performances from its notable cast of big names. Unsuccessful at the box office, it did well with critics, with Variety's review calling it "a visually stunning, imagination-tickling sci-fi thriller."


If you're looking for an epic, high concept science fiction story with a somber tone, Villenueve's "Dune" will surely be up your alley. From the director of "Arrival," the big budget adaptation of the classic novel features one of the finest casts on this list, including Timothee Chalamet, Zendaya, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Rebecca Ferguson, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, and Javier Bardem. A grand adventure of a hero's journey, and a sweeping outer space saga of the far future, it's also a study of how power of any kind can be controlled, leveraged and corrupted.

In "Dune" we meet Paul Atreides (Chalamet), a young man destined to change the course of galactic history. After his family is attacked by its greatest rivals, Paul gets involved in a struggle to maintain control over a critical planet at the heart of the interstellar empire. 


Based on the novel by Michael Crichton (creator of "Jurassic Park" and "Westworld"), "Sphere" boasts a star-studded cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, and Liev Schreiber. Released in 1998, the sci-fi drama starts with the discovery of an ancient craft buried under the Pacific Ocean, believed to be of extraterrestrial origin. A group of specialists led by a marine biologist (Stone), a mathematician (Jackson), an astrophysicist (Schreiber), and a psychologist (Hoffman) venture down into the depths to find and explore the vessel.

After finding a bizarre sphere at the heart of the ship, strange occurrences strike the explorers, and it becomes clear that more is afoot than a simple alien craft. As the mystery deepens, the team begins to question the nature of their situation and the true purpose of the sphere. 


Playing with similar notions of "what is time?" and "what is reality?," the independently produced "Synchronic" introduces viewers to a dangerous new designer drug affecting the city's youth. Jamie Dornan ("The Fall") plays the world-weary Dennis, a paramedic whose daughter gets hooked and goes missing, while Anthony Mackie ("The Falcon and The Winter Soldier") is his friend and fellow EMT Steve, who begins his own investigation into the disappearance. But when Steve discovers that the drug may actually have sent Brianna back in time, it sparks a frightening journey into the past that he might not survive. 

"Synchronic" may be a smart sci-fi tale and time travel adventure, but it's also a story of family, friendship, and reconciliation. Dennis learns to cherish the people in his life, providing a tonal link with Denis Villenueve's "Arrival" that fans of the movie should enjoy.


Foreign sci-fi gems are not to be overlooked, as the 2021 French film "Oxygen" proves. The Netflix-distributed movie opens with an unnamed woman awakening from a cryogenic chamber with no memory of who she is or why she was placed into stasis. Finding herself stuck in the claustrophobic chamber with nothing but an artificial intelligence called MILO to keep her company, she accesses the pod's onboard computer system and begins slowly piecing together information about her past and her mission.

While the woman is able to make calls to emergency authorities and even her apparent husband, nobody seems willing to give her answers or get her help. A tense one-woman drama, "Oxygen" will appeal to fans of "Arrival" and comes complete with a similarly surprising twist ending you won't see coming.


From horror director John Carpenter comes the 1988 romantic sci-fi film "Starman," starring Jeff Bridges ("Tron") and Karen Allen ("Raiders of the Lost Ark"), about an alien being made of pure energy who visits Earth after his race comes across the Voyager 2 space probe. When his vessel is shot down by the military, the being creates a humanoid body out of the DNA from a single lock of hair belonging to a deceased man named Scott Hayden. The alien enlists the man's initially terrified widow to guide him to the place where he'll rendezvous with his people, as the two begin to form a connection.

Standing out from Carpenter's works in the horror and action genres, "Starman" is often overlooked in favor of his other classics. Fans of "Arrival" will nevertheless find it a similarly touching and earnest look at love, companionship, and the nature of human existence. 

High Life

A science fiction horror film starring Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche, French director Claire Denis' "High Life" is told in a unique non-linear narrative that will recall the structure of "Arrival" and its clever use of time as a plot device. When the film begins, Pattinson is all alone aboard a deep space vessel with a small child in tow. We don't want to give too much away about the plot, as it's full of major twists that are revealed through flashbacks and flash forwards. But it's enough to say that "High Life" is a bleak drama, drawing on themes of trauma and redemption as the once larger crew are forced into experiments aboard the ship. 

Acclaimed by critics upon its release in 2018, "High Life" didn't receive the attention it deserved. But despite not being a big success at the box office, it helped prove that a post-"Twilight" Robert Pattinson was more than just a pretty face, as he delivered a perfectly intense performance that garnered him rave reviews.


Without aliens or time travel, "Proxima" still manages to be a sci-fi drama of the highest caliber, and like "Arrival" puts the spotlight on its troubled lead. In this case it's "Casino Royale" star Eva Green as a woman preparing for a long journey to Mars that will keep her away from Earth for many years. As she undergoes rigorous training she must come to grips with leaving her family, including her young daughter who struggles to understand why her mother has to go. 

A somber, contemplative drama, the sci-fi aspects provide a fascinating setting for a movie focused on the strained relationship between a mother and daughter. Eva Green gives a powerful performance as a woman torn between her lifelong dream of exploring space and her love of family, in a film the Chicago Sun Times called "gorgeous and poignant."

400 Days

Brandon Routh ("Superman Returns") stars in "400 Days," a psychological science fiction drama about a government experiment to test the effects of long-term space travel on a group of astronauts. Sealed off from the outside world for over a year inside a simulation of a spacecraft, the group of four participants begin to experience adverse effects, including heightened paranoia. But when a strange man appears in the ship, they decide to leave the simulation, only to find the world has been ravaged by disaster.

As the crew looks for answers, it becomes unclear what is real and what is not, and the crew is unsure if the world's apparent destruction is just another part of the simulation. But some are not so certain and begin to fear for their lives when two of them disappear. With a mind-bending puzzle at its center, "400 Days" is another sci-fi tale that will have you questioning everything.

The Midnight Sky

"Midnight Sky," the Netflix original film directed by and starring George Clooney, tells the story of Augustine Lofthouse, a scientist working alone in an Arctic base following a disaster that has ravaged most of the Earth's population. While in isolation, he bonds with a young mute girl who wanders into his camp, reminding him of the daughter he never met. Searching for a purpose, Lofthouse makes contact with a spacecraft on its way back to Earth from a mission to Jupiter, determined to warn them not to land and start a new life instead among the stars. 

An emotional drama about a man who strives to reconcile his desire for solitude with the life he never lived, "The Midnight Sky" is, like "Arrival," an inspiring personal story with a grand cosmic backdrop.

The Martian

Based on a book by former amateur author and blogger Andy Weir, the Matt Damon film "The Martian" proved every bit as popular with audiences as the sensational story had been after it was made available on Amazon as a 99-cent digital download (via Business Insider). Directed by Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner"), the survivalist adventure has been praised for its grounded realism, as astronaut Mark Watney is left alone on Mars after a fateful mission goes wrong and his crew abandons him on the surface of the Red Planet.

While the team back on Earth fight to help him stay alive so that a second mission can retrieve him, the lone space traveler must use his knowledge of botany and biology to persevere. Full of hard science and harder-hitting drama, "The Martian" will appeal to fans of "Arrival" for its realistic depiction of a trip to another planet and Watney's life-or-death struggle.

Europa Report

"Europa Report" sees the crew of a privately funded mission to Jupiter's moon Europa exploring the source of water recently found there. The team of skilled scientists and astronauts also attempt to locate any signs of plant or animal life that may be present. It's not long before things go wrong however, as new discoveries give way to deadly dangers, and one by one the crew of Europa One are picked off by different emerging threats. 

Part found footage, part quasi-documentary, the gimmicky filming tricks are used to great effect as a way of allowing the dangers to build organically. Like "Arrival," the story unfolds slowly, and builds to a tension-filled climax. Inspired by the real-life discovery of what could be water on Europa in 2011 (via NASA), it should be of interest to anyone who likes their science mixed with a dash of horror.

The Arrival (1996)

If you want to see what an alternate take on the same premise as "Arrival" might look like if it had been produced in the same era as "Independence Day," check out the 1996 film "The Arrival." Far from the slower-paced, somber Amy Adams film, "The Arrival" is a fast-paced drama that, while eschewing the bigger budget spectacle of the Roland Emmerich blockbuster, manages to make an alien first contact story more of an action movie than a heartfelt family drama. 

Starring Charlie Sheen at the peak of his career, "The Arrival" has Zane, a SETI researcher, stumbling across proof of extra-terrestrials on Earth. But instead of attempting to make contact, he finds himself trying to thwart an alien invasion. Though certainly no all-time classic, it's nevertheless a fun sci-fi action drama whose lack of budget actually elevates the film from what could have been a silly alien invasion movie into an allegory for fear and paranoia.