After the success of The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, Christopher Nolan turned his attention to the science fiction epic Interstellar. The movie stars Matthew McConaughey as the leader of a team of explorers that must travel through a wormhole in an attempt to save the human race. Along for the ride are Anne Hathaway, Micheal Caine, Jessica Chastain, and Matt Damon. It’s deep, thought-provoking, and at times hard to follow, but like all Nolan films, it keeps you engaged. Movies like Interstellar boggle the mind and often leave you with more questions than answers.
If you’re a fan of Nolan’s work or just love a good sci-fi or space-themed flick, then you’ll love this list of movies that have the same vibe as Interstellar. While not all are set in space, they do contain intricate plots, science fiction elements, and mind-numbing scenes that will leave you breathless. Some are classic sci-fi flicks like 2001: A Space Odessey and Solaris, while others have a horror vibe like Sunshine and Event Horizon. What they all have in common is that they deal with big ideas and feature great actors and actresses.
So strap yourself and prepare to have your brain fried while watching these mind-boggling movies like Interstellar.
20 Mind-Boggling Movies Like Interstellar
Ad Astra (2019)
Brad Pitt finds himself jetting off into space to look for his long-lost father in this movie by The Immigrant director James Gray. When a series of power surges from out in the galaxy threatens to end life on earth as we know it, the cause is traced back to the Lima Project, an old mission involving the search for extraterritorial life. The mission was helmed by H. Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who was thought dead but may well be amongst the living. To find out the truth, his son Roy McBride (Pitt) is sent into space to find out.
Despite being a box office bomb, Ad Astra is an engaging science-fiction picture with great acting from its leads. The relationship between Pitt and Jones is similar to the one seen in Interstellar between father and daughter pair Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain. A solid space flick with a slightly unlikely ending, Ad Astra is a good popcorn movie.
The directorial debut of Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son), Moon is small budget space drama about moon miner Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell). Coming to the end of this three-year stint, Bell begins to suffer hallucinations and crashes a harvester. Waking from the accident, Bell begins to suspect something isn’t right and sets out to discover what is happening to him.
To say any more would give away one of the big twists, but suffice to say Moon is a smartly written sci-fi flick with an outstanding performance from Rockwell. It’s never easy carrying a movie when you are on-screen 95% of the time, but Rockwell manages it with ease, while Jones is yet to better his first feature.
The Martian (2015)
While the title might have you imagining green little men, The Martian isn’t actually about aliens. Matt Damon is a member of a team of astronauts exploring an area of Mars. When a dust storm occurs and the team retreat, Damon is hit by flying debris and left behind, thought dead. Turns out you can’t get rid of Damon that easy, and the movie shifts into another gear as he tries to survive while waiting for a rescue team.
While far from being 100% accurate, NASA was involved with the production and many of the things that happen throughout the film are scientifically correct. This only adds to the thrilling experience of watching this Ridley Scott flick that’s also one of Damon’s better performances of the past decade.
2001: A Space Odessy (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s groundbreaking science fiction movie still holds up today. While the special effects might not excite (they are incredible for their day), the storyline will melt your brain. A group of astronauts boards the spaceship Discovery One, which is controlled by the artificial intelligence program HAL, in search of a mysterious monolith.
Themes of technology, death, and the meaning of life are all present in Kubrick’s epic which is a clear influence on Interstellar. Written by both Kubrick and author Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey remains an iconic movie that challenges your outlook on life and can be interpreted in many different ways. A true classic.
First Man (2018)
Unlike most of the movies on this list, First Man is a biographical flick about famous astronaut Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling). The movie follows Armstrong’s quest to become part of the Apollo missions and walk on the moon. Praised by critics and making over $100 million at the box office, First Man is an excellent insight into Armstrong and the troubles he had to overcome on his way to becoming the first man to set foot on the moon.
The film featured on many 2018 end-of-year lists and won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score by Justin Hurwitz. It’s also one of Gosling’s best performances.
Before Peaky Blinders, Cillian Murphy starred in this exceptional sci-fi movie directed by Danny Boyle. He plays one of eight astronauts sent on a mission to reignite the sun that is slowly dying. On the way, they receive a distress call from Icarus I, another ship that attempted the same mission before disappearing. Linking up with the craft, things begin to go wrong as a mysterious figure causes chaos.
Sunshine didn’t fare well at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics, but don’t let that stop you from watching this underrated gem. Along with Murphy, the ensemble cast includes the likes of Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Benedict Wong, Mark Strong, and Cliff Curtis, while the special effects are very impressive.
While more of a horror/sci-fi movie than a mind-bending genre picture, Life deserves a mention. This taut thriller is set onboard the International Space Station whose six-member crew retrieves a sample that contains an alien organism. When this life form escapes and starts to attack the crew, all hell breaks loose as the six astronauts fight for their lives.
Life is a run-of-the-mill alien horror elevated by its fast-paced directing and all-star cast made up of Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare, and Olga Dihovichnaya. This movie makes a great double bill with Ridley Scott’s original creature feature Alien.
The Fountain (2006)
Darren Aronofsky’s most challenging work isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but if you can get past the unusual narrative structure (there are three interwoven stories starring the same characters in different time periods) you’re in for a treat. Regarded as a cult classic, The Fountain is about the bond between Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz and reflects themes of love and mortality.
As with most Afronofsky movies, there’s a lot going on that requires some deep thinking. It’s almost like the director’s version of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with both Jackman and Weisz wonderful as the leads. The Fountain is also visually stimulating, with the cinematography and special effects absolutely gorgeous.
While modern audiences might enjoy the George Clooney starring interpretation of Stanisław Lem’s 1961 novel, it’s hard to beat the original. Andrei Tarkovsky wrote and directed the 1972 version about a psychologist who travels to a space station after the three crew members experience emotional distress. Once there, the psychologist starts to hallucinate and finds himself falling into the same emotional depression as the other astronauts.
Solaris is a deep mediation on reality and the human condition that is slow-paced but rewarding. It might be a long watch (166 minutes) but it is well worth your time. A must for anyone wanting to broaden their film knowledge.
Based on the 1985 novel by Carl Sagan, Contact stars Jodie Foster as a SETI scientist looking for extraterrestrial life. Just when it seems all is lost and she’s about to lose her funding, Foster receives a signal from another solar system and must prove herself worthy of being chosen to investigate where the signal comes from.
Contact was a big hit when released in 1997, earning $171 million at the box office and winning multiple awards. Foster is first class while the supporting cast includes the likes of Matthew McConaughey, David Morse, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, William Fichtner, James Woods, and Rob Lowe.
Similar to Contact, Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival finds Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner making first contact with an alien species. Adams’ linguist is enlisted by the American government to learn what the aliens want and decipher their language before war breaks out.
It’s a nice change from other movies where aliens just want to exterminate humans. Adams and Renner are both fantastic while Villeneuve shows why he’s regarded as one of the best directors of our generation.
Event Horizon (1997)
This is arguably director Paul W. S. Anderson’s best movie. A crew of astronauts on the Lewis and Clark set off on a rescue mission after the lost spaceship, Event Horizon, suddenly reappears after seven years. When the crew board the ship they discover everyone massacred and realize that the ship is now a portal to another world.
Dark and disturbing with plenty of gore, Event Horizon isn’t for the weak-hearted. Many point to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris as a big influence, but there are plenty of original aspects to the story that makes this movie a must-watch. Just make sure you do so with the lights on.
Heavyweights Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as American astronauts trapped in space after their space shuttle receives unrepairable damage making it impossible for them to return to earth. The duo decides to navigate toward the International Space Station in hopes of finding a way back but end up encountering even more problems when they arrive.
While it might seem like a simple movie about people trapped in space, it’s more of a drama about a woman in space that deals with themes including death, spirituality, and human evolution. Sandra Bullock delivers on all fronts and holds the movie together, with Clooney being his usual charming self. It’s also visually stunning with an ending that’s slightly hard to believe but fitting nonetheless.
Tom Cruise takes a stab at sci-fi in the 2013 blockbuster Oblivion. Based on director Joseph Kosinski’s unpublished graphic novel, the film is set in 2077 after the earth has been destroyed by an alien invasion. Humans now live off-world, with Cruise playing a technician who has returned to earth to fix a service drone. While there he witnesses a spacecraft crash and goes to investigate, only to find himself hunted by the aliens that still reside on earth.
There’s a lot more going on, but to reveal any extra plot details will spoil things. Cruise is in top form as always and joined by a diverse cast of great actors and actresses including Olga Kurylenko, Andrea Riseborough, Morgan Freeman, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. While thematically different from Interstellar, visually it is just as appealing.
Shane Carruth has only made three films, but all are trippy productions that require a great amount of thought. None illustrates this more than his debut Primer. Shot for just $7,000, the film is written directed, edited, produced, and soundtracked by Carruth, who also stars as one of the leads.
Primer is about two engineers, Aaron and Abe, who happen to find a way to time travel. Of course, nothing good can come of this, and the pair quickly realize their time travel exploits are having major impacts on their current timeline. Although a science fiction film (a very low-budget one at that), Primer asks questions about ethical behavior and shows how big scientific studies don’t always happen in expensive labs. A great indie flick for sci-fi lovers.
It’s hard to believe but Christopher Nolan made an even more mind-boggling film than Inception and Interstellar. His most recent feature is another head fuck that’s like a time travel film starring James Bond.
John David Washington plays a CIA operative who must bend time to stop a terrorist attack that threatens the end of the world. It sounds like a simple premise, but once you start watching you’ll understand why Tenet left so many confused. Washington is joined by pre-Batman Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh, and Nolan favorite Michael Caine on this non-stop action-adventure.
While the storyline might not make much sense, the special effects are wild, especially when things go in reverse while in real-time. Another awesome Nolan film that is his most ambitious project to date.
Apollo 13 (1995)
Here’s another space movie based on real-life events. Apollo 13 chronicles the failed mission to Mars that almost resulted in the deaths of astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), and Fred Haise (Bill Paxton). When an onboard explosion causes the spacecraft the trio is traveling in to start losing oxygen, they are forced to abort their mission to Mars and navigate their way home with help from mission control.
Apollo 13 really ramps up the tension and puts you in the hot seat. Director Ron Howard employed NASA workers to make sure the movie is as accurate as possible. The three leads are all incredible, while the supporting cast includes talent such as Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Clint Howard, and Xander Berkeley.
While it has nothing in common with Interstellar besides space travel, Prometheus makes this list due to its big ideas. Ridley Scott uses his alien creature to look at religion and the quest for answers about why we are here. The film also explores creation and the purpose of humans. All this is wrapped up in a thrilling horror-sci-fi that includes grotesque aliens, disgusting deaths, and an all-star cast that includes Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron.
This Alien spin-off holds its own and is the closest we’ve come to an actual good Alien film in years. Despite mixed reviews, the film made a staggering $403 million at the box office, leading to the inevitable sequel, Alien: Covenant.
Netflix churns out a lot of trash these days, but Stowaway is an exception to the rule. This science-fiction thriller is about three astronauts (Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, and Daniel Dae Kim) who are on a two-year mission to Mars. Things take a turn for the worse when accidental stowaway Shamier Anderson is found on board and unconscious.
With only enough oxygen for three people to make the journey to Mars successfully, the foursome must find out a way to continue the journey or choose someone to sacrifice. Asking moral and ethical questions, Stowaway is a great little sci-fi flick that will have you thinking about what you would do in that situation.
You don’t get too many sci-fi romances, so Passengers offers something different from the usual alien attack or end-of-the-world scenario. Set aboard an interstellar spacecraft carrying thousands of people to a new colony 60 light-years from earth, two of the humans, Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, are awoken 90 years early. The film follows the experiences of the two, with one of them carrying a dark secret that could ruin their romance.
Although not received well by critics, moviegoers had a different option, with the film going on to make over $300 million at the box office. Much of your enjoyment comes down to your thoughts on the two actors. Lawrence is always exceptional, but Pratt can be, well, a bit of a prat.
Passengers won’t go down as a cinematic classic but has an interesting enough storyline and some great voice cameos to keep you entertained.