It has been nearly a decade since Christopher Nolan’s epic science fiction film, Interstellar, graced our screens. Despite that, it continues to inspire and enthrall. You’d think finding movies like Interstellar that are as gripping, visually astounding, and mind-bending would be difficult.
But visionaries like Nolan have been showcasing the grandeur of space for decades, long before we ever set foot on the moon.
Movies Like Interstellar About Space
What made Interstellar such an incredible film was that it married Nolan’s creative genius with the expertise of theoretical physicist, Kip Thorne. The result was a film that depicted space phenomena accurately. It also, however, produced a research paper on the study of black holes, headed by the visual effects team that brought the imagery to life for the screen.
So when it comes to movies about space, Interstellar is the gold standard. Here are a few more films that managed to tackle the theme of space travel with insight and scientific accuracy.
First Man (2018)
First Man is a biographical film about the first human being to ever walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong. It offers an understated look into the reality of just how dangerous and crucial this moment was for human history.
Most films that tackle space make a great show of that first moment when their lead enters space. The grandeur of it, the sheer magnificence of the world beyond our horizons, is enough to leave an audience stunned. No matter how many ways we see this scene play out, it will never get old.
Yet First Man gives us something a little different. It focuses on the lives of the people who made these moments possible at all. Their sorrows, their loss, and their grief play a pivotal role in this film. And owing to that, when they finally make it to the moon, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed at what they just accomplished.
Martian is, as the name implies, a sci-fi film set almost entirely on Mars. When a mission to the red planet goes awry, one of the team’s members is left behind to brave the planet all by himself. His only means of escape is the next mission, set to arrive several years later.
The film’s concept is intriguing enough on its own. But Matt Damon proves he is a force to be reckoned with. He delivers a riveting performance that is engaging in its depiction of loneliness and resilience. The worse his situation gets, the more you find yourself rooting Mark Watney.
And if Damon’s Watney isn’t enough, the film offers stunning visuals that beautifully compliment the horror and beauty of being lost, all alone, in space.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic was, to put it mildly, ahead of its time. This film earned praise for a variety of reasons, its scientifically accurate depiction of space flight being one of the most notable. A feat made considerably more remarkable when one recognizes that Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969.
What makes 2001 even more remarkable was its ingenious use of visual effects long before it had the tools to do so. Much of the effects were done practically. They used everything from paints and chemicals swirling in pools to employing slit-scan photography to create trippy imagery that helped transport the audience into this space-themed extravaganza.
Best Sci-fi Movies Like Interstellar
Outside of its space travel and dramatic themes, Interstellar is also a gorgeous sci-fi film. Its visual effects offer a spectacle unlike any other.
Here are a few more science fiction movies like Interstellar that will leave you in awe.
Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune has often been cited as the best sci-fi novel ever written. Which makes it notoriously difficult to adapt, with previous attempts being not too well received by critics and audiences alike. But the 2021 film has managed to do a stellar job at bringing Herbert’s vision to life.
A space odyssey unlike any other, Dune is set amid an interstellar battle. Various noble houses vie for control over the production of “spice,” the substance that makes their superhuman feats of faster-than-light travel and prescience possible.
As such, Dune is an in-depth study of politics, religion, power dynamics, loyalties, and beyond. It also offers an interesting look into resistance, indigenous struggle, imperialism, and the persistent war between man and nature. And the 2021 iteration offers all of this alongside visuals that are changing the VFX game forever.
Chris Evans, one member of the all-star cast of Sunshine, spent the earlier part of the 2000s lamenting the lack of recognition Sunshine got and the impact this made on his career. This was, naturally, before his success as Marvel’s Captain America. Nonetheless, it does paint a pretty solid picture. One that showcases how the critically-acclaimed film was not given its due.
Sunshine is a psychological thriller that follows a team of astronauts on a mission to reignite a dying sun. A series of terrible decisions puts the crew in increasing danger, jeopardizing their mission and endangering their lives.
The film was heavily criticized for its scientific inaccuracies. But it was just as widely praised for its visuals as well as its accurate portrayal of the psychological impact of extended space travel. This certainly makes it essential viewing for any sci-fi fan.
Movies Like Interstellar on Netflix
Space travel has become increasingly popular over the decades. As the sci-fi genre expands, filmmakers have expanded their storytelling and worldbuilding methods to match.
Here are a few visually stunning space movies like Interstellar, currently available on Netflix.
Space Sweepers (2021)
Space Sweepers is largely regarded as South Korea’s first-ever space blockbuster. Blending the visual mastery and witty storytelling of space movies like Interstellar and Guardians of the Galaxy, Space Sweepers offers an exhilarating ride. Underneath it all, however, is a subtle yet gripping tale of a father trying to find his lost daughter in space.
Where Martian conveys the vastness of the universe by focusing on one individual, Space Sweepers showcases the same loneliness despite having fully populated galaxies and fast-paced action across them all.
Song Joon-ki delivers a fantastic performance in this movie, along with a cast of diverse and equally-talented individuals.
The Wandering Earth (2019)
The Wandering Earth is a Chinese sci-fi film that sees humanity attempting to steer Earth away from an expanding sun. Hence, the title.
The premise might seem rather hard to accept at face value, but Wandering Earth’s storytelling and visual effects make it impossible to not be sucked into the world it builds. What makes it even better, however, is scientists have actually confirmed that moving the Earth out of our solar system and into another is not out of the realm of possibility.
Like Space Sweepers, Wandering Earth does a fantastic job building a world that is familiar yet distant, emphasizing both the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of having to face it up close. And an underlying story of a father’s promise to his children ties it all together.
Movies Like Interstellar Female Lead
Interstellar is as notable for its visual effects and storytelling as it is for its performances. The film’s female cast members Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain both earned praise for their portrayal of women in STEM and the unique experiences and struggles they might face, amid the more glaring ones.
Here are a few more space movies like Interstellar featuring female leads.
Prometheus was originally conceptualized as the fifth installment in the Alien franchise. But several roadblocks led to this project being benched until director Ridley Scott eventually reworked it to be a standalone film that still exists within the Alien universe.
Naturally, there is a glaringly obvious difference between Prometheus and Interstellar: extraterrestrials. But unlike most other films about Aliens, Prometheus isn’t as much about the creatures themselves. It is instead about its leading lady, archeologist Elizabeth Shaw’s desperate need to prove that her beliefs about God and man’s purpose are, in fact, true. As such, Prometheus is a story of mankind’s origins, the search for meaning, and ultimately, the hubris of man.
In addition to its philosophical leanings, Prometheus is also a VFX dream with stunning visuals to match its larger-than-life message.
Before Martian, there was Gravity. Sandra Bullock stars as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space mission. When a series of unfortunate events leaves her stranded alone in space, Stone must find within herself the will to keep going on and make it back home.
The film’s visuals have often been praised for being one of the most well-made CGI films. The film employs even more visual effects than James Cameron’s Avatar, yet manages to do so without it ever detracting from the story it tells. A story of resilience, human will, and persevering in the face of adversity and uncertainty. A story of simply never giving up, no matter how many space rocks try to knock you off your perch.
Arrival features Amy Adams as Luise Banks, a linguist tasked with figuring out how to communicate with extraterrestrials who have arrived on Earth. These creatures appear to have appeared out of nowhere, in several countries globally. They neither attack nor extend a hand of friendship. They simply wait. And the silence is far more unnerving than the massive oval-shaped spaceships they arrived in. Ships that float, menacingly, like a calm before the storm.
What makes Arrival one of the best films of the genre is the unparalleled storytelling it offers. Its visual effects elevate the story and performances but never overpower them. And owing to that, Arrival gets to be an alien film that is an exploration of humanity itself.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”
Armstrong’s famous words as he placed the first human footprint on the surface of the moon still send chills down our spines. The sheer magnitude of that moment is hard to comprehend.
Yet, filmmakers and visual artists have managed to encapsulate the magic of it all. From Kubrick’s visionary epic to Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, visual storytelling has been through a journey that is unparalleled.
Interstellar reigns supreme as a film that expanded our horizons, taking both visual effects and science to new heights. And thanks to that, it will remain a historically significant movie for decades to come.
Like this list of movies like Interstellar? Check out The Best CGI Movies Ever for more!