Skip to Content

16 Movies Like Arrival

16 Movies Like Arrival

Arrival hit theatres in 2016, and this classy sci-fi movie about first contact with extra-terrestrials made the viewer think about time differently. Instead of your usual us-against-them theme, where either party makes its intentions clear by attacking the other. Arrival makes an effort to get to know our visitors on a deeper level, trying to communicate with them and answer the question, “Why are they here?”

Movies like Arrival include, but are not limited to, the following movies:

  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • E.T.-The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Contact
  • The Day The Earth Stood Still
  • Independence Day
  • Prometheus
  • Ex-Machina
  • Annihilation
  • Interstellar
  • District 9
  • Avatar
  • Gravity
  • Under The Skin
  • Looper
  • Ad Astra
  • Alien

The above-listed movies are all sci-fi-inspired. We as a species have been pondering the origin of life from the beginning of time. We often find ourselves wondering if there is any other life out there.

Some of the movies listed below answer this very question directly, and it’s not always as some of us have imagined it.

1. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (Original Version)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Terry Garr, Bob Balaban, Warren J. Kemmerling, Francois Truffaut and Melinda Dillon

The Plot

The movie starts with Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Centre air traffic controllers struggling to identify mysterious flying objects in the night sky. The controllers watch in horror as two airliners narrowly avoid a mid-air collision with a U.F.O.

Rod Neary, an electrical lineman down in Indiana, experiences a close encounter of the first kind when he and other residents spot a fleet of U.F.O.’s in the night sky. When one of these U.F.O.’s flies over their heads, he instantly becomes obsessed with finding the answers to this phenomenon.

When a French scientist, Claude Lacombe, working with the U.N., sends a message into outer space, they receive a response that baffles them. That is until they figure out that the message is coordinated and that the visitors want to have a close encounter of the third kind.

Watch Trailer

2. E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

TGDB 1982 E.T. The Extra Terrestrial Movie Classic Wall Poster Vintage Retro Tin Sign Size 8x12 inch

Director: Steven Spielberg

Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace, and Robert MacNaughton.

The Plot

When a group of botanist aliens visits earth to do some research, they are quickly confronted by a task force of men. In their haste to leave our planet, they accidentally leave one of their own behind. He makes his way to a suburban Californian house and is later discovered by 10-year-old Elliot, a lonely boy whose parents just got a divorce.

Elliot and E.T. (Elliot named him E.T.) start to communicate and form an emotional connection. Elliot teaches E.T. about life on earth while he gets to learn the actual values of friendship. When Elliot introduces E.T. to his brother and sister, they decide to keep him a secret, especially from the task force looking for him and government intervention.

E.T. needs to go home, and it’s up to the kids to help him. When E.T. gets sick and the government steps in, Elliot and Co, must put a plan into action to save E.T. and reunite him with his kind.

Watch Trailer

3. Contact (1997)


Director: Robert Zemeckis

Cast: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerrit, James Woods, and John Hurt.

The Plot

From a young age, Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway has been mesmerized by the science world, including astronomy, and trying to make contact with beings far away. She works as a S.E.T.I. researcher at the Arecibo Observatory when her boss David Drumlin pulls her N.S.F. funding, leaving her stranded.

In steps, billionaire S.R. Hadden, who privately funds her to move her studies to the VLA in New Mexico, and it’s here that she receives a transmission of mathematical numbers emanating from the star Vega. As usual, the military wants to take control of the situation, but Ellie believes that the message from outer space is not hostile, rather an instruction to build a machine of sorts.

The powers that be decide to build the machine, and Ellie becomes involved in making humanity’s first contact with alien life.

Watch Trailer

4. The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Director: Scott Derrickson

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connoly, John Hamm, Jaden Smith, and John Cleese.

The Plot

Dr. Helen Benson is forced to leave her son with a neighbor when the military rocks up at her house one night. The reason for her being summoned to a military facility, along with several other scientists, is an alien spacecraft landing in New York City.

Onboard this extra-terrestrial ship is an alien, in human form, who identifies as Klaatu. Accompanying him is a giant robot of immense power and size. Political authorities and the military instantly classify them as a threat to humankind, proceeding with intensive interrogation techniques to find out why they are here.

Dr. Benson helps Klaatu escape, trying to understand the exact reason for them coming down to earth. When Klaatu states, “I am here to save the Earth,” Dr. Benson has to determine if this includes the human inhabitants.

Watch Trailer

5. Independence Day (1996)

INDEPENDENCE DAY - 27"x40" Original Movie Poster One Sheet 1996 Will Smith

Director: Roland Emmerich

Cast: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Randy Quaid, and Judd Hirsch.

The Plot

As the title suggests, something big will happen on July 4th, and the buildup to Independence Day unfolds quickly and in a brutal fashion. When the earth’s communication systems are disrupted by atmospheric interference on July 2nd, the whole world is put on high alert.

The military picks up gigantic objects seemingly on course to collide with earth. What was first thought to be meteors is later revealed to be massive alien spacecraft. These alien ships make their way to all the major cities, hovering in place above them. Like they are waiting for instruction, or go ahead.

Frantic attempts to communicate with the visitors are pointless. Ex-scientist David Levinson soon discovers that the aliens are planning to attack major cities all across the world in 24-hours. On July 3rd, the aliens attack all the major cities making their intentions very clear.

Captain Steven Hiller manages to capture an alien when the humans launch a counterattack on the extra-terrestrial ships. The human aircraft can’t seem to penetrate the alien ship’s force fields, and the remaining survivors decide to head off to Area 51, where they have a ship and recently acquired alien of their own.

On July 4th, humankind will have to fight once more for their independence.

Watch Trailer

6. Prometheus (2012)

Prometheus (2012) 27 x 40 Movie Poster Style B Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Patrick Wilson, Charlize Theron,

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, and Guy Pierce

The Plot

It’s 2093, and a group of scientific explorers led by archeologists Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and partner Charlie Holloway finds an ancient star map in a cave on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Dr. Shaw and Co believe that they were made by humans thousands of years ago after being inspired by the Engineers, alien beings who have visited them from galaxies far away at regular intervals throughout earth’s history.

Dr. Shaw and Holloway view the map as an invitation to seek out these Engineers and discover the origin of life. They secured funding from an aging C.E.O. of the Weyland Corporation, Peter Weyland (who has successfully built an android called David). Together with their crew, they board the Prometheus on route to the distant moon LV-223 LOCATED 34.6 lightyears from earth.

Could it be that Dr. Shaw misinterpreted the paintings found in the Scottish Cave? What she thought was an invitation, could it instead have been a dire warning from our forefathers? What the team finds in the caves assures them that they have found the origins of life, but they quickly learn that it can lead to the extinction of the human race.

Watch Trailer

7. Ex-Machina (2015)

Ex Machina OST By Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow (2015-05-18)

Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaacs, and Corey Johnson

The Plot

Caleb is a 26-year-old computer programmer at the world’s largest internet company. He is ecstatic when he wins a competition to spend a week at his reclusive C.E.O.’s, Nathan, private mountain retreat. Upon arrival at the remote location, he learns that he will have to participate in a weird and captivating experiment.

Caleb is asked to interact with the world’s first genuine artificial intelligence (A.I.), housed in the body of a gorgeous robot girl. As they start to “connect” with each other, Caleb starts to be manipulated by the A.V.A., believing that they are connecting on an emotional level. Nathan is convinced it’s a trick as Ava has been programmed to flirt with him.

Is it possible that an A.I. machine might be so human as to fool an actual human being, or could a machine seem so human as to make the human being interacting with it come to the belief that he is a machine? Nathan and Caleb are about to find out if an A.I. with a self-evolving brain could end up being more intelligent than its creator.

Watch Trailer

8. Annihilation (2018)


Director: Alex Garland

Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Benedict Wong, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson

The Plot

Lena is a biologist that has just returned from a government mission, a mission that felt like days, which turned out to be months. All of her team is dead, and she has no idea what she has experienced inside the “Shimmer”- an unprecedented biological disaster of alien origin.

Lena’s husband Kane, a military official, also undertook a mission involving going into the Shimmer and never returned. One night as she is painting, Kane appears out of nowhere, with little to no memory of where he had been or how he got home. He is also seriously ill, and as they make their way to a hospital via an ambulance, they are intercepted by government agents who sedate and capture them.

When she wakes up, she is informed of her husband’s ailing health and the plans of Dr. Ventress to lead a team into the Shimmer to find the source of its energy. Together with Josie (physicist), Cassie (anthropologist), and Anya (paramedic), they make their way into this weird electromagnetic field, wishing for the best but fearing the worst.

Will they find what Kane found? What other biological transmutations lurk behind this colorful kaleidoscope of horrors?

Watch Trailer

9. Interstellar (2014)


Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, and Mackenzie Foy

The Plot

Cooper is an ex-science engineer and pilot, now biding his time with his daughter Murphy and son Tom, farming in the American Midwest. As his daughter’s name suggests, “whatever will go wrong will go wrong,” and things have been going wrong on earth for a while now.

Devasting sandstorms are ravaging crops, and the people of the earth start to realize that their life here is coming to an end as food starts to run out. One day the people of the earth will realize that you can’t eat money, that day has arrived, and the only hope for humanity is to find a new home.

When Cooper stumbles onto a N.A.S.A. base near his home, he is tasked with a daring mission with other scientists, venture into a wormhole to look for answers in the deepest corners of space, and see if one of three possible worlds can be inhabited by the human race.

The choice is a heavy one for Cooper. Either stay and die with his children or go and risk the chance of never seeing them again, possibly saving the human race. Either choice will test the eternal bonds between a father and daughter.

Watch Trailer

10. District 9 (2009)

District 9

Director: Niell Blomkamp

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James, and Nathalie Boltt

The Plot

The movie is presented as a story within a documentary. In 1982, a massive alien ship filled with a messy alien population, referred to as prawns due to their physical appearance, appeared over Johannesburg. The initial warm welcome from the humans quickly evaporates, and the Prawns find themselves in a militarized ghetto called District 9, a short 28 years later.

Humans do this to fellow humans, so the prawns should not have expected anything else. Xenophobia and segregation (apartheid) are prevalent, and in 2010 a munitions corporation, Multi-National United, was contracted to forcibly evict the entire prawn population to another site situated 240 km outside of Johannesburg.

M.N.U. Employee Wikus Van Der Merwe is in charge of the operation, and like fellow squad members, he goes from door to door presenting the prawns’ notices of eviction and looking for concealed weapons and contraband. The whole process is brutal and shines a spotlight on how quickly we turn on each other for whatever reason.

When Wikus is accidentally sprayed with the contents of a strange alien canister, he starts to change into a prawn himself. With the M.N.U. on his trail, wanting to harvest his D.N.A., Wickus has to turn to the very aliens he has been alienating all his life.

Watch Trailer

11. Avatar (2009)


Director: James Cameron

Cast: Zoe Saldanha, Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriques, Giovanni Ribisi, and Stephen Lang

The Plot

Paraplegic Marine Jake Sully is offered a chance to be free and make a fresh start when his twin brother Tom (a scientist) is killed during a robbery. The offer is made by the same military-corporate entity that employed his brother.

The contract determines that Jake has to travel to a distant planet called Pandora (a thickly forested Earth-like blue moon, similar to Jupiter.) The Navi tribe inhabits the planet, and because the planet is poisonous to humans, humans must link their minds to an avatar to move freely on Pandora. Being in this human/Navi hybrid state allows Jake to feel his legs for the first time in years.

He is employed to gather knowledge of the Navi people and their culture in exchange for a spinal surgery that will fix his legs. He soon discovers the military-corporate entity’s plan of removing the Navi from their planet to mine for a precious material found throughout their planet.

When the military’s ruthless Colonel puts the extermination battle into motion, he has to choose a side, as the fight for Pandora has begun.

Watch Trailer

12. Gravity (2013)


Director: Alfonso Cuaran

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, and Amy Warren

The Plot

Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski’s last mission is to repair the Hubble Telescope. Joining him is rookie specialist Ryan Stone, on her very first space assignment. What can go wrong with this routine maintenance mission? Well, since you asked, a lot!

When Houston Mission Control aborts the mission out of the blue, it is too late for the Shuttle Explorer’s STS-157 crew members. A Russian (who else?) missile hits a satellite, causing a chain reaction, sending space debris their way. The storm of debris hits the explorer, cutting off any communication with ground control, and only Matt and Ryan survive the ordeal.

The only chance that the pair has for survival is to find another space station. Through this seemingly impossible attempt to get back to earth, they have a lot of time to ponder mortality, life, and possible outcomes that may force one of them to be selfless.

Watch Trailer

13. Under The Skin (2013)

Under the Skin

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Cast: Scarlet Johanssen, Dougie McConnell, Jeremy McWilliams, and Lyndsey Taylor Mackay

The Plot

When an alien entity inhabits the earthly form of a seductive young woman, no man is safe in the streets of Scotland. The alien seemingly has one purpose or mission to fulfill here on earth, seducing unsuspected male victims before submerging them in a liquid abyss, where they are ultimately stripped and consumed.

The seductive emotionless alien drives around in a van, preying on unsuspecting men, making them fall under her spell and ultimately into the abyss. However, being exposed to humanity in all its wondrous complexity starts to change the alien. She begins to see herself as human, and this leads to terrifying consequences.

Watch Trailer

14. Looper (2013)


Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, and Jeff Daniels

The Plot

It is the year 2047, and time travel has yet to be invented. Fast forward thirty years, and it has. The authorities in power quickly outlaw this technology; however, the mob underworld quickly uses it to dispose of anyone deemed a threat to their business.

The mob institutes a simple process: When the mob wants someone to disappear, they send this troublesome person to the year 2047, where an assassin, or “looper,” waits, quickly carries out the hit, and disposes of the body.

Joe Simmons is one of the best Loopers around. Each kill that he performs for his boss brings him one step closer to retiring in France. One day as he is waiting for his next target to arrive at a remote cornfield, he is shocked to come face to face with his future self.

After the initial shock, and surprise of the situation, the older Joe makes a daring escape. Young Joe must “close the loop” and kill his older counterpart or face the wrath of his dangerous crime boss. It’s every Joe for himself, and not one of them can be called average!

Watch Trailer

15. Ad Astra (2019)

AD ASTRA (2019) Authentic Original Movie Poster - Double-Sided - 27x40 - Rolled - Brad Pitt - Tommy Lee Jones - Ruth Negga - Donald Sutherland

Director: James Gray

Cast: Brad Pitt, Tommy-Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, and Kimberley Elise

The Plot

When a series of immensely powerful energy surges sweep the entire solar system, the U.S. Space Command believes that the source behind these occurrences may be the work of long-lost astronaut Clifford Mcbride. Clifford was working on the ambitious Lima Project before he got lost in space.

Major Roy McBride, Clifford’s son, is an impeccable and composed astronaut himself and is given the mission to travel to the edge of the cosmos on a crewed mission to the cold blue planet Neptune. His mission is simple: Roy must see firsthand if his father is still alive and, secondly, try to locate the source of the problem that threatens the stability of our galaxy.

The trip is a long one, 4.3 billion kilometers, and there will be time to think and ponder his existence. Roy has to come face to face with the question on every human mind. Is there anybody out there?

Watch Trailer

16. Alien (1979)


Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton, and Veronica Cartwright

The Plot

The commercial towing spaceship crew members, Nostromo, are all in hypersleep when Mother (state-of-the-art A.I. super-computer) wakes them up. Mother detected a distress signal from the nearby inhabitable moon, Acheron. The crew decides to investigate.

They descend to the dimly-lit celestial body known as LV-426 and discover a downed spacecraft that is relatively intact. What they find inside the ship can only be described as bizarre. Was the cryptic signal a call for help, or rather a dire warning?

Meanwhile, something else has found its way onto the Nostromo, and you can feel the suspense in the silent dark corridors. Someone will have to face this unwanted eight-passenger, and I am glad it’s not me.

Watch Trailer


Nobody living on this earth has a definite answer to what first contact with other beings will entail. But through the director’s imaginations, they give us a glimmer of what is possible in the realm of science fiction. The movies above give the viewer the chance to view life differently, forcing us to review our feelings about mortality, loss, and the big unknown.


The Cinemaholic: Movies Like Arrival | 12 Great Movies Similar to Arrival

Bilbr: 14 Best Movies Like Arrival

Film Tagger: Best Movies Like Arrival