Avatar (2009) follows the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington). Jake arrives on the alien planet of Pandora as a replacement for his brother. Pandora’s atmosphere is lethal to humans, but Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) found that using a mind-sharing technique with avatars allows for a human to inhabit a body that can withstand the hostile forces of Pandora.
Due to a war injury, Sully had been relegated to a wheelchair, but he is delighted to find that he can be free to run and move through the process of mind sharing. Sully and Augustine act as liaisons to the Na’Vi people, the native inhabitants of the planet. As Jake becomes immersed in the world and culture of the Na’Vi people, he comes to respect their ways. He also sees the harm that his own people are causing.
Jake’s loyalty to his own people begins to weaken, especially as Jake comes to know Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a Na’Vi woman.
James Cameron directed Avatar with a $237,000,000 budget. The movie grossed an incredible $2,847,246,203 gross worldwide. Avatar was nominated for nine Oscars, and it won three. The Oscar wins were in Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Visual Effects, and Best Achievement in Art Direction. Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, and Zoe Saldana.
James Cameron’s masterpiece Avatar transports viewers into another world with an epic scope, impressive effects, and a compelling story. When thinking of movies similar to Avatar, I couldn’t help but think of the special effects as one of the top criteria. Another is the epic nature of the story, which details a battle against a hostile colonizing force.
Finally, the extent of the worldbuilding in the film is fabulous. This list will use those criteria to provide more movie options that are similar to Avatar. My top choices are The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and Titanic.
Interstellar follows the story of an astronaut turned farmer named Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter Murph (Jessica Chastain). Set sometime in Earth’s future, the Earth is becoming uninhabitable. Cooper must leave his family to find which of three selected habitable planets can become humankind’s new home.
Christopher Nolan directed Interstellar on a $165,000,000 budget. The film grossed $701,729,206 in the worldwide box office. It was nominated for five Oscars and won the award for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. Interstellar stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and Michael Caine.
Interstellar provides many of the same draws that Avatar does. The movie has award-winning cinematography, new worlds, and a fantastic cast. Christopher Nolan revs up the storyline with a mind-blowing storyline as the limits of space and time are tested.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautiful Spanish film based in Spain. It follows the story of young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero). She moves with her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), to an outpost with her new step-father, Capitan Vidal (Sergi Lopez). It is 1944, and the sadistic Vidal is rooting out rebels in the wilderness.
Carmen is sickly from a difficult pregnancy, and Ofelia is primarily left to her own devices. Ofelia is drawn into Pan’s Labyrinth, where she discovers a mythical world with magic that can help her small family from the terrors of her brutal step-father.
Guillermo del Toro directed Pan’s Labyrinth on a $19,000,000 budget. It grossed $83,850,267 in the worldwide box office. The film won Oscars for Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Art Direction, and Best Achievement in Makeup. Pan’s Labyrinth stars Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, and Sergi Lopez.
Pan’s Labyrinth is similar to Avatar because of the stunning visuals and the otherworldly aspect of some of the creatures. This film relies less on CGI and provides some characters with beautiful costumes and makeup that is simply stunning. The film is a treat for your eyeballs as you journey with Ofelia in the visually delightful Pan’s Labyrinth.
Life of Pi (2012)
Life of Pi details the tragic disaster of the Patel family on the ocean as they are moving to Canada with a few animals from the zoo they recently sold. Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) is a teenage boy who survives the tragedy on the lifeboat. However, the lifeboat has another passenger, a ferocious Bengal tiger. The film is beautifully filmed as Pi, and the tiger must learn to coexist and survive together on the vast ocean.
Ang Lee directed Life of Pi on a $120,000,000 budget. The film grossed $609,016,565 in the worldwide box office. It won Oscars in Best Achievement in Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It stars Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, and Adil Hussain. The movie was adapted from the novel of the same name by Yann Martel.
Life of Pi provides fantastic visuals and unreal special effects, like Avatar. While it may not be a science fiction film, the visual mastery of the movie is a pleasure to watch. Life of Pi, at its root, is about trust and learning to trust someone or something you deem an enemy. This theme is very present in Avatar as well.
The Fifth Element (1997)
Far in the world’s future, a futuristic cab driver from New York City finds himself trying to save the universe. Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) suddenly finds LeeLoo (Milla Jovovich), the 5th Element. Korben ends up aiding LeeLoo in her quest to unite the elements to stop the coming evil.
Luc Besson directed The Fifth Element on a $93,000,000 budget. It grossed $263,920,180 at the worldwide box office. The movie was nominated for an Oscar for sound effects and editing. Bruce Willis, Mila Jovovich, and Gary Oldman star in the film.
The Fifth Element is similar to Avatar because of the science fiction storyline and the futuristic world with alien life. While this film is older, viewers will enjoy the special effects and costuming of the movie. Viewers will also see a lot of similarities between the protagonists of this movie and Avatar. Both men are drawn into an adventure as somewhat reluctant heroes, and they both are attracted to someone different that they do not entirely understand.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring relates the first part of the epic quest of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a hobbit from the shire. Frodo inherits the infamous One Ring from his uncle Bilbo, and he is thrust on a perilous journey full of danger and sacrifice as enemies of good seek the ring.
Guided by his friend and mentor Gandalf (Ian McKellan), protected by companions led by Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen), and helped along by his stalwart friend Sam (Sean Austin), Frodo starts his journey to conquer evil and save the world. The Fellowship of the Ring is followed by the films The Two Towers (2002)and The Return of the King (2003).
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was directed by Peter Jackson with a $93,000,000 budget. The film grossed $897,690,072 in the worldwide box office. The film won Oscars for Best Cinematography, Best Makeup, Best Music Original Score, Best Visual Effects. The movie stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson, and Sean Austin. The film is based on the novel by JRR Tolkien of the same name.
Avatar and The Fellowship of the Ring may have some stark differences. However, they both have a tremendous scope and fictional worlds that come to life. The cinematography in both is breathtaking. The stories also both have a theme of protecting nature from an industrialized force. Obviously, I hope you don’t just watch the first movie in the Lord of the Rings and that this stands as an endorsement of the whole series.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey is the first movie in the prequel series that takes place before The Lord of the Rings. The movie’s story follows young Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), a young hobbit, or halfling, from the shire. Bilbo is pushed into an adventure by the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellan). Bilbo accompanies a group of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage).
Bilbo finds himself on a dangerous adventure filled with perils that often makes him wonder why he ever left his home. This film is followed by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.
This film was directed by Peter Jackson on a $180,000,000 budget. The film grossed $1,017,003,568 worldwide. This movie didn’t win any Oscars, but it did receive nominations in the categories of Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Achievement in Visual Effects, and Best Achievement in Production Design. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey stars Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, and Richard Armitage. It is based on the novel The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is another sweeping epic that provides an incredible viewing experience, like the movie Avatar. It is loaded with excellent visuals and costumes that make the world believable. The special effects are fantastic, and the cast is loaded with talent. Again, I hope this recommendation of the first film counts as a recommendation for the whole trilogy.
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope follows the story of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill) as he is thrust into a quest to save a beautiful princess. Set in a futuristic setting with laser swords called lightsabers. Young Luke finds that he has access to the mystical power called the Force as he learns that he can be a Jedi Knight. He is aided by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as he tries to rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).
This movie was directed by George Lucas on a budget of $11,000,000. The film grossed a massive $775,398,007. It won Oscars in the categories of Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Effects/Visual Effects, Best Music/Original Score. It stars Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher. This movie is followed by Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi.
Avatar has a lot of similarities to Star Wars. It might be said that there would never have been an Avatar if it hadn’t been for Star Wars. George Lucas used his vision to create a believable galaxy with a massive diversity of alien life. And yet, humans live naturally among them. Star Wars is now a vast and expansive industry of films and TV shows, but those new to the party should start with Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Ender’s Game (2013)
Ender’s Game is the story of Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), as he is recruited to an elite military space station to undergo training. This facility is for genius-level students as they master strategy and tactics. All of this preparation is to fight an alien species that attacked Earth years before.
Ender proves himself to be the most capable and draws the attention of other jealous cadets and the instructors on the station. The pressure rises as Ender makes enemies and is forced into more complex and more challenging scenarios, as he is seen as the hope of humankind.
Gavin Hood directed Ender’s Game on a $110,000,000 budget. The worldwide box office revenue for Ender’s Game was $125,544,024. The movie stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, and Hailee Steinfeld. The film is based on the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
Avatar and Ender’s Game have many similarities, starting with the fact that they are both Science Fiction thrillers. However, the similarities are not just surface level by being in the same genre. Both films have a theme of misunderstanding those who are not like ourselves and the potential horrors and ramifications of war. With extraordinary special effects and some fun twists, Ender’s Game is worth the watch.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Guardians of the Galaxy follows an unexpected group of companions who are absolutely baffled they must help save the galaxy. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), AKA Starlord, is a thief who gets in over his head as he steals one of the most potent forces in the galaxy. Suddenly, he is hunted by bounty hunters, his own friends, and some other extremely dangerous entities. Little does Quill know that he landed himself in a stew with the politics of entire planets at its center.
Guardians of the Galaxy was directed by James Gunn on a $170,000,000 budget. The movie grossed $773,350,147 at the worldwide box office. It was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It is packed with a star-studded cast including Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, and Dave Bautista. This movie is part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the first appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy in that franchise.
Guardians of the Galaxy has a much lighter vibe than Avatar. However, the effects and cinematography of this science fiction thriller are amazing. Just like Avatar, the movie throws you into alien planets and shows you a whole culture and believable world that looks lived in. Viewers can get lost in the fun adventure of Guardians of the Galaxy.
Warcraft follows the story of Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a human general set in a medieval fantasy world. He is called to defend his kingdom from a race of giant orcs who have magically invaded his land. As he seeks to understand this new foe and where they come from, he receives some help from an unlikely source; an orc/human hybrid named Garona (Paula Patton). As Lothar learns more, he discovers treachery on his own side and comes to see that perhaps his enemy is not as different from himself.
Warcraft was directed by Duncan Jones on a $160,000,000 budget. The film made $439,048,914 at the worldwide box office. The film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, and Ben Foster. It is based on a popular video game of the same name.
Please hear me out regarding this movie. I have never played World of Warcraft, and I know I do not need to explain the merits to Warcraft fans. But, for those who would typically disregard this option, this movie is visually stunning and a lot of fun. The special effects are top-notch, just like in Avatar. There are similar themes of how conflict sometimes arises simply because two sides do not understand each other. If you are a skeptic, try Warcraft out.
Titanic is a movie about a forbidden romance on a fateful journey. Jack Dawson (Leonardo Dicaprio) is a poor American on his way back home who is lovestruck by Rose Bukater (Kate Winslet) on the voyage of the Titanic. Unfortunately, Rose outclasses Jack… literally. Rose and Jack carry on in a world that tries to force them to stay in their station. As Rose and Jack’s love grows, so does the danger, as the two lovers and the ship are heading towards a perilous collision course.
James Cameron directed Titanic on a massive $200,000,000 budget. The film grossed a record at the time of $2,201,647,264 in the worldwide box office. Titanic won a slew of awards, including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Effects-Sound Effects Editing, Best Effects-Visual Effects, Best Music-Original Song, and Best Music-Original Dramatic Score. The film stars Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet, and Billy Zane.
Titanic and Avatar are both directed by James Cameron. While they may be in different genres, Cameron’s mastery of visuals and effects is in full force in both films. Titanic also shares the themes of forbidden romance, and it also showcases a marginalized and exploited group. These themes are also present in Avatar.
The Martian (2015)
The Martian at its root is a survival story. The movie follows the incredible journey of Mark Watney (Matt Damon). After an accident where Watney is presumed dead on Mars, his team of fellow astronauts and scientists leave him on the red planet and start the return journey to Earth. Watney is faced with the seemingly impossible task of staying alive by himself on Mars.
Ridley Scott directed The Martian on a $108,000,000 budget. The film earned $630,162,448 in the worldwide box office. The Martian was nominated for Oscars for Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, Best Writing for Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing, Best Achievement in Visual Effects, and Best Achievement in Production Design.
The movie stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, and Jeff Daniels. It is based on the novel of the same name by Andy Weir.
The Martian and Avatar both are excellent examples of fantastic storytelling in the science fiction genre. Both films provide a tremendous cast that is called to do seemingly impossible tasks. Just as Pandora is brought to life in Avatar, The Martian makes viewers feel like they are literally on the red planet. Ridley Scott uses unreal special effects to provide a dash of realism to the space epic.
Mortal Engines (2018)
Mortal Engines is a dystopian movie adapted for film from the same writers of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. It follows the tale of Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) as she gathers around her a crew to stop the city of London. In this world, cities are mobile, and they roam around like predators devouring everything in their path. Hester and her friends must stop London and the man in charge of the city, the infamous Valentine (Hugo Weaving).
Christian Rivers directed Mortal Engines with a budget of around $100,000,000. The movie only made $83,869,818 at the worldwide box office. The film stars Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, and Hugo Weaving. It was an adaptation based on the book of the same name by Philip Reeve.
Do not let the poor box office fool you. This movie is better than the box office indicates. Also, it is worth watching simply for the visuals. The mobile cities brought to life are incredible. Like Avatar, Mortal Engines brings an impossible world to life with incredible special effects and costuming. Viewers will be blown away by the amazing visuals of this movie.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a fun sci-fi movie based around special agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne). Their job is to patrol and keep the peace around the human-inhabited territories in this futuristic universe. However, on a mission-centered in Alpha, an evergrowing region with a diverse population of alien species, Valerian and Laureline are thrust into a conspiracy that has them running out of time to save the world.
Luc Besson directed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on a massive $177,200,000 budget. The movie gathered $225,973,340 in the worldwide box office. It stars Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, and Clive Owen.
Avatar shares more than simply being a sci-fi movie with great special effects with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Both films provide some complex themes of racial equality and the value of life. While set in the science fiction genre that perhaps softens the message, both movies have excellent statements regarding human nature.
Alita Battle Angel (2019)
Alita Battle Angel follows the story of the cyborg Alita (Rosa Salazar) after she is revived when she is found in a scrapyard. Upon awakening, Alita has no memory of who she is nor of the world in which she lives. Alita explores the hostile environment of Iron City with Dr. Ido (Christoph Waltz), the man who revived her, attempts to shield her from the dangers of Iron City and of Alita’s past.
Robert Rodriguez directed Alita Battle Angel $170,000,000 budget. The film died well in the worldwide box office making $404,980,543. The film stars Rosa Salazar, Christof Waltz, and Jennifer Connely.
Fans of Avatar will enjoy Alita Battle Angel for the superb special effects, the star-studded cast, and the intense action scenes. The movie effectively transports you to the futuristic environment of Iron City. With a smattering of realism and a heavy dose of computer animation, the whole visual of the movie seems so futuristic. With heavy-hitting actors like Christof Waltz and Jennifer Connely, Alita Battle Angel creates a memorable viewing experience.