22 Incredible Movies Like Avatar
There are few movies like Avatar, the science fiction epic that is also the highest-grossing film of all time. It’s famous for its stunning visual effects, stellar cast, and iconic director. Avatar broke box office records and brought in roughly $2.847 billion at the box office. Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington’s undeniable chemistry leads the cast. If those two heavy hitters aren’t enough, their co-stars are screen veteran Stephen Lang and Hollywood icon Sigourney Weaver. Legendary director James Cameron spent years working on this iconic movie. The groundbreaking visual effects changed Hollywood and inspired many epic movies like Avatar.
The plot takes place in the 22nd century and revolves around the Na’vi tribe who live on the habitable moon, Pandora. Since Earth is a mess, humans are moving to Pandora, threatening the Na’vi tribe’s existence. Humans turn to paraplegic soldier Jake Scully, who infiltrates the Na’vi to spy on the tribe.
Since 2009, Cameron has been hard at work on four sequels, with the first two due out soon. Avatar: Way of Water is due on December 16, 2022, with Avatar 3 hitting screens on December 20, 2024. The current plan is to release the last two films on December 18, 2026, and December 22, 2028.
There are several epic science fiction movies that will tie you over if you can’t wait for the sequels. Avatar took inspiration from classic films and influenced an entire generation. Here are 22 movies like Avatar that’ll take you on a journey through space and time to a distant planet and a dystopian future.
22 Incredible Movies Like Avatar
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The influential movie 2001: A Space Odyssey should be at the top of every science fiction fan’s list. The mind-bending classic revolves around a voyage to Jupiter, a malfunctioning supercomputer Hal, and the mysterious monolith.
The 1968 groundbreaking epic science fiction film paved the way for other sci-fi classics like Avatar. Much like Avatar, 2001 was a pioneering movie when it came to special effects. It completely changed the game with its realistic and scientifically accurate depiction of space.
2. Black Panther (2018)
Another movie that shares similarities to Avatar is the MCU’s classic Black Panther. Black Panther follows King T’Challa as he leads his tribe and protects Wakanda from outsiders who want to steal the country’s natural resources. From afar, Wakanda seems like a primitive country with a group of uncivilized tribes. In reality, Wakanda is much more advanced than the rest of the world, thanks to Vibranium. Much like Avatar, outsiders underestimate King T’Challa and his people.
3. Star Trek Franchise (1979 – Present)
Star Trek has enough incredible movies to keep sci-fi fans occupied for the next several months. The Star Trek movie franchise follows the original 1966 TV series. Fans will enjoy the original film series that came out between 1979 and 1991. Then there are the Next Generation movies that hit theatres from 1994 to 2002.
The Star Trek reboot is ideal for fans looking for something more modern. It takes place in an alternate timeline and follows the journey of Captain Kirk and Spock. After binge-watching all 13 movies, you can continue your Star Trek obsession with the plethora of television series on offer.
4. Arrival (2016)
The critically acclaimed science fiction movie Arrival tells a simple story with a mind-bending twist that pulls on the heartstrings. It stars the brilliant Amy Adams as a linguist that figures out how to communicate with an alien race.
Arrival and Avatar explore themes about dealing with loss, overcoming adversity, and learning to understand different species. The less said about the plot, the better. Any little detail could spoil this mind-blowing sci-fi movie. It’s a classic movie you’ll want to watch more than once.
5. Dances With Wolves (1990)
Dances with Wolves might be an epic Western movie, but it has a lot in common with Avatar. There are many similarities in the plot. Set in the 1860s, Kevin Costner portrays Union Army Lieutenant John J. Dunbar, aka Dance with Wolves.
Much like Jake Scully, Dunbar becomes a member of a tribe, the Lakota. Dances with Wolves was a massive success winning Best Picture at the Oscars. It brought in a whopping $424 million worldwide, making it one of the highest-grossing movies of 1990.
6. Star Wars Franchise (1977 – Present)
If you love epic science fiction franchises, look no further than George Lucas’ Star Wars. The franchise shows audiences a different side of space in the 70s and 80s. Star Wars changed Hollywood with the innovation in special effects. The best part is there’s so much to watch in the Star Wars universe.
First, there’s the beloved original trilogy and then the underrated prequel series. Like Avatar, the sequel trilogy hit theatres years later to conclude the Skywalker Saga. Force Awakens led the way with innovations in technology and special effects.
7. Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic Blade Runner is a must-see for all science fiction fans. Based on the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the visually stunning movie takes place in a dystopian future where the Tyrell Corporation creates synthetic humans called Replicants.
Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) hunts down a group of fugitive replicants. A sequel, Blade Runner 2049, hit theatres in 2017 to rave reviews. The first movie has several versions, but critics recommend watching 2007’s The Final Cut.
8. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
The MCU spent years building up to the conclusion of the Infinity Saga and did not disappoint fans. The 2019 classic Avengers: Endgame actually surpassed Avatar as the highest-grossing movie until 2021. Avatar regained the top spot after a re-release in China.
Endgame has everything for science fiction fans, from time travel to superpowered beings and aliens. It brings all the heroes into one film to battle Thanos. In many ways, Endgame couldn’t happen without Avatar’s visual effects breakthrough. At the same time, the MCU helped make the blueprint for the Avatar franchise.
9. Inception (2010)
If you’re looking for a science fiction movie set in a modern setting, then Inception is perfect. Much like Avatar, Inception follows a character on a mission in uncharted territory. The plot follows a criminal, Dom Cobb, and his team as they enter a person’s subconscious to implant an idea.
Jake Scully and Dom Cobb are both promised something in exchange for completing the task. For Scully, it’s the ability to walk while Dom wants freedom. Genius director Christopher Nolan leads a stellar cast that inlcudes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Elliot Page.
10. Ready Player One (2018)
Iconic director Steven Spielberg brings the world of Ready Player One to life on the big screen. Set in 2045, every human connects to the virtual reality simulation, OASIS, to get away from the real world. Like Avatar, Ready Player One follows a group of teenagers who enter the virtual reality simulation where an avatar represents them.
Spielberg is not a stranger to the science fiction genre, having made classics like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, and E.T. Similar to Avatar, Ready Player One features stunning visual effects. It’s the best movie to watch while you patiently wait a few more months for Avatar 2.
11. Jurassic World (2015)
It’s impossible to go wrong with any movie from the Jurassic Park franchise. In 1993, Hollywood never imagined a film like Jurassic Park was even possible. The only way to see giant dinosaurs roaming Earth and flying in the sky was in pictures or by using our imagination.
However, director Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs back to life with advanced technology and visual effects. Jurassic Park became the highest-grossing movie, bringing in roughly $1 billion until Titanic surpassed it. The 2015 movie Jurassic World rebooted the series and serves as a sequel to the other films. It stars Chris Pratt as Ethnologist Owen Grady, an animal trainer who must stop a transgenic dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, from a deadly rampage.
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12. Interstellar (2014)
Fans of Christopher Nolan and Matthew McCaughnhey will fall in love with the science-fiction classic Interstellar. It’s one of those mind-bending sci-fi movies that makes the viewers question life and humanity. It’s set in a dystopian future and follows a team of astronauts that travels through a wormhole to find a new home for humans since Earth is falling apart.
It’s similar to Avatar in that humans ruined Earth and now must find a new planet to call home. Nolan’s depiction of space and time makes the viewers feel like they’re drifting out into space. It’s a complex story that explores themes of family, humanity, and taking time for granted.
13. Captain America Franchise (2011 – Present)
The Captain America series and Avatar revolve around an underdog soldier dropped into an unfamiliar setting. They both have to figure out how to relate to their surroundings. It’s safe to say the MCU wouldn’t be the same without Captain America, Steve Rogers.
Captain America also has elements of time travel to it and stunning visuals. Captain America’s a complex story about a hero always trying to do the right thing even when it feels wrong. Avatar fans will undoubtedly relate to themes of loneliness, isolation, and feeling like an outsider.
14. Guardians of the Galaxy Franchise (2014 – Present)
Before Avatar, a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy seemed impossible. Avatar broke new ground with special effects that influenced every sci-fi and big-budget blockbuster. Avatar made it possible for characters like Rocket, Groot, and more to come alive.
The 10th MCU movie follows Peter Quill and the rest of the Guardians as they try to steal one of the infinity stones. Both films are visually striking movies that feature an interesting array of characters. Plus, both flicks star Zoe Saladna as an alien. What more could you want?
15. John Carter (2012)
Avatar director James Cameron admitted that the 1912 science fantasy novel Princess of Mars heavily influenced Avatar. For that reason, Avatar fans will undoubtedly enjoy the Princess of Mars film adaptation John Carter.
The movie follows the adventures of John Carter through space as he tries to prevent an all-scale war. While the movie bombed at the box office, most blame went to the poor marketing campaign. John Carter is visually striking like Avatar and shares a very similar plot. Both movies influenced and inspired each other.
16. Transcendence (2014)
Transcendence stars Johnny Depp as scientist Will Caster, who has his consciousness transported to artificial intelligence. While it was a box office bomb of epic proportions, Avatar fans will enjoy Transcendence.
Most critics tore the movie apart for its lack of emotional depth. On the other hand, many people liked it and praised the special effects. They considered it a stunning visual masterpiece that’s similar to Avatar. The special effects and captivating visuals make Transcendence worth watching at least once.
17. The Witcher (2019 – Present)
Despite being a television series, The Witcher has a lot in common with Avatar. It follows Henry Cavill as the magically enhanced monster hunter, Geralt of Rivia. In many ways, it’s a more adult version of Avatar and is undoubtedly not kid-friendly.
It features terrifying horror and tons of nudity to go along with the fantasy and science fiction elements. Mature fans of Avatar will enjoy watching Cavill and the rest of the cast explore this magical world. It’ll hold Avatar fans over until the sequel finally comes to theatres at the end of 2022.
18. Dune (2021)
Hitting theatres and HBO Max in 2021, Dune will make Avatar fans feel at home. It features an all-star cast with the master of sci-fi director Denis Villeneuve leading the way.
It tells the story of Paul Atreides of the noble house Atreides, who ends up in the middle of a war over a barren desert planet. Both Dune and Avatar follow a similar structure and are visually stunning. It also took both franchises years to get off the ground. Avatar fans will find themselves obsessed with the world of Dune too.
19. The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix is set in a dystopian future where machines have trapped humans in a simulated reality so they can use them as an energy source. That’s when a computer hacker, Neo, uncovers the truth and joins the fight against the machines.
The Matrix will blow your mind if you love groundbreaking special effect movies like Avatar. Both movies follow a similar plot of a hero in a simulated reality. In many ways, Matrix’s technological advancements and “bullet time” set the stage for Avatar to take visual effects to new places.
20. Alien (1979)
The Alien franchise is perfect for Avatar fans who want to explore the deepest and darkest parts of space. The first film finds female action hero Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo’s fighting a monstrous alien creature with acid for blood. The sequel, Aliens, helped turn director James Cameron into a household name. Like Avatar, Aliens follows Ripley and a group of Marines infiltrating an alien species.
The next couple of movies are not really worth mentioning. There’s also a prequel series that takes fans back to discover the evolution of the aliens.
Avatar and Alien take hard-working characters and place them in a world they don’t fully understand. However, they adapt to the situation and come out on top.
21. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003)
You can’t go wrong with the epic fantasy franchise Lords of the Rings. The classic films influenced movies like Avatar and helped establish media franchises like the MCU.
Like Avatar, Lord of the Rings is about the most unlikely hero, hobbit Frodo Baggins, and his friends as they attempt to destroy the one ring to rule them all. It’s got everything from hobbits to wizards and elves. It’s an epic fantasy with action, love stories, and stunning visual effects.
22. Ender’s Game (2013)
Based on the 1985 novel of the same name, 2013’s Ender’s Game takes place in the distant future. It follows the gifted Andrew “Ender” Wiggin, who’s sent off to a military academy to prepare for an alien invasion. The movie was an epic box office bomb and created controversy before its release due to author Orson Scott Card’s views on the LGBTQ community.
Negativity aside, the movie shares similarities with Avatar regarding military characters going on a mission. At the same time, the novel’s plot, tone, and structure heavily influenced sci-fi movies like Avatar. In many ways, it’s one of those bad sci-fi movies worth checking out.
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