10 Best Thought-Provoking Movies like Interstellar

By Louie Fecou
Published: February 20, 2023 (Last updated: March 21, 2024)
10 Best Movies like Interstellar
Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar (Credit to Paramount Pictures)

Nolan loves mind-bending visuals and reality-altering concepts, which got us thinking about other films that might fall into this category. So, without focusing on sci-fi, here is our list of 10 thought-provoking movies like Interstellar.

10. Bladerunner (1982)

Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner has long been a classic sci-fi detective noir thriller, and there is no lack of comment on the film, its production, and its many layers. Ironically, the film has evolved since its first release in 1982, with many different versions of the movie being released.

Scott himself took a long time to deliver his final cut, and you should probably seek this version out if you are ready to view it. The complex morality of creating life, using them as enslaved people that have a limited life span, and the effect that would have on humanity, is in itself mind-blowing, but couple it with a cast of characters that we then start to realize may or may not be part of the problem, and you get a narrative that becomes a thought-provoking moral maze.

This must-watch movie is beautiful, stunning, multi-layered, and provocative.

9. Memento (2000)

Guy Pierce stars in Christopher Nolan’s dizzying masterclass in nonlinear storytelling. Pierce is searching for his wife’s killer; the trouble is that he has a condition that means he cannot make new memories.

To keep track of his actions, our protagonist tattoos information that he knows is confirmed on his own body. We watch the film with color sequences showing us the forward trajectory of the script while the black-and-white scenes go backward. It is a mind-bending trip of a flick that requires multiple viewings and plenty of thought from the viewer to piece it all together. Still, it’s a hugely detailed and flawless production that must be experienced, and if you are struggling, there is a clip of Nolan on YouTube that explains his thought process on the filming.

8. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Time travel concepts can be hugely frustrating and satisfying at the same time, but it takes someone with a complete grasp of the idea to make it work. So it may surprise some readers to know that Terry Gilliam, from the Monty Python team, has made some thought-provoking movies.

Starring Bruce Willis, the story follows a convict sent back in time to find the truth about a devastating disease that wipes out the human race. With multiple time zones and dream sequences, you are kept guessing right to the end of this thriller which poses many questions about fate and our decisions.

7. The Game (1997)

Michael Douglas stars in this underrated thriller from David Fincher. This director loves to mess with his audience, and although a little more down to earth, this complex psychological shocker keeps you guessing while entertaining you at the same time. Dangerous conspiracies, a hidden sinister puppet master, murder, and a great adventure make this a rug-pulling brain bender that is relentless in its approach. The Game is the present you didn’t know you wanted.

6. Primer (2004)

Here is another entry that puts time travel at its center. However, this small independent movie may have passed you by on release.

Unlike Interstellar, this is a low-budget production; some might say no budget, which relies heavily on the story and characters to carry it forward. However, as far as explanations of how time travel might work, this is sheer genius. So good is the presentation that you almost believe the science behind the story.

Tightly plotted and constructed, this is another film that can be watched multiple times, and you always see something you never noticed at first. Left open and ambiguous in its sinister third act, this will have you up all night wondering what happened next.

5. Solaris (2002)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh and with production by James Cameron, this 2002 film promised to stay close to the novel it was based initially on by Stanislaw Lem.

Set on a space station that seems to be in the grip of some unknown force, making the crew act in disturbing ways, Dr. Chris Kelvin is charged with finding out what is going on. With a bizarre and twisted narrative, this puzzle box leaves the viewer wondering what is real and imagined, and although not a great box office success, there is a lot to enjoy in this thought-provoking sci-fi thriller.

4, Donnie Darko (2001)

I am biased as far as this entry goes, as I remember watching it and its effect on me the first time. The story of the end of the world and Donnie’s unsuspecting superhero journey to redemption baffled me so much that it led to ongoing research so I could get to some resolution.

Little did I know that the details I needed were so carefully hidden that they were almost invisible. What looks like a strange hybrid of high school drama, horror, and sci-fi is a third eye-opening jigsaw of a movie that offers much bigger concepts than my tiny human mind could handle. A notable film is hidden in a small world.

3. Cube (1997)

There is much to be said about having a small budget, as the creative team must work twice as hard to get their message across. Cube is a twisted sci-fi horror that is both shocking and thought-provoking.

When a group of strangers finds themselves trapped in a literal puzzle box that replaces one death trap with another, you find yourself trapped like the characters, wondering who will survive. However, the real question should be, why? A lot is left for the viewer to wonder about, making this about as thought-provoking as it gets.

2. Inception (2010)

Nolan makes it on the list again, this time with a trippy and convoluted deep dive into the mechanics of dream sharing and manipulation. Dreams within dreams and a fast-paced sci-fi adventure make this a modern masterpiece that would leave viewers slack-jawed and bemused.

1. 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968)

Stanley Kubrick has been analyzed better than me for decades, and every single film he has made can be deconstructed and stared at in awe, but for this list, 2001: A Space Odyssey is ideal. From the mesmerizing opening scenes of early man and the monolith to the beautifully constructed sets and the repeating themes of circles, beginnings, and endings, this is a masterpiece of a film that looks as good today as it did in the 1960s. Indeed an inspiration for Interstellar; if you only watch one movie on this list, it should be this one.

Do you have any other recommendations for the best thought-provoking films like Interstellar? Let us know!

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