After penning a few films for the great Danny Boyle, Alex Garland went on to solidify himself as a stand-out director with Ex Machina, a thriller about AI that redefined the sci-fi genre. Garland drags us through a philosophical exploration of artificial intelligence in a way that is visually compelling, suspenseful, and downright eerie. But then again, what else would you expect from the guy who wrote 28 Days Later and The Beach?
If you’re into AI, slow-burning suspense and violent endings – check out this list of movies like Ex Machina:
Moon is directed by Duncan Jones, the son of David Bowie. And if you watch this eerie sci-fi thriller, you probably agree that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Starring Sam Rockwell, Sam Rockwell, and well, Sam Rockwell, Moon features a protagonist who experiences a crisis near the end of his solo three year tour through space. This sci-fi thriller is unnerving, yet still fun to watch thanks to Rockwell’s fantastic performance. But fair warning, you might finish the film and question the value of your existence…
Following a linguistics expert and her effort to crack language used by arriving aliens, Arrival is a film that unpacks the power of communication and how we perceive our future.
Like many films that center on extraterrestrial visits, Arrival has all the fire-at-will vs. find-peace-at-all-costs conflict that you would come to expect, yet it is handled brilliantly by Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and director Dennis Villeneuve. Arrival provides a unique spin on the genre with a contemplative, sophisticated exploration of fate.
Triangle follows a group of stranded passengers who jump aboard another vessel after their yacht is taken by a storm. Yup, you guessed it, things go from bad to worse. We could say Triangle repeats some of the more tropes of the standard sci-fi film, over, and over, and over again… Just watch it and you’ll get what we mean.
4. District 9
District 9 is about a group of aliens who are forced to live in harsh colonies, or districts, on planet earth until they find a government agent willing to help. This film is one of the more famous on our list, and rightfully so. They say good science fiction reflects on human society, well, District 9 serves, though it did face its share of controversy for some of its caricatures.
So, District 9 might have had the biggest budget on this list, but there is no arguing that Primer had the smallest. Made with a meagre $7,000, Primer closed to a million at the US box office alone. The film follows two tech buddies who somehow manage to build a time-machine, then spend the rest of the film dealing with the horrific repercussions of their failed test runs. Too bad they didn’t hire a random stranger to test their prize invention, like our guy in Ex Machina.
Space, Sci-fi, they go hand in hand. But what about dinner parties? Coherence is unique in that aspect. The film focuses on a single dinner party, but during this dinner party, a comet passes overhead, and in some all-the-sudden cosmic interference the submitted urges of the party guests are surfaced in mind-bending fashion. Another one made on a pocket-budget, Coherence is a witty thriller that reflects on human despair.
Ex-Machina’s director’s second film, Annihilation has its share of philosophical implications, but is a bit more vague. Garland scripted author Jeff Vandermeer’s book this time, bringing Oscar Isaac back as a supporting character and adding Natalie Portman for the lead. Portman plays a biologist and ex-soldier who travels to a scientifically enhanced region to find out what happened to her husband, only to find the region’s beauty is matched by its danger. Though ambiguous, Annihilation still packs a load of fun and hosts great character portrayals by its two leads.
Alright, we’re back in space for the Steven Soderbergh directed remake starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone. And no, this film is not about a space heist. Solaris is about a psychologist who travels to a space ship where the crew’s memories are visually manifesting and interacting with them. With Viola Davis and Jeremy Davies in supporting roles, Solaris is as entertaining as it is deep.
9. The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky and the tree of life, it can’t get much weirder than that, can it? In The Fountain, Aronofsky applies his visual style to a story about immortality, braiding together the story of three characters from different time periods. Though it was received poorly by some critics, others argue that The Fountain it was right on the mark. If you liked Ex Machina, we say it’s worth the watch.
10. The Prestige
This one isn’t so much sci-fi, but it’s got its share of tricks and turns that are signature to any Christopher Nolan film. Starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, The Prestige is about two magicians and their bitter rivalry. And boy, is it a rivalry. The Prestige functions as a visceral dive into magician’s life during the industrial era. Even more, it uses its characters to touch on class, ambition, deception, and will. All in all, The Prestige is truly magic… Just not robot magic.
This one is a bit action, a bit sci-fi, a bit of fun Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and some questionable CGI. The film tells the story of ‘Loopers’ who carry out hits for a criminal organization of the future, but things go array when our protagonist is ordered to take out his future self. Looper is a fun catch the target with a bit of time travel on the side.
Dimensions, dreams, and the power of the human mind. Inception is the ultimate mind bender of mind benders. Nolan again displays his genius in this action-packed chase through… Well, dreams. Inception is crafted so beautifully that we forget all about the dive into dream state and watch at the edge of ours seats as the characters fight to break open secrets while at the same time struggling to subdue demons of their own.
With a cast led of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Marion Cotillard, you got to watch and watch it close. Who knows, it may even make your all time favorite list, but don’t let us get in your head, experience Inception for yourself.
Another low budget sci-fi, Cube is about a group of strangers who awaken to find themselves in a giant Cube. Not so interesting at first sight. But the only thing is, this is a massive cube filled with deadly rooms, traps, and enough frustration to turn a family against each other, let alone a group of complete strangers.
Once again, this psychological thriller is frustratingly enjoyable from start to finish, although it may make you wary of mazes for a while, and other people for that matter.
That’s all we got for our list of movies like Ex Machina. If you liked what you read, check out more of our lists below.