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15 Great Movies Like Dune

15 Great Movies Like Dune

movies like Dune

From 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to Interstellar (2014), here are 15 brilliant movies like Dune. 

In 1965, a landmark text in sci-fi literature was published, which changed the face of the genre for good. Frank Herbert’s masterpiece Dune, has influenced countless works in sci-fi, fantasy, and other genres. Dune is set in the distant future, where warring noble houses have formed a feudal interstellar society. The House of Atreides is put in charge of the desert planet Arrakis. Arrakis has a hostile climate but is the sole source of the invaluable “spice” — the drug which provides an enhanced perception of space and time. The spice melange isn’t just a valuable resource, it’s essential for intergalactic travel.

Related: Dune: Part Two (2024) Explained

The sci-fi adventure novel’s complex intermesh of politics, religion, technology, ecology, and psychology in a background of incredibly innovative sci-fi concepts, and is nothing short of visionary. However, adapting Dune to the big screen has been a cinematic minefield for directors so far. Dune fans were hopeful that Denis Villeneuve‘s adaptation (produced by Warner Bros.) would faithfully justify the novel. Herbert’s first book in the series was adapted in two parts. Released in 2021, the first part was one of the first big blockbusters of the post-Covid era.

Dune: Part Two was released on March 1, 2024, and enjoyed a record-breaking box-office debut. Critically, the sequel was likened to the greatest sequels ever made such as The Empire Strikes and The Dark Knight. Dune: Part Two continues Paul Atredies’ journey on the desert planet Arrakis as he brings together the native Fremen tribe to defeat the Harkonnens and the Emperor.

Quickly then, here are 15 must see movies like Dune:

 

Movies Like Dune

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This epic sci-fi film from Stanley Kubrick is considered as one of the greatest and most influential space movies ever made. The film depicts a space voyage to Jupiter after a mysterious monolith is discovered. Most of the spacecraft’s functions are controlled by a sentient supercomputer, HAL, which is designed to be error-free.

2001 is a groundbreaking space film that explores the concepts of evolution, extraterrestrial life, technology, philosophy, and human consciousness. The humongous scale of its visuals has had a huge influence on sci-fi epics, including Villeneuve’s Dune. Its ambiguity has baffled many, but that’s also perhaps the best thing about the film. The imagery, the performances, the pioneering special effects, and Kubrick’s concept of AI are exemplary. The appeal of this movie has only increased with the passage of time.

Where to Watch: Prime Video, Apple TV

 

2. Solaris (1972)

Source: The Guardian

This landmark science fiction film from Andrei Tarkovsky brings an unforeseen philosophical and psychological depth to the sci-fi genre. Based on Stanisław Lem’s novel of the same name, this dark and complex outer space art film easily qualifies among the best movies in the history of cinema. A psychologist travels to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris to see why the crew has stalled their mission. He finds them experiencing strange emotional crises and starts feeling the same way himself.

The shiny sheen of the spacecraft is done away with, and we get a haunting and desolate picture instead, which resonates more deeply. This film contemplates alien intelligence as an agent of transformation. It is original, innovative, visually stunning, emotionally affecting, and thought-provoking.

Where to Watch: MX Player

 

3. Interstellar (2014)

Source: Legendary Pictures

The epic science fiction drama by Christopher Nolan combines innovative concepts with great psychological depth to create a modern masterpiece. It’s set in a dystopian future, where the earth has become nearly inhabitable. A group of astronauts travel through a mysterious wormhole in search of a new home for humanity.

The film explores several complicated scientific ideas in a surprising and creative way. The concept of space and time is handled with mesmerizing proficiency. But the human drama of love, loss, faith, and sheer survival is just as integral to the film, which makes it exceptional. Every piece of the film is propelled by a remarkably rare combination of intellect and emotion.

Where to Watch: Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV

 

4. The Martian (2015)

Source: TIME

Based on Andy Weir’s novel of the same name, Ridley Scott’s survival drama has more science than an average sci-fi film. The plot is simple. An astronaut is stranded on Mars after he’s accidentally left behind and must do whatever it takes to survive until rescued. The excellence of the film lies in its execution.

It avoids the pitfalls of the survival story trope and doesn’t pretend to be an unpredictable thriller. It leans into the inevitable and the practical and offers plenty of fun along the way. The near-absurd humor of fighting the forces of the universe using duct tape is one of many great touches. The visuals are brilliant, and the performances are strong. It is a thoroughly entertaining film that ironically offers a down-to-earth approach in an out-of-earth environment.

Where to Watch: Hotstar, Prime Video, Apple TV

 

5. Star Wars trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983)

Source: Letterboxd

The original trilogy of this iconic franchise pioneered the blockbuster space cinema. George Lucas is the mastermind behind this space opera, which is still a huge pop cultural phenomenon. The first movie is especially important as it provided groundbreaking technical innovations. It deviated from contemporary trends by presenting a grand and positive take on sci-fi, replete with spectacular visuals.

The films revolve around the Galactic Civil War between the tyrannical Galactic Empire and the freedom-seeking Rebel Alliance. The archetypal hero’s journey takes place within this backdrop. The films have a great balance of memorable characters, action, romance, humor, and emotion. The fantasy elements are some of the big highlights. While not deeply complex, the Star Wars series is immensely entertaining and culturally relevant.

Where to Watch: Hotstar, Apple TV

 

6. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Source: IMDb

Years after the fantastic Mad Max trilogy, George Miller revisited this hugely successful franchise and gave it a stunning modern makeover. This is a post-apocalyptic action film set in a desert wasteland full of desperate, insane, grotesque characters. The loner Max (Tom Hardy) joins forces with rebellious war commander Furiosa (Theron) to flee from a dangerous cult leader (Immortan Joe) and his crazed army.

Most of the film is a long, violent, hyperactive convoy chase, and yet, the socio-political themes and emotional dynamics are given remarkable weight. The film brilliantly compresses a lot of its broad ideas within very little dialogue. The visual effects and practical stunt work are absolutely breathtaking. The performances are top-notch. Fury Road is creative, audacious, and an absolute must watch.

Where to Watch: Prime Video, Apple TV

 

7. On the Silver Globe (1988)

Source: The New York Times

This sci-fi art film from Andrzej Żuławski was never completed. The political turmoil it went through during production is written all over it, but that, in a strange way, adds to its appeal. It is a deeply unsettling tale that utilizes its sci-fi setting to present a highly philosophical contemplation of life.

A space researcher tries to explore a civilization founded by astronauts who were once stranded on a planet resembling Earth. Based on Żuławski’s great-uncle Jerzy Żuławski’s novel, the film is concerned with the foundation of civilization, religion, and the nature of human beings. The blend of the savage and the futuristic is haunting and thought-provoking. The surrealistic imagery and strategic camera movements make it visually stunning. It is one of the most unconventional and creative sci-fi movies ever (almost) made.

Żuławski’s grand production design, mind-bending staging and philosophical musings intrigue as well as exhaust us.

Where to Watch: Internet Archive, YouTube

 

8. Ikarie XB-1 (1963)

Source: TCM

This lesser-known film from director Jindřich Polák was actually a game-changer in the sci-fi genre when it was released. It’s based on Stanisław Lem’s novel, The Magellanic Cloud. It centers on space travel, extraterrestrial life, and the psycho-social dynamics that govern human nature.

It is set in the year 2163 when a spaceship is sent to probe potentially habitable planets. The crew tries to cope with their heavily restricted life. They also encounter various issues, including a mysterious spaceship and a dark star. The special effects are impressive for its time. It is a refreshing blend of the dark and the upbeat. It is exciting, artistic, original, and manages to focus on serious subjects without being heavy-handed.

Where to Watch: BFI Player, YouTube

 

9. Fantastic Planet (1973)

Source: Criterion

This is an experimental animated sci-fi film from René Laloux, based on Stefan Wul’s novel, Oms en série. Much like Dune, this film can be viewed as an allegory of colonialism set on an alien planet. The Draags are the large blue-skinned civilised race that rule the planet Ygam. They treat the savage humanoid Oms as their natural inferiors, but a seismic shift occurs when an Om receives an education.

What makes this movie exceptional isn’t the plot but the imaginative visuals. Renowned artist Roland Topor is largely responsible for its colorful, surrealistic, hallucinatory quality. The cut-out stop-motion animation heightens the strangeness of the film even further. This inventive psychedelic spectacle uses a well-trodden theme but creates something wholly original with it.

 

Watch: Dune 2 Explained

 

10. Kin-dza-dza! (1986)

Source: Prime Video

This Soviet cult film is a sci-fi dystopian dark comedy directed by Georgiy Daneliya. When two Russians press a button on an alien device, they are transported to the bizarre planet called Pluke. Pluke is a post-apocalyptic landscape with a Mad Max-esque society. Black markets, exploitation, inequalities, and utter ridiculousness abound.

The truly clever thing about this surrealistic, amusing film is that this ridiculousness actually hits rather close to home. It is a social satire and critique of consumerism, capitalism, and the basic greed in human nature stretched to extremes. The wry humour that marks the film’s tone brilliantly convey the inherent absurdity of life itself.

Where to Watch: Dailymotion (Free)

 

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11. Hard to Be a God (2013)

movies like Dune
Source: IMDb

This sci-fi arthouse film from Aleksei German is based on the novel of the same name by the Strugatsky brothers. Decades in the making, it was finally completed after German’s death. It is a jarringly unique take on life on an alien planet, which looks to the past more than the future. The film is set on the planet Arkanar, whose human civilization is a mirror of our own medieval times. Scientists from Earth are sent there in disguise to understand this society and help the alien intelligentsia.

The film unfolds like a vision of hell, entirely nightmarish and repulsive. The exceptional production design has created a visceral and convincing world of repugnant beauty. It is a difficult and challenging watch. The monochrome aesthetics and oblique narrative style showcase avant-garde filmmaking at its finest. This is not just a film but an immersive experience.

Where to Watch: YouTube (free)

 

12. Avatar (2009)

Source: Fox Studios

Avatar demanded such dazzling and sophisticated special effects that director James Cameron had to stall it for a few years to let technology catch up. The final product, especially when viewed in 3D, was a jaw-dropping visual spectacle. But Avatar was more than just aesthetics.

It’s set in the year 2154, when humans are colonising an exoplanetary moon called Pandora to mine a valuable mineral. They explore Pandora by using avatars — lookalikes of the native Na’vi tribe, mind-controlled by humans.

Avatar is a poignant, powerful film with a strong anti-imperialism message, much like Dune. The vibrant colors and intricate world-building make the lush alien world of Pandora a thing of beauty. The motion capture techniques are used brilliantly, making the Na’vi seem lifelike.

Where to Watch: Hotstar, Apple TV

 

13. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Source: Collider

David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia might not be set in a faraway galaxy. But the story of the British diplomat and army officer inspired many creators, including author Frank Herbert. Paul Atreides’ journey on the desert planet Arrakis follows quite a few narrative beats of T.E. Lawrence’s (Peter O’Toole) quest to unite a band of Bedouin tribesmen against the Ottoman Empire. Director Denis Villeneuve has cited the influence of David Lean’s epic historical drama on Dune’s aesthetics.

Lawrence of Arabia’s commentary on power, imperialism, and faith is also reflected in complex political games unfolding in Arrakis. Apart from Dune, Lawrence of Arabia has influenced many other sci-fi films, including the Star Wars movies.

Where to Watch: Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV

 

14. John Carter (2012)

Source: Mubi

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ pulpy sci-fi space opera Barsoom series is a pioneering work in this genre. Herbert’s basic setup in Dune owes a lot to Burroughs and Isaac Asimov’s books. John Carter is the adaptation of the first book in the Barsoom series – A Princess of Mars (published in 1912). The film chronicles the adventures of the war-weary eponymous character (Taylor Kitsch), who is transported to the mysterious planet of Barsoom (Mars), where he is caught amidst a monumental conflict. 

While John Carter bombed at the box office trying to be a more palatable spectacle, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune perfectly transplanted the philosophical and political aspects of Herbert’s novel.

Where to Watch: Hotstar, Prime Video

 

15. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

Source: Letterboxd

Frank Herbert’s space epic novel, Dune, hugely influenced Hayao Miyazaki’s gorgeous anime, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, the anime shares many themes with Dune, including ecology, corrupt power, and warrior messiahs. Miyazaki’s world also has an intriguing counterpart to Arrakis’ Sandworm: the giant, sentient insects known as ‘Ohmu.’ 

Nausicaä follows the tale of the eponymous young princess, who fights against a rival kingdom that tries to unleash a deadly weapon on the world. Like Paul, Nausicaä ventures into a bleak landscape and tries to understand its inhabitants. While both are cautionary tales about greed and power, Nausicaä’s character arc differs significantly from Paul’s.

Where to Watch: Netflix

 

Conclusion

With a great director at the helm and an impressive cast fronting it, Villeneuve’s Dune has finally cracked the un-filmable novel’s code. Movies like Dune listed here will not only get you more hyped up about Dune Universe but also broaden your perception of cinema as a whole. After the success of the two epic movies: Dune One & Two, Villeneuve and his team are all set to adapt the second novel in the series, Dune: Messiah. The two sci-fi novels encapsulate the whole life journey of Arrakis’ purported messiah, Paul Atreides.

Also, check out Villeneuve’s earlier masterstrokes in sci-fi — Arrival starring Amy Adams and Blade Runner 2049 starring Ryan Gosling.

Where to Watch: Dune: Part One is now streaming on Netflix.

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