Movies Like 'Contact' to Watch Next

Not all movies about aliens feature massive invasions or battles.
by Annie Lyons — 

Jodie Foster in 'Contact'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Twenty-five years ago, Jodie Foster met with aliens in Contact. Or did she?

In this philosophical science fiction film, Foster stars as Dr. Ellie Arroway, a scientist who has dedicated her life to searching for proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life. One day, she receives a signal from a distant star system called Vega. Once deciphered, the signal's data reveals plans for a complex machine that could transport a single occupant, possibly to the signal's origins in Vega where extraterrestrials could await. 

Compared to bombastic alien invasion films, Contact is a contemplative take on what contact with intelligent aliens could be like. The film also speculates how religion and science might intersect in such an event, especially through atheist Ellie's relationship with Christian philosopher Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey). Ellie is ultimately chosen to travel in the machine and successfully travels to Vega where she meets an alien. However, the film ends ambiguously after revealing there's no hard proof of her journey. 

The film was released on July 11, 1997, and was directed by Robert Zemeckis following a long and contentious production process. Famous astronomer and author Carl Sagan first conceived the idea for the film in 1979. After the film's development initially stalled, Sagan turned his idea into a best-selling novel, which was published in 1985. Contact received mostly positive reviews from critics and has a Metascore of 62. The film earned several nominations for science fiction awards and won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. For her performance, Foster won the Saturn Award for Best Actress. 

If you're searching for more contemplative science fiction stories like Contact, Metacritic has rounded up a list of similar movies. The below list will appeal to Contact fans who are fascinated by stories about humans encountering extraterrestrials and science fiction focused on space. 

Here, Metacritic highlights 10 movies like Contact to watch next. 


'Close Encounters of the Third Kind'

Columbia Pictures

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Metascore: 90
Best for: Fans of classic science fiction and stories about first contact with aliens
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 135 minutes

This critically acclaimed 1977 film explores the fascination with unidentified flying objects through the perspective of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), an everyday electrician living in Indiana. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the science fiction adventure follows Roy's growing obsession with making extraterrestrial contact after he encounters an UFO one night that burns his face with his bright lights. Meanwhile, government officials investigate other strange occurrences around the world that seem related to the UFO activity. Close Encounters of the Third Kind received nominations for eight Oscars, including Best Director, and won for Best Cinematography. 

"The visuals here...are never less than stunning in their impact, yet always seem well within the realm of possibility. It is also to Spielberg's credit, however, that despite all of this visual opulence, his actors are never dwarfed." — Arthur Knight, The Hollywood Reporter



20th Century Studios

Solaris (1972)

Metascore: 90
Best for: Fans of international art-house films and contemplative stories about the human condition
Where to watch:

, , HBO Max, , Vudu
Runtime: 167 minutes

Soviet Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky explores a mystifying phenomenon in this thought-provoking 1972 sci-fi. Based on Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel of the same name, the film revolves around a space station on a fictional planet named Solaris. In response to strange reports, psychologist Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to evaluate the station's scientists and decide whether their research should continue. He soon discovers that the planet's ocean possesses mysterious capabilities and can probe into people's memories. The film is deliberately paced and focuses on Kelvin's emotional journey during his time on Solaris. 

"His (Tarkovsky's) pictures, and his sounds — such as the symphonic drip of raindrops in a wooded pond — tell more than just the immediate story; they rejuvenate the mind." — Desson Thomson, Washington Post


'2001: A Space Odyssey

MGM/Warner Bros.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Metascore: 84
Best for: Fans of classic science fiction and realistic depictions of space exploration
Where to watch:

, Google Play, HBO Max, , Vudu
Runtime: 141 minutes

Starting with a prehistoric prologue, director Stanley Kubrick chronicles humanity's evolution in this unconventional 1968 space adventure. Adapted from a short story by Arthur C. Clarke, who also co-wrote the screenplay, the film follows a team of astronauts on a mysterious mission to Jupiter. Their voyage is complicated when the ship's sentient supercomputer begins acting strangely. The film received four Oscar nominations, winning the award for Best Special Visual Effects. At the time of its release, the film divided critics, but it has since grown in critical appraisal and is now widely considered one of the most influential science fiction films.

"A masterpiece that can still leave you dizzy with wonder. As much as any movie ever made, this visionary science-fiction tale of space travel and first contact with extraterrestrial life is a spellbinding experience." — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune



Paramount Pictures

Arrival (2016)

Metascore: 81
Best for: Fans of films about first contact with aliens and science fiction that considers the concept of time
Where to watch:

, , , , Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 116 minutes

Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Arrival offers another contemplative take on communication with extraterrestrials. When 12 extraterrestrial spacecraft appear around the globe, the U.S. military recruits linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) for an investigation. The pair make contact with two cephalopod-like aliens. As tensions rise between nations, Louise begins studying their complex written language in hopes of understanding whether their intentions are peaceful. The film earned eight Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Adams also received multiple award nominations for her performance. 

"The extraordinary success of Arrival is that it combines its bravura style and grand sci-fi questions with tremendous emotional intelligence and a heart so full it's ready to burst." — Bryan Bishop, The Verge


'Ad Astra'

20th Century Studios

Ad Astra

Metascore: 80
Best for: Fans of stories about space exploration and meditative science fiction
Where to watch:

, , , Vudu
Runtime: 123 minutes

Ad Astra stars Brad Pitt as Roy McBride, a U.S. Space Command major who embarks on a mission across the galaxy in response to a strange phenomenon. Thirty years ago, his father Clifford (played by Tommy Lee Jones) disappeared while on a deep space voyage, driven by an obsession to find intelligent extraterrestrial life. Now, dangerous and mysterious power surges across the Solar System indicate that Clifford may be still alive. Directed by James Gray, the film delves into how Roy's journey to find his father forces him to confront his complicated emotions. 

"Ad Astra is beautiful, contemplative, and loaded with meaning — not an action movie, but one that leaves you with plenty to ponder." — Alissa Wilkinson, Vox



Warner Bros. Pictures


Metascore: 74
Best for: Fans of science fiction that considers the concept of time and those fascinated by theoretical astrophysics
Where to watch:

, Google Play, iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 169 minutes

More than 15 years after Contact, McConaughey helmed another space-themed sci-fi. Only this time, his character launches off Earth. Directed by Christopher Nolan, Interstellar takes place in the year 2067. While a growing Dust Bowl threatens Earth's habitability, NASA physicist Professor Brand (Michael Caine) works on how to ensure humanity's survival. He recruits former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (McConaughey) for a research mission that'll travel through a wormhole and scout out three potentially viable planets located near a supermassive black hole. The film received nominations for five Oscars, winning for Best Visual Effects. 

"Like the great space epics of the past, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar distills terrestrial anxieties and aspirations into a potent pop parable, a mirror of the mood down here on Earth." — A.O. Scott, The New York Times



Columbia Pictures


Metascore: 70
Best for: Fans of John Carpenter and science fiction romances
Where to watch:

, , , iTunes, , Vudu
Runtime: 115 minutes

This 1984 Carpenter film explores themes of grief and love through an unconventional take on extraterrestrial contact. Starman takes inspiration from the real-life Voyager Golden Records, which contain messages of peace intended for extraterrestrial life. The film imagines that aliens receive the message and send a scout to Earth. But when the U.S. government shoot down his ship, the non-corporeal extraterrestrial takes the form of a recently deceased man (Jeff Bridges). The Starman kidnaps the man's widow Jenny (Karen Allen) so she can help his efforts to return home. As the pair is hunted by the military, they gradually form an emotional bond. 

"Starman contains the potential to be a very silly movie, but the two actors have so much sympathy for their characters that the movie, advertised as space fiction, turns into one of 1984's more touching love stories." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times


'Europa Report'

Magnolia Pictures

Europa Report

Metascore: 68
Best for: Fans of found footage films and realistic depictions of space exploration
Where to watch:

, , Google Play, , iTunes, Pluto TV, Tubi, Vudu 
Runtime: 90 minutes

Europa Report is a found footage film that documents an ill-fated space mission to the titular Jupiter moon. Hoping to discover proof of life, six astronauts embark on a years-long journey to the distant Europa. A disastrous solar storm knocks out communications with mission control back on Earth, but the crew ultimately decide to continue their journey. However, as they arrive on Europa and witness strange lights, their dangers are only beginning. Director Sebastián Cordero drew inspiration from real footage from the International Space Station, as well as NASA data of Europa's surface. 

"The real treat here is the science, not the fiction. The film's sleek aesthetic was developed in consultation with NASA about what such a mission would actually require, and look like as viewed on surveillance cameras." — Sara Stewart, New York Post



Sony Pictures


Metascore: 67
Best for: Fans of science fiction mysteries and stories that explore ethics
Where to watch:

, Google Play, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 97 minutes 

Sam Rockwell stars in this science fiction mystery that explores feelings of isolation and paranoia. In Moon's near future, Corporation Lunar Industries has revolutionized the energy industry by mining an alternative fuel source on the moon. Though most of the process is automated, one employee must stay on site. It's a lonely job for Sam Bell (Rockwell), who has been unable to talk with his wife for three years, but the end of his contract is finally approaching. However, a mystery emerges after he meets a younger version of himself after a bizarre accident. 

"Most contemporary sci-fi movies come on with all CGI-guns blazing, trying to blow the roof off the theater. Moon settles for trying to blow your mind instead." — Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald



Searchlight Pictures

Sunshine (2007)

Metascore: 64
Best for: Fans of psychological thrillers and space journeys
Where to watch:

, , , Vudu
Runtime: 107 minutes

In Sunshine, eight international astronauts embark on a journey to "jump-start" the dying Sun with an advanced bomb. They leave behind a freezing Earth, and the fate of humanity rests on their shoulders. After the crew happens upon the long-lost spaceship that attempted the feat years earlier though, their already dangerous mission spirals out of control. Directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland, the film veers into horror as more and more things go wrong. Sunshine features an ensemble cast that includes Michelle Yeoh, Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, and Benedict Wong

"For though it can't maintain its momentum all the way to the end, Sunshine until it stumbles is gratifyingly far from the usual space-opera stuff." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times