Denis Villeneuve made his name in the science fiction genre, thanks to making several movies like Arrival. This gorgeous tale of communication, forgiveness, and understanding came through the guise of a first-contact drama. The movie stars Amy Adams as a linguist whose daughter died from an incurable illness when she was 12 years old. However, when 12 extraterrestrial spacecraft begin to hover over the Earth, she is one of the people brought in to help communicate with them as she has to make the toughest decision of her life.

Sci-fi fans never want when it comes to new content, and Villeneuve himself has made his name with movies like Arrival, Dune, and Blade Runner 2049. These all have something in common, as the movies tell smart sci-fi stories while also relying on a smart script over even the best in special effects. These movies take smart ideas and then place them in a fantastical situation, often telling stories that force the viewers to think about what they are seeing on the screen and what it means in the world in general.

Dune is a little different from movies like Arrival because there are a lot of very expensive special effects on display in the film. This movie has giant monsters, evil dictators, and war battles where one alien race wants to conquer all others. Despite those differences, this is still a Denis Villeneuve movie, and it shares a lot in common with movies like Arrival in that there are big ideas that might even dwarf the special effects. Based on Frank Herbert’s novel, Villeneuve did something that David Lynch struggled to pull off almost 30 years before, as it introduced the main players for the franchise and set up even bigger movies to come.

Children of Men, an Oscar-nominated movie from Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuáron, shares a great deal in common with movies like Arrival. The filmmaker took a science fiction setup but then added a very human touch where the sci-fi was just a way to put the humans in the world into a situation where they had to figure out how to just get by in life. The movie saw 18 years pass on a planet where every human seemed to become infertile, and no babies had been born. With humanity dying out, one woman shows up pregnant, and a former activist is enlisted to get her to safety as everyone wants to get their hands on her, culminating in the Children of Men ending.

Directed by Alex Proyas, Dark City tells the story of a dystopian society and a murder investigation that leads in very unexpected directions. The movie is a strong mix of film noir and science fiction, making it very close to another Villeneuve movie in Blade Runner 2049, but it also shares a lot in common with movies like Arrival. That is because it is a smart movie with a lot going on under the hood, especially when it comes to the protagonist John Murdoch trying to figure out what is going on around him, making him a nice character to compare to Louise in Arrival.

Movies like Arrival force the viewers to pay close attention to what is happening because it plays out like a puzzle with the story slowly coming together. When it comes to sci-fi puzzle movies, there might not be a better, more complicated film than Primer. Directed by Shane Carruth, Primer tells the story of two engineers who create a box that allows time travel, but with very specific rules in place. However, just as movies like Arrival took aliens arriving on Earth and told a personal story about a woman and grief. Primer refused to tell a typical time travel story and instead introduced the idea of a paradox that took science and physics very seriously.

Much like how a movie like Primer took the idea of time travel in movies and played with it on a serious level, Timecrimes did a similar task a few years later when it showed how traveling through time had unintended consequences that people rarely think about. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, Timecrimes is a Spanish-language movie that sees a man named Hector who lives in the Spanish countryside and ends up attacked by a mysterious masked man in the woods. Just like sci-fi movies like Arrival, this demands a viewer pay attention and then pays it off with a smart twist ending.

The Vast of Night has a low-budget vibe that works in its favor and it takes a Twilight Zone-like approach to its production. The entire film is actually framed as an episode of a fictional anthology series called Paradox Theatre, and takes place over the course of a single evening at a high school basketball game in the 1950s. A radio DJ discovers a strange audio signal that could possibly be extraterrestrial in origin. This brings up an immediate comparison to movies like Arrival, another movie about deciphering alien transmissions, but remains focused on the humans figuring it all out. Also like Arrival, The Vast of Night has a twisty ending.

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