Remember the awe-inspiring sensation of Avatar hitting theaters in 2009? The sci-fi masterpiece not only garnered nine Academy Award nominations but also became a worldwide phenomenon, amassing over $2 billion in box office earnings. Whisking us over a century into the future, Avatar transported us to Pandora, a moon coveted by humans for its valuable minerals. As the release of Avatar: The Way of Water draws near, now is the perfect time to revisit other cinematic marvels that evoke the magic of Cameron’s iconic blockbuster. Whether they transport us with stunning visuals, rich world-building, futuristic storytelling, or immersive sci-fi elements, here are 7 movies that promise to rekindle the enchantment of Avatar.
Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron
Like Avatar, Prometheus unfolds in the future on a distant moon, as intrepid explorers from Earth embark on a quest for enlightenment (in Avatar, it’s a precious mineral; in Prometheus, answers about humanity’s origins). While the ‘Alien’ prequel left audiences with more questions than solutions, its breathtaking visuals are a force to be reckoned with, rivaling the significance of its narrative. The film begins with a breathtaking prologue that showcases pristine natural landscapes—majestic waterfalls, towering mountains, and dense clouds—before delving into a visually mesmerizing blend of practical effects and CGI. From the enigmatic LV-223 terrain to the haunting Engineers and their spacecraft, scenes like the alien ‘birth’ and the Engineers’ ship crash stand out as visual spectacles. Prometheus, much like Avatar, dedicates substantial effort to realizing its visual splendor, resulting in a stunning and lifelike on-screen experience.
Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn, Michael Caine, Matt Damon
Christopher Nolan‘s time-bending masterpiece, Interstellar, treats audiences to a fusion of CGI, tangible sets, and real-world locations. With wormholes and distant planets sporting diverse ecosystems, the film’s numerous locales create an otherworldly atmosphere. Mirroring Jake and Neytiri’s aspirations in Avatar, Interstellar protagonists endeavor to forge a brighter future for posterity, accompanied by the wonder and awe that come with exploring a fresh and visually stunning realm.
‘Dances with Wolves’ (1990)
|Dances with Wolves
Kevin Costner, Mary McDonnell, Graham Greene, Rodney A. Grant
While Dances with Wolves leans toward the Western genre rather than the sci-fi realm of Avatar, both films share a common storytelling essence. The tale of Union Army Lieutenant John Dunbar’s interaction with a Lakota tribe echoes the theme of outsiders finding acceptance through sincere connection—a narrative thread akin to Jake’s journey in Avatar. Just as Jake builds profound ties with the Na’vi people, Dunbar forges enduring bonds with the Lakota. The films’ shared emotional trajectory underscores their resonance, even if Dances with Wolves relies less on CGI and more on its heartfelt narrative.
Action, Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi
2 hours 36 minutes
Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac
While Avatar dazzles with vibrant colors, Dune embraces a more muted palette, yet its visual prowess remains extraordinary. A prime example is its portrayal of the fictional planet Arrakis, a desert world painted with endless stretches of sand, rocky formations, and capricious weather that wholly immerses viewers in its futuristic saga. The film’s visuals and special effects breathe life into Arrakis, rendering it an ominous and inhospitable realm reminiscent of Pandora’s dangers around every corner. Just as Pandora brims with peril from its inhabitants, sandworms, and ‘spice’ storms, so does Arrakis from its native inhabitants and its colossal sandworms. The believability of ‘Dune’s’ narrative and setting hinges on its visual prowess, with cinematographer Greig Fraser and production designer Patrice Vermette weaving magic to captivate and inspire awe. A sure bet is that Dune: Part Two will uphold this captivating standard upon its release next year.
Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery
Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac
Beyond its thought-provoking themes, Annihilation boasts breathtaking visuals and intricate world-building. The narrative revolves around a team of explorers investigating a mysterious locale known as ‘The Shimmer,’ an area under government quarantine due to its enigmatic properties and creatures, including a spine-chilling mutant bear. The unique portrayal of ‘The Shimmer’ and its mutated landscapes—spanning swamps, jungles, and deserts—lends the film a surreal, dreamlike quality that positions it as a must-watch for visual effects enthusiasts.
‘Independence Day’ (1996)
2 hours 45 minutes
Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell
In a curious twist compared to Avatar, Independence Day presents aliens descending upon Earth, a visually groundbreaking spectacle that rekindled disaster film enthusiasm in the 1990s. Acclaimed for its Oscar-winning visual effects and iconic destruction sequences, the film employed innovative techniques. Miniatures of landmarks, buildings, and spaceships were meticulously crafted and filmed with forced perspective, yielding visuals that continue to enthrall decades later.
‘Blade Runner’ (1982)
Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos
Blade Runner beckons with its distinctive cyberpunk aesthetics—a fusion of advanced technology within a decaying cityscape. Set in a futuristic 1982 Los Angeles, the film’s visuals craft a vivid, believable world. Neon advertisements punctuate bustling city streets, while perpetual rain and shadow conjure an aura of foreboding. These visuals, coupled with flying cars, dystopian cityscapes, and replicants, together compose an eye-catching tableau that echoes Pandora’s spirit of lurking danger.
Wrapping it up!
In the realm of cinema, the power of exceptional visual storytelling is undeniable, and it takes center stage in each of the remarkable films we’re about to introduce. Much like the enchanting allure of Pandora, these cinematic wonders beckon audiences into immersive narratives that ignite the imagination and stir the soul. As the highly anticipated release of Avatar: The Way of Water draws near, there’s no better time to dive headfirst into these captivating movies, reliving the magic of venturing into enthralling new worlds.
In these cinematic gems, it’s the artistry of visual storytelling that reigns supreme. Just as Avatar captivated us with its breathtaking blend of technology and imagination, these movies offer a similar enchantment, captivating the senses with their intricate universes and masterfully crafted visuals. Each frame is a work of art, a brushstroke in a canvas of wonder that takes us on extraordinary journeys much like the one to Pandora.