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Best Movies For Fans Of Denis Villeneuve (That Aren't His Films)

Starting his career with Canadian dramas, writer and director Denis Villeneuve garnered international acclaim with his war-drama, Incendies. Following its success, he established himself as one of the most popular exponents of the thriller and sci-fi genres. Having already directed modern classics like Arrival and Prisoners, his highly-anticipated adaptation of Dune is only bound to create more hype around his filmography.

RELATED: Denis Villeneuve's 10 Best Cinematic Moments

Fans of the director are sure to enjoy these similar sci-fi and thriller movies that subvert familiar tropes and reinvent the genres as a whole.

10 Annihilation (2018) - Available On Paramount Plus

Along with Villeneuve, Alex Garland is arguably one of the best sci-fi directors of the 21st century. Both filmmakers tend to rely on philosophical metaphors while exploring the genre. Garland's sophomore directorial venture, Annihilation, is no exception, as it touches upon the concepts of self-destruction and salvation.

A changing natural landscape (that is affected by an extraterrestrial presence) serves as the setting as a group of soldiers try to figure out the mysterious phenomenon. Just like Villeneuve's Arrival, Annihilation also incorporates mind-bending twists that make for a memorable third act.

9 Zodiac (2007) - Available On Prime Video

Starring usual Villeneuve collaborator, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zodiac is David Fincher's take on the infamous Zodiac killer case, a serial murderer who has still not been caught. Set in the '60s and '70s, the film documents how journalists and law enforcers constantly tried their best to nab the killer through a series of puzzles that he used to leave behind.

RELATED: 10 Quotes From Zodiac That Will Stick With Us Forever

The mental anguish that Gyllenhaal's character, Robert Graysmith, goes through in this investigation is comparable to the struggles of Detective Loki (also played by him) in Prisoners. The latter focused on the kidnapping of a young girl that similarly finds both civilians and police solving clues to find the culprit.

8 Moon (2009) - Available On Showtime

Villeneuve's sci-fi films often have protagonists who are either lonely, traumatized, or struggling to find their true identity. All through Blade Runner 2049, K not only struggles to find a former Blade Runner, but also the actual reasons behind his mission. As for Arrival's Louise Banks, she is faced with immense pressure to decipher an alien language while getting over the death of her daughter.

Duncan Jones's debut feature, Moon, has a similarly confused and lonely protagonist. The film largely addresses existentialism in outer space as an astronaut is tasked to take care of a lunar base. As he spends his days in solitude, he unearths a larger mystery that makes him question his own reality.

7 The Machinist (2004) - Available On Netflix

Enemy is probably Denis Villeneuve's most psychological work so far, and the premise is simple. A man gets obsessed with his doppelganger to the point that surreal phenomena start happening.

For those who liked Enemy, The Machinist would make for an interesting watch given how it falls in the genre of psychological horror. In one of Christian Bale's best movie roles, he plays an extremely paranoid factory worker who has not slept for months. As he finds strange people entering his life, he's forced to confront his reality and the very incident that turned him into an insomniac.

6 Syriana (2005) - Available On Hoopla

Sicario not only functions as an efficient action film, but its geopolitical undertones also present a realistic picture of state-sponsored operations outside American soil. The thriller was preceded by similar political dramas, Syriana being a major example.

RELATED: Argo & Other 9 Fantastic Political Thrillers, Ranked According To Rotten Tomatoes

Involving multiple parallel storylines, Syriana focuses on the oil industry in the Middle East and the dirty politics behind it involving several international players. Different perspectives are offered by CIA officers, Middle Eastern royals, and energy company officials, as a global conspiracy is underway.

5 Akira (1988) - Available On Hulu

Blade Runner 2049 wouldn't have existed without Blade Runner, which in itself is stylistically similar to Akira, which was released six years later. Arguably one of the best cyberpunk movies, Akira's visual richness and violent premise have successfully stood the test of time. Both Blade Runner and Akira can be seen as films that elevate the vision of a dystopian neon-heavy future. In fact, both films are also set in 2019.

A cult classic, Akira starts off with a gang of rebellious bikers, one of whom becomes a part of a secret operation by the government. The result is a fast-paced saga with supernatural elements and ultra-violence.

4 Elephant (2003) - Available On Prime Video

One of Denis Villeneuve's lesser-known films is Polytechnique, an underrated Canadian masterpiece that dramatizes the brutal Montreal school shooting of 14 women at the hands of a terrorist. The film recreates the events that might have led to this traumatic incident in 1989.

Another hauntingly similar film in this regard is Gus Van Sant's Elephant, a psychological drama that enacts scenarios that preceded the Columbine school shooting. Rather than sensationalizing the acts of violence, though, the film relies on a somber and melancholic approach to understand the thoughts the two teenagers might have had before turning into mass murderers.

3 The Double (2014) - Available On HBO Max

The Double and the aforementioned Enemy are perfect companion films in the sense that both involve the existential crisis that arises out of two doubles finding each other. While Enemy is also based on a novella called The Double by Portuguese author Jose Saramago, The Double takes inspiration from the titular novel authored by Russian great, Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

However, unlike Enemy, The Double tones down the terror in favor of a darkly comedic atmosphere. Jesse Eisenberg appears in a double role as a man who heads towards a mental breakdown when a doppelganger steals his identity. The film's experimental approach towards its source material is bound to impress niche audiences.

2 Contact (1997) - Available On Showtime

Before Arrival, several films tried exploring the concept of humans making contact with aliens through scientific means. Contact is one of the more scientifically accurate examples, as it relies less on flashy action and more on mystery movie elements.

RELATED: 10 Best "Friendly" Alien Movies, Ranked

Based on the novella by Cosmos creator Carl Sagan, the plot revolves around scientists deciphering alien radio signals that instruct humans to build a machine. The film's take on inter-planetary communication serves as an amusing precursor to Louise Banks' contact with the Heptapods in Arrival.

1 Stalker (1979) - Available On Criterion Channel

A monumental work of sci-fi, Stalker is a premier work of philosophical and psychological sci-fi. Its themes still resonate with many sci-fi films today and its lonely unnamed protagonist has become a common archetype for the genre. In fact, the so-called "stalker" even dresses in a long coat and walks in desolate landscapes, much like Ryan Gosling's K in Blade Runner 2049.

The film is mainly set in the mysterious "Zone," an extraterrestrial region that grants humans their innermost desires. The rest of the slow-paced narrative explores the nature of such desires. Much like Andrei Tarkovsky's best movies, Stalker too continues drawing multiple interpretations to this day.

NEXT: Denis Villeneuve’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes

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