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Like Christopher Nolan’s Inception? Then watch these 3 underrated sci-fi movies now

Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception.
Warner Bros. Pictures

This month, Christopher Nolan was finally recognized at the Academy Awards for Oppenheimer, earning him the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. But it was Nolan’s 2010 film, Inception that established his movies as events unto themselves. Leonardo DiCaprio led the cast as Dom Cobb, the leader of a group of thieves who could invade the dreams of their victims and steal secrets directly out of their brains. It was a stunning sci-fi film with impressive visuals and great action, which helped make it one of the biggest movies of 2010.

The problem with looking for more movies like Inception is that there really aren’t many films that compare. Even Nolan’s Tenet comes up far short when compared to Inception. But since we are here to pick three movies like Inception, we’ve gone with a trio of mind-bending thrillers that are evocative on their own terms. Especially the first film, which may not be for the faint of heart.

eXistenZ (1999)

Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh in eXistenZ.
Alliance Atlantis

Leave it to David Cronenberg to find a way to make playing video games disgusting. Although, as Cronenberg movies go, eXistenZ is probably tame by comparison. Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Allegra Geller, a game designer whose latest title, which shares the name of the movie, is experienced through a biological controller that attaches to the players via UmbiCords.

Ted Pikul (Jude Law) is a publicist who gets wrapped up in Allegra’s drama after an attempt on her life. When Ted and Allegra activate eXistenZ, it sends them into a virtual world that blurs the line between reality and the game. It keeps doing that until neither Ted nor Allegra is entirely sure where the game world ends and reality begins. That should sound very familiar to Inception fans.

Watch eXistenZ on Pluto TV.

Dreamscape (1984)

Three men sit on a train in Dreamscape.
20th Century Studios

Dreamscape certainly seems like a forerunner of Inception since the plot of both movies involves people entering the dreams of others. Dennis Quaid plays Alex Gardner, a man whose psychic gift has already made him formidable in the real world. But when Alex is recruited for a science project with his mentor, Paul Novotny (Max von Sydow), and Jane DeVries (Kate Capshaw), he’s able to go into the dreams of their patients and help them overcome their mental issues.

Alex’s mind is so powerful that after a while, he doesn’t even need the experimental machines to pull off his dream-hopping. That’s a talent that Alex will need when he faces Bob Blair (Christopher Plummer), a man who plans to turn the dream machine into a tool of assassination. The first target is the President of the United States.

Watch Dreamscape on Freevee.

Anon (2018)

Amanda Seyfried in Anon.

Privacy is a thing of the past in Anon, which takes place in a world where everyone’s eyes act like never-ending recorders for their activities. Even the eyes’ video game-style HUD information imagery makes reality seem a lot like a game. Regardless, the system is not infallible, as demonstrated when a number of people turn up dead. And the only eye recordings of their murders are from the killer’s point of view.

Clive Owen plays Detective Sal Frieland, the man in charge of this investigation. To find the hacker who may be responsible for those deaths, Sal goes undercover as a client who needs part of his eye recordings erased by the enigmatic Anon (The Crowded Room‘s Amanda Seyfried). Unfortunately for Sal, Anon is far too talented to fall into that trap. Sal can’t resist Anon’s charms in person, and he pursues a relationship with her. But the truth about his identity and her activities may tear them apart.

Watch Anon on Netflix.

Editors' Recommendations

Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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