Under the Skin is in a separate class from most science fiction movies. It doesn’t give us any high-octane action, or present us with many colorful visuals, or transport us to any astral settings. Instead, Under the Skin is a deliberate, mysterious, practically colorless slowburn of a movie that remains tethered to Earth and requires our full attention every step of the way. And if you’re a fan of this style, you might be wondering: what other sci-fi movies are like this?
To be honest, not many—but there are lots of great options. In this article, I’ll detail a few in particular that I think you should check out.
P.S. Dive even deeper into the movie with our Definitive Explanation of Under the Skin.
Ad Astra (2019)
Many people thought Ad Astra looked like a boring, big-budget sci-fi project that starred Brad Pitt—there wasn’t much to read into it past that. But really, this beautiful psychological drama is rich with philosophical wonderings and filled to the brim with mind-blowing spectacles of space. Front to back, it’s a movie that’ll surprise you with its depth.
Ad Astra is similar to Under the Skin in the way the film explores its main character, Roy (played by Pitt). The movie is entirely focused on his journey, which largely takes place internally. We are with Roy every step of the way as the people around him influence him and guide him on his journey to becoming a more vulnerable, open person. And much like Under the Skin, there’s a deeper plot at play that we learn more and more about as the movie progresses.
Sometimes a sci-fi movie can feel…unforgiving. Unforgiving in the way it explores the dark side of humanity, in the way characters treat each other. This can definitely be said of Under the Skin. It can also be said of Possessor.
This psychological horror film from the son of David Cronenberg (Brandon Cronenberg) has a flow and tone that’s very similar to the hypnotic feel of Under the Skin. Possessor also features a female antagonist (with whom we sympathize) who infiltrates other people’s lives—and takes lives as well. And, much like Under the Skin, the sci-fi narrative of Cronenberg’s breakout film is also deeply layered and full of mystery.
Another Earth (2011)
Under the Skin is a movie without much dialogue. And for that reason, it can feel like the film is holding back a lot of information (which it is). But at the same time…the story of Under the Skin is right there on the surface, right? We watch The Woman struggle emotionally as she becomes less and less OK with taking people’s lives on Earth. That kind of storyline is very visceral and easy to understand.
In this sense, Under the Skin reminds me of the 2011 film Another Earth. This independent sci-fi drama from the mind of Mike Cahill has a similarly languid pace as Under the Skin and slowly draws out its emotionally rich narrative. Another Earth stars Brit Marling (who co-wrote the movie with Cahill) as a woman who’s hiding a deep, dark secret from her lover. As she copes with this trauma, she’s forced to reevaluate her place in this world after she receives a chance to travel to “another Earth” that’s been discovered in our galaxy.
Under the Skin is one of those unique movies where we pretty much follow one person the entire time. While there are other characters in the periphery that contribute to The Woman’s journey, the camera is largely focused on The Woman herself as she navigates Earth and fights her battles internally.
Moon is very similar—except we don’t really spend time with those other characters. While there are other people in Moon, the movie almost entirely puts us in a room alone with the main character Sam, who is in the middle of a three-year shift at a lunar mine all by himself. The psychological toll this job takes on his psyche is what drives the narrative.
Ex Machina (2014)
While Under the Skin might feel intensely removed from our reality, the gender dynamics at play in the film feel like some sort of commentary, right? The Motorcycle Man is this brutal, male force that watches over The Woman and controls her. While The Woman is this enticing figure that uses her sexuality to draw men into terrible situations. These two characters inhabit archetypal images to which we’ve grown accustomed in cinema.
This all seems to be at play in a movie like Ex Machina as well. Oscar Isaac plays a brilliant CEO named Nathan, who has created a beautiful female robot named Ava (played by Alicia Vikander). Nathan is looking to test her consciousness and capabilities—but fails to realize that she has gained more awareness than he ever thought imaginable. These two characters’ dynamic isn’t exactly like The Woman and The Motorcycle Man from Under the Skin, but you can definitely draw some parallels in the tension between the two.
More movies like Under the Skin
There are obviously lots of more options I could have spent a lot more time writing about. Here are a few more select movies that I think share a similar energy with Under the Skin that you should check out:
- After Earth (2013)
- Alien: Covenant (2017)
- Annihilation (2018)
- Arrival (2016)
- Coherence (2013)
- Event Horizon (1997)
- Gattaca (1997)
- Her (2013)
- High Life (2018)
- Midnight Special (2016)
- Oblivion (2013)
- Stalker (1979)
- Starman (1984)
- Take Shelter (2011)
- The Box (2009)
- The Invisible Man (2020)
- The Thing (1982)
- They Live (1988)
- Underwater (2020)
- Videodrome (1983)