At the heart of a good science fiction film is the very intriguing science and technology presented in the story. The sci-fi stuff could leave us all wondering about our own future, as we think of what would happen if that stuff becomes science fact. But we’re not only concerned with what happens to us and to humanity. We’re also wondering about how it will affect our family – like the story found in Interstellar.
Interstellar is the intriguing 2014 sci-fi movie by Christopher Nolan. Like most of his films, he leaves us wondering about how humanity would survive. Interstellar deals with a young girl, Murphy, left behind by her father, Coop, an astronaut who left for a special NASA mission.
Many years pass on earth while in space, Coop and the other space crew remain ageless. Coop encounters various kinds of trouble in space during their mission, while Murphy grows up to become a scientist herself. But it’s still the bond between father and daughter that keeps both of their hopes up – hoping to see and be with each other again.
Past sci-fi stories also dealt with similar themes and emotions. See our list of movies like Interstellar for recommendations.
Another father-daughter Interstellar-like tandem is Contact. Adapted from the novel by Carl Sagan, the 1997 film stars Jodie Foster as Ellie, the girl who grew up to be a scientist listening in for signs of extraterrestrial existence via radio frequencies. When she receives a clear transmission one day, the whole world listens in.
But what the transmission sent is a blueprint for a space machine to be built. Now, the world of scientists, with the meddling of politicians and the military powers that be, decide whether to build the machine or not. Will humankind finally make contact with extraterrestrial beings out there?
Contact is one of those movies like Interstellar because they both tried to explore where humanity could be taken, out there, to the next level of space existence. Both films explored where humans could fail miserably in their advancement, and where it could still succeed. On a personal note, the guidance and love of the scientist’s deceased father is what gives her further hope – and faith.
2. After Earth
When humanity has long abandoned the planet but came back for a mission, what could a father-son tandem face in this mission? That’s basically what After Earth explores.
This 2013 film is set far into the future, where earth already became dangerous and has a hostile environment. No humans lived there, so it’s quite the culture shock for humans to go back here and revisit. That’s what a father and son tandem did.
The father-son tandem here is the real-life father-son team of Will Smith and Jaden Smith. Both play soldiers of a space-like Ranger Corps organization, where the father is already a ranking general while the son is a rookie soldier. It’s interesting to see how they both use advanced tech gadgets and scientific knowledge in communicating with each other – and helping each other out.
After Earth is indeed one of those movies like Interstellar because it’s an interesting mix of how futuristic families still deal with very relatable present-day familial feelings and conflicts.
Imagine a blue-collar worker of a toughie father trying to save the world from being destroyed by an asteroid – while his grown daughter cavorts with one of his trusted young co-workers. That’s basically the major scientific and familial conflicts found in Armageddon.
This 1998 film stars Bruce Willis as the grumpy owner of a deep-sea drilling company contracted by NASA to fly to space with his drilling crew. Their mission is to drill a hole into that asteroid and drop a bomb inside of it. NASA plans to detonate the bomb which will hopefully destroy the asteroid, in turn avoiding its collision with earth.
But before leaving for the space mission, the grumpy father discovers that her lovely daughter is enamored with his youngest driller on the team. These emotional tugs will be brought by the father into space, while determining how to weigh things with his daughter’s love interest.
Bruce Willis plays the familiar character of the father in this film, while Liv Tyler plays his daughter. Ben Affleck is that young driller in love with the daughter. Since it’s one of those movies like Interstellar, Armageddon also carries these earthly and space debates that concern the whole of humanity and a particular family.
4. Apollo 13
“Houston, we have a problem!”
Perhaps no space saga could count as more nerve-wracking for relatives left here on earth than the story portrayed in Apollo 13. The 1995 film stars Tom Hanks playing the real-life NASA astronaut Jim Lovell, who got stuck in space back in 1969 with a handful of astronauts aboard the Apollo 13 spacecraft.
Apollo 13’s original mission was to go to the moon. Lovell himself had hopes of walking on the moon like his predecessor, Neil Armstrong. But trouble aboard their craft soon happened. And the mission to the moon was aborted, replaced with a new and more dire mission. That mission was to go back home alive, on earth.
Directed by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 is one of those movies like Interstellar because it really tugs at the heartstrings while seeing the “torn families” try their best to be together again. Imagine the agony of watching your husband on TV, wondering if he will make it back to you. Imagine the stuck astronauts, wondering if they’ll ever see their loved ones on earth again. Worth watching, this film!
5. Space Cowboys
Another heartwarming sci-fi space saga featuring family ties – or rather family tensions – is Space Cowboys. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the 2000 film also stars Eastwood as Frank, the 1950s Air Force pilot training with three other ace pilots to hopefully become astronauts. The four men wish to be launched into space to orbit the earth and even walk on the moon. However, the creation of NASA dampens that dream in the ‘50s.
But the team is later recruited during their old age by NASA itself, in the 2000s. Now enjoying retirement and living different lives, Frank gets recruited back for a special mission. Apparently, none of the younger astronauts could understand the “old age” engineering schematics of an old satellite – so an older and elder team like Frank’s is needed.
Frank tries to convince his old Air Force pals to help him with the mission. Since they were fiercely close as friends back then – which felt like they were a family – the team reunited, and went on with the mission. But of course, the mission itself had snags, since they soon discovered that the innocent satellite they had to fix carried Russian nuclear weapons.
Space Cowboys is one of those movies like Interstellar because it also spans time and explores familial reconnections with pals that feel more like family. Frank himself also has a wife left on earth, always wondering if the old folks could still pull this one off. Watch the film to see if they do!
Astronauts having trouble in space? Check! An astronaut haunted by family feelings back on earth? Check! Seeing if the science of things could also have a hand in curing the feelings of humans? Check!
That about sums up why Gravity is one of those movies like Interstellar. The astronaut featured in this one is Sandra Bullock, who plays Ryan. She’s actually a biomedical engineer by profession, tasked by NASA to do this first space mission with a veteran. That veteran is Matt, played by George Clooney.
This won’t be a movie like Interstellar if the astronauts didn’t have trouble in space. In fact, majority of the film takes place there. Ryan and Matt encounter debris in space which harms their space shuttle. Soon, both of them had to decide on life-or-death scenarios here, where they eventually undergo threatening situations way later.
Now where’s the family aspect here? While everything was still okay in space, Ryan is revealed to be haunted by the memory of her daughter. This daughter died in an accident, something that she still can’t get over. Matt later coaches her that might probably make her change her mind about these things.
So it’s really interesting to see how this film will wrap up these tensions and troubles, both the inner and outer kind. Go watch it!
Scientific goings-on here on the earth’s atmosphere could also have sci-fi level of effects on humans, without leaving the planet. And such effects could make or break a family, as featured in Frequency.
At the night of the aurora borealis in the 1990s, a New York detective named John plays around with his deceased father’s old ham radio. He apparently picks up a signal broadcast that came from the 1960s. And due to the magic of the night skies, the voice at the other end of the radio turns out to be his father Frank – the Frank that existed when John was just a little kid.
You’d think that the plausibility of the scientific event would reunite long-lost family members here, so to speak. But more things happen to both their parallel ‘60s and ‘90s existence. For one, Frank, investigating a serial killer’s murdering spree, solicits the help of his father to trace the serial killer before he starts killing nurses.
Soon, one thing leads to another. John’s current life is affected by the altered facts in his past life, due to the newer actions being done by his father Frank. Father and son soon tandem up to hopefully get to the bottom of this nurse serial killer, especially when the unknown perpetrator accidentally victimizes Frank’s wife, John’s mother, in the past.
Frequency’s interesting whodunit, coupled with this sci-fi element, is a very interesting story to watch. How the narrative unfolds here is something that’s not to be missed, especially for people who appreciate family-focused sci-fi movies like Interstellar.
8. Terminator 2
“Hasta la vista, baby!”
What if a teenage boy suddenly comes face-to-face with a robotic terminator designed specifically to kill him? And what if the only person that could help him – his mother – is currently locked up in a mental institution, for disclosing the existence of such robots? This, in a nutshell, is what Terminator 2 is all about.
While it was released back in 1991, Terminator 2 remains a sci-fi classic for all these family-and-sci/tech elements combined. Even though the whole series reflect these themes, it was here in T2 where you could see and feel it the most.
Terminator 2 stars Arnold Schwarzenegger who reprises the original terminator robot role designed to kill one specific man: John Connor. John is apparently a huge figure in the future’s underground rebellion movement, so killing him while he’s still a teen gives the robots of the future an advantage.
Yes, in this universe, it’s robots versus humans, and we apparently lost to them in the future – or almost, without the pioneering efforts of John. In the first Terminator film, the robots tried to kill his mother first, named Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton), but a rebel soldier from the future protected her.
In T2, Sarah is still alive, and teen John rescues her out of the asylum. The old hunter robot is now reprogrammed to save and protect John and Sarah, as a newer robot version is out to kill them.
You’re missing out a lot if you’re hyped up on movies like Interstellar, but you missed seeing this one. We highly recommend this classic!
9. Pacific Rim
Huge robots called jaegers maneuvered by human pilots, a futuristic earth battling ginormous monsters from out of this world called the kaiju, and an Academy Award-winning director at the helm? That’s the bonus you get from Pacific Rim.
Set in an alternative futuristic earth, Pacific Rim features a washed-up jaeger pilot named Raleigh who got traumatized early on when his brother died fighting inside a jaeger beside him. He gets recruited anew when there was a need to pilot the old model jaegers again for a renewed fight. Marshal Pentecost heads the revival team, and urges Raleigh to give it another shot.
Struggling between remembering his brother’s jaeger death and handling new partners, Raleigh reluctantly agrees to fight once more. One of the accidental new partners he had, Mako, was herself traumatized by her past encounters with the kaiju. As a child, she lost her parents in that encounter, and Pentecost picked her up and raised her as his own.
Pentecost was protective of Mako at first, even if she is already well-trained. Soon, all of them need to trust each other more, in order to defend the earth from bigger and looming alien troubles. Thus, a new “family formation” is born.
Pacific Rim is indeed one of those cool and bombastic movies like Interstellar because of the combined science-and-humanity discourses they feature in their narratives. It’s worth watching, especially since a sequel is coming up soon!
“E.T. phone home!”
Perhaps there’s no other sci-fi film that gives us the feels as well as the oohs-and-aahs reaction to out-of-this-world science stuff than E.T. the Extra Terrestrial.
Directed by sci-fi master himself, Steven Spielberg, this 1982 film features the story of a kid named Elliot who finds a small alien being hiding inside their toolshed one time. As a curious kid, he discovers the alien, and dubs his name as E.T. They soon bond, both as new friends and in a psychic kind of way, as Elliot suddenly feels what E.T. seems to be feeling.
With kids being kids, Elliot and his other siblings warm up to E.T. The gentle alien plays along with them, and tries to communicate with them. When they finally set up some awkward system of “talking” or gesturing for communication, they finally understand what the alien is talking about: E.T. wants to build a contraption so it can contact his own family again.
We bet that all you readers who grew up in the 1980s saw this movie, too, and fell in love with Elliot and E.T. Well, who wouldn’t? With this classic tale of friendship cloaked in a very cute sci-fi story, it’s no wonder that the Spielberg formula here gets imitated often. That’s why it’s also one of the oldest movies like Interstellar, which gives us the awe for science and the feels for the characters’ familial set-ups.